This guest blog is by Tyler Reid, Manufacturing Application Manager, GoEngineer
The idea of iterative design – the cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product – existed long before additive manufacturing, but was never so efficient or approachable as it is with 3D printing technology.
Multiple iterations enable you to collect more data.
Through fit, form, assembly, functional, and destructive testing, you can start with multiple options and confidently hone in on the single best fit. And the reality is that the best fit may be radically different from initial designs.
Iterative design demands flexibility throughout the process, and 3D printing (3DP) delivers that opportunity. By drastically reducing both the cost and time required to develop prototypes, you can fit more versions of a part into the budget.
Adaptive design plays on 3DP’s intrinsic inclination for “mass customization.” Decades of mass production have left us living in a “one size fits none” world with imperfect products.
Look to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 project as a telling example: infamously expensive and repeatedly delayed, the F-35 JSF platform was designed to be configured into three variants: one each for the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines.
The effort actually led Lockheed down a long, costly road. Balancing the needs of each military branch proved quite difficult, forcing engineers to accept compromises in their designs.
Not surprisingly, Lockheed partnered with a European additive manufacturing OEM to develop updated flaperon spars for the F-35. Lockheed expects to save $100 million over the lifetime of the aircraft by replacing the older design made of forged titanium.
But both large and smaller companies stand to receive huge payback by using 3D printing technology for the iterative and adaptive phases of product development.
A small company that builds military and civilian UAVs replaced their traditional injection molding method for prototyping with 3D printers. On one project, the company saved over $140,000 and shaved 6 months off their delivery time.
The newly afforded flexibility in part design, minus the associated cost of tooling equals BIG savings.
The technology available today is capable of flight-ready parts, and there is a concerted effort to increase throughput and volume capabilities.
Reid is a CAD, CAM, and 3D printing specialist. His early interest in machines and machine tools led him to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah. Before graduating with his Bachelors of Science in 2009, he began his professional career at BD Medical where he was involved in developing, testing, and manufacturing a new drug infusion technology. Reid joined the SOLIDWORKS VAR channel in late 2010. He initially helped GoEngineer’s technical support team field questions on CAD, CAM, FEA, and CFD. Now an Applications Engineer focused on 3D printing, he leans on his technical background and experience to present and speak on industrial additive manufacturing applications.