The Application of Additive Manufacturing and Generative Design Systems Across Industries

Manufacturers that operate globally work across multiple industries and are continuously in competition with each other. To overtake the competition and become market leaders, these businesses rely on existing technology such as CNC machining, emerging technologies such as generative design, and new technology including additive manufacturing, helping to gain competitive advantages against competitors. To gain this advantage over others always requires the risk associated with investing; however, there are significant benefits and a return on investment to be made when implementing new and emerging forms of technology.

While additive manufacturing already takes place in numerous industries (table 1), this can also be done on an industrial scale. Components that are made through the process of industrial additive manufacturing follow a process where computer-aided design (CAD) files are used to guide 3D printers as they create layers of chosen materials to form objects.

Source: MarketsandMarkets’ press report & McKinsey & Company 3D printing

Cutting-edge and recent manufacturing hardware systems collaborate with 3D software that requires generative design. The application of generative design software means that designers are able to create alterations of products on a large scale, time-efficiently and easily.

There is the ability to design virtual prototypes that can be run through simulation software. This is done by having engineers combine 3D software with untethered or tethered virtual reality (VR) headsets. By doing this, businesses are able to reduce costs by altering the virtual prototype further down the product design process.

Generative algorithms have a broad range of uses, being included in sectors such as healthcare, automotive, and even aerospace. The application of generative algorithms in these sectors has seen a reduction in the cost of parts of between 6 and 20 percent. In addition to this, the time taken for development has been reduced by 30 to 50 percent (Table 2), and the weight of parts has been reduced by 10 to 50 percent. These reductions and belt-tightening can very quickly translate into several hundred thousands of dollars annually for manufacturers.

As an example of this process in action, a manufacturer of tools managed to reduce the weight of the die-cast support bracket by 26 percent as well as cutting the cost by 8 percent. This was done without impacting the assembly process of this part with the others. Another example of its uses is with the reduction of approximately 40 percent of the weight when using generative optimization on a die-forged part, reducing the overall weight of the complete product by a kilo. Once a physical prototype has been created from the design, the cost of alterations and amendments to the design increases drastically.

Source: McKinsey & Company Generative design report

Here is a brief overview of how additive manufacturing combined with generative design is used in various industries:

Automotive:

Generative design is used for light-weighting components and parts consolidation. Metal-additive manufacturing systems can now provide more potential benefits of printing complex topology created by generative algorithms. Recently, Aerosint 3D printed the first-ever objects in two types of metal.

Dual-metal parts. Multi-Metal Laser Powder Bed Fusion Source; 3D printing Media Network©

Aerospace:

Generative design is used to create different components to find ways of reducing weight, reducing material, and exploring alternative designs that may improve performance and efficiency-of-motion. Metal additive manufacturing systems (either in-house or as-a-service).

Consumer Products:

Generating many iterations of the same product in popular 3D file formats allows companies to offer higher degrees of customization while utilizing generative design to find new solutions to design bottlenecks. As batch-printing continues to mature, more companies will be able to offer higher-volume customized batches of products for consumers.

Source: 3D printing Media Network ©

Construction and Architecture:

Generative design technology applications exist outside of manufacturing. Certain industrial building products suppliers are simplifying the production of complex assemblies with the one-two punch of generative design and additive manufacturing.

Source: 3D Printing Media Network©

Industrial machinery:

Manufacturers of specialty tools and equipment are exploring the use of generative design and metal additive manufacturing to innovate and offer high levels of customization to their customers.

Source: Arup’ 3D makeover for hyper-efficient metalwork©

Conclusion:

The applications of additive manufacturing and generative algorithms are expected to continuously grow. As technological advancements and new research take place, there will be wider-ranging, more simple, and robust applications available in the years to come.

The ability to simplify the process of the assembly will hold the potential to complete products, with additional computing power enabling the manufacturing process to evolve beyond the part level.

Many of the world’s best-known brands such as BMW, General Motors and Airbus are pioneering in the world of additive manufacturing and generative design, implementing it throughout relevant businesses and processes. While this does require significant resources, those who invest time and money in educating, creating necessary tools, and working on suitable systems will benefit from notably reduced production time, lower costs, and a rise in product performance.

Fred is a passionate and experienced technical consultant, project manager, and global business strategist.