Designing for Additive Manufacturing - Part 1
Updated: Oct 19
How to Reduce the Cost of Metal 3D Printing
The picture on the left is a standard pedestal machined from aluminium and the right image shows an optimised pedestal 3D printed in aluminium.
Consideration of material properties will really help you get the most out of your part. Put simply, if the mass doesn’t need to be there, get rid of it!
Traditional manufacturing and design methods tend to be constrained by tool paths, machine time, material shapes and sizes. This means, if you can’t remove the material, it stays there. With AM you are less tied to these constraints allowing you to do cut outs, pockets, fillets, undercuts and even combine part assemblies, where traditionally you couldn’t. Some CAD programs even contain part optimisation for additive parts; this is a great way of reducing part cost, while creating innovative and interesting looking parts.
Where you cannot remove large surface areas or you need to keep a solid look to a part, there is the option of adding an internal lattice structure. This gives that solid look without the mass or the price tag. The lattice fills the void and ties the inner and outer walls together. We can input a generic lattice with a uniform wall thickness. If you need a non-uniform wall thickness, you can provide us with an internal model, which can be latticed and merged with your outer shelled part. When you send us your internal and external model, make sure the models line up or the lattice will not merge to the shell correctly.
Example of a bicycle lug showing internal lattice structure
For performance applications the lattice would need to be specified to suit the loads or internal requirements of the model. This can be done using CAD programs like nTopology or Netfabb. Internal lattice structures require perforations in the skin for powder removal so it pays to keep this in mind.