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The idea of printing in 3D has been around for years. It began as just a dream of science fiction but has evolved into a potential cornerstone for engineering and manufacturing. For the past decade, engineers and hobbyists have been using 3D printers to print toys, trinkets, or small home projects. Then, 3D printers were adopted by businesses and universities to help cut down lead time and rapidly prototype parts. Now, additive manufacturing is being used to improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes, cut the price of manufactured parts, and even create end-use parts thanks to the continuous advancement of available materials. Markforged, one of DesignPoint’s partners, has been on the forefront of this manufacturing shift with their composite and metal 3D printers. I was lucky enough to receive training on Design For Additive (DFA) for manufacturing at Markforged recently. The three-day class was chock-full of information about additive manufacturing ranging from what to think about before designing and strategies to approach while designing. With all of that in mind, here is a list of some key takeaways from the training.
Know Your 3D Printing Process
There is more than just one process used for additive manufacturing. In fact, there are about 15 different processes, each having its own strengths (and respectively) constraints. All of Markforged printers utilize the Fused filament Fabrication (FFF). This is more commonly known as Fusion Deposition Modeling (FDM). Essentially, the printers utilize a material extrusion process so the tips and tricks I learned refer to this process. Identifying the process that is being used is vital to know prior to beginning your design and will be a driving factor of a part’s design intent.
What Can/ Should Be Printed?
Modern day 3D printing is more than just toys and small concept parts. With the materials that Markforged produces, there are so many applications that can benefit from additive manufacturing. Some common applications include…
- Tooling and Work Holding
- End-of-Arm Tooling (Robotics Anyone?)
- 5S Tool Organizers
- …and many more!
But just because something CAN be printed doesn’t mean that it SHOULD be printed. There are certain applications that should be avoided when 3D printing. These include…
- Off the Shelf Parts and Hardware
- Sheet Metal Parts,
- High Pressure Vessels
- Lattice Structures
- Parts with Ultra-Fine Features and High Aspect Ratio Features
I’m not saying these can’t be done but for most of these parts, the cost efficiencies have been low or they’ve had a high risk of failure. Overall, knowing what can or should be 3D printed is important to know before attempting to design the part.
Being able to identify where additive manufacturing can be implemented is extremely valuable. We talked about three main strategies for identifying a potential application.
1. Pain Points and Cost Drivers
The first was to look at Pain Points & Cost Drivers of your current manufacturing processes. Questions to ask yourself would be:
- What is costing the most?
- What are the biggest causes of scrap or waste?
- What breaks or is replaced often?
- What causes unplanned downtime?
- Is “Cardboard Engineering“ being used anywhere?
3D printed parts can be used to help with these problems and, in turn, save a lot of money and time.
2. Common and Ideal Applications
The next strategy is to look at some common and ideal applications for 3D printed parts in a manufacturing setting. I mentioned a few earlier. To reiterate, Fixturing and Tooling or Line Optimization are common applications. Manufacturers can also cut down on lead time by customizing setups to their specific process.
3. Replacing Material
The last strategy is to look at replacing material. Companies are using Markforged printed parts to replace certain materials such as:
- Tool Steel
- Stainless Steel Carbide
All of these material properties can either be printed or matched with the use of Markforged composite and metal parts.
Core Functionality of a Part
Once a problem has been defined and verified as a viable application for additive manufacturing, the iterative design process begins. The very first step to take when designing a part for additive manufacturing is to identify its core functionality. Understanding its minimum functional requirements will allow you to discover unexpected potential challenges early on in the design process. Things to consider when identifying the core functionality of a part are the parts interactions, loading conditions, and environmental conditions. Considering all of these factors early will impact the part’s material selection, reinforcement strategies, and print orientation.
Applications often demand more performance than 3D printing can offer alone. For these applications, it is useful to incorporate off the shelf hardware, creating what’s known as a hybrid part. A few examples of incorporating off the shelf hardware include:
- Using Bushings to Reinforce Holes or Help Distribute Compressive Loadings
- Using Dowel Pins to Follow Curves or Help Reinforce Thin Pillars
- Adding a Shaft Key to Create Flat Wear Pads
- Add Threaded Features by Using Inserts or Nuts
The potential that additive manufacturing has for improving manufacturing facilities is opened even further, simply by using off the shelf hardware in 3D printed parts.
Thanks for following along and I hope you learned something new. I surely did and I’m glad to share that with our network of innovators, designers, and incredible manufacturers. If you want to learn more about Markforged (or maybe you’d rather keep learning about other design tricks), check out our resource library.