Additive Manufacturing (AM) is chalked up as being the next big step in manufacturing, but this will only be true if we can take advantage of what it has to offer. With Government legislation putting increasing pressure on all sectors (especially automotive and aerospace industries) to reduce CO2 emissions, AM often can provide opportunities for weight saving. Already some OEM’s (especially in the aerospace industry) are pushing for their suppliers to either be using AM or to have a plan in place to introduce it.

New to Additive Manufacturing?

Additive Manufacturing does exactly what the name suggests. It is the process of adding material layer upon layer to construct a 3D object, it is also a very versatile way to manufacture as the material can be metal, plastic, concrete and who knows, perhaps one-day human tissue? The technology is even being used on the International Space Station to test ‘printing’ tools in zero gravity.

Additive Manufacturing is a general term that is used to cover many technologies, including 3D printing, additive fabrication, direct digital manufacturing, layered manufacturing and rapid prototyping.

It sounds perfect, what’s the catch?

As with most manufacturing technologies, there are advantages and disadvantages. When working with metal, the way most of the printing processes work is to build up a product using metal powders, however doing this can mean the product contains defects. These defects then have an adverse effect on the mechanical properties of the products, although companies are working to improve the process all the time.

Another issue is cooling, as the material cools, once deposited it can distort the intended shape. This issue can be compensated for by using simulation software, like that found in Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE, which allows a user to look at the deformation and compensate in the model.

Advantages of AM:

  1. The ability to take existing designs, reduce the material used in the design, in ways that would be inefficient for conventional manufacturing, can optimise the design for weight/cost. A great step forward in weight reduction and potentially speed of production.
  2. Here’s the paradigm shift: To truly take advantage of AM we need to change our design approach fundamentally. In the above point, we have taken items that were designed to be manufactured using conventional machining, but we need to throw that rule book away and start again with the art of the possible.

Take the example below, a castle chess piece. At first, you would be forgiven for thinking “what are we talking about, that can be made using conventional casting/machining processes” – and you are correct. But look a little closer, you will see a helix and spiral staircase running up the centre of the castle, something that would be – we won’t say impossible – but would be incredibly difficult and costly to manufacture using conventional methods, especially at this size.

It’s up for discussion:

We will have a requirement in the future to re-train ourselves and rewrite all we knew about manufacturing design to truly take advantage of what this new technology has to offer. We are very excited to see how the manufacturing sector changes in the years to come and are looking forward to helping our manufacturing customers continue to create better.


Neil Watford is a Technical Consultant at Majenta Solutions for Dassault Systèmes.

With specialities in PLM Support, Neil looks after Majenta Solutions’ CATIA V5 and 3DEXPERIENCE® platform customers. Neil has built 3DEXPERIENCE® platform environments for both internal uses and for our customers. Neil has gained Dassault Systèmes certification in Transport & Mobility and 3DEXPERIENCE® platform customisation.

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