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Best practices in Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is one of the most praised evolution of manufacturing in the modern world. Moreover, it promises to transform manufacturing even further as we head into the future.

However, those potential advantages will not come true automatically. Rather, it will take a proper understanding of process parameters as well as their effects on materials.

In the end, progress and success of additive manufacturing will depend on whether there is in place a working to meet the challenges associated with scale-up and implementation and to also maximize return on investment (RoI).

Therefore, below are suggestions on the best practices for additive manufacturing.

Capture and Manage the Most Vital Additive Manufacturing Data

First things first, and an efficient materials information management system is one of the most basic and important parts of an effective Additive Manufacturing process. The capture and mining of material and process of information are the first step to understanding the parameters and workings of an additive manufacturing process, and this knowledge which will then enable the control of part performance and consistency, and also quality.

An active materials information management system should: capture and consolidates all vital additive manufacturing data that empowers the team, enterprise or research project into one place where it can be reached when needed. Such a system should also enable full traceability. That is, among other things, it should include a data structure (i.e. schema) with a vast body of information on various major additive manufacturing projects.

Also, important, the system should also be flexible to enable the manufacturer to tailor the template to their specific requirements.

Ultimately, such a system allows:

  • The direct import of ‘logfiles’ from additive manufacturing machines (such as EOS, SLM Solution, etc.)

  • The management of complete process information, such as machine parameters, powders, parts and builds

  • The capture of test and inspection results, which it (the system) the feeds into statistical analyses that determine the manufacturing system’s mechanical properties.

  • The consolidation of the additive manufacturing data, which it can browse through fast through an easy-to-use web interface. The system should then be able to share this data through the organization’s controlled access.

The Cost-Effective Way, and the Right Technology

By the technologies and expertise involved, additive manufacturing tends to be very expensive. But perhaps there is nothing that can be done to the cost of these technologies, or the costs involved in the professional expertise required. However, there are somethings that manufacturers can do about their choices of technologies.

One of the more recent innovations is the SpeedCell, which is a system of various securely connected products that are designed to upend traditional manufacturing methods.

For example, Carbon, an additive manufacturing company based in Silicon Valley, has always had and utilized the Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology. However, coupling CLIP with SpeedCell helps to minimize tooling and prototyping stages, among others.

In other words, manufacturers can now introduce new products cost-effectively and quickly. This includes the ability to produce localized products for specific markets; provide inventory as demands come in; as well explore the extent of other models of business.

Simply, as long as manufacturers get the right technologies, the costs of such technologies will not count for much. They will always get the return on investment.

The Right Software

Naturally, human like the easy way out. In fact, technological advancements – while in themselves not easily achieved – are aimed at simplifying the complex. But there has to be a limit.

Today's 3D modeling software has enabled modelers to create modular models that contain multiple 3D geometry surfaces and objects, and it is mostly for the modelers to decide how the objects integrate together. In this regard, the modelers are expected to manually check their assumptions on how the parts combine, and not merely depending on software to automatically validate those assumptions.

The problem with this software is a wastage of time while waiting for a modeler to make their manual checks.

But with the right software (such as PARTs), this problem can be dealt with. 3D models are still created the same way. However, programmers can assign their assertions to geometry and allow the software to identify assumptions as they are met – or not. At the same time, programmers can also create integrators. These are to ensure that their objects are appropriately combined with others in certain specific ways.

In other words, separate parts of the same object can be made separately and individually. Then these parts can be combined, until the rules of their assertions and integrators are met. The parts can then be integrated into a single geometry to print.

This means that 3D models can now be reused and integrated modularly. In simple terms, modelers can now combine geometry and logic to define the additive manufacturing system (such as PARTs) as a set of assertions and integrators.

Think About the Environment

We are at a stage where the impact of manufacturing processes – and any other aspect of business for that matter – on the environment is a major question. Indeed, even as technological advancement continue, it is important to think about how much they contribute towards the environment – or environmental sustainability.

Additive manufacturing has been heralded as one of the more environmentally-sustainable processes in modern manufacturing. It is said to ensure improved resource efficiency (such as by enabling the redesign of manufacturing processes and products); extend product life (through technical repair, remanufacture and refurbishment processes); and reconfigured value chains (e.g. shorter and simper chains of supply as well as more localized production), etc.

But even then, there is a lack of full exploration of additive manufacturing from a sustainability perspective. The cited advantages may also be a negative, especially if they were to lead to increased consumption of resources.

The effectiveness of a manufacturing process is not in isolation from everything else, including the environment. Therefore, in considering best practices for additive manufacturing, manufacturers must also consider the best ways to minimize environmental impact.

Meanwhile, studies will help to illuminate this issue better.

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