Direct metal manufacturing is a process of producing complex metal parts using a high-precision laser. Metal particles melt and mend to previously printed metal layers without the need for an adhesive component. Direct metal printing requires a different approach than 3D printing plastics and other materials.
The final result: the production of parts that can not be created using subtractive and traditional 3D printing technologies.
The absence of an integrated solution was just another layer of difficulty added to an already complex direct metal manufacturing process. In the past, work flow would be interrupted by the presence of several various software solutions to complete one project increasing the odds of an issue; that no longer exists with 3DXpert from 3D Systems.
“There’s never been this level of control in direct metal printing until now,” Matt Jones, Manager at Miller 3D, points out. “Before 3DXpert the user relied on STL file input and limited choices for support generation.”
3DXpert introduces control from design to manufacturing, an asset for users that provides flexibility and simplicity. Furthermore, integrating the entire process reduces the need for different solutions, optimizes and enables you to print quality parts, and shortens the project timeline.
“The fact that 3DXpert can import native CAD files gives the operator full CAD tools directly in the operating environment”, Matt explains. “Support generation tools make it easy to add, delete, create and unlimited amount of support geometries that minimize the efforts in post-processing.”
Also included in the integration solution is the ‘ideal mix’ of tools to automate repetitive tasks while continuing to control every detail of design and manufacturing. 3DXpert also gives ultimate control during the sintering process by allowing a designer to alter the laser parameters in different areas of the part to more reflect the true design intent.
Global support from 3D Systems and the production of quality parts manufactured in reduced time make 3DXpert an integrated solution for all industries.
Feel free to visit the original article by 3DSystems here. We’ve also put it below for your convenience.
1) Import Data
- Import data from all CAD formats (B-rep, DXF, IGES, STEP, VDA, Parasolid (including binary), SAT (ACIS), STL and SAB), native read formats including PMI data (such as AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, CATIA, Creo Elements/Pro, Siemens NX, SolidWorks and SolidEdge) as well as virtually all Mesh formats.
- Take advantage of continued work with B-rep data (solids and surfaces). Reading B-rep geometry without downgrading to mesh maintains data integrity including analytic geometry, part topology and color coding. This allows preparing the part for printing using history based parametric features.
- Start working immediately with automated healing of both STL and B-rep geometry.
2) Position Geometry
- Position parts on the printer tray, with visualization of gas flow and Recoater/Roller directions.
- Set part orientation with real-time analysis of support and down-facing areas. Automated orientation optimization allows keeping tray area and supports to the minimum necessary.
- Apply scaling to compensate for part shrinkage during the build.
- Use a rich set of parametric and history-based hybrid (b-rep and mesh) CAD tools as well as advanced direct modeling tools to improve part printability and for post-build operations (e.g., close holes and add material for machining, modify geometry due to printability constraints).
3) Optimize Structure
- Use Micro Lattice to save weight and material. A groundbreaking volume representation technology (V-Rep) allows for lightning-fast creation, editing, and visual manipulation of micro lattices, seamlessly combining the power of lattice structures with history-based parametric features.
- Optimize lattice structures by creating radial lattices to better fit circular parts, defining your own lattice cell structures, and applying variable lattice thickness based on FEA stress analysis.
- Import lattice structures designed by other systems.
- Apply surface lattice to medical parts using V-Rep technology. Add volumetric texture to the outer shell of implants and other medical models to create the required porosity.
- Hollow out parts using infills to reduce weight and material. Sweep based on a broad 2D pattern library to form internal walls within the part.
- Use a full set of CAD tools to mend the part (e.g. offset surfaces or holes size) and adjust it to the selected printer if required.
4) Design Supports
- Analyze the part to find regions that require supports, or manually define regions.
- Easily create supports of any type (wall, lattice, solid, cone and skirt supports). Use a rich tool set to fragmentize, tilt, and offset supports to simplify their removal and minimize material requirements.
- Define, save, and reuse your own templates for automating the creation of supports that fit your needs. Use higher level meta-templates to automate support creation for the entire part with just a single click.
- Eliminate the need to use supports in hard to reach areas. Define special printing strategies to ensure printing integrity without building supports.
- Perform quick analysis to identify areas with potential stress and adjust supports design to prevent part distortion.
5) Design Supports
SHORTEN PRINTING TIME AND ENSURE HIGH SURFACE QUALITY
- Use Zoning technology to apply various print strategies to different areas of the part – reducing printing time and improving surface quality.
- Accelerate printing time with automated assignment of optimal print strategies to relevant objects (supports, lattices, etc.). Manually assign faster print strategies to internal volumes or zones that do not require high surface quality.
- Achieve better surface quality by assigning more accurate printing strategies to specific zones (e.g., small features, high surface quality, circular areas).
- Eliminate the need to divide the part into separate objects and avoid weak spots and lines – using automated fusion of zones with different print strategies to maintain part integrity
6) Calculate Scan-path
OPTIMIZE SLICING & HATCHING TO ENSURE REPEATABILITY AND QUALITY
- Enjoy intelligent scan path calculation based on a combination of zoning and part geometry.
- Validate the print process with a quick and accurate preview of the actual scan path for selected slices prior to fully calculating the entire part.
- Use the Scan Path Viewer to review the calculated contours and hatches.
- Shorten calculation time by offloading and distributing the calculation to additional computers.
- Get the most out of your printer using pre-defined best practice parameters for each machine, material, and print strategy, or develop your own printing strategies with unprecedented control over scan path calculation methods and parameters.
7) Arrange Build Platform & Print
USE THE OPERATOR EDITION TO EASILY POSITION PARTS ON THE TRAY AND SEND THEM TO PRINT
- Position the parts to be printed in any desired array on the build platform and combine all of their scan paths.
- Use a range of analysis tools to ensure all parts are ready for printing, enabling you to view the combined scan path and estimate print time, material consumption, and overall costs.
- Finally, send the optimal combined scan path to your printer.
8) Perform Post-printing Operations
FINALIZE PART MANUFACTURING WITHIN THE SAME SYSTEM
- Use robust machining and drilling programming tools to remove supports, machine high-quality surface areas, and drill, tap or rim holes.
- Enjoy the benefits of using a single system by automatically receiving printing preparation data as stock (including support geometry, support region contours, and machining offset objects), and apply smart machining templates to them.