How Additive Manufacturing Is Changing 3D CAD
Written By: Cat McClintock

How big is the 3D printing industry? More than $6 billion USD big, according to the 2017 report by industry experts Wohlers. And it keeps getting bigger. Revenues were up more than 25% in 2015 and 17% in 2016. The number of companies who sell additive manufacturing systems has nearly doubled from 49 in 2014 to 97 in 2017.

 For design engineers that means that if you haven’t encountered additive manufacturing technology yet, you probably will very soon. And when you do, hopefully, your 3D CAD system will be ready for it.

 Object being created with 3D printer

That wasn’t always the case. In the past, engineers who wanted to send even a design to the 3D printer had to kludge together multiple open-source or third-party package to turn their digital ideas into real world widgets. Hardly the “design and click Print” workflow most of us hoped for.

Fortunately, that’s changing. Now in some cases you can find sophisticated additive manufacturing tools that work directly within your CAD system to streamline and optimize your work.

 If you haven’t been using these additive manufacturing tools with your design software, here are five reasons why you’ll love them.

1. Lattice creation.

One of the biggest benefits of additive manufacturing is that it lets manufacturers use less material to build their parts and products. One of the best ways to create a strong structure that has less mass and materials is to design structures with lattices. Additive manufacturing tools in your CAD software let designers create parametrically controlled lattice structures.

A 3D model of a part held together with lattice structures

A lattice feature created using Creo 4.0.

Additive manufacturing tools like these also allow designers to reinforce lattice structures. Designers can optimize their lattice designs and use their parametric design software to make sure the lattice meets all of their design requirements.

2. Printability validation.

One of the first things 3D printing hobbyists learn is that you can design a cool thing in your CAD software, but you may not actually be able to print it on your 3D printer. Additive manufacturing design software solves this problem by letting designers run a printability check before they start printing their design.

Printability validation checks will let you know if your design has gaps that are too narrow to be printed, including holes and extrusions, or if the walls of your design are too thin. Thin walls might break while they are being printed or when the supports for the printed object are removed. Printability validation can spot problems like that before you print them.

3. Print tray management.

The position of your print jobs makes a big difference. It can determine how long your print job takes, how much material it uses, and even whether the finished product will work the way you want. In a modern 3D CAD system optimized for additive manufacturing, it’s easier than ever to manage how your print jobs sit on the print tray. From within your 3D CAD system, you can automatically position your print job on the tray and even nest multiple components for more efficient printing. And when you connect to supported printers, you can assign materials and colors to specific parts of your print job.



For example, Creo’s Additive Manufacturing Extension supports a number of different printing systems, including:

4. Minimal learning curve.

Since these additive manufacturing tools reside within your 3D CAD system, you can design your entire project in the same environment, from concept development through printing. It’s much easier and faster than trying to get multiple software packages to work together. And because you’re using a single environment, you won’t have to remember how to find the Move button is in 4 different systems.

5. Innovation.

Additive manufacturing software in your 3D CAD system can take the guesswork out of figuring out whether your design will print correctly and work the way you intend it to, which frees up more of your time and brainpower to innovate. And isn’t that the fun part of being an engineer?

 Who Uses Additive Manufacturing?

Whether you’re a CEO, an engineer, or a Maker, additive manufacturing offers some unique advantages (and disadvantages). Find out who’s using it, the obstacles they face, and some tips for printing smarter with Creo in our free Additive Manufacturing infographic. Available now.

Download the Additive Manufacturing Infographic

Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Additive Manufacturing
About the Author Cat McClintock

Cat McClintock edits the Creo and Mathcad blogs for PTC.  She has been a writer and editor for 15+ years,  working for CAD, PDM, ERP, and CRM software companies. Prior to that, she edited science journals for an academic publisher and aligned optical assemblies for a medical device manufacturer. She holds degrees in Technical Journalism, Classics, and Electro-Optics. She loves talking to PTC customers and learning about the interesting work they're doing and the innovative ways they use the software.