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.