Metal lightweighting: The additive advantage

The quest for metal lightweighting - the ability to make parts lighter – is prompting a whole new way to think about design and manufacture.

 A key enabler of lightweighting is metal additive manufacturing – also known as metal 3D printing – which produces high quality, complex parts that are impossible to achieve through traditional manufacturing processes. 

To learn more, The Manufacturer caught up with Patrick Dunne, vice president of advanced application development at 3D Systems.

How is manufacturers’ awareness (and adoption) of metal lightweighting growing?

3D printed intake manifold delivers 50% less weight, with geometry optimisation for integrated parts, printed in Ti Gr23(A) with o,5mm typical wall thickness – image courtesy of 3D Systems.
3D printed intake manifold delivers 50% less weight, with geometry optimisation for integrated parts, printed in Ti Gr23(A) with o,5mm typical wall thickness – image courtesy of 3D Systems.

Patrick Dunne: We have seen a steady state in the application of lightweighting using metal additive manufacturing over the last 12 months driven primarily by aerospace, specifically the satellite market, and high performance automotive, are markets where the value response for additive is significant. Low volume but of very high value.

Can you offer a bit more detail around the key areas that metal lightweighting is asserting itself?

With satellite manufacturing and high performance automotive, specifically motorsports, it’s all about efficiency and system performance. Lighter weight parts in space systems reduce cost for orbital lift and mainly allow more product to be lifted for the same cost as before.

For motorsports, specifically Formula 1, lighter weight means faster cars that win races and get more sponsorship money. Weight is a very significant factor for both hence reducing grams can yield a signal response

Can you offer a real-world example where metal lightweighting has really delivered benefit?

A great example is the new satellite brackets for Thales Alenia, redesigned by applying algorithmic topological structural design. The team was able to reduce the weight of each bracket by 25% while maintaining the same functional performance.

This alone pulled several kilograms out of the system reducing cost or in this case allowing additional feature functionality to be added to other parts of the system.

The Additive Advantage - Metal 3D Printing and Lightweighting - 3D SystemsThe Additive Advantage: Metal 3D Printing and Lightweighting

This eBook is for curious and competitive businesses, engineers, and designers who want to unlock the advantages metal 3D printing has to offer.

We will start with some basic concepts and definitions, provide actual and theoretical application examples, and share some design and manufacturing strategies you can incorporate to optimise your outcomes.

Driving up fuel efficiency, while cutting operating costs and emissions: in aviation, aerospace, automotive or motorsports – it’s the same challenge. And the answer is – lighter parts.

Click here to download this exclusive eBook.

What are some of the challenges associated with metal lightweighting and what has 3D Systems done to overcome those challenges?

There are several aspects to light-weighting, (1) the design, and, (2) are the mechanical characteristics of the alloy incorporated within the part itself.

As material is removed at the CAD level it’s critical that the downstream process is able to deliver a part that crosses a certain threshold in both mechanical properties as well as a threshold in risk reduction.

Within 3D Systems the expertise available covers both ends of this equation: We support the advanced design capabilities as well as provide tools and expertise in the form of printers, process and materials that yield part properties with high levels of performance (Specifically in Ti: Ductility and cyclic fatigue) combined in a process that guarantees we meet the stringent specifications required by the industry at hand.

What advice do you have for a business interested in exploring metal lightweighting?

Engage! Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) and additive manufacturing itself is absolutely the future of structural design, the lifecycle value response is significant.

What does the future of metal lightweighting hold?

Ultimately, significantly better products; lighter satellites, faster, more fuel-efficient cars. Additive allows us to make existing products better and new products possible.

Learn more about how your business could leverage the power of 3D printing:

Think 3D printing is just for prototyping? Think again

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The new technology designed, manufactured and supported by 3D Systems is taking 3D printing out of the innovation lab and into low and mid-range volume manufacturing.

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Now, advances in 3D printing technology have enabled prototypes to go beyond the form and fit of finished products and encompass higher level criteria such as functionality and performance.

The future of 3D printing is clear

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The new materials designed, manufactured and supported by 3D Systems have pushed clear printing to the boundaries of what’s possible, offering ultra-high transparency, moisture and temperature resistance, biocompatibility, robustness and performance.