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In the additive manufacturing process, everything truly starts in the design phase, which is usually facilitated by computer-aided design (CAD) software for 3D printing. To fully grasp the importance, imagine you walk into a large grocery store. Look around. Nearly every manufactured product in that store—whether created through additive or subtractive manufacturing—probably had its humble beginnings in CAD!
When you think of it that way, the importance of which CAD software you choose to use, like the SOLIDWORKS suite, is imperative. But what’s even more important is knowing how to fully leverage your CAD tools to your advantage! Here are three key ways you can make the most of your CAD software in the additive manufacturing process.
The Basics: What Is Additive Manufacturing?
3D printing in manufacturing produces little to no waste by utilizing what is called “additive manufacturing”. Let’s look at how this is possible by diving into what additive manufacturing is, as well as what it isn’t.
Additive’s predecessor, “subtractive manufacturing” involves parts created from raw materials. Manufacturers who use this method are subtracting the parts they need from raw material, which inherently creates waste as a byproduct. While some of that waste can be reused, much is unable to be repurposed, sometimes causing environmental concerns.
However, additive manufacturing is not a big waste producer. Manufacturers only add in the components they need to print the end product. Thus, the additive process creates little to no waste to be reworked or trashed (both options require additional resources), resulting in fewer environmental impacts.
3 Ways to Leverage CAD
The design phase of the additive manufacturing process begins in CAD software that enables for 3D printing. Essentially, this means that the production phase (3D printing) wouldn’t be able to happen if your CAD design file couldn’t be easily exported to your 3D printer. It’s clearly imperative that your CAD software can talk to your printer. But, beyond the basics, there are three essential ways to leverage your CAD software for 3D printing.
1. Design with Production in Mind
With the technological advances and innovation built into today’s CAD software suites, you can design with much more detail than ever before. You can incorporate these details right into the design so that nothing gets lost in translation between design and printing/production. Specific materials, colors, and even textures can now be reflected within the design software, ensuring that production goes smoothly.
2. Embrace and Employ Virtual Testing
Being able to test for viability prior to prototyping virtually is one huge advantage of the latest CAD software suites. This allows you to maximize your design to production process efficiency by making sure that your designs translate flawlessly to the physical 3D printing process prior to wasting unnecessary resources.
By utilizing and leveraging your CAD software’s analysis features, you’ll know that your prototype should be viable, and you’ll save time and money in the long run. Keep in mind that this only works as well as your software’s analysis capabilities, allow (which is why we’ve found many of our clients investing in solutions like SOLIDWORKS Simulation).
3. Prep for Printing
When it’s time to export your design files to the 3D printer for final production, ensure that all the design elements are accounted for before printing. And, that any updates are reflected in all files. This is vital for the sustainability of your design over time. Lucky for SOLIDWORKS users, updates in real time are intuitive to the software–and for more complex models or assemblies, well, that’s where SOLIDWORKS Product Data Management can help.
DesignPoint: Transforming Your 3D Design Efforts
If you’re ready to level up your next 3D design project and increase your productivity and efficiency using top-of-the-line CAD software for 3D printing, contact us! DesignPoint helps you get the right CAD suite for your individual or corporate needs, to leverage your CAD software to your advantage in every way possible (starting with the three tips above), and to ultimately help you bring your designs to life.
If you’re looking to buy a best-selling 3D printer, we’ve got you covered there, too! Give our experts a call or check out our website for deals and details.