AM (additive manufacturing) is becoming more mainstream for prototyping, tooling and production. But a surprisingly large percentage of design engineers (or their management) still don’t make full use of its potential. Just 3D printing the same old part misses out on the potential for lightweighting, simplifying or eliminating assemblies, and taking advantage of customized materials. AM is not just another approach to part construction; it changes the entire design process.
In this article, software companies, design groups, universities and professional organizations all offer practical insight.
ANSYS SpaceClaim is designed to simplify creating, editing and repairing CAD geometry, allow shelling, scaling and splitting models, and, saving models in STL format. ANSYS SpaceClaim STL Prep for 3D Printing module supports doing these tasks directly on STL files or other faceted formats.
Autodesk offers solutions for generative design/internal lattice structures (Autodesk Within) and the full AM workflow (Autodesk netfabb: model preparation, support design, custom lattices and design optimization).
Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software saves models as STL, AMF and 3MF files. With the 3MF format and Microsoft 8.1 and above, users can also directly preview/manipulate the model on the print bed and set print properties for supported 3D printers.
PTC Creo 4.0 includes features that enable designers to design, optimize, validate and run print-checks on AM models in a single environment. It lets users prepare and check STL models before sending them to a printer and create parametrically controlled lattice structures.
Siemens PLM’s NX CAE product offers three AM technologies: Convergent modeling simplifies the ability to work with geometry consisting of a combination of facets, surfaces and solids, without the need for data conversion; topology optimization includes evaluating a model’s design-for-manufacturability with AM; and the NX Hybrid Additive Manufacturing module simulates the setup of laser metal deposition and NC programming (for metal powders) and multi-axis robotics (for FDM printing and NC post-processing).
INSPIRE from solidThinking lets designers easily investigate structurally efficient (generative) concepts that can be converted to CAD models suitable for AM.
nTopology is a new entry, with its Element software focused on helping users design, analyze and integrate all manner of 3D-printed internal lattice structures. The basic version is free; the Pro version adds more editing, analysis and data-exchange features.
3D Systems has introduced 3DXpert, an all-in-one solution targeted to metal AM helps users import part data, optimize geometry, create lattices, design customized supports, calculate scan-paths, arrange parts on the build platform and set up automated post-processing machining.
The 10 different products within the Materialise Magics 3D print suite are industrial-grade tools applicable to all sorts of AM systems. Different packages help users optimize and modify (scale, texture, lattices) STL, scanned and CAD data, repair files, automatically create support structures (including for DLP-type bottom-up resin printers), set up the build platform, automate the workflow and more.
Added Scientific is developing Flatt Pack: the Functional Lattice Package, aimed at providing a simple method to embed triply periodic minimal-surface lattices into common 3D print files, for reduced material consumption and possibly the benefits of thermal management and impact absorption.
For metal applications, sufficiently understanding the physics of each process to predict outcomes will drive specific design and/or process steps that can reduce such problems as warpage, uneven layer adhesion and residual stresses.
- 3DSIM’s exaSIM Beta software is a cloud-based AM simulation tool that gives metal-laser-sintering users rapid insight into residual stress and distortion predictions, layer by layer.
- ANSYS and the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have combined efforts to work on simulation tools that can address melt-pool physics and help designers avoid residual stresses.
- Autoesk netfabb helps users test, optimize, prepare and 3D print commercial-quality parts through several new features. Its Simulation for netfabb predicts part distortion based on process parameters, so designers can allow for them.
- Simufact Engineering, owned by MSC Software, has added a new offering to its line of manufacturing simulation products, Simufact Additive, for metal laser powder-bed-fusion processes. This software guides users through building calibration parts, correlating measured deformations with predicted values and identifying residual stresses.
- PrintRite3D, Sigma Lab’s In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA) software, has been developed to improve repeatability and quality control of many types of manufacturing processes, including AM. For direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), the package includes three cloud-based software modules for layer-by-layer temperature monitoring, visual inspection and data analytics. A hardware package integrates various sensors and an interface.
For additional information, don’t forget to check out the web site for the equipment manufacturers themselves, as well as third parties that develop, test and supply materials.
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