Challenge

Successfully print a complex topology-optimized Titanium bracket

Solution

A strong collaboration between Altair, Materialise and Renishaw

Software used

Materialise Magics, Materialise 3-matic, Materialise Build Processor

Insight/How

Smoothing rough data, creating optimal support structures and applying the slice-based technology

Industry

Industrial goods

Following the Organic Shape of Nature

The spider bracket mimics the biological structures that can be found in nature. Altair’s topology optimization software created a unique, organic shape that is both light and strong. The lattice structures also provide stability and are desirable for thermal behavior. However, a topology optimized model needs sufficient smoothing before it can be printed.

Solid mesh with lattice structures

Solid mesh with lattice structures

The topology optimization resulted in solid regions and regions with a lattice structure. The irregular interface between the lattice and the solid mesh makes 3D printing difficult and can lead to stress accumulations. This means that the edgy geometry needs reconstruction. That’s where Materialise 3-matic software comes into play. With this design optimization software, the design engineers at Materialise easily transformed the rough data into a clean model with smooth surfaces.

Rough data

Rough data

Smooth surface

Smooth surface

Besides the irregular geometry, the support structures attached to the lattice could potentially cause problems in Laser Melting processes. For instance, when you remove the support, the lattice structure can break off as well. To prevent this issue, our engineers placed a thin layer of solid material under the lattice structures that needed support. At certain regions, the design was also slightly improved with Materialise 3-matic to reduce the amount of support structures necessary.

Additional solid material under the lattice

Additional solid material under the lattice

Data Preparation for Metal 3D Printing

Metal support structures generates with Materialise Magics

Metal support structures generates with Materialise Magics

After design enhancement, the engineers used Materialise Magics to add logos of the three companies, find the optimal orientation, position the part within the build envelope and generate support structures. Good support structures fulfills a larger purpose than just supporting the part during the build process. It also minimizes deformation so that the build process will not be terminated.

With our Support Generation Module for metal, it was possible to anchor the part and transfer the heat. As one of our trusted beta testers, Renishaw already has access to Materialise Magics, which provides even more control of support structures for metal 3D printing.

The Final Stage

Normally the large and complex file would be difficult to handle and manipulate, but in this case the calculations of the structures were postponed until the slicing step. The slice-based technology of the Renishaw Build Processor by Materialise applied the 3D geometry of the spider bracket at the slice level instead of at the STL level, which kept the file size remarkably low. The build file was thus sliced and tested according to Renishaw assigned material parameters. After this, the file was turned into a titanium part thanks to the expertise and technology developed by Renishaw.

renishaw-bp.jpg

Screenshot of the Build Processor software

 “For every 3D printing project, it is essential to determine whether a part can be successfully printed. To do this, Materialise has developed an entire backