Using SOLIDWORKS xDesign for Additive Manufacturing Prototypes

It’s no secret that additive manufacturing has caused a shift in the manufacturing industry. 3D printing allows for greater complexity and flexibility in the geometry that can be produced while also being a cost efficient and rapid process. Similarly, the world of design is also on the cusp of change. Companies are beginning to search for cloud, or browser-based, solutions to manage their data and designs, especially while employees are still working from the comfort of their homes. This post is going to introduce one possible way that you could leverage SOLIDWORKS xDesign, a browser-based CAD solution, to optimize a 3D model’s geometry based on expected loads. We’ll then use the result as a reference to minimize the material used and export final model to an STL file for 3D printing.

To showcase this, we will need a 3D model that we’d like to print. With SOLIDWORKS xDesign, you can design a model from scratch right in your browser, or you can import existing files. For this example, we will import an existing bracket. This file can exist anywhere on your computer or if you are using the 3DExperience platform to store your data, you can select from your 3DDrive. SOLIDWORKS  xDesign also has the ability to import many common CAD file types, such as SOLIDWORKS parts, CATIA parts, Inventor parts, Solid Edge parts, IGES files, STEP files, and Mesh files like STL or OBJ. Our bracket is a SOLIDWORKS part.

xDesign Import Options

With the bracket now in SOLIDWORKS xDesign, we can set up a Design Guidance study. Design Guidance is a generative design tool that is built into the standard SOLIDWORKS xDesign application. It suggests a shape for a model based upon real-world loads, constraints, and materials. This can be used to spark an idea for a new design or to generate an alternative design. For this example, we will focus on the latter. A great application for using Design guidance would be to get a better understanding of the required material thickness of a part as well as critical areas where more material is necessary. Design guidance is already quite easy to use. However, to help you get started there are guided workflows that walk you through the steps for your study. We’ll use the guided workflow for a Redesign.

This guided workflow will walk through step-by-step how to import a 3D part and define your Design Guidance study. This will define loads and restraints and generate a shape based on the defined requirements.

For our requirements, we’ll fix the faces of the base holes, add a 100N force in the downward direction, and apply a material of AISI 304, which has comparable material properties to the 17-4 PH Stainless Steel material that the part will be 3D printed with using the Markforged Metal X 3D printer.

With these results, we can see that there seems to be excess material through the center of the bracket as well as on the sides in between the base holes. The result is then overlayed on top of the original design, allowing us to refer to it as we make the edits.

Removing the excess material according to the results is simple. We can just use the SOLIDWORKS xDesign commands to create some extruded cuts and achieve a final result that’s ready to be exported to an STL.

Lastly, SOLIDWORKS xDesign makes it incredibly simple to export files to the STL format.

Finally, our redesign is complete and ready to be manufactured. Hopefully, you can see how easy it is to use SOLIDWORKS xDesign’s Design Guidance to redesign existing models and assist you in your prototyping process. If you enjoyed this post, check out our other material in DesignPoint’s Resource Library!