Simufact Additive Manufacturing – shortcut process of setting up prints of 3D parts in metals

Welcome to this short overview of how we can use Simufact Additive to simulate the 3D printing of a part. The part we’re going to look at is a shelf bracket that we designed on my previous video on Apex…

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Welcome to this short overview of how we can use Simufact Additive to simulate the 3D printing of a part. The part we’re going to look at is a shelf bracket that we designed on my previous video on Apex Generative Design.

We used Apex Generative to come up with this very organic and un-machinable un-castable part, but one that would be 3D printable. We now need to determine “is it going to be printable to a satisfactory quality?”

Using Simufact Additive, we first complete a mechanical simulation -which uses a material model that builds in thermo mechanical effects into a simple mechanical model. It’s an approximation, but it gives us a reasonable comparison between printing at different orientations.

Position: I rotate it about the X direction, 90 degrees. Then move it in the Global Z and start to move it down 10 so you can see that’s still penetrating. We move it up a few units, so now the part is in position in the tank.

Supports: I now need to generate my supports. There are a lot of parameters you can use, and this analyses the shape of the part and looks at areas that would be unsupported while printing and automatically creates solid representations of that part of the process.

We now have 37 unique support structures, plus the base plate – all colour coded so you can see which one is going where, what part of the original structure it’s supporting.

Materials: Next is material properties. So, there are 745 materials provided with the software that come from material suppliers and machine manufacturers.

Support removal is colour coded red indicating that needs attention; configure that and set up stages to remove the supports which can affect the distortion of the part.

Voxel Mesh: colour coded red, voxel meshing means we’re going to divide the build space up into cubic elements, determined by size and as the analysis runs, it will turn on the appropriate layers of material as it builds up. So where there is steel, where there would be steel formed by the 3D printing process, those elements are turned on, and then the built-in material model simulates the distortion effect from the cooling.

Volume Mesh: shown in yellow – configure and ‘Generate Mesh’. Once meshing process is complete, go back into the Analysis and configure numerical parameters for the solution – relating to the underlying MSC Marc FEA solution that will give us the predictions of residual stress and distortion from the simulation.

Simufact builds the decks for the parallel processing, exports, and kicks off a Marc analysis that runs in the background. Simufact post-process is building up the layers, so we see the incremental effect on distortion as it goes. Once Simulation has finished, we get a lovely contour plot of Total Displacement.

The way in which you might use this is to try various different orientations of the part within the printing tool to see which give you the lowest distortion result or isolated the distortion to somewhere that wouldn’t affect the actual function of the part.

You can also include other post-processing operations beyond removal of the support structures: add in a cycle of heat treatment; or add in other cycles designed to improve the material density and improve the overall displacement.

So, it’s not a fast process, but it is vastly faster than actually setting one of these machines up, and 3D printing one. The cost of hundreds of pounds in machine time and raw materials to decide which 1 of 4 orientations is the best way to produce your part.

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