Development of a design feature database to support design for additive manufacturing (DfAM)
2011-11-22T13:50:59Z (GMT) by
This research introduces a method to aid the design of products or parts to be made using Additive Manufacturing (AM), particularly the laser sintering (LS) system. The research began with a literature review that encompassed the subjects of design and AM and through this the need for an assistive design approach for AM was identified. Undertaking the literature review also confirmed that little has been done in the area of supporting the design of AM parts or products. Preliminary investigations were conducted to identify the design factors to consider for AM. Two preliminary investigations were conducted, the first investigation was conducted to identify the reasons for designing for AM, the need for a design support tool for AM and current challenges of student industrial designers designing parts or products for AM, and also to identify the type of design support they required. Further investigation were conducted to examine how AM products are developed by professional industrial designers and to understand their design processes and procedures. The study has identified specific AM enabled design features that the designers have been able to create within their case study products. Detailed observation of the case study products and parts reveals a number of features that are only economical or possible to produce with AM. A taxonomy of AM enabled design features was developed as a precursor for the development of a computer based design tool. The AM enabled design features was defined as a features that would be uneconomical or very expensive to be produced with conventional methods. The taxonomy has four top-level taxons based on four main reasons for using AM, namely user fit requirements, improved product functionality requirements, parts consolidation requirements and improvement of aesthetics or form requirements. Each of these requirements was expanded further into thirteen sub categories of applications that contained 106 examples of design features that are only possible to manufacture using AM technology. The collected and grouped design features were presented in a form of a database as a method to aid product design of parts or products for AM. A series of user trials were conducted that showed the database enabled industrial designers to visualise and gather design feature information that could be incorporated into their own design work. Finally, conclusions are drawn and suggestions for future work are listed. In summary, it can be concluded that this research project has been a success, having addressed all of the objectives that were identified at its outset. From the user trial results, it is clear to see that the proposed tool would be an effective tool to support product design for AM, particularly from an educational perspective. The tool was found to be beneficial to student designers to take advantage of the design freedom offered by AM in order to produce improved product design. As AM becomes more widely used, it is anticipated that new design features will emerge that could be included in future versions of the database so that it will remain a rich source of inspirational information for tomorrow s industrial designers.