Additive manufacturing of polymers.
Additive manufacturing techniques are growing in popularity because of their freeform abilities and decreased product development cycle time. Although these manufacturing techniques are relatively new, they have come to a certain level of maturity as shown by the various commercially available manufacturing machines and specialized companies offering 3D printing services for both metal and plastic parts. Currently the main application for plastic parts is in rapid prototyping where the aim is to quickly produce prototypes for visual evaluation (show and tell), although there is a rising interest in using these plastic parts as functional components and move on from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing. The main advantage of these additive manufacturing techniques, i.e. quickly producing parts with complex geometries, offers a new level of design freedom which becomes more relevant with the aim of optimizing mechanical components. Focusing on a low carbon footprint, minimizing material usage without compromising the reliability of the functional part when under load has become an important factor. Depending on the loading criteria these design rules can be conflicting and especially for additive manufactured plastic products there is a lack of reliable design guidelines.
Designing and producing reliable functional components requires a well defined understanding in the components mechanical behavior and possible failing mechanisms when exposed to the loading conditions that can be expected during its lifetime. Because of a lack of understanding these mechanisms, a safety factor is often used in practice which results in over dimensioning of the component. This comes in conflict with the advantage of reducing material usage in additive manufactured components.
The objective of this project is to transfer these specific insights to designers and producers of additive manufactured functional plastic components. A more specific aim is to analyze and optimize the typical design and calculation principles linked to mechanical properties of the components, e.g. tensile strength and stiffness. By defining these guidelines it will be possible for designers to make a realistic estimation of the mechanical boundaries in a functional situation in such a way that the use safety factors can be reduced to a minimum. Validation of the design guidelines is critical and will be handled by testing real life case studies.