The rapid development of Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology displays signs of immense promise for making topologically-optimized parts with optimal cost and performance. But with great power comes great challenges! Engineers require an understanding of the complex interactions and relationship between part design, materials, production processes and part performance. Designing the ‘ideal’ geometry can also prove to be a significant challenge. One secret is that succeeding in the real world of AM production requires you to do the right things in the virtual world—in how you simulate AM processes and handle AM data.
I attended the Siemens PLM Connection event in Berlin last week – a gathering of over 1,000 users of engineering and product lifecycle software applications such as Teamcenter, Simcenter, and NX. Aside from the very entertaining iPad magician at the gala dinner, two things struck me from the conference sessions and discussions with other delegates.
The first was the emphasis on Additive Manufacturing (AM), with Siemens PLM launching new capabilities such as topology optimization for additive applications. There was a strong sense from attendees that this is a technology coming into its own, and an interest in how it applies to them. Of course, data about materials, processing parameters, and the relationship between the two is vital to developing effective AM.
I recently attended the Additive Manufacturing for MedTech, BioPrinting, Medicine and Dental Summit in Boston and it was interesting to review the latest trends in the industry and think about their materials information implications. The event concentrated on the main challenges in Additive Manufacturing (AM) for medical, bringing together both major device companies (Stryker, GE Healthcare, Medtronic) and smaller consulting firms. It explored the latest printing techniques, ground-breaking research, and innovative materials for improving AM strategies, implementation and processes.
Additive manufacturing, often referred to as ‘3-D printing’, is creating great excitement in advanced manufacturing. Use of the technology means that fully functional objects can be built from plastics and metal, layer-by-layer, in extraordinary detail, without the need for expensive moulding and with minimal post-processing required. Research in this area has attracted funding from governmental agencies seeking to establish a competitive advantage and offset the loss of much traditional heavy manufacturing to lower-wage regions. Such projects target increased automation, greater material and energy efficiencies, and a reduction in waste. To meet these targets, many practical challenges must be overcome—effective use of materials information will be an important success factor.