3Din30 Episode 4: The Secret to Optimal Design in Metal AM

by | Jun 28, 2021 | Interviews

Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is a paradigm-altering technology in the production of key parts for countless industries. At Velo3D, we’re continually astounded by the performance gains achieved by our full-stack metal AM solution.

In the latest installment of 3Din30, our LinkedIn live series, I had the opportunity to sit down with Gary Vaillancourt, VP of Engineering and Narate Carbajal, Lead Process Engineer of Primus Aerospace to discuss how Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) can unlock performance with an unprecedented freedom of design. To get a different view on the challenge of design, we took a “hindsight is 20/20” perspective and chose to examine design from the lens of the manufacturer.

Primus Aerospace is a manufacturing partner who specializes in manufacturing highly complex aerospace products for their customers by getting involved early in the design cycle. This enables them to consult on aspects of “design freedom” that are directly connected to manufacturing solutions – in our case Velo3D’s titanium metal 3D printing solution.

You can watch or listen to the full conversation here, and remember to follow Velo3D on LinkedIn for all future episodes of this in-depth series.

A New Tool in the Design and Production Toolkit

At Velo3D, oftentimes we focus on the most effective ways to leverage metal AM to transform the parts manufacturing process. In practical applications, however, there are several approaches to parts design and production. Metal AM is the newest tool in the parts manufacturer’s toolkit, and engineers across industries are still figuring out where it fits within their approach to production.

Working within an industry like aerospace that necessitates complex parts and values innovative solutions, Primus is in a unique position to test the waters of AM for both prototyping purposes and full-on production. In fact, they have dedicated facilities for each in Colorado; one that focuses more heavily on traditional manufacturing processes for production and another that works on highly complex parts using metal AM technology from Velo3D. While metal AM may be a newer technology in the industry, its efficacy is unmatched, according to Vaillancourt.

“A lot of these AM parts are complex geometries and require pretty confident machinists and good equipment to hold the tolerances,” he says. “And that’s really what led us to where we are today.”

Because Primus has a reputation for taking on highly complex, high-risk projects that can have long lead times, it’s imperative that they have a solid understanding of the capabilities and limitations of every detail of each manufacturing process to make key production decisions. Especially working in materials such as titanium that have extremely high initial costs, detailed planning becomes key at every stage of the production lifecycle.

Where Production Impacts Design Decisions

Working in aerospace with projects in both defense and space, Primus is provided a unique opportunity for innovation. Rather than being given a strict rubric for parts production, oftentimes they’re given a simple directive: “I want a part to perform like this, and hopefully somebody can machine it,” according to Carbajal.

What separates metal AM from other manufacturing processes Primus utilizes is the ability to optimize a design or consolidate assemblies for faster production by eliminating many of the rules that used to govern design. Often, a designer may need to balance the performance needs of the part with the need to manufacture it. This is part of the process called DfM or design for manufacturability. With traditional manufacturing, DfM leads to compromises in the design that can lower performance. However, with Velo3D’s metal AM solutions, designers no longer need to make these compromises.

But designers still need to account for manufacturability. For example, if a part will need additional machining, the design will need to account for that with added stock material and mounting points to secure the part for machining. So, while some rules are changing, making design easier, there are still considerations. It can be complex for designers and engineers to keep track.). By having a clear plan for the entire production process from the outset, Primus is in a position to consult with designers to make the right decisions early providing a clear path to success for new designs.

“Integrating the AM thought process into the very concepts of your design before you even begin really can change how fast it gets made and its performance,” says Carbajal.

Working in metal AM, and particularly an end-to-end process like the system offered by Velo3D, enables control at every stage of production from early design considerations all the way through to quality assurance. In an industry like aerospace, where intense post-production testing and part verification is crucial, having integrated QA that provides exhaustive, continuous build reports throughout the printing process is essential to the success of a project.

“Every layer is monitored by the system,” says Carbajal. “And there’s really no data that goes to waste.”

While industries like aerospace will always have extensive testing of material properties, including nondestructive testing (NDT), the level of data available through QA software like the Assure™ system from Velo3D does a great deal to inspire confidence in engineers and manufacturers, according to Vaillancourt. We’re moving in the right direction to where there may come a time when industries with large amounts of verification oversight can rely solely on the build report data from the metal AM process.

Other Topics Discussed:

  • How engineers can engage with an ever-evolving parts design and manufacturing landscape
  • The benefits of the Velo3D non-contact recoater
  • Safety considerations when utilizing metal AM

Be Sure to Join the Next Live 3Din30

The team at Velo3D is excited to continue the 3Din30 series to interact with those who have questions about the metal additive manufacturing world, and the part Velo3D plays in driving innovation.

Follow us on LinkedIn to be the first to know about all of our exciting upcoming events!

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About the Author

Amir Iliaifar

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Amir Iliaifar is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Velo3D where he oversees the production and distribution of Velo3D’s global digital content marketing initiatives. Prior to joining the company, Amir worked for a leading professional drone manufacturer, several SaaS companies, and as an automotive tech journalist. He holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.