3D Printing Has Made Design-Driven Production a Reality.
With 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing (AM), the boundaries of design are no longer limited to the production process determining the intricacy of a product. Any shape that can be constructed in a 3D CAD program can be produced, providing numerous benefits to both product development and manufacturing.
Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) affords product designers maximum geometric freedom to realize new design concepts. Design engineers now have the ability to create complex parts with intricate geometries that were typically impossible to produce using conventional manufacturing methods, like CNC machining or milling. DfAM also allows designers to consolidate parts, reducing the number of components that need to be designed and manufactured into final assembly.
The advantages of AM extend past concept ideation to prototype and production.
Traditional prototyping processes usually involved custom tooling, coordination with multiple external suppliers, and several handoffs that can introduce delays, miscommunication, and increased risk. 3D printing enables seamless and rapid prototype creation by providing an extended ability to identify and minimize design flaws early in the design process. By allowing a designer to print directly from a digital file, additively manufactured prototypes are a more efficient and effective way to test form and function. Utilizing AM in the development process can also significantly minimize rework efforts and delays caused by multiple design iterations and tooling changes. Additive manufacturing can even eliminate the need to create molds, tooling, and patterns to design machine parts for prototypes and final production.
With a broad range of material capabilities, AM can be utilized for short-runs of a product quantities prior to mass production (bridge manufacturing or tooling) or final part fabrication as well. Where the first 3D printers were limited to prototypes made of simple plastics — suitable for testing form and fit but not function — today’s commercial 3D printing systems can print a wide range of engineering-grade polymers, unlocking a wide array of possibilities for both product development and manufacturing.
For example, commercial grade thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), like Lubrizol ESTANE® 3D TPU M95A for HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing, delivers value to designers and end-users by providing a material that can range from being as soft as rubber to as firm as solid plastic. ESTANE TPU M95A is ideal for a variety of footwear, sporting goods, and other consumer product applications requiring durable and flexible components with high abrasion and tear resistance.
A compelling look and feel is also an important element of successful industrial design. In addition to their mechanical properties and performance, elastomer lattice structures appeal to both product designers and end-users by showcasing the aesthetics of intricate geometries and providing a fresh way to physically interact with products. This is where design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) with a topology optimization software excels; facilitating part consolidation and the creation of lightweight parts or products with lattices, functional textures, and visually appealing surfaces.
Industrial design firms typically focus on the creative act of determining and designing a product’s form and features, often overlooking the real world constraints of function, reliability, cost, and manufacturing during the conceptual design stage. When these limitations are finally considered, the rework required invariably results in longer development times, higher production costs, a compromised design, and even disappointed end-users. Taking a design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) approach to industrial design incorporates key mechanical requirements and production constraints throughout the design process, ensuring the resulting product realizes its desired function and form.
Utilizing an engineering-driven approach to attain optimal functionality and design specifications is what sets Avid Product Development apart from conventional product design firms. Founded and operated by mechanical engineers since 2012, we leverage our expertise and technology to supply our customers with end-to-end solutions, maximizing the value they bring to the market. With an emphasis on lasting relationships and continual improvement, we are committed to providing quality engineering, product design, and additive manufacturing solutions that support the long-term growth and sustainability of our clients and employees.
Parts of this article was first published on the nTopology blog.