Introduction to Design for Additive Manufacturing

design for additive manufacturing is a practice of product design that exploits the production freedoms of 3D printing whilst adhering to the physical and functional constraints of the product for its working conditions. Although the term 3D printing used to be associated more with the individual hobbyist activity for creation of rapid prototypes, additive manufacturing however better reflects the professional technology of scaled up industrial process applications with sustainable production methodologies; hence the term Additive 2.0.

DfAM aims to maximize product quality and component functionality using sustainable design solutions, whilst minimizing raw material usage, production time, cost, and risk of in-build failure. Such product development methodology highlights the requirement to push the boundaries of technology and achieve highest performing parts whilst still ensuring that risks of failure are kept mitigated. Initial designs can always be modified to optimize the part to achieve more efficiency and design functionality while in use. 

Additive 3D-technology is now one of the most disruptive and on-demand digital manufacturing technologies in the world today. It can be counted among the most advanced technologies of our age and is predicted to be at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution attributes. The daring phenomenon of additive manufacturing product development is under constant upsurge of preference as the statistical numbers keep proving on its prominence just as much throughout the past few years.

Additive manufacturing has a lower than usual minimum efficient scale of production whereby lower manufacturing volumes is met without the need of tooling that eliminates fixed costs and promote incurred production profits which is why it’s been getting more relevance in various engineering and production industries than ever before. Product development and production efficiency can be highly accelerated not to mention additional benefits of market penetration and faster supply chains logistics with decentralized facilities. 

Additive Manufacturing Success Criteria 

It has been a long time coming for the evolution of this technology to be incorporated in a full-scale industrial manufacturing application. This has opened the technology to a much wider audience, as the exponential adoption rate continues apace on all industry fronts, with more and more systems, materials, services, and applications competing for the spotlight. However, as additive manufacturing is fundamentally different than other subtractive more traditional processes, such as machining, it’s also important that the part design is so relevant to additive production system offering the projected technological or economic benefit to the end user. 

These can either be:

1. Lowering manufacturing costs either by reducing material usage by optimizing the design for additive manufacturing or by requiring lower investment in tooling. 

2. Reducing assembly times by consolidating sub-assemblies and reducing the part count by integrating functionality within assemblies. 

3. Benefits in product operation by lowering operating costs, increase the performance of parts or achieve higher productivity. 

4. Reducing inventory costs and streamline supply chains by manufacturing components when and where they are required. 

We can see that these four additive manufacturing success criterions are necessary if we have to ensure the most successful application of additive manufacturing to a part design. Therefore, we will target these four criteria as we design future parts. With this in mind, we can now introduce four key principles for design for additive manufacturing that aim to maximize the chances of a successful additive manufacturing application. 

Key Principles of Design for Additive Manufacturing 

The following key design principles will form the basis of the following lessons within the course. By following these key principles, it is possible to design components that can be optimized for additive manufacturing production. 

- Design for the Correct Additive Manufacturing Process 

Designing for the correct additive manufacturing process ensures that the designer matches the additive manufacturing process to the specific application. This involves finding the correct process that achieves functionality of the part but also at a suitable cost for the application. 

- Design for Minimal Material Usage 

In additive manufacturing, any additional material in a design corresponds to extra time on the machine and an increase in manufacturing cost. Furthermore, industries such as aerospace and motorsport can benefit significantly from light weighting parts. 

Design for minimal material usage involves using design techniques to reduce the amount of material required to build a part whilst ensuring that the component can deliver on its required functionality. 

- Design for Improved Functionality 

When using additive manufacturing it is important to forget about any pre-conceptions you have about limitations of other manufacturing processes. If it possible to improve the function of a part by using the geometric freedoms of additive manufacturing, then you should always try to design for improved functionality. 

- Design for Part Consolidation 

A reduction in part count can reduce assembly time, inventory count and can lead to improved part functionality. In general, when considering designing for additive manufacturing, you should consider whether it is possible to consolidate components within a sub-assembly. However, we will see that occasionally, decomposing parts can also provide benefits to the user. 

Having read that, Additive Abyssinia is an industrial design consultancy firm with a daring vision to pioneer in the product development and additive manufacturing solutions for the relevant applications of our clients. Let’s get in touch here with our professional team to discuss your next project as soon as you’re ready.