3D printing or, a bit more technically phrased, Additive Manufacturing, may be on everyone’s lips and quietly revolutionizing the world, but in fact, it’s quite old hat. It was invented in 1981 and in 1988 you could buy the first device. Since that time a lot has been done and in the professional world as well as in the hobby industry we have come a long way. Currently, you can get a reliable 3D printer with a “monstrous” space of 300x300x400 for just €250 delivered home directly from China. The results are impressive, especially you compare it to the price of the device. Also impressive is the very simple technique with which you can obtain very good results, these days.
At my house there’s a printer like this and creates anything from spare parts to Star Wars figures and everything else I can come up with. My partner, too, approves of the printer. Her last “project” was a biscuit cutter for a fruit cake on which she placed mangos in the shape of a flower. The result led to a lot of praise and questions, how she could have created these mango flowers.
A lot has changed for the printable material, so that now a hobby printer can work with carbon-reinforced polyester as well. In the professional environment everything can be printed from carbon to titan to even biological material and concrete. Many of these innovations have been driven by software and increasingly stronger – but also cheaper – hardware.
However, for a long time one problem continued to persist:
How do you correctly construct for an optimal additive-made part?
The problem is not even the outer form. Apart from overhangs, the big problem is the inner life of additive-made objects. In order to produce a part, a software first has to “slice” the model; this means dividing in layers and generating tool paths for the contours of the model. So that the model does not collapse it’s filled with the so-called “infill”. This can consist, for example, of triangles or the very popular honeycomb-pattern. On the one hand you use these patterns to save weight and material, on the other hand you can greatly reduce print-time.
However, the slicer programs can only fill in the hollow parts with a pattern, they don’t recognize where heavier strains occur and thus need a higher density of Infill or where it’s possible to use less. Even manually this is usually not possible. Generally, you can only modify the form or percentage density of Infill.
PTC has recognized this circumstance and, as I believe, achieved a great breakthrough how we as designers handle the inner workings of our parts. With the new grid function in Creo Parametric 4.0 and the development in the brand-new version 5.0 the Infill-pattern can be configured entirely parametrical. By dividing into areas, we can also control the density at high-load places. The module now also has a name. It’s called AMX and offers, in addition to the functions for parametric Infill, the possibility of filling space optimally with the nesting optimization function.
PTC Creo Additive Manufacturing
Now comes the kicker. The parametric infill structures can be optimized in Creo Simulate through a load-study. Like this, all necessary parameters for weight and/or stability can be optimized. Furthermore, Creo Parametric can work directly with the machines of the two market leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems and works with ca. 80% of metal printers.
The infill structures can be generated as 2,5D as well as 3D. 2,5D is more suitable for the plastics sector, particularly for FDM processes. The 3D structures are suitable for lasersinter procedures with metal or plastic but can also be used for FDM processes with the appropriate parameters. In the pictures below, we can see the differences between the two forms.
The created structures are complete geometry and not just resemblances or representations. We can, however, idealize the lattices for a later simulation and automatically let it convert into beams and masses. The end points of the beam are also created for you.
3D printing is still time-consuming and, especially in the high-end range, the machines are still quite expensive. The infill structures discussed above not only serve to save material and optimize the weight of the parts, they also save time. Therefore, in the professional segment, the aim is to fill space with as many parts as possible to ensure optimal use of the printer, since most of the time is lost to the number of layers. In particular in the lasersinter segment where the third dimension is added as well. The optimization functions of Creo help me to optimally place parts to maximize efficiency and get the most out of my printer. Let’s take a look at this in a practical example:
This installation space was inserted manually. It is not possible for me to fill the space in a way that all parts fit into my printing space.
With the Nesting function of Creo Parametric this is no longer a problem. I can create all the parts in a single printing process and be 50% faster, more efficient and above all more environment-friendly with my production since I require less energy as well as less powder for the printing process.
PTC Creo AMX
Helps you to support and out-of-the-box thinking in your company. Optimize your designs faster on weight and stability. Avoid costs and high start-up times that comes with classical production. Creo AMX is the tool in today’s dynamic market environment where one item is required at the price of a mass-produced product.
If you are interested additive manufacturing, please contact us or agree on a demo appointment.