Page 29 - 3D Metal Printing Fall 2018
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  FEATURE 3D Leveraging AM
  for Auto Production
Optimization technology enabled efficient part design and build processes, leading to huge reductions in part costs and build times
for an aftermarket automotive LED headlight.
High volumes, productivity and cost-per-part often are cited as reasons why additive manufac- turing (AM), especially with metal mate- rials, is not conducive to automotive- industry production applications. Challenging the status quo, one company reports working on a specific automotive project using the laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) process to produce 384 qualified metal parts in a single build. This was achieved through design expertise and unique optimization technology that translated to reduced part costs—$4 ver- sus $40-plus—and reduced lead times— from 444 to 34 hr.
The key to making AM productive enough for wider adoption across high- volume industries such as automotive, however, lies in process economics. That is, choosing the most effective manufac- turing process for each part. Combining these principles with knowledge of the limits of additive—as well as how and when to push them—together with its optimization technology, enables UK- based Betatype ( to provide design and production of parts that are economically viable against existing mass- production technologies.
Fighting Against Conventional Wisdom
Often AM is described as a process that is capable of any geometry. In reality, AM can pro-
vide greater design freedom than
other traditional manufacturing processes, but still comes with its own set of con- straints. Understanding these constraints is imperative to identifying applications that fit well with AM, namely those with specifically complex geometries that work best with the physics of additive processes. This thinking traditionally has been applied only to low-volume parts, however.
Die casting and other traditional man- ufacturing processes can produce millions of components per year, while AM process- es such as LPBF can excel and add value by delivering geometric complexity with the least amount of material possible, but not economically at high volumes. This has long been a trade-off, one that has seen automotive companies dismiss AM for production applications—but such think- ing is changing.
Case Study: Automotive LED Headlights
The right part can help industry break
This aftermarket automotive LED headlight, resulting from optimized AM, illustrates how AM can succeed
in higher-volume automotive applications.
conventional thinking about LPBF. A demonstration can be found in the auto- motive industry’s switch to the use of LED headlights. Typically, these components require comparatively large, often actively cooled heatsinks. Betatype, which works with customers to deliver functional com- ponents through AM, and built Engine, a data-processing platform for managing and controlling multi-scale design, saw an opportunity. The company recognized that the specific geometry for these metal parts made them ideal for producing via LPBF, which can consolidate multiple manufacturing processes into a single production method.
By considering the LPBF process dur- ing the component’s initial design stage, Betatype was able to design a part with in-built support features, allowing mul- tiple headlight parts to be stacked on top of each other without the need for addi- tional supports. As a result, finished parts could be snapped apart by hand, without

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