3D printing addresses complexity with elegance


3D printing complex shapes

3D printing complex shapes

3D printing complex shapes

The process of designing for 3D printing can take into account complexities, in a way not possible with traditional manufacturing. This enables the making of complex shapes using 3D printing.

Design for Traditional Manufacturing:

Traditional manufacturing is bound by Design for Manufacturing (DFM) and Design for Assembly (DFA). The designer has to abide by  manufacturability and assembly criteria while building a design.

The design for each part will be in a single material. Creating overhangs, dents, curves and holes in the product design, will be limited by the design properties of the mould.

Design for 3D printing:

3D printing is not limited by such constraints. The 3D printing design can introduce multiple complexities. These include  overhangs, edges, trims, curves, holes and other structural shapes.

The 3D printing process does not limit the design creativity. Adding or not adding material at specific locations is part of the printing process.  This also helps in other benefits such as:

  • Several materials in one print job
  • Setting fill factor to reduce the weight of the job without compromising structural integrity.
  • Material saving
  • Wasted materials can be re-used.
Retraining the design team:

The designer must be conscious of the complexities that can be present in the design. Only then the full benefit of 3D printing will devolve upon the product design .

Direct conversion of traditional designs into 3D printing is not useful. This does not take advantage of the new paradigm.  The designer, therefore, has to seek ways to combine multiple process steps from the earlier design, into a single printout.

Traditional designers follow DFM and DFA like religious precepts.  They fail to recognize the full potential of the design methods that are available to them. They have to undergo re-orientation and training to convert themselves into proper 3D designers.

The product team needs to be conscious of the advantages of complexity in the product. If this is there, it is possible to come up with several ingenious designs. Such designs can take full advantage of the 3D printing methods.