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What is Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)? Expert Definitions + Opinions
The term Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) gets used to describe or vaguely allude to a wide variety of design/engineering/manufacturing activities from the design of lattice structures to support structures, part orientation to topology optimization, and part consolidation to process parameter development.
The original acronym ‘DfAM’ seems to have evolved from DFMA (Design for Manufacturability and Assembly) which understandably, focuses on the manufacturability of a design, it’s assembly and installation, less so on the performance of a product.
Where DfAM may bifurcate from this is that we also use the term to describe how we design for the performance gains made possible by the particular geometries and properties made feasible (or slightly less painful) by additive technologies and materials.
There is a decent academic definition covering both the functional performance and manufacturing constraints that importantly includes business case/cost in the journal paper A Survey of the Design Methods for Additive Manufacturing to Improve Functional Performance by Yunlong Tang & Fiona Zhao (2016)
“Design for Additive Manufacturing is a type of design methods whereby functional performance and /or other key product life-cycle considerations such as manufacturability, reliability and cost can be optimized subjected to the capabilities of additive manufacturing technologies.”
To help understand how others are using (or avoiding) the term, I have asked AM experts from academics to engineers to give their definition of DfAM to help clarify/expand the definition and open discussion.
Starting out with Tim Simpson from Penn State who has perhaps the most published academic papers and presentations that focus on DfAM and is also organizing the DfAM Accelerator event September 27-28 2022.
DFAM is the value multiplier when it comes to additive manufacturing, enabling the best geometric and material performance with the least amount of cost and schedule.
Timothy W. Simpson, Ph.D : Paul Morrow Professor of Engineering Design & Manufacturing :The Pennsylvania State University
Patrick Pradel, co-author of the recent paper Investigating Perceived Meanings and Scopes of Design for Additive Manufacturing has a succinct definition based in part on a survey of 17 definitions of DfAM that they retrieved from academic literature.
DfAM is a process which implies design methods, tools and knowledge to achieve a specific outcome by exploiting AM characteristics and mitigating its limitations
John Barnes, previously featured on the DfAM substack to discuss DfAM education and workforce development has been mulling on the term for several years with a comprehensive definition.
I define DfAM as a holistic event that starts at the concept stage and goes to the installed part. You have to account for the entire value chain including features required for installation and maintenance of the fielded component. It's more how to design and how to design for manufacturing, or modify for AM. Designing for AM = MfAM + DfAM.
Australian based AM academic, advisor and media personality Alex Kingsbury has another similarly manufacturing focused take.
To me, there is no Design for Additive Manufacturing, it is instead 'Design for Manufacturing'. We should create the form that we want or need, and then canvas the best way to make that object. Here we consider function and the expectations that we have of this part to fulfil the requirements we have set upon it. In thinking about the requirements we not only need to consider elements such as size, materials, surface finish, structural integrity, service conditions, part performance, but we also need to consider location of manufacturing, supply chain both inbound to make the part and outbound to dispatch the part. Oftentimes too, material selection can drive the manufacturing method. For example, additive manufacturing is great for titanium, which is challenging to weld and machine, and even more challenging to access mill product such as barstock or pipe. Additionally, of increasing importance (and many would say this is overdue) are the environmental impacts of the part from design, to manufacturing, to use, and then finally disposal.
There are a number of different AM processes (7 and counting...) that have their own peculiar design rules, so what is Design for AM then when we are trying to understand each of them and their design possibilities, opportunities, and also constraints? I wouldn't design a small bearing for a binder jetting process and then expect that design to transfer well to directed energy deposition process. Likewise, a large, single piece housing would be impractical (and have a high chance of failure) in a binder jetting + sinter process.
Design for Manufacturing acknowledges the variations in design rules amongst the different AM processes, while also considering it as equal amongst other manufacturing technology choices. As we seek to realise the industrial value of additive manufacturing, it is only in considering it alongside other manufacturing technologies that it will be treated as such.
Enrico from Ricoh has been posting a lot of really interesting designs on Linkedin recently so I was keen to get his take on how he defines DfAM.
