How design for additive manufacturing can add value to the entire manufacturing process

composite materials

Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) Ltd works across a range of high-value manufacturing sectors offering design, engineering and data capture services.

One of their specialisms is using design for additive manufacturing (AM) to improve product performance, reduce time to market and minimise development costs for their clients.

Dan Fleetcroft Engineering Design Director - PES PerformancePES Engineering Director, Dan Fleetcroft, told delegates at a recent AMRC event that AM can be used across the entire product development process from research and development to concept design, rapid prototyping, tooling and fixturing, testing and evaluation and even for final manufacture.

He encouraged businesses to look carefully at the technology to identify what value can be added to their products and processes by considering AM as a potential solution from the outset of a project.

Dan said: “There are many benefits to utilising design for additive manufacturing, for instance we use AM to produce prototypes or limited runs of components. This approach helps to reduce the associated risks of product evaluation and testing as there is no requirement to invest in expensive tooling which may have to be modified or remanufactured.

“It allows us to check the geometry and test the performance of a product before committing to the tooling necessary for volume production and manufacturing.  For small volume production it can be the difference between attaining an acceptable unit cost compared with the high costs that often result when the tooling is amortised over a low number of parts”.

PES manufacture AM parts directly from CAD and 3D scan data, which means as well as new designs for prototypes or functional components, AM is well suited to the reverse engineering of legacy parts that are no longer available. He outlined the opportunities manufacturers could find in both their current and new sectors:

“There are many opportunities to introduce the use of AM, however the lack of knowledge about design for additive manufacturing in industry means people are unaware that AM parts are already being used in sectors such as aerospace and this results in the current lack of understanding and confidence in the technology.”

He said new areas to consider include elite sports as the high level of customisation and small batch production required can be delivered through high performance bespoke AM parts at costs not achievable through more traditional subtractive techniques or moulding.  Also there is a growing trend in the consumer (including sports) market for consumer customised products and AM is one of the key technologies to unlock this opportunity for bespoke products at ‘off the shelf’ prices.

Dan said: “AM allows you to create components that are impossible or impractical to produce by conventional manufacturing methods.  To achieve the full value from this technology it is essential to understand the materials and manufacturing processes and take advantage of benefits.

“These benefits include; integrated design reducing part count and assembly time; internal geometry improving structural performance whilst minimising material and mass and the overall geometric freedom that building layer by layer offers.

“Developing knowledge and understanding  of the increasing range of AM processes will help you to get or keep ahead of the market.”

Original article: AMRC Journal

 

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