Built From the Ground Up with Entire Product Lifecycle in Mind
People often discuss prototyping and spare parts when it comes to additive manufacturing. But we don’t often discuss the entire product lifecycle. And, until now, rightfully so. Reliability concerns from machine-to-machine have made scaling difficult, if not impossible. So, even if you could create an innovative design, how were you supposed to scale it to serial production reliably and repeatably?
With the fully integrated VELO3D AM Solution, this is no longer a concern. The VELO3D AM Solution was built from the ground up with production in mind – with 1) pre-print software that ensures a robust and nimble supply chain with identical print instructions across any printer worldwide, 2) printers that enable unprecedented design freedom and ensure repeatability with push-button calibration and real-time monitoring, and 3) a quality system that validates the part, layer-by-layer, producing a complete build report that includes extensive control charts. Here we will discuss how this applies to each segment of the product lifecycle, as well as how it facilitates the acceleration and stability of the product lifecycle as a whole.
New Product Development
Many are familiar with 3D printing for prototyping. It was one of the earliest uses of 3D printing technologies and continues to be valuable across all industries and materials. However, there is much more to new product development than just prototyping. Let’s think bigger, such as creating new products that simply couldn’t have been made before, with any technology.
But during the design process there is a constant tension between optimizing for performance and maintaining manufacturability. Do you redesign the part to be more manufacturable, only to lose performance in the process? Or do you look for something new? The problem with using traditional manufacturing is that those processes often dictate the design of the product. If you’re using the same manufacturing processes as your competitor, the parts face the same constraints and can end up looking and performing similarly. If you had a way of eliminating those constraints, you could maximize the impact of your innovation.
Design for Functionality Rather than Manufacturability
The VELO3D AM Solution offers exactly this. By leveraging the VELO3D technology with feature specific process parameters, you’ll have the geometric freedom to manufacture the optimal geometry for your application, without limitations or the need for re-designs.
Take for example, the Sierra Turbines part shown here, as-printed, without any post-processing. Sierra Turbines identified that they wanted to use additive manufacturing from the start but were told that they would have to redesign the part to have no overhangs less than 45-degrees from horizontal for it to be printable. Such a redesign would have negated much of the optimized performance that they were trying to accomplish. The VELO3D AM Solution was the only platform they found that didn’t require them to redesign their part for it to be printed.
How Does VELO3D Enable Rapid Iteration?
Time is also a critical factor for successful innovation. Innovations make the biggest impact when they’re timely, so being able to accelerate the innovation timeline creates a huge advantage. Parts manufactured with traditional manufacturing processes, such as casting, brazing and welding, or other multi-step processes, can cause development cycles and iterations to drag on. And if the part is novel or challenging, many traditional metal 3D printing technologies will struggle to manufacture it without multiple attempts. This can lead to months of iterations, building, and testing until you get the part just right.
With VELO3D, you take the advantage back with the most extensive feature specific process parameter library in the industry, which enables you to print virtually any geometry that your part and application demands. Fully integrated into the VELO3D AM Solution, the FlowTM software applies feature specific process parameters to each individual portion of the part, eliminating the need for part specific development and creates a truly generalized solution for successful printing of the highest quality parts. Further accelerating the innovation stage is the ability to prototype in parallel rather than serially. With the VELO3D AM Solution you can print multiple designs in a single build and test them at once – no need to produce iterations one after another.
Pilot & Serial Production
Once the design has been finalized, the time to bring the product to market is even more critical. Often, time to market can be the deciding factor whether a new product is successful. With metal additive manufacturing, the time to market is greatly reduced. There’s no need to have expensive tooling manufactured, and if design iterations arise, they can be implemented right away.
Metal additive manufacturing for serial production has been on the rise for several years now. With minimal set-up costs and on-demand availability, it’s only set to grow exponentially going forward. With a specific intention to address this, the VELO3D AM Solution was built from the ground up with production in mind. The Flow pre-print software ensures a robust and nimble supply chain with identical print instructions across any printer worldwide. The Sapphire® printers ensure repeatability and high first time yields with push-button calibration, in-situ monitoring, and a non-contact recoater. And the Assure™ quality system validates the part, layer-by-layer, providing an extensive build report including control charts and a 3D topographical map on each layer of the build. With the fully integrated solution, traceability, reliability, and consistency comes with every part.
Additionally, the Sapphire family of printers are built on the same optics and processes, so they can cover the entire product lifecycle in a way that the traditional metal AM printers cannot. For example, if a part is developed on the legacy Sapphire, it can be produced for serial production on the larger format Sapphire XC with the same process conditions and material properties. Per Will Hasting, Director, Aviation & Turbine Solutions at VELO3D:
The largest barrier to serial production in metal AM has been part cost. The octo-laser Sapphire XC not only allows a whole new category of larger parts to be printed, it also breaks down this barrier by reducing print cost up to 75%.
Scale Production with Demand
Another underappreciated benefit of metal additive manufacturing is its contribution to reducing supply chain risk and lowering inventory costs. Traditional supply chains present a trade-off between a reduction in part cost along with a commitment to high minimum order quantities. Often, manufacturing companies will produce an excessive supply to reduce the risk of being outpaced by demand. But holding inventory is very expensive. With metal AM, production can be on-demand, producing parts only when needed and in the quantity needed -- whether it’s 1 or 1,000 parts. Virtual inventories improve the efficiency of any manufacturing operation.
Direct Part Replacement
Direct part replacement, long-tail production, and spare & obsolete parts are natural fits for metal additive manufacturing. In short, 3D printing fundamentally changes how parts at the end of the product lifecycle are viewed. With a single digital file, spare and obsolete parts can be recreated as needed. However, with traditional metal AM systems these parts often must be re-designed to fit specialized Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) rules, which not only adds significant cost and lead-time, but can also then render the part unsuitable for its intended application.
The VELO3D AM Solution eliminates the need for specialized DfAM knowledge that often precludes direct part replacement. With the VELO3D technology, parts need minimal-to-no redesign and can be printed straight from any CAD file. By leveraging process simulation and feature specific processes, features that used to be impossible with traditional AM systems can now be printed without specialty knowledge and with significantly reduced post-processing.
Create a Nimble & Robust Supply Chain
Lead-time can also be a significant concern, especially when it comes to spare parts critical for maintenance. Castings can be cheap and relatively quick, but they can be tooling and time intensive for small quantities. Often multiple parts are produced (whether they are needed or not) and spares are stored for an indefinite period. Brazing and welding of machined components require an even longer time investment, and often deliver surface finishes and tolerances that might not necessarily be required. But, with metal additive manufacturing, high-quality, reliable parts can often be delivered in less than a few weeks.
Further reducing supply chain risk is the functionality within the pre-print software, which provides identical print instructions across any printer worldwide, ensuring a part can be printed on any machine, in any location, with identical quality. With the VELO3D AM Solution’s fully integrated quality system and push-button calibration, a single part printed in two different locations can be assured to be of identical quality – something that is unheard of with traditional metal AM. With a national network of contract manufacturers, there is always a VELO3D system available to meet last minute demand.
Build the Impossible
With the VELO3D AM Solution, manufacturing without compromise is no longer an impossible task – whether you are looking to utilize metal additive manufacturing for new product development, serial production, direct part replacement, or the complete product lifecycle. Make the parts you want, when you want them.