For me DfAM is a set of guidelines and design best practices that enable to create new opportunities for product design/re-design (new/improved/complex shapes, integration of functions, reduction of assemblies,…) not previously encountered with conventional manufacturing processes.
It is crucial, to maximise the benefits of DfAM, to take into account the constraints/limitations that still exists even with additive manufacturing processes in order to helping reduce post-processing, support structures and overall manufacturing costs.
Olaf Diegel has a long history of designing and teaching DfAM including everything from 3D printed guitars to experimental heat exchangers has a pragmatic take that puts cost at the forefront (despite some of his more whimsical experiments).
DfAM is simply about adding enough real value to your products to overcome the incredibly high cost of additive manufacturing.
AM is probably the most expensive form of manufacturing in the known universe so, to be able to effectively and efficiently use it in production, it needs to add enough engineering value, over what conventional manufacturing can do, to overcome those costs. This can be done through a number of techniques including lightweighting (manually removing material that serves no purpose, topology optimisation/generative design, lattices, etc.), increased geometric complexity through part consolidation, mass-customisation, and even on-demand manufacturing to bypass the supply chain.
Andrew Triantaphyllou, at MTC in the UK believes DfAM goes all the way from design performance intent all the way through to process parameters to design not just monolithic parts, but also design the material properties within the part.
Applying a Design process to create a solution that uses AM (preferably in a value-add way)
Evaluating the design for compatibility with the whole manufacturing process chain
Passing a complete and unambiguous set of instructions to Manufacturing
And last, but definitely not least as far as word count, the ever eloquent Joris Peels take on the need for DfAM, and what it might expose about the state of awareness today.
DfAM is like asking people to learn to speak Italian before letting them eat and enjoy pizza.
A core failing of software for Additive Manufacturing is that we can not automatically port existing designs to make them work in AM. We can not just upload a part and then have it automatically have the right orientation, support and design alterations to make it work in the specific 3D printing technique that you´d like to print it in. This failing is retarding the growth of the market. It needs to be solved for AM to become commonplace.
Asking people to ¨learn DfAM¨ is therefore a crutch, a temporary sop that will let some excel using the technology now. The barrier for entry is thus good for those who are investing heavily in understanding AM now but is slowing growth of the industry as a whole.
DfAM therefore is Esperanto for 3D printing. Notwithstanding the closed system logic that has been created around DfAM and the cottage industry that has grown up around it, DfAM is set to be as widespread and useful as Esperanto in the long run. Esperanto makes sense, if we all would learn it.
This is the closed system and self fulfilling prophecy logic present in DfAM. As a system it gives 3D printing wizzard status to those who ¨speak DfAM¨ and preach DfAM. They become an anointed class who could help usher in a new world. Like scribes in a world where no one can read and write or new alchemists, their magic, only known to them, will dazzle and confuse cementing the need to have these wizzards. It will be like a secret tonic for your career but like mastering typesetting will be an obsolete skill in the long run. Understanding application design, thoroughly comprehending application engineering and deploying AM through Application development and industrialization will be much more worthwhile skills in the long run. It is through those skills that you can build businesses, industries and fortunes using 3D printing.
DfAM on the other hand is a prop for careerist people that is at best a temporary holding pattern for the industry leading us nowhere. Real breakthroughs will come from elsewhere. Of course we can call any and all design and engineering for AM DfAM, this is the beauty of the closed system that is DfAM but if you look closely you´ll see the DfAM fools leading themselves and others astray and true work being done to define the future of AM.
So, we may not have converged on a definitive answer to what is DfAM but it is clear that we are still at place where we need to keep educating on DfAM thinking and process until it becomes a ubiquitous part of the skillset for designers and engineers so the DfAM wizards can lay down their DfAM wands.
Until then, please add your opinion in the comments and if you are interested in learning more about DfAM, Penn State is hosting a 2-Day DfAM Accelerator on September 27-28 with leading experts presenting and discussing the latest in design for AM.