A quick guide to DfAM (Designing for Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing for Production)
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing for production, results in products and component parts that work smoothly, and efficiently; that meet the stringent property requirements for the end application; and that can be delivered quickly and yet cost less without compromising quality. These points are at the crux of most design engineers’ objectives.
Everyone in the design and engineering industry is starting to understand that additive manufacturing enables the design of intricate, complex geometries while reducing material consumption and, where polymers are concerned, weight. But, learning to design for additive manufacturing, and optimizing your designs to capture all the benefits, including mass customization, means unlearning everything you were taught about conventional design. If you believe your products or parts could be produced through additive manufacturing, here are a few plus points to think about.
The foundation of performance is based on design, and with additive manufacturing your designs are no longer dictated by geometry and process.
A major constraint of traditional manufacturing is the “manufacturability” of complex components. Traditionally, you broke down these components, created tools or moulds for each resultant part, and then reassembled them into the required component.
With additive manufacturing, you’re done with thinking about subtraction. Think instead about addition. You can consolidate multiple part components into a single part, saving time and costs and producing a more functional result. The added benefits? With polymer additive manufacturing, not only are you optomising topology, but you’re also light-weighting the part, too.
Today’s polymer additive manufacturing technology is highly accurate. In fact, tolerances fall between 0.0762 and 0.3mm for Paragon’s polymer additive manufacturing technologies, with production repeatability guidelines of up to ±40μm for our Carbon M2 printers. In many instances, this obviates the need to produce gauges, jigs and fixtures for quality assurance, saving time and cost. If accuracy is an issue, these can be 3D printed at a fraction of a cost of machined tools.
Print bed optimization:
Part layout on the print bed is crucial to the production process. There are several factors for consideration here, and this is where great support from your manufacturing partner is paramount.
Lay a part flat on the print bed and you’ll get the fastest print, but space won’t necessarily be optimized. Line up your component parts vertically, and while you may achieve visual perfection straight off the printer, your compromise is probably part strength. Your best option for strength, accuracy and visual conformity is to print the parts on their side.
However, depending upon the technology you opt for, you will also need to consider your support structure positioning, and how to nest your parts on the bed to ensure the most efficient use of the print bed.
For the Digital Light Synthesis process, you’ll need support structures, especially where there are overhangs in your design features. The software associated with this technology should generate support structures automatically; however, it’s not a one size fits all approach, and you need to think about making sure your supports are minimal in quantity but offer maximum functionality. This is where your chosen production partner can help, especially when design and development is part of the package.
Achieving optimal production efficiency in terms of quantity and speed also comes from nesting parts on the print bed. Your production team will know which parts, and even parts of the parts are self-supporting; and which require supports.