Can 3D Model Simulation Save Your Business Time and Money?


A Z-direction stress map on downward-facing surfaces of the part, calculated by 3DSIM's software. Credit: 3DSIM.

Innovation in additive manufacturing (AM) is largely a matter of trial and error, thanks to limited process control, evolving materials, and a lack of established standards.

Barriers like these introduce considerable uncertainty into AM processes, and companies waste a considerable amount of time and money with failed builds on the journey to perfecting a part.

Brent Stucker of 3DSIM will be speaking about predictive modeling in additive manufacturing at ASME's AM3D conference. Image: 3DSIM.

Dr. Brent Stucker co-founded 3DSIM, an AM simulation-software company, in 2013 after realizing there was a great need for predictive computational modeling in the 3D-printing space.

Simulations save time and cash

As an internationally recognized AM expert and professor at the University of Louisville, Stucker literally wrote the book on AM—he co-authored a text used by AM practitioners and educators around the world. Stucker has also worked with organizations such as the National Science Foundation, DARPA, and the Office of Naval Research on AM-related matters.

“After several years of different programs we were doing in the university for different clients, [we] had quite an extensive set of algorithms and approaches and as we talked about how to get these out there for people to use. We really needed a whole new software infrastructure [and a] whole new company," Stucker explains.

3DSIM's software predicts how metal-powder-bed AM machines will work by allowing its users to experiment virtually with different materials, processes, build setups, and parameters, and predict their outcomes.

“That's what the software enables you to do — run those 'what if' questions in the computer, rather than having to do an experiment," he says. That saves companies materials, money, and time.

Along with the essential research and software teams that develop 3DSIM’s scientific methodologies and their commercial implementations respectively, Stucker credits the company's "from the ground up" attitude for making software that he says is much faster than competitors' modeling tools.

“We created a whole new, very efficient fine element infrastructure for a moving energy source, multi-scale problems, and [whole new] algorithms that allow you to solve the different scales of the problem independently and very quickly, and then combine those answers together for the full solution," Stucker says.

Speed of innovation

Stucker thinks simulations like 3DSIM's will dramatically increase AM's rate of innovation. “It's going to make it possible to qualify, certify, and bring to market products from AM much more quickly," he says.

All of 3DSIM's tools and algorithms were originally tested through partnerships at the University of Louisville. The company is also working with private corporations, the Air Force, and the Navy to help solidify its offerings.

"GE, UTRC, and Honeywell will be beta-testing our software and its predictions against real parts made on EOS and SLM Solutions machines using In625, In718 and In718+ alloys," Stucker explains.

"In addition, we will test the accuracy of the tools with respect to melt-pool shape and microstructural phase predictions for simple geometries for numerous process-parameter combinations," Stucker elaborates. “This will include making single-bead components as well as multiple-layer components."

While details on the components haven't been approved for release, the geometries tested will include those having thick and thin regions, difficult-to-build geometries, and geometries representative of aerospace components.

The company has also partnered with America Makes, a 3D-printing collaborative organization that aims to foster a globally competitive 3D-printing industry in the United States. As part of that partnership, 3DSIM's predictions for simple and complex geometries will be rigorously tested in late 2015 and early 2016, with a specific focus on distortion prediction and compensation.

Validation will pave the way for launching and marketing the company's first two software products: A support-optimization tool targeted at machine users first, and the second, a full scientific simulation suite. 3DSIM hopes to get both software packages to market within the next nine months.

Stucker predicts a rosy future for AM, thanks in part to advancements by his company and others.

"I think five years from now we'll see [the] rate of innovation will go up significantly as a result of simulation," he says.

The new frontier of additive manufacturing can be intimidating to navigate; fortunately, there's the ASME AM3D conference to help guide you as you integrate AM into your business. Learn more about the ASME Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Conference and Expo here.

Kate Dougherty is an independent writer.


July 2015

by Kate Dougherty