Put Direct Digital Manufacturing to Work For You

Monthly Spotlight
:: Put Direct Digital Manufacturing to Work For You

Direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is a term that is being used more and more when discussing new uses for rapid prototypes. DDM is the process of using rapid prototyping (RP) technology to produce parts for use as final products. Many industries such as aerospace, dental, medical, and consumer products are already using this technology to produce production products. Direct digital manufacturing is ideal for the following applications:

• End-use production parts
• Short run production
• Parts with complex geometries
• Direct tooling inserts for Injection Molding

Top 3 Advantages:

Rapid prototyping technology is constantly improving, giving it the ability to compete with traditional manufacturing techniques in terms of price, speed, reliability and cost. Here are the top 3 advantages of DDM:

1. Speed – Additive manufacturing can produce an end use part in a matter of days rather than weeks. Although the actual manufacturing speed is slower, the time is made up in the prep and post-processing activities. RP builds the desired parts from a 3D CAD file, eliminating the need to produce tools or other equipment used in other manufacturing techniques.

2. Cost – DDM provides a cost savings through reduced labor costs and process efficiencies. The amount of labor and time needed to produce the parts is greatly reduced, resulting in lower part pricing. Another cost savings that is realized through the RP process is energy and material waste. Since the process only forms the desired part, waste for both energy and material is much reduced. Family build pricing also assists in process efficiency by giving you the ability to produce several parts at a time to fill the machine’s build envelope.

3. Complex Geometries – RP technologies allow the creation of more efficient designs without the limitations of other processes. Through the principles of additive manufacturing, internal features and shapes can be created that could not be created with traditional methods.

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Case Study: Direct Digital Manufacturing
:: National Geographic’s Crittercam

The Crittercam is a research tool designed to be worn by wild animals. It combines video and audio recording with the collection of environmental data such as depth, temperature, velocity and acceleration and even makes three-dimensional profiles of the dives of sea creatures. These compact systems allow scientists to study animal behavior without the interference of a human observer. Combining solid data with gripping imagery, Crittercam brings the animal’s point of view to the scientific community and delivers a message of conservation to worldwide television audiences.

Marine biologist and filmmaker Greg Marshall and his team wanted to make the Crittercam smaller, lighter and incorporate the latest technology for both audio and video, thereby allowing it to be more robust. In order for this to occur, they needed to think outside the box. They decided that a custom SLS part would serve multiple purposes and allow them total design freedom. The part needed to brace and center the controller board that was already connected to the back plate and serve as the supporting structure for the camera mounting.

:: Rapid Prototyping Help Advance Medical Devices

Advancements in rapid prototyping (RP) processes and materials are affecting medical devices, implantables, equipment, and anatomical models. RP technologies are automated mechanical techniques to build physical 3D models from 3D CAD files. A few examples of medical devices designed using RP include catheters, stents, syringes, retractors and surgical fasteners. Prototypes are also important in the design and manufacturing of other pieces of medical equipment including MRI machines, hospital beds, handheld testing and display devices, and fluid collection and testing equipment.

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