How to approach design in Additive Manufacturing in 4 tips (Part 1)

In our last post we taught you what additive manufacturing was, but do you know how you should approach its design? Find out how in these 4 tips. 

1 . The goal is the piece, not the design 

It is well known that one of the great advantages that additive manufacturing brings us is to make it possible to manufacture components in very complex ways. 

However, this is only one of its benefits. To get the most out of additive manufacturing it is very important to provide an overview, not to focus from the beginning on topological optimization or to achieve a disruptive design, we must take into account all its advantages, and some of its disadvantages, in the very phase of conceptual design. 

For example, precisely because of the possibility of manufacturing complex shapes, it may probably be possible to integrate several components into one, or even include several functionalities in the same part (for example, support and movement function, heat transmission and structural function …) This integration of parts and functionalities will reduce the need for joining elements and assembly or adjustment operations, which will result in cost savings in assembly. 

It is also important to take into account in the conceptual phase those requirements of the part in service that may contraindicate or limit the use of more advanced design techniques, thus saving important costs in the development of the product. I am referring, for example, to whether the parts are to be subjected to fatigue or conditions sensitive to the concentration of stresses, or if the inspectability of the part manufactured and/or in service is a relevant requirement, in which case lattice structures or extremely complex geometries would be discouraged. 

Last but not least, aspects related to the industrialization of manufacturing should be considered at the same design stage. If the objective is not to manufacture a good prototype, but to additively manufacture a series of parts, it is necessary to take into account the entire manufacturing and verification process, the economic aspects associated with both product development and manufacturing, and analyze with the number of parts to be manufactured and the target market price. This analysis will help us to streamline the process and delimit efforts in the development phase. Only in this way, achieving cost-effective results and viable use cases, can progress be made in the generalization of the use of additive manufacturing. 

2. To be taken into account: printing + finishing + integration + assembly + inspection

Each 3D printing technology is associated with its basic “design rules”, but, in addition, the experience and knowledge of the technologies by the designers is generating a whole catalog of ‘best-practices’, very useful so that the designs can be easily adaptable from one technology to another and that the effect of the different behavior of the different materials in practice,  which unfortunately happens, is minimized. It is important to generate and share knowledge on the part of technology manufacturers about the basic design rules and recommendations for different materials, but you should never ignore, as in any other manufacturing technology, the need to have trained and experienced professionals who are the soul of each of the designs they produce. 

It is also important in the design phase to take into account the impact of post-processing and other finishing operations. The cost of post-processing in the most common industrial processes can range between 60% and 300% compared to the cost of printing. If we talk about times or deadlines, it is possible that its impact is several times the time of printing, and sometimes it can become a real bottleneck. With this data, it is clear that designing taking into account the post-processing that the piece must carry once manufactured is essential to achieve a true success story. 

Do you want to know what are the other two tips to successfully address additive manufacturing? Don’t miss our post next week! 

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