Let’s face it, in any discipline there is dedicated terminology, in some instances hyperbole, and in many other instances a lack of clarity about what a word or phrase actually means.
This is certainly the case across the additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry.
As we have developed our technology, with the aim of simplifying the AM workflow, we have also developed and use some specific terminology that explains its capabilities, but we are aware of the irony in that much of this terminology is not simple or straightforward. So the aim of this post is to provide clarity and the insight that you might need to understand the Additive Flow “multi-verse”.
The literal meaning of ‘multiverse’ is a hypothetical group of multiple universes, which together comprise everything that exists — the entirety of space, time, matter, energy, information, and the physical laws and constants that describe them.
Now, we are not claiming that our multiverse is quite so grand — or as attractive as the comic book genre that coined the currently popular understanding of the phrase; or as salubrious as Schodriger’s originating mathematical equations. However, for anyone involved with additive manufacturing we do think it is an extremely compelling proposition and, perhaps it would be more useful to describe it as a “multi-” verse, because for Additive Flow virtually everything we do demands the use of the word “multi-”.
We are dedicated to helping our clients and partners realise the full potential of AM by solving some of the key issues that users of AM invariably face. There are a few reasons why AM technologies are not reaching their full potential for users, but one of the key stumbling blocks for adoption occurs throughout the digital workflow. This encompasses design for AM; optimization (design and process) with multiple parameters; material selection and placement, process simulation, and build processing. Typical workflows between these disciplines tend to be complicated, disjointed and unwieldy.
To meet — and overcome — these challenges, we have developed and introduced FormFlow: “multi-functional” optimisation software with “multi-property” capabilities enabled by a “multi-physics” approach. This allows for variable “multi-parameter” optimisation, simulation and production file generation of single- and “multi-material” parts. The modular tools within FormFlow streamline the workflow, simplify the process and enable clearer visibility on individual and multiple parameters.
Here we will break things down a bit and define the tiers of our mutli-verse:
FormFlow is optimisation software with multiple functions that produces parts with multiple functions. It is not only capable of optimising the geometric design / topology to achieve optimal form and function (like most optimisation software for AM), it goes much further because it is also able to optimise (multi-) material selection, against multiple properties, and optimise material placement according to those properties to achieve maximum functionality for minimum cost. Moreover, FormFlow can run these multiples simultaneously.
“Multi-functional” is the top tier of our logic hierarchy that feeds down to the following tiers. As such, Formflow can be applied to multiple functions (with additive and non-additive processes), for multi-functional objects that can handle multiple physical requirements with process specific customisations that can address multiple manufacturing processes and material systems. Each of these requires specialism to work correctly, and we enable a plurality of specialisms.
Our modular digital tools have multi-property capabilities. This means that the multi-physics algorithms that are behind FormFlow have been designed to take account of multiple material properties simultaneously, with the capability to put the right material, with the right properties, in the right place according to the multiple parameters set by the user for the required design/part functionality.
Our multi-property approach enables numerous different ways that material properties can be adjusted in a part according to parameter selection.
Our solvers specialise in:
Each of these can be addressed unilaterally or multi-laterally, contingent on manufacturing, capabilities, material possibilities, and data validity.
The proprietary algorithms developed by the Additive Flow team are driven by a multi-physics approach. These algorithms integrate multiple physics principles within a coupled optimisation loop, which allows allocation of material properties according to the specific local context of the part. The algorithms perform all of the complex work rapidly, behind the user interface to produce comprehensive and tangible results that deliver optimally performing parts cost effectively and sustainably.
These multi-physics capabilities drive the allocation of multi-property optimisations. This is particularly important when specific functionality is required within a designated area of a part or competing physics require different properties within a material. One example of where this might be necessary is in an application where thermal conductivity and mechanical properties cannot be met by the same material. Traditionally, this would demand a compromise — either selecting one material that averages across the competing constraints, or, via manual intervention, an arbitrary selection or material allocation (that ‘seems’ to be the best fit, but often is not). In addition this results in constraints in time, resources, testing, and multi-parameters generating too much complexity to readily address, so even if the manufacturing technology existed, they were not appropriately harnessed.
FormFlow allows the user to define multiple print parameters, in line with their priorities for the functionality of the part. FormFlow is then able to run many iterations to quickly and efficiently produce optimised production files.
Additive Manufacturing offers one of the greatest — as yet unexploited — opportunities. Many users focus on geometrical freedom and customised shapes per print, however few exploit the ability of additive manufacturing to vary printing parameters “in-process” to meet a variant set of properties. Whereas traditional manufacturing techniques may have a homogenous application of machine instructions (temperatures, speeds, laser powers, etc), with additive manufacturing it is possible not just to customise parameter sets for specific optimisation needs (both engineering and productivity/ business relevant) but also between print jobs based in updated QA data.
Both of these are powerful and generate applications: high power, high speed parameter sets where resolution is less relevant, vs. higher resolution but slower parameter sets that are necessary for specific functions.
Material selection and deployment can be simplified with FormFlow. The software can support internal material engineering expertise to generate single, discrete and gradient multi-material solutions. This allows users to harness advanced and composite materials through our unique anisotropic multi-property solvers and optimise their part(s) subject to orthotropic orientation.
Our digital solutions are versatile and modular, and can be used right across customised workflows with all of its multi-functionality, or it can be applied specifically to unlock particular bottlenecks in any given workflow to optimize cost, performance and sustainability outcomes.
Multi material optimisation entails addressing simultaneously, per optimisation run – where multiple (compatible) materials should be allocated – at the same time as reducing a topology to what is essential.
This is an order of magnitude of complexity that is beyond the scope of manual engineering, and Additive Flow is leading this area of development and application.
How are you resolving your design / engineering bottlenecks?
Are you working on applications that require a multi-physics approach? Are you using disparate software tools and need an intelligent interface? Do you need to bridge the gap between material science and engineering (using additive or non-additive processes)?
We can help.
Instead of making “multiple” calls to “multiple” solution providers, just make one call to Additive Flow to access our multi-verse.