Although additive manufacturing (AM) in one form or another has been around for many years, it is still in its infancy in determining properties of materials once they are printed. Perhaps more interestingly, is to be able to repeatably and reliably understand the properties of the materials as they are combined, whether metal or plastic, in the 3D printing process. This means it is critical to document all the inputs and outputs of the process. Since a great many of these data points are digital in nature, one needs the proper digital infrastructure to capture and control this data.
As one starts to look at all the possible inputs to the additive process it becomes apparent that 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) models are needed to define not only the geometry of the product being built, but many of its requirements as well. Traditional drawings simply cannot define the complex and, in many cases, organic structures being created by the AM process. This means that to adequately use these models in a repeatable and reliable manner one needs the infrastructure to not only view, create, and modify these models, but to configuration manage them as well. Also, many existing 3D models will be outdated as soon as parts are redesigned due to some needed change. This design change impacts productivity from product concept well into production in the manufacturing stage which is another reason for having the proper configuration management process.
Once the additive manufactured component is complete it must be inspected against its requirements. Here lies another complexity of additive manufacturing. Due to all the complexity already discussed and combined with the geometry that can be created with AM, many traditional inspection processes simply will not work. Tools like laser and optical scanning, coordinate measurement and nondestructive inspection techniques must be applied. These processes create digital outputs that must be compared to the digital inputs required by the products. Once again, this reliance on digital data and the need to know which data elements relate to which point in the process means having the proper infrastructure is critical.
Many pieces of this infrastructure currently exist to control and maintain the digital thread of data needed for successful additive manufacturing. The key is to know what tools to use and developing the processes to use them correctly. This is where MBD360 LLC can help you. Let us help you in optimizing your process to maximize your bottom line.
Another key area where MBD360 can help your organization is in knowing the best way to create a CAD model that can be used by the downstream additive process. This is an emerging area where many of the traditional ways of annotating requirements in a model simply will not work. We can show you how to utilize emerging standards and techniques to create not only a successful design model, but an entire dataset that can fully support the AM and quality processes.