Design Optimisation for 3D printed SLM objects
A common misconception about additive manufacturing (3D printing) is that any shape can be made in any material at the press of a button. The reality is that each process and material requires distinct Computer Aided Design (CAD) files that need to be optimised to the physical limitations of the manufacturing process. This optimisation process can have significant effects on the designer’s aesthetic intentions. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is the new benchmark for functional 3D printed titanium designs where the optimisation process plays an important role in the outcome of the end product. The limitations imposed by the manufacturing process include build support material, heat transfer and post processing and designs are required to be optimised before the manufacturing process can commence. To date, case studies written on the SLM process have focused largely on engineering and functional applications in particular within the medical industry. However; this process has not been extensively studied from a visual and aesthetic industrial design perspective. This research will gather specific knowledge about the technical limitations involved in the Selective Laser Melting process and explore through a case study approach how a designer s intentions can be maintained or even enhanced when using this technology. With greater understanding of the SLM technology, the optimisation process may further provide positive outcomes to the designer by saving time, money and waste. This case study is built on an existing product design file as a base model. Refinements to the model were made based on findings from existing design research as well as digital and physical models. The existing design research was focused on challenges designers encounter using 3D printing technologies including SLM as well as the optimisation process. Models and design iterations were developed using Nigel Cross’s four step model of exploration, generation, evaluation and communication. By iteratively redesigning aspects of the model to conform to the SLM limitations, this study reviews opportunities for areas to reduce material without compromising the design intent.