In order to achieve successful 3D prints, you need optimal print parameters. Enter slicing software, right? But, most slicers do not have a capability that would make things even easier – physical part simulation, in addition to a recommendation system for choosing those parameters.
US additive manufacturing software startup Teton Simulation, headquartered in Wyoming, is in the latter phases of R&D, and working towards production commercialization, for a really interesting technology called Intelligent Slicing. Teton was one of eight companies selected to present at last year’s RAPID + TCT Innovation Auditions, and is planning to officially announce its technology at this year’s AMUG Conference in March.
“The job of a slicer is simple: convert part geometry to instructions for 3d printers. Modern slicers do a great job of accomplishing this while providing the user with near complete control over how a part is printed,” Teton’s VP of Product Doug Kenik told 3DPrint.com. “However, while offering up these controls, slicers fail to provide any guidance into how these controls should be configured in order produce a part that must meet real-life performance requirements. This forces people into the tedious and time-consuming cycle of printing parts, testing them, then adjusting the print profile until they stumble upon a part that meets the requirements. At this point, they have a part that works, but have wasted countless days or weeks of productivity, machine time, and material.”
Physics-based Intelligent Slicing can be easily embedded into existing slicer programs. But, what exactly does Intelligent Slicing do?
“Our technology addresses the gap in the design cycle by guiding the user as to which print parameters to use in order to meet performance requirements while minimizing print time and material usage,” Kenik continued. “The first integration of our technology will be with Cura, which is a great starting point since they are one of the world’s most popular slicers for FFF parts. As a user, all you have to do is define end-use requirements, and then our optimizations routines churn in the background and deliver a list of optimized print profiles that the user can choose from. Since our technology runs in the cloud, we are able to run many parallels simulations which result in blazing fast solution times. At the end of the day, our objective is to save the user time by eliminating print iterations, increase productivity and machine throughput, and reduce material waste.”
According to the Teton website, its proprietary software technology can help users quickly achieve “automatic validation and optimization” of parameters so that parts meet the necessary manufacturing and performance requirements.
“We are currently commercializing technology that will optimize FFF/FDM part print parameters for manufacturing and performance requirements while minimizing print time, with the aim to reduce manufacturing cycles by an order of magnitude,” Rick Dalgarno, the Director of Alliances and Operations at Teton, told us. “Our technology is being integrated into commercial slicing products with the intent of embedding “intelligence” into slicers that is simple to use and fast.”
Dalgarno tells us that Intelligent Slicing automatically selects 3D printing parameters for optimal structural performance of parts.
A common way to determine the best print parameters is what Teton refers to in a blog post as the “build/break cycle.” If a 3D printed part breaks during testing, you can go back, change some of the parameters, and try it again until you finally have a part that doesn’t break, meaning you’ve landed on a valid set of parameters. Obviously, 3D printing does speed up this process, but it still takes time.
Slicing software is, according to Teton, “entirely disconnected from the initial design requirements,” and also requires a “staggering” amount of print parameters, which are unfortunately necessary as they are responsible for influencing how the part will actually perform in the real world. And while simulation software can help predict how a part will perform without the need for a physical model, a lot of these solutions require a decent amount of prior knowledge. Additionally, even if the software can portray a part’s internal structures, the accuracy of the model is not always perfect.
Teton’s Intelligent Slicing technology can not only optimize and validate print parameters, but also predict their impact on a 3D printed part’s performance. The software offers an intuitive, repeatable, and simple process to slice parts and help lower print iterations.
“Our intent is to remove the ambiguity and confusion of defining slicing parameters by automating the process and identifying the best potential paths the user can take to make a superior part, faster – a process we refer to as Intelligent Slicing,” the website states.
The company provides a good example of how to use its physics-based simulation tool with a bicycle pedal fixture that needs to be optimized for 3D printing.
The simulation tool is embedded in the slicer in order to optimize print parameters and validate the part’s structural performance.
“Let’s focus on infill density for the moment. Imagine that a part is required to have a factor of safety equal to 2. We can think of this as requiring the part to be twice as strong as it needs to be in operation,” the Teton blog states. “What infill density should we use to obtain the desired part strength?
“Suppose that we would like to see if an infill density of 20% would suffice. This value would result in relatively faster print times and lower material usage, but that’s useless if the part doesn’t perform.”
The Intelligent Slicing solution allows users to leverage simulation in the slicer itself to virtually test the part before ever pushing “Start Print Job.” If you receive negative results, no problem – just change the infill density until you find one that works.
Teton software’s optimization capabilities are great, because Intelligent Slicing can easily tweak multiple possibilities, like layer height and width, the number of walls, and how many top or bottom layers a print might need. Just add the part’s requirements and with the simple press of a button, the software will “intelligently” search all the possibilities until it’s landed on valid parameters.
“Let’s consider this approach for the pedal fixture,” the blog continues. “After setting the requirement for a factor of safety to 2 and specifying how the part will be loaded and anchored, Teton’s software can be used to validate a user-defined set of print parameters or search for optimal choices for valid print parameters. As before, we focus on changing only the infill of the model, but this time, we give the task to the optimization software. In addition to tuning the infill density, our software will also test local variations in infill density using modifier meshes. Such spatially-varying infill properties can be used to great effect for structural performance, as they allow us to target inherently weaker areas of the part.”
For increased strength, Intelligent Slicing also added a modifier mesh to the middle of the pedal. This helped achieve a set of parameters that resulted in “significantly less time and material usage” than changing up the global infill density would have.
“Most of the structural simulation tools on the market are “analyst-level” tools, and we recognized that most people simply don’t have the education or training to feel comfortable in analyst-level workflows. In order to serve a broader market, we decided to develop a tool that could be used by anyone. This means that we had to figure out a way to automate all of the tasks that would typically require an analyst skill set,” Kenik told us about Teton’s target audience. “The end results is a highly automated workflow that is so easy to use, new users can be up and running in literally minutes. A lot of sophistication goes into making engineering software simple but we are very pleased with how we have been able to create an optimization tool that is highly accessible.”
I’ll be curious to hear the reviews of Intelligent Slicing, and see if Teton’s software is as good as it sounds.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Images: Teton Simulation unless otherwise noted]
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