12/3/2014

Material Strength Affects Part Weight in Additive Manufacturing

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Material properties will have even more significance in additive manufacturing than in previous part-making processes. Taking advantage of the strength of one material over another can permit an internal redesign that reduces the weight and cost of the part.

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One advantage of additive manufacturing is the freedom to reduce part weight by growing parts that are not solid, but instead have internal lattice or honeycomb structures. The next step is to take this line of thinking farther by choosing or developing materials that are inherently better at making strong lattices.

The sample parts here illustrate the potential. 3D printer maker Stratasys recently announced the availability of thermoplastic material ASA for its line of fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers. In these printers, the most commonplace material used to make functional parts is ABS. Intended for appearance products and products used outdoors, ASA has better aesthetics and better resistance to UV radiation. The latter material also has better mechanical properties, and this benefit can be leveraged in the part design.

With its greater strength, ASA “bridges” better, meaning thin walls or fins used to connect two part details can be trusted to reach farther in ASA. The dumbbell samples show the result. While the part at right uses a lattice design to save weight, the part at left takes advantage of the strength of ASA to realize a more efficient lattice that realizes even greater weight and material savings.

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