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Bursting Additive Manufacturing’s Last Bubbles

There were, no doubt, times when forging, casting and injection molding were met with disbelief and amazing claims of what they could mean for the future. Now, they’re just how things are made. After decades of boasts and promises, additive manufacturing (AM) is finally joining those previous breakthroughs as just another way to make things. That’s good for engineers tasked with designing for additive manufacturing.

The discussions at the Dassault Systemes Additive Manufacturing Symposium, part of its Science in the Age of Experience conference that took place in Boston this week, followed the same trend line as those at the Additive Manufacturing User’s Group and RAPID events held in April: AM is real and ready.

Or, when it comes to design for additive manufacturing and certification, almost ready.

“A lot of discussions today have felt like popping bubble moments,” said Sean McCluskey, responsible for design optimization and special projects at Joby Aviation, which is creating an electric air taxi service. “Here’s topology optimization, but let’s look at it for real. Here’s lattice development, but let’s pop that bubble and look at it for real. There are definitely issues with certifying additive, but these are not new issues … They take time. It’s the same problems we’ve had forever, we just need to address them on a much faster timescale for these new technologies.”

One bottleneck has more to do with human cognition than technological challenges. New AM-related technologies are coming to market faster than people can learn and adjust design engineering workflows to include them. From new generative design and lattice generation software to new AM hardware and processes using different materials, companies and universities are racing to educate users.

“The technology is advancing faster than software and people can keep up with,” said Shawn Ehrstein, director, CAD/CAM Lab at the Wichita State University National Institute for Aviation Research where Dassault Systemes has its North American 3DEXPERIENCE Center. “The problem is with new technologies coming out and changing every day, what does a student learn? We can teach the overall process, but when we get to specifics to meet the needs of industry, what is that industry now using?

Ehrstein said it’s an ongoing challenge to hit that moving target in academia. In industry, there are some deeply rooted, outdated notions of AM that don’t want to budge.

“There’s still a lot of thinking out there that you can buy additive machine and hit a button. A lot goes into that,” said Ehrstein. “There are expensive machines that can take a year’s worth of experience to get a good part out of consistently. If small companies are going to additive manufacturing, I recommend they use the supply network that’s out there before making the investment.”

Building a Global Network

That need for a network of suppliers is one of the reasons Dassault Systemes launched its Marketplace earlier this year at SOLIDWORKS World 2018. Accessible online or within the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Marketplace connects pre-qualified industrial service providers across a range of services and facilitates the payments, currency conversion, taxes, billing and so forth.

It can be used by Dassault Systemes customers and non-customers alike. Marketplace has both Community and Enterprise Marketplace service offerings. The difference being the Enterprise service can include a company’s internal partners and suppliers, rather than just the providers qualified by Dassault Systemes for the Community offering.

The first two services being offered are Marketplace Make and Marketplace Part Supply. Marketplace Make connects design engineers with 3D printing and other manufacturing service providers (more than 100 worldwide an growing), while Part Supply is an online 3D components catalog, currently making 30 million parts accessible.

“The Marketplace is not just an e-commerce platform,” said Pierre Planche, Strategy & Business Development Manager for Dassault Systemes. “What you’ll find by the end of this year and next year are additional benefits such as design for manufacturing feedback, part optimization … and also business processes — so being able to access direct quotes and tying them to existing business systems, such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) and MES (manufacturing execution systems).”

Planche said Marketplace is being built around the traditional stages of the workflow, from ideation and design all the way through ownership. “Be on the lookout in 2018 and 2019 for additional services, whether it be in the areas of engineering design or better ways to market your product,” he said

Simulations’ Role in Scaling Additive Manufacturing

Andy Kalambi, president and CEO of 3D printer manufacturer RIZE, said additive manufacturing should be accessible to all—preferably at the point of manufacture. The company announced a partnership with Azoth to provide additive manufacturing supply cribs to Azoth’s manufacturing customers, so they have access to custom prototype tooling, gaging and fixturing on site.

“We want to democratize and take industrial 3D printing where it has never been,” he said. “This industry has not scaled, primarily because … it has not made things simple. That limits the scaling of this industry. Additive has to become pervasive and it has to become inclusive.”

That scalability issue is one reason AM materials are more expensive than their traditional counterparts.

“The supply chain is about volume. Materials are more expensive because the volume is not there yet in additive manufacturing,” said McCloskey. “When large polymer and large metal companies take over, we’re in business. The industry is just not there. There’s not enough volume to drive Tier 1 manufacturers to produce these materials.”

Simulation was offered as a solution to lowering AM material costs, as well as for creating customized materials.

“There is a strong correlation between materials and process,” said Eduardo Baracio, a research assistant focusing on AM at Purdue University. “Simulation becomes kind of the center for the development of additive because that material developer can use it to tune their materials to make it more suitable for printing—same thing for machine developers. I see simulation as the main driver for the technology as well as for certification.”

One company that knows a lot about certification is Airbus. Sjoerd Van Der Veen, an Airbus expert in material modeling and processing simulation, addressed Additive Manufacturing Symposium attendees regarding the company’s workflow for “first-time-right” design of AM parts.

Airbus' Sjoerd Van Der Veen provided Additive Manufacturing Symposium attendees with a look at the company's additive manufacturing challenges and path toward solutions.

Airbus’ Sjoerd Van Der Veen provided Additive Manufacturing Symposium attendees with a look at the company’s additive manufacturing challenges and path toward solutions.

“We already have several tens of thousands of additive parts flying,” he said. “Of course, there’s a lot of polymer there, there’s a lot of brackets. There’s also some titanium … where we’ve carefully chosen applications where we get the proper business case results.”

The company finds value in additive manufacturing, not just from straight part costs, but also from development time and costs, which Van Der Veen said is becoming more important to meet shrinking time-to-market goals.

“We’ve been working together (with Dassault Systemes) to develop a toolset to allow our designers to move quickly from concept to application,” he said. The workflow includes topology optimization, stress checking, generative design variants, cleanup, and then final stress checks based on boundaries and loads that are in the system.

“What is missing here is I didn’t show you any manufacturing,” Van Der Veen told attendees. “This is still, today, an issue. We still have too many parts that we cannot create the first time right.”

Airbus’ response to challenges associated with AM includes manufacturing simulations that can be run at the early product development stage to drive design decisions. Predicting distortion during various additive manufacturing processes is difficult. Build orientation, scan direction, how parts are nested as they’re being created and, of course, materials, machines and build speed can all affect distortion. Airbus is using both quick analytical methods as well as more accurate simulations that require more intensive compute resources, depending on the AM process and application needs.

“Simulation will be a heavy investment—but in the long term it will help early adopters to come up to speed faster,” said Baracio. “It lowers the cost of trial and error. I really encourage and recommend the use of simulation as driver of [3D printing] democratization.”

About Jamie Gooch

Jamie Gooch is editorial director of Digital Engineering.

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