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Best Practices for Additive Manufacturing

( 05/17/2018 ) Written by: Doug Leicht
Infographic: Best Practices for Additive Manufacturing
Back in 2011, The Economist reported that output of 3D printers would likely be 50 percent by 2020. As we enter 2018 and head toward that milestone, there is little argument that the growth of additive manufacturing (AM) - a process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material – continues. The process of subtractive manufacturing -- a process by which 3D objects are constructed by successively cutting material away from a solid block of material typically with a CNC Machine -- has historically been the solution. However, while the benefits of AM – which include weight reduction, low volume part capabilities, new design options, prototypes in a day, low aftermarket expense and much more – are proven, many designers are still trying to figure out how to implement it into their processes and products.

We are currently evaluating the use of flexible materials like silicon or elastomeric polyurethane, “plastics” like PLA, PET or Nylon, and metallic alloys like stainless steel, Inconel or Titanium. Using AM for plastic prototypes, enables quick turnaround on design concepts to show to customers as well as for their own manufacturing operations, printing jigs, masks, and other tools needed for normal operations, resulting in huge cost savings.

We partnered with some of the industry leading experts such as Tim Simpson, Ph.D., Professor and Co-Director of the CIMP-3D Center at Penn State University, as well as production printing supplier Incodema3D in Ithaca, N.Y. Using these leaders with experience and applying AM to aerospace, industrial and other market applications, we have learned that there are definitely some best practices that help design engineers get started in this field.

Key considerations in designing, analyzing and constructing an AM component include understanding the design workflow for AM such as: topology optimization or use of lattice structure for weight reduction, reducing the number of components or assembly process, design freedom, orientation of the part to be printed to minimize support structure while maximizing mechanical properties, and documenting the build process and controlling for future use. It is also key for those exploring the technology to have a good understanding of the various technology options including stereolithography (SL, SLA), Fused Deposition Modelling (FMD), Inkjet Binder Jetting (BJ), Inkjet Material Jetting (MJ), Laser Sintering (DML S, SLS S, PBF), Direct Energy Deposition (DED), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) as well as other hybrid techniques. When to use which material and printing option is essential to project success. CAE tools are being developed in the market to aid in the design for AM. Whether its finite element analysis using topology optimization or optimizing the orientation of the part to be printed to reduce support structure, these tools are essential for the designer to utilize all of the benefits that AM can bring to a product.
Doug Leicht

Doug Leicht is a principal engineer at LORD Corporation in the fixed wing engineering product development group with a focus on analytics and additive manufacturing.

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