Taking 3D Printing Beyond Prototype

Aug 13, 2015



Jason Lopes, lead systems engineer at Legacy Effects, discussed 3D Printing in Hollywood during the keynote luncheon for AM3D, IDETC and CIE on Aug. 3.

Engineers from across a range of industries convened at the inaugural ASME Additive Manufacturing + 3D Printing Conference & Expo (AM3D) in Boston earlier this month to share strategies on how to use additive manufacturing beyond prototype development.

The conference was held from Aug. 2 to 5 at the Hynes Convention Center in collaboration with the ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE).

Altogether, more than 2,000 engineers, researchers, and government officials attended the event. Many attendees of the AM3D conference were from small- and medium-sized businesses that had not yet made the move to 3D printing.

Several sessions on the first day focused on the question of when it might be cost effective to use the technology. Zack Simkin, president of Senvol, described seven “supply chain scenarios” that can help inform that decision, and he analyzed case studies at GE and Johnson Controls.


(Left to right) AM3D panelists Joseph J. Beaman, Jr., Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering, University of Texas at Austin; Chris Williams, Ph.D., associate professor , professor of Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech; Brent Stucker, Ph.D., co-founder, 3DSIM; David W. Rosen, Ph.D. professor of mechanical engineering, Georgia Tech; and Tim Simpson, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering, Penn State.

W. Daniel Fraser, Ph.D., who leads new business development at Fraser Advanced Information Systems, explained how to tally total costs of an Advanced Manufacturing (AM) center, by adding up material cost, maintenance, replacement parts, down time, material waste, post processing, and the costs of ancillary equipment.

A frequent message at AM3D was that design tools are now a bottleneck for the adoption of AM and are limiting existing process capabilities.

“Additive manufacturing has the ability to make complex shapes and to make multi-material shapes that current design tools are actually not well suited to design,” said Brent Stucker, Ph.D., co-founder of 3DSIM, in a panel discussion called “Founders and Futurists.” “So sometimes it is a lot easier to print out something than to design it.”

Panelists agreed that engineers need very sophisticated tools. “If you think about Finite Element Analysis and design, one of the things you want is to do is try to bring some of the science decision making as far up the design path as you can,” Dr. Stucker said.


Grant Thomas-Lepore, director of product for GrabCAD, was one of the speakers during the session "Born in Boston: Local AM Innovations Shaping the World" on Aug. 4.

At an earlier technical session, David Rosen, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, described a broad range of important tools for the AM designer, including CAD programs that integrate material information with geometry, simulation tools, topology optimization, materials databases, and tools for manufacturing process selection, manufacturability analysis and manufacturing simulation.

Following Dr. Rosen, Gordon Kurtenbach, Ph.D., the senior research director of Autodesk, described work toward a CAD program that would let a designer focus on outcomes. With “Goal Driven Design,” a team working on a turbine might begin by specifying minimum airflow and maximum noise. The software would generate digital models, and then test them.

Conference attendees learned of some of the latest work in AM Verification and Validation, especially for metal parts destined for flight. “How does the FAA know that the part that part you get out of that machine meets design intent?” asked Donald Godfrey, Ph.D., Engineering Fellow at Honeywell Aerospace. Dr. Godfrey described DARPA funded work Honeywell carried out with Sigma Labs, on a quality control system that monitors the melt pool as laser sintering machines build up parts.

Godfrey also described a privately-funded project, also with Sigma Labs, testing software that uses high resolution photography. “What we’re doing is taking a digital photograph of each layer as we build the part,” Godfrey explained. “And you can then compare that digital photograph to the CAD model … to identify any anomalies.” The goal is to avoid post-manufacture testing altogether. “When we take the part out of the machine,” Godfrey continued, “we want to avoid any X-rays or CT scanning, we want an actual in-process, quality assurance technology that says to the FAA, ‘that part is good, that part is bad.’ When it comes out of the machine, I have to know that. And we’re pretty close.”


AM3D attendees had the chance to get a close look at the latest advanced in advanced manufacturing on the AM3D exhibit floor.

Hod Lipson, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, said AM would not follow the pattern of “hype cycle charts” that show the growth of new technologies often flattening out after an initial period of hype.

Dr. Lipson said AM will prove to be exempt from this pattern because like other disruptive technologies it significantly reduces core costs. Figuratively, Lipson said the steam engine brought the cost of power “to zero”, and that the electronic computer and digital networks brought the costs of calculation and communications to zero as well.

With AM, Lipson said, “the number one thing that has gone to zero is the cost of making complex things. … And that is a marked departure from most of human history, when making more complex things meant more time, effort and skill.” And with AM, Lipson continued, “variety is free” as well. As a result, Lipson said, AM has the potential to drive big change: “Often people will ask, ‘At what point does this technology break even with conventional manufacturing?’ And I think that is the wrong question to ask. The question should be: When ‘complexity is free’ and ‘variety is free,’ how can we create new business models that were not possible before?”

Several presenters at the conference touched on something of a running debate: Can a seasoned engineer learn new tricks?


A special reception for AM3D, IDETC and CIE attendees was held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Aug. 3.

“The first thing you have to do is keep the designers in additive away from all your current designers,” said Roger England, Ph.D., director of materials engineering for Cummings. “They can’t be in the same building. If they go to lunch together, you’re in trouble. What we found is you want to hire somebody fresh out of school. … People who are young, new and willing, they figure it out a lot faster.”

Dr. England was followed by Brenan McCarrager, Ph.D., director of R&D at Draper Labs. Dr. McCarrager described a senior Draper engineer who produced an important technical solution using AM.

“I’m going to take the opportunity to contradict the last statement you heard about not keeping your design engineers together,” McCarrager told a packed session. “We’ve had a very different experience. I [once] believed that the way to achieve a breakthrough is with someone who is 25 and doesn’t know any better. … I thought that until one of the guys I work with, who is 73 and has retired two times and keeps coming back, actually changed our whole way of thinking. … So, those who are over 30, don’t give up. Those who are under 30, you do not have the capitalization on innovation.”

Roger Torda, ASME Public Information

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