Design as one for complex assemblies

Does your product or machine contains a complex assembly of parts? Consider redesigning it and use the potential of additive manufacturing. Your reward: reduced complexity and lower costs while preserving full functionality!

Many systems incorporate complex assemblies that enable advanced mechanical or mechatronic functionality. This can be related to precise control of movements, force-displacement response, optical functionality, flow control, heat transfer, and so on. These assemblies obviously come at a cost. They often involve manufacturing of several (high precision) subcomponents, accurate and cumbersome assembly and joining, quality control and calibration, maintenance, etc… What if you could realise the same functionality with one piece?

In many cases, there is a technology that can do this: additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. These technologies are usually associated with rapid prototyping, or manufacturing of lot size one products, though larger batch production is also possible. This ability to deliver complex functionality in one piece is often overlooked, partly due to the fact that to do so, a redesign of the subcomponent or assembly is needed. This involves an in-depth knowledge of additive manufacturing and its redesign potential. We need to think outside the “conventional” design envelop. Injecting some external experience in the design process is often the key to unlock this potential. Sirris can help you with that. Contact us to explore the potential of complexity and cost reduction of assemblies in your context!


Here are some examples of 'extreme makeovers' of complex assemblies. The common threads in these realisations are:

  • Reduction of the number of components (from 20 to 1 component is no exception)
  • Dramatic reduction or even complete elimination of assembly: positioning, joining (welding, threading, soldering, gluing…), quality measurements and calibrations. The resulting assembly costs often decrease with more 90%
  • Lead time reduction with 80% or more
  • At least the same functionality and sometimes even improved functionality of the component
  • A total cost saving of the 3D printed component, with the cost of additive manufacturing being compensated by other cost impacts

1 kW titanium heat exchanger : from conventional to additive design  (© 3D systems)

3D printed fuel nozzles by GE replacing a 20-part assembly; on top of manufacturing cost savings, the nozzle became 5 times more durable (© GE Aviation)

The 3D printed makeover of this air duct (right) results in one piece, replacing an assembly of 16 pieces (© 3D Systems)

In this helicopter component of FlyingCam, redesign for 3D printing resulted in a reduction of the number of components from 7 to 1, a 15% lower manufacturing cost and a weight reduction from 530 to 392 g (25% lower) while preserving 100% functionality © FlyingCam

Many other examples exist, publicly known or unknown. They all have one thing in common: overall cost savings related to the reduction of the number of parts, their assembly, alignment, quality control, etc.

Would you like to know more about (re)design for AM? Register here and receive our e-book 'Design for additive manufacturing: a feasible methodology' in your mailbox.

(Picture above © 3D Systems)