DfAM: Redesigning how we think about manufacturing

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Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) is the art, science and skill to design for manufacturability using 3D printers. Known as additive manufacturing, designing for this process empowers engineers to to create more intricate, parametric and generative shapes in production parts, while reducing weight and material consumption.

More DfAM = less manufacturing worries.

Here’s 5 reasons why:

#1 Design Freedom

Additive manufacturing design is liberated from the rules of traditional manufacturing methods. Draft angles are no longer a consideration and much greater complexity in part design is now possible within one print build with no assembly required. Designers have the freedom to think of the part they want to manufacture through additive manufacturing in relation to the entire product to see if there are new and different ways to efficiently combine several parts into one. Previously unattainable, highly-customized design features are now available through additive manufacturing.

Similar to the traditional design process, the final shapes of a device and its parts in DfAM are strongly tied with their application and function. There is a strong relationship between geometry and performance of a part of a device and planning for this geometry is a core component of the design process. Additive manufacturing has dedicated flexibility to allow the creation of almost any sophisticated geometric shape.

Consider designed lattice structures that can put material only where it is needed for a specific application, which means from a mechanical engineering viewpoint, a lattice is high strength accompanied by a relatively low mass. But the previous challenge of lattice structures is that they tend to have complex geometry variations in three dimensions, which was difficult or impossible to manufacture through traditional processes. But additive manufacturing has a much higher capability to construct complex lattice designs.

Numerical and analytic methods have been employed to characterize parts made by additive manufacturing and parts made by this manufacturing processes show internal structures with complex geometries compared to traditional methods using the same material and geometry. But the best part is added complexity in design comes at no additional cost, as there is no need for additional tooling, re-fixturing, increased operator expertise, or even fabrication time.

One addition design benefit is the immediate availability of CAD models. Designs in the form of digital files can be easily shared, facilitating the modification and customization of components and products.

#2 BOM Consolidation

Consolidating parts is an obvious advantage of DfAM and additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing processes enable the production of geometric shapes that would otherwise require assembly of multiple parts. When designers think of the entire product holistically instead of just one part, costs can be saved while making the overall product more effective and efficient. 

#3 Reduction of Weight and Materials

Additive manufacturing adds material in layers instead of removing material like CNC machining. Creating products layer by-layer is inherently less wasteful than traditional subtractive methods of production. With this highly-efficient approach, weight of products can be substantially reduced and unused materials in the print bed can be reused making additive manufacturing very sustainable.


DfAM Consolidates and Saves

In one recent example a metal part for a medical device produced using additive manufacturing had a BOM consolidation of 73 individual parts to 1 additive manufactured part. This product part also had a weight reduction of more than 50%.

#4 Time and cost efficiency in production runs

While additive manufacturing processes are significantly slower than injection molding for fabricating components, they are better suited for low-part quantities as there is no startup tooling required for production. And relatively early in the design activity for DfAM, the decisions taken will commit the operation to costs which will be incurred later, providing the opportunity to build-in additional cost savings.

#5 Multi-material prints

More than one additive material can be used in printing parts—and that’s a significant advantage over traditional manufacturing methods. This is especially helpful when designing prototype parts that will eventually go to full-scale production. Different colored and textured materials can be used to create products and assist companies in determining the end assembly, viability, and even durability of their final products.

The bottom line

DfAM helps companies accelerate the introduction of additive manufacturing into their supply chains. We can help you reconfigure your value chain for shorter and simpler supply chains, more localized production, innovative distribution models, and new collaborations. That’s what the on-demand and on-location of our Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network can deliver. Through our network, you can shrink inventory costs and potentially reduce costs associated with supply chain and delivery.

With old, legacy methods of production, small batch runs can be an expensive exercise. But designing through DfAM and producing part through additive manufacturing and Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network can help to reduce costs, accelerate products to market, and reduce the weight of final products. 

When your competitive agility is on the line, DfAM simply makes more sense. It enables more robust, efficient designs that will produce a more competitive product that you can bring to market faster.


DfAM is a Bold, New World

DfAM offers an exciting new realm of design possibilities that break the old bonds of legacy manufacturing. But there are some key points to remember:

  • When designing for 3D printing your digital design will become a physical object. In the digital design environment, there are no laws of physics to adhere to, such as gravity, so you need to be thinking about the real-world impact of your design.

  • When you are creating a 3D model with intricate details, it is important to keep in mind what is the minimum feature size each 3D printing process can produce. The minimum level of detail is connected to the capabilities and mechanics of each 3D printing process and to the selected layer height.

  • The process and materials used will have an impact on the speed and cost of your print, so determining whether smaller details are critical to your model is an important design decision.

  • A few other recommendations:

o Avoid overhangs in your design when possible, by using angles smaller than 45 degree (for technologies that requires supports)

o Add at least 0.8 mm wall thickness to your models (Any wall thickness below 1mm requires evaluation)

o Avoid large surfaces and use rounded corners to avoid warping

o Decide what is the minimum level of detail your models require and choose a 3D printing process accordingly

o Avoid large aspect ratios