6 Design Tips for Metal 3D Printing
The metal 3D printing is expanding repidly. With the unparalleled creative freedom that metal 3D printing achieves, designers and engineers can now produce organic forms and lightweight structures that would be difficult to produce using conventional manufacturing techniques. The best way to utilise the design options provided by the technology is to fully embrace the potential of metal 3D printing and maintain your competitive edge. A new design strategy for metal 3D printing is necessary because conventional design principles can no longer be used. To help you get the most of your metal parts, we've produced our list of the top metal 3D printing design considerations.
6 factors to take into account when developing your metal part
1. Wall Thickness
Wall thickness is among the most crucial factors to take into account when designing for metal 3D printing. It is advised to design walls with a minimum wall thickness of 0.4mm as a general rule of thumb. The wall thickness of your parts must be carefully considered to ensure that it is neither too thin nor too thick, as doing so could result in delicate printing or a buildup of internal stresses that could cause breaking. Although finer features are available, they are highly dependent on the metal material you select and the printer's settings. For thick walls, you might also wish to experiment with lattice or honeycomb structures since these can help you save a lot of material and speed up construction.
2. Support Structures
Support structures are almost always required when 3D printing metal. While it's ideal to create a part that requires the fewest supports possible, some features like holes, angles, and overhangs necessitate their use. In order to dissipate heat, which might lead to residual strains, supports also act as an anchor for a metal component to the base plate. Designing angled support structures is the general norm for supports in internal parts of a part, such as horizontal holes. You can reduce the area in touch with carriers by using these structures, which thus requires less post-processing. You should also have your mounts leak when they come into contact with the component. It is now simpler to take off the backing and smooth the surface as a result.
3. Overhangs and self-supporting angles
There are occasions when you must design a metal item with overhangs—the parts of your print that stick out. Support structures are needed for overhangs that are large (usually over 1 mm) in order to keep them from collapsing during printing. The length of an unsupported horizontal overhang cannot exceed 0.5mm, so it's crucial that your overhangs stay below this limit. To get rid of these overhangs, bevels and filings might be designed as one unit. In addition to length, you need also think about the angle of your overhangs. Support structures are often needed for angles less than 45 degrees.
4. Part orientation
It is best to experiment with portion orientation to reduce the amount of supports required. For instance, a horizontal orientation will require more area to create a metal part with hollow tubular elements than a vertical or angled orientation, which will also require fewer fixtures. The fact that down-facing and up-facing surfaces have differing surface roughness should be taken into account while deciding the part's orientation (so-called down skins tend to have poorer surface finishes). Make sure to align specific features on the part's top-facing surface for optimum accuracy while creating them.
5. Channels and holes
The hallmark of metal additive manufacturing is its capacity to create parts with channels and holes that are impossible to obtain using conventional production processes. The minimal diameter for the majority of powder bed techniques is 0.4mm, therefore keep that in mind when incorporating such features into your design. Support structures are required for holes and pipes with a diameter greater than 10 mm. Moreover, 3D printing still has difficulty producing horizontal holes that are precisely round. Such forms might be transformed into a self-supporting teardrop or diamond shape. Escape holes, with a recommended diameter of 2 to 5 mm, must be included in your design since hollow metal sections require them to remove unmelted powder.
6. Topology optimization & generative design
Topology optimisation and generative design are made possible by additive manufacturing's capacity to create complicated geometries. The goal of topology optimisation is to use mathematical computations to optimise the geometry and material distribution of a part. On the other hand, generative design encourages engineers to consider all potential components of a solution and is motivated by the design patterns seen in nature. With the help of these tools, engineers and designers can take full use of 3D printing's complete design flexibility to produce metal parts that are robust, lightweight, and functionally optimised.
Shifting design paradigms to get the most out of metal AM
Designing for metal 3D printing is a challenging process that necessitates understanding the potential and constraints of metal AM technologies and materials as well as adopting a fresh perspective on design. However, businesses can maximise success in the manufacture of end metal parts while lowering costs and material waste by looking at and incorporating design standards from the outset.