3 Additive Manufacturing Innovations You Need Now

Written By: Mike Gayette
  • 1/24/2020
  • Read Time : 3 min.
Object designed using lattice structures.

Innovation in additive manufacturing is moving fast, both complementing traditional manufacturing methods, and opening up some ground-breaking new avenues to product designers.

We asked our resident additive manufacturing expert, Jose Coronado to fill us in.

“We are seeing more and more generative design in the context of additive manufacturing and geometry that is self-sustaining, or self-supported,” Coronado says. “In fact, eliminating the need for support structures all together is very important right now.”

He continues, “Another innovation is the new types of materials printers are capable of using. We’re going from the original very specialized and expensive metal powders to new types that reduce the cost of parts up to tenfold. Materials are also an area where the industry is continually evolving to provide cheaper and better parts.”

A few short statements with a lot to unpack. Here’s what they mean for your products.

1. Generative Design

Generative design, simply put, takes your design requirements and autonomously produces solutions.

Before you complain that AI is intruding on your job, let’s be clear. The computer isn’t doing the engineering for you. It simply shows a range of possible designs that meet the constraints you specified. The process is interactive, giving you opportunities to enter limits on materials, weights, strengths, stresses, and costs.

Generative puts your software to work helping you create initial designs faster, and then helps you finalize a product with fewer iterations.  While it can work with a variety of manufacturing methods, additive manufacturing can uniquely deliver the most organic, unconstrained shapes generative design might suggest.

Part created via AI-driven generative design.

Image: Additive manufacturing provides the flexibility to produce the most organic shapes suggested by an AI-driven generative design.

2. Self-Supporting Lattices (e.g., Gyroids)

Design engineers appreciate the fact that you can produce nearly any shape on a 3D printer. It’s common for them to use honeycomb and beam-based lattices with additive manufacturing to optimize parts for weight and strength.

The only problem? These parts could need extra supports (think kickstands) to prop them up during printing. And all that extra support wastes printing material, which is sometimes costly and not always 100% recyclable. Plus, it requires extra labor afterward to remove the supports.

CAD systems are taking on this challenge by innovating ways for design engineers to create more self-supporting geometry. These support-free structures can then play a major role in efficient, affordable production.

An exciting example of this can be found in formula-driven lattices. These structures, such as gyroids, primitives, and diamonds, can be self-supporting when oriented correctly. That leads to less material, faster print times, and minimal post processing.

Cell types for additive manufacturing: diamond, gyroid, and primitive.

Image: Diamond, gyroid and primitive cells, designed using Creo, can minimize the need for support structures, saving material, speeding printing, and reducing post-processing steps.

3. Materials Advancement

Things have changed. If you still think of 3D printing as simple extrusion and breakable trinkets, you’re in for a surprise. Materials have been evolving at an accelerated pace to meet industry needs. Within the past few years, researchers have introduced many new materials, including advanced polymers, metals, rubber, and even Kevlar and carbon fiber.

Take powder bed fusion in the aerospace industry. It’s now possible to print a finished part that is up to 25% lighter, and much more durable, than traditionally manufactured parts. Plus, manufacturers can print a single part that replaces the multiple welded parts of a traditionally fabricated part. 

Check out this iMaterialise page for a more in-depth look at all the available materials.

You’ll hear a lot more about additive manufacturing over the next few years as techniques and materials evolve. Stay up to date by subscribing to PTC Express for monthly news and updates.

Subscribe to PTC Express.

  • CAD
  • Retail and Consumer Products
  • Additive Manufacturing

About the Author

Mike Gayette

Mike Gayette is a marketing professional and freelance writer based in North Dakota. He writes about engineering software, marketing technology, customer service, and team building. He also spends time at the local humane society as a dog walker and cat entertainer.