If you have a little in-depth understanding of the industry, you will find that 3D printing is the collective name for additive manufacturing technology. Under this large technical framework, there are various technologies corresponding to different materials and then connected to different application scenarios, and according to user needs, these are divided into consumer-grade desktop 3D printers and industrial-grade professional 3D printers. These two categories are completely different systems, which can be understood as the difference between a small pickup truck and a heavy-duty transport truck.
Optimized automobile architecture solution using design optimization and 3D printing
Industrial-grade 3D printers currently mainly process polymer materials and metal materials, which are also the most commonly used raw materials in traditional manufacturing. Most of the parts of mobile phones, computers, home appliances, and cars around us are either metal or plastic, so in traditional manufacturing, plastic and metal materials cannot be bypassed.
Chemical giant BAF’s material systems
Parts processed from polymer materials
However, in traditional processing technologies such as traditional casting, machining, and injection molding, there are complete and mature process flows and professional software to support them. More importantly, traditional processing technologies not only have a theoretical basis but also have richer practices. Supported by experience.
Traditional subtractive manufacturing and processing methods
Molds made by traditional CNC processing
As additive manufacturing (3D printing) competes with subtractive manufacturing (CNC) and equal material manufacturing (casting) in the future, to achieve efficient and high-quality processing services on the entire application end, optimization initiated from the design end has become inevitable, and process monitoring, processing technology optimization, and simulation testing are also indispensable links in the entire processing process. From some acquisitions of 3D printing hardware companies in the past, it is not difficult to find that giant hardware companies either acquire or, through cooperation, form a set of functional modules linked to applications. There is currently no very complete ecosystem.
Design-optimized bicycle parts
From an ecological perspective, we look at the additive manufacturing industry. Manufacturing requirements, designers + design software, simulation software, inspection processes, materials, 3D printing equipment, post-processing processes and processes, and assembly verification form the entire processing process, which is controlled by users. After initiating the demand, the designer uses professional design software to design. This link is very critical because the design direction for additive manufacturing technology and the design direction for other processing technologies should be different, such as whether it should be lightweight and whether it should be taller. Requirements for strength and more functions, etc. Due to the huge volume and cost requirements of traditional manufacturing, the materials used must be both strong, durable, and low-cost. However, the materials used in 3D printing should also be theoretically oriented. In this direction, if a material system developed for 3D printing technology is also cheap and has good material properties, it may replace part of the traditional processing technology. In other words, 3D printing technology must be used. Only with a more optimized design and materials that are more in line with the technology can it be possible to upgrade traditional manufacturing and become a new manufacturing process that can be promoted and popularized.
Additive manufacturing needs to find suitable opportunities to enter the real manufacturing and processing industries. As a major manufacturing country, China has innate experimental advantages. At present, the competitive landscape of the entire 3D printing industry has quietly improved. It is no longer just hardware. Unique in the world, the competitive landscape of soft power, processing technology, material systems, and the entire post-processing process is being established.
Let’s first go back and review what these so-called industry giants have done to improve their competitiveness during the past few years of the rapid development of 3D printing.
In September 2014, Stratasys, which had previously focused on 3D printing of polymer plastic materials, spent US$100 million to acquire GrabCAD, a four-year-old designer community. This community has an important piece of collaborative design software, Workbench. When Grabcad was acquired by Stratasys, it registered It has more than 1.5 million users and 520,000 CAD files shared by designers. Today, we see that the management, model management, sharing, and workflow management of Stratasys’ industrial 3D printers are all integrated into GrabCAD. In the same year, Stratasys spent US$400 million to acquire the desktop 3D printer company MakerBot. Now it seems that MakerBot is overvalued to a certain extent, and the designer and model-sharing community of MakerBot’s Thingivers is more important to hardware companies like Stratasys. These two major acquisitions are strategic layout actions now because, apart from Stratasys, it is still difficult for other 3D printing hardware companies to have such a large-scale model-sharing and designer community.
GrabCAD’s philosophy: is to make machine-made products better and faster
Similar to GrabCAD functions, the German industrial 3D printer company EOS uses ESTATE everywhere to monitor and manage production to ensure print quality. The difference is that EOS does not have its own designer community.
EOS has partnered with German startup Additive Works to advance the metal additive manufacturing process through the further development of Amphyon, Additive Works’ simulation-based AM pre-processing software. The software solution can virtually simulate the AM build process and identify potential problem areas in part designs before printing, saving users time and production costs. The simulation phase has two modules: the support module (in beta testing) and the Mechanical Process Simulation (MPS) module. The support module enables users to optimize and automatically generate support structures.
In terms of software, Stratasys did not acquire the 3D modeling software company Solidworks. Instead, it acquired its agent in China, Zhicheng Technology, in 2015. This enables Stratasys to develop its capabilities in 3D design, digital simulation analysis, CNC machining, mold design, and 3D printing. There has been some accumulation.
In addition to Stratasys, 3D System, the second-largest 3D printer company in the United States, started to acquire software companies earlier. As early as January 3, 2013, 3D System acquired Geomagic, a US digital reality solution provider. This software With powerful design, scanning, inspection, and tactile product solutions, Geomagic helps users shorten product development cycles and optimize processes in design, engineering, manufacturing, and quality verification. In addition, its scanning and design solutions are mainly used to capture real objects. Image and 3D modeling can be used to sculpt complex shapes and prepare for mass manufacturing. In addition, 3D measurement and inspection software can verify quality by comparing real objects with design models. So far, Geomagic relies on its powerful functions and is still one of the programs that 3D designers must master. Before this, 3D System also acquired Rapidform, a Korean reverse engineering and inspection software, for reverse engineering and 3D inspection.
GE utilizes 3D-printed parts
After GE, a representative company in the manufacturing industry acquired metal 3D printing companies Arcam and ConceptLaser, it has the strongest capabilities in metal 3D printing, the two largest metal 3D printing companies in the world besides Germany’s EOS. Later, GE acquired the simulation software developer GeonX. GeonX’s monitoring system capable of simulating powder alloy molten pools will become a valuable part of GE’s product series.
Arcam is a professional metal 3D printing company that masters electron beam melting technology. It also operates the metal powder production company AP&C and the medical 3D printing company DiSanto Technology. In addition, Arcam has sales and application sites around the world, ready to serve customers in the aerospace and medical fields. These are very important for GE to further develop its metal 3D printing business.
In November 2017, American 3D simulation tool developer ANSYS announced that it had acquired 3DSIM, an American metal 3D printing simulation software developer. The resulting joint simulation solution is currently the only complete additive manufacturing simulation workflow in the industry. 3DSIM enjoys a strong reputation in the industry, and its customers include parts manufacturers, materials scientists, aerospace and automotive OEMs, research laboratories, and metal AM machine builders.
In the aspect of design optimization, Materialize’s magic may be more familiar to everyone. In addition, mimics and 3-matic can bring more convenience to designers in the professional field.
In addition to Marius, Altair, a professional engineering software supplier, is better at design and design optimization. From conceptual design to the entire product declaration cycle, Altair uses software to shorten product development time, reduce costs, and provide solutions that can optimize products. Design capabilities such as structure, motion, fluids, thermal management, electromagnetics, system modeling, and embedded systems, while providing data analysis and visualization capabilities.
Of the two companies, the software functions of the former can better match 3D printing technology. However, Altair and Autodesk, the two major engineering design software programs, have also actively connected to 3D printing through design software in recent years. Altair is better at design optimization, including topology optimization. You know, Altair OptiStruct is the second commercial software besides Siemens LMS Boss Quattro to inherit Professor Conlin’s large-scale optimization algorithm.
In the manufacturing industry, Siemens PLM software has a complete set of integrated solutions in the digital manufacturing industry. This set of solutions is not only used for Siemens’ own product development and production but also outputs 4.0 digital manufacturing solutions for the entire manufacturing industry, including drivers. Product research and development, collaborative innovation, workflow management, simplified manufacturing processes, intelligent design, simulation testing, manufacturing optimization, 3D printing, data analysis, customer experience, etc. optimize and transform the manufacturing process throughout the entire product life cycle.
Let’s look at the domestic situation. In the national strategy, software, materials, technology, processing technology, etc. are all highly valued. Domestic industrial-grade 3D printer brands cooperate with international software companies on the design side, and in response to the industry needs of market segments, we are also actively developing corresponding application software. At present, more basic work is focused on scientific research topics and national key projects. In the commercial field, Zhongwang’s 3Done is currently used to popularize education.
At present, at the top of the additive manufacturing food chain, there should be design software and material companies. Design and materials determine the implementation and large-scale application of applications. In the early stages of industry development, there are still hardware companies that can achieve a certain degree of system integration through acquisitions. However, in the future, with the trend of professional division of labor, deeper cooperation is the way to implement additive manufacturing applications.