There are several types of additive manufacturing processes as defined by the ISO*. The most commonly used for producing metal components in industry is powder bed fusion (PBF).
PBF includes the following commonly used processes; direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), electron beam melting (EBM), and selective laser melting (SLM). As these names suggest, the processes involve melting metal using a laser or an electron beam to build three-dimensional objects. PBF has become a key component for manufacturers who want metal parts made faster, using less material and with higher performance qualities when compared with traditional subtractive methods.
Generally, a physical object is built through fusing layers of metal powder into a solid by using a focused energy source. Depending on the model, PBF can be used to produce lightweight organic geometries, personalized components for mass customization and on-demand parts that have been generatively designed.
Typically the process begins with a CAD drawing that is exported as an STL file into a 3D printing software for slicing into layers, therefore re-creating a 2D image of each layer.
The process is an ideal method for design and manufacturing companies when complex and low volume parts are required. In industry this is unique because there is often no fixed tooling, so modifications can be made mid-run.
Metal Additive in Fusion 360
Metal additive manufacturing is now a supported process in Fusion 360. The manufacturing extension has been developed to help manufacturers by making design and manufacturing functionalities more accessible in a single platform. Using the manufacturing extension, functional testing can be introduced earlier in the development process. Additive toolpaths can be simulated to see how the part will build.
Metal prototypes can be used to test the tooling alignment, weight distribution, production feasibility, customer acceptance and build costs. All of which can be established before signing off on final production.
Some of the key advantages of metal additive in the manufacturing industry
Precision – The manufacturing industry relies on a high level of precision for multiple interconnecting parts and components to fit together in a particular way. The reliability of additive parts is made much easier with a unified CAD & CAM package.
Complexity – Generative design and topological optimization has resulted in designs that are lighter, stronger and cheaper than previous iterations. However, the shapes that come out of these algorithms are often very organic and need additive processes for manufacture.
Cost – The process eliminates fixed tooling and offers the freedom of design that can be used to optimize part performance. Parts can be built overnight or in a few hours and most unused material can be recovered and used again.
Optimization – Use automatic orientation to optimize the part orientation based on user ranked parameters like build height. Generate fully associated supports and maintain fine control with each support type included
Simplicity – Design and manufacturing converge in one environment to make it easier for everyone to work on the latest version. If a design changes, so does the build process, automatically.
Machining – The most powerful part of this addition is that it exists alongside all the subtractive capabilities within Fusion 360. Easily program subtractive finishing operations within the same design creating a fully hybrid environment.
Additive & Subtractive
Consider additive and subtractive manufacturing as complimentary technologies. Having subtractive processing combined with metal additive is a huge advantage where it becomes possible to build highly complex parts and finishing with subtractive. For example, threaded holes will need to be drilled and tapped afterwards, and holes requiring tight tolerances will need to be machined.
Machines that can do both additive manufacturing and subtractive operations are becoming more prevalent, and so advanced tools like Fusion 360 are needed in order to integrate the different technologies.
Powder-based processes have their place for many applications that require laser-focused precision, and design complexity, including lattice structures, topology optimization, and generatively designed builds that are unachievable using other manufacturing processes. Design and manufacturing companies using Fusion 360 will be in good standing with additive and subtractive processes that will certainly improve production efficiency, drive competitive advantages and simplify the design to manufacturing process. Learn more about how Fusion 360 can improve your additive process here.
Reference: *ISO additive manufacturing standards https://www.iso.org/committee/629086.html