It is amazing to see how quickly we’ve made strides into the generative design age, at least from a capability perspective. Within the past two years, numerous software providers have announced new capabilities to produce designs autonomously. And while that is a good thing, few solutions can take someone from the beginning to end of the process. That is what’s so interesting about this new workflow solution from Dassault Systèmes.
In this post, we’ll start by reviewing the steps in the process. Then we’ll transition to talk about the implications and advantages of this solution, and finally, we’ll wrap it up with a summary.
Steps in the 3DEXPERIENCE Print to Perform Process
At a high level, there are two major phases of this process: developing the geometry and planning production. Let’s look at each one in turn.
Developing the Geometry
The first step here is defining the form, fit and function constraints for the design. This means applying loads, boundary conditions and other simulation definitions. But it also means specifying geometric spaces that must be untouched or excluded. I speculate that this will be tied into the system engineering functionality that already exists in the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that will be further enhanced with the Requirements-Functions-Logical-Physical (RFLP) capabilities from the No Magic acquisition. Expect that to be integrated over time.
The second step here is to define the manufacturing method. While the title of this workflow is Print to Perform, the options include additive manufacturing approaches, as well as casting and milling. Obviously, these can each have a big effect on the resulting geometry of a design. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform takes that into account and reacts accordingly, producing designs that can vary dramatically, based on the option.
With those two steps defined, the platform generates the design geometry. Now, the Dassault Systèmes folks didn’t specify exactly how that geometry is produced, but I expect that it relies, at least in part, on Abaqus and Tosca functionality. However, Dassault Systèmes may have newly developed capabilities up their sleeves.
A truly interesting capability of this offering is that it provides smooth boundary representation geometry, as opposed to faceted geometry. The latter, which is the result of scanned geometry and geometry produced from finite elements, is notably difficult to manipulate and transform into smooth geometry. This solution does it for you in an automated way that is invisible to the end user.
This phase is all about preparing to take that design to manufacturing, specifically for 3D printing. Dassault Systèmes has a wide array of manufacturing planning and programming capabilities. However, in this solution, the focus is on additive manufacturing. Some might think that should be as simple as hitting print, but it is a touch more complicated than that. There are a number of issues with 3D printing that need to be thought through and addressed. This workflow supports that.
The first issue involves developing supports for 3D printing. Obviously, you can’t print a span over open air. This solution produces a set of supports in an automated way while providing variables that users can tweak. Another capability is to automate the optimization of the nesting of such components in the 3D space of the printer. The idea here is to maximize bed usage. This too can be an iterative process.
An area where Dassault Systèmes is offering new capabilities is in compensating for thermal changes during the printing process. For example, metallic materials that are fused together as part of the additive manufacturing process can leave residual stresses as parts cool and shrink. So that results in two problems. First, you have residual stresses against which the parts are more susceptible to loads. Second, shrinkage means that you may have part tolerance issues. The 3DEXPERIENCE Print to Perform solution provides capabilities that compensate for these issues, like making the cavity of a mold bigger to compensate for shrinkage.
All this means that you’ll get your part as expected. That’s a great thing.
Commentary and Analysis
So, what does this all mean? Is this differentiated? Here are my thoughts.
Whenever new technologies are brought to market, you’ll have some companies that are willing to take on green technology, duct taping it together on their own to get it to work for them. These are the pioneers, who are willing to ignore some problems and issues that often plague new offerings.
Pieces Here, Pieces There
Frankly, you can’t have this complete a solution without having a really broad set of technologies. The following is all speculation on my part. But quite literally, the fingerprints of the underlying solutions are everywhere.
- CATIA obviously provides the modeling capabilities, I suspect especially on the shrinkage compensation side of things.
- SIMULIA has the Abaqus and Tosca technologies for the generative design side of things.
- SIMULIA provides the shrinkage and residual stress simulations, which is likely a transient structure-thermal analysis that is driven by the path of the laser during production.
- ENOVIA makes this whole solution fileless. Literally. Users don’t really interact with files, until perhaps the end when they need to feed the printer the file. For more on the fileless implications, check out our post called ENOVIA Data Management: Less PDM-ish, More PLM-ish. Its points apply across the platform.
My point here is that you really can’t offer this kind of end-to-end solution unless you can bring a lot of technology to bear. But even if you do have that much technology, it all has to live and work together on the same platform. This whole solution wouldn’t be seamless and easy to use unless it was on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.
For a little more on the implications for SIMULIA here, read our post titled Dassault Systèmes’ SIMULIA Apps on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform.
- Dassault Systèmes provides a new solution, called 3DEXPERIENCE Print to Perform, that supports end-to-end generative design through the 3D printing process.
- This solution seamlessly supports a user through the steps to define the constraints, initiate the generative design procedure, and prepare for manufacturing.
- This offering was released in July of 2016 and has, and will continue, to go through user testing. But in general, it is ready for wider use.
- Pulling this kind of solution together can only occur if you have a broad set of technologies built into a common platform like 3DEXPERIENCE.
Folks, that’s my review of the 3DEXPERIENCE Print to Perform solution. Do you have experience with it? Have some feedback? Weigh in below.