Jeff DeGrange, vice president of direct digital manufacturing at Stratasys (stratasys.com), called it a “really fun venture.” But the convergence of two additive technologies—3D printing and printing functional electronics on complex shapes—could signal a fundamental change in rapid product development.
In a joint development project, Stratasys and Optomec Inc. (optomec.com) announced they successfully developed “smart wing” for a model of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The wing was 3D printed with the Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process, while an Optomec Aerosol Jet system was used to print a sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing. Aurora Flight Sciences (aurora.aero) which supplies UAVs, provided electrical and sensor designs.
“(When printing) electronics on it, you can give it intelligence and that has not been done to date and that is what’s so exciting about marrying the two technologies together,” DeGrange said in a video accompanying the announcement (youtube.com/watch?v=EfapBnzLzF4). “These are both additive manufacturing technologies; you’re only putting material where you need it, so there’s not a lot of waste.”
Embedding sensors and electrical components directly into the material obviously removes the need, not to mention the weight and the cost, of stand-alone components.
Mike Renn, director of the M3D Applications Laboratory at Optomec, said the Optomec Aerosol System, which uses LENS powder-metal fabrication technology, doesn’t actually touch the surface, but jets the material directly onto the surface of a given component. He said the system can then print on surfaces that are curved and have complex geometries. “Manufacturers can implement this hybrid technology in a multitude of applications, not just in aerospace,” says Optomec’s Ken Vartanian. “This technology can benefit numerous industries by allowing thinner, lighter, fully functional structures that cost less to manufacture.”
Electronic circuitry was printed onto a model of a UAV wing, which was 3D printed. (Photo: Optomec & Stratasys)
The Comet L3D 5M 5-megapixel 3D optical measuring and data acquisition sensor from Steinbichler Optotechnik (steinbichler.de/en) uses high-intensity blue-LED pulsed-light technology to quickly record up to 5-million surface points for quality control and inspection on small- and medium-sized plastic and metal parts. With a maximum measuring field of 500 mm, the high-resolution camera can be used in industrial settings, as the sensor includes a dustproof enclosure to protect the optical components of its head.
In addition to the measurement capabilities, the sensor can be used to: promote rapid manufac-turing and prototyping procedures; compare actual parts with CAD files; acquire data to manufacture and reconstruct tools and molds; scan data to generate milling paths; record data after tool release; scan design models for further CAD processing and documentation; and reverse engineer models.
The sensor is controlled via a standard controller area network (CAN) bus interface. It is lightweight and compact, and users can position it using a regular camera tripod. For scanning large objects, the sensor can be used for photogrammetric measuring.
A free interactive CAD plug-in tool from 3D Systems (3dsystems.com) can simplify the design, quoting, and ordering processes for parts and prototypes. Print3D (print3d.com) eliminates a user’s need to export STL files or upload files of designs to an external site. The plug-in can be integrated into 3D CAD programs (e.g., Pro/Engineer, SolidWorks, Autodesk Inventor, and Alibre Design) to provide real-time design feedback and cost information directly within the modeling environment. A stand-alone version of the plug-in is available for non-CAD users.
RedEye On Demand (redeyeondemand.com) has added cast urethane molding to its capabilities, which, explains Jeff Hanson, business development manager for the firm that operates a network of equipment for fast product development (i.e., Fused Deposition Modeling, PolyJet [photopolymer jetting]) around the world, allows customers to achieve parts that simulate thermoplastic material characteristics (e.g., heat deflection, impact strength, durometer).
Not only can these parts be used for testing and validation purposes, but Hansen says that they’re able to provide low-volume production (~100 parts) in an efficient and effective manner.
Lectra (lectra.com) is launching a new version of its 3D/2D (and back to 3D, if necessary) software solution for designing and modifying the materials making up many soft-touch vehicle surfaces such as seats, headrests armrests and side door panels.
The virtual prototyping system, the DesignConcept Auto V4R2, will aid in the design of 3D virtual models while defining specifications to create textile and leather prototypes, Lectra says. This will allow manufacturers to better estimate total production costs for new virtual models, while exploring and analyzing other design options at the same time. DesignConcept Auto exports finalized patterns and assembly instructions to estimate costs. In addition to leather, the software manages prototype design for other industrial fabrics and composite materials.
After determining 3D seam locations and validating, for example, a new style of seat and its fabric, the software is meant to improve the quality of the initial 2D patterns for production-ready patterns. If modifications are needed, they can be made to the 2D patterns at the prototyping stage, which can help reduce imperfections in the final prototype and subsequent iterations.
“A true accelerator of the decision process, DesignConcept Auto allows industrialists from the automotive market to control their margins, optimize their costs, while accelerating the decision-making process and reducing time-to-market,” said Lectra CEO Daniel Harari.
Pattern-making and documentation are included in the DesignConcept Auto V4R2 suite. Updates to the documentation are automatic when pattern changes
The DesignConcept Auto V4R2 by Lectra, allows designers to work with several materials in 3D and 2D.