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3-D Printing Meets Automated Manufacturing

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PALO ALTO, Calif., November 4, 2013 — Engineers at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) are leveraging artificial intelligence to create software that could help designers make informed decisions about what 3-D printers and materials are best suited for their project.

Although 3-D printing has the ability to build objects that can’t be made through traditional manufacturing techniques, it’s still hindered by material limitations. What’s even more frustrating is that it’s often difficult for designers to get their hands on material specs, without which they cannot judge how thick a part needs to be or how the material will respond to its real world applications.

To solve this problem, engineers at PARC are developing an automated software program that can help designers choose the best 3-D printing method and material before they hit “print.” Essentially, the software would act as a digital manufacturing engineer, directing designers away from materials that could cause a print to warp, craze, distort or fail.

Currently, PARC’s team has built a system that can reference the specifications of a number of 3-D printers on the market, the materials they use and those materials’ properties. With that information the software can compare a design to the geometric and material parameters set for a printer and simulate a print run. From this virtual print, PARC’s software can detect where an object might run into problems and suggest manufacturing changes that can create a better build.

If PARC’s software is made available to the general public, engineers could gain deeper insight into how their designs will be created; encouraging greater confidence in 3-D printing technology and (hopefully) expanding its role in companies’ product design schemes.

Source: © 2013 ENGINEERING.com, Inc.

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