The collective goal of Siemens – who sells the PLM software that helps engineers to organize design, production and product data management – and Hewlett Packard is developing solutions that turn additive manufacturing (AM) from a prototyping tool to a complete industrial production process. For instance, it enables the production of functional parts even if different materials and colors are used within one pass. The hardware for such processes comes from HP – the company most known for its office printers recently announced the Jet Fusion series of large 3D printers for industrial production deployment.
The latest generation of 3D printers works at much higher speed than former generations. Now the combination of large, industrial-grade 3D printers with suitable CAx software will enable designers and engineers to develop products that burst the limitations of today’s production processes, Siemens says. For example, designers can define material properties at the level of a 3D “pixel”, or Voxel, in the language of AM experts. They can create parts where structure, density, strength and friction can vary; likewise, thermal and electrical properties can be defined by the designer. Plus, this manufacturing method would allow production at half the price and ten times faster than with existing 3D printers.
To turn AM a viable alternative to conventional production, the technology however needs to be further developed in terms of speed, quality and cost. In addition, the data input for the 3D printer needs to be enhanced. This is a matter of software – and Siemens’ CAx software addresses these issues, said Stephen Nigro who oversees HP’s 3D printing business. “Additive manufacturing is the next industrial revolution in the manufacturing area”, said Chuck Grindstaff, President and SEO of Siemens PLM Software. “3D printing along with software that can address the voxel level will give developers new dimensions in terms of design liberty, user friendliness and speed.”