UK-based Ricoh 3D has added generative design and shape optimization software to their line of 3D printing services.
Currently, Ricoh 3D offers external printers and in-house printing and design (both Multi Jet Fusion and laser sintering). According to Ricoh Senior Design engineer Richard Minifie, many of the prototypes that pass through their in-house print lab aren’t optimized for 3D printing.
“We see endless parts being produced for additive manufacturing that are still designed as though they are being applied to traditional manufacturing methods,” said Minifie. “Very often those who have worked with traditional methods all their lives do not fully understand how AM can completely remove old design constraints.”
Generative design and shape optimization software are two ways to help develop designs outside of these older constraints. They both build off Finite Element Analysis (FEA) simulation, which generates design concepts that work within performance or material limits. In the world of 3D printing, FEA is used to optimize everything from tissue engineering experiments to micropumps to miniature satellites. The difference between the two is that generative design software automatically removes material after the FEA process, whereas shape optimization lets the user remove material manually afterwards. Simply put, both processes give the designer more possibilities to work with, and can help create a better product.
In their statement on the new products, Ricoh 3D emphasized the cost and weight savings that FEA-related software can help with. In-house, their optimization services have helped them redesign an orthotic lever for a local hospital, with a 60 percent weight reduction and 15 percent cost savings. They’ve also used optimization to improve their own factories, redesigning a jig tool in their Quality Assurance process, and designing a more efficient bottle puck for use in the toner line at their factory in Telford, England. They have not yet installed the improved bottle pucks, but they expect the savings to be significant, since the Telford factory delivers 25,000 toner bottles per day.
“Businesses that are looking to use 3D printing as a final production method should be considering optimization as part of their design process – not least to create the fascinating shapes that are possible, but also for impressive operating cost savings,” says Minifie. “We invite anyone to challenge us to see what gains are possible for your products using this technology.”
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