The Power of AM Is in Product and Process

Additive manufacturing will advance where DFAM improves product performance and is supported by the process chain.


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Additive manufacturing is not just about the 3D printing process anymore, says Marc Saunders, director of global solutions centers for Renishaw. He made his comments at the most recent Additive Manufacturing Conference. This is because design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) is the next step to industrializing AM, he says, and product performance is its main driver. The applications that will take off will be the ones where the product is better, where it creates value for consumers and where it disrupts markets.

A direct part replacement strategy doesn’t offer much freedom of design, he notes. It entails essentially designing for fit, form and function. A move to adapting for AM means changing the form and streamlining things a bit. 

However, the more powerful design strategy is designing for AM by rethinking the whole part, considering fit, form and function as well as process. Maybe this means integrating functions into components or simplifying assemblies. Designing this way can reap many product benefits, including lightweight structures, topological optimization, increased surface area, better heat transfer, application of metal foams and customization. 

The entire AM process chain is key to DFAM, because as Saunders says, “Additive manufacturing is not an island.” That chain includes 3D CAD, FEA/CFD, CAM, the AM machine, CAM inspection, postprocessing, verification and PLM. Leading industry players are working to build that chain as they develop optimized CAD tools, integrated build file preparation and postprocessing, metrology solutions and process control to minimize variation at each link in the chain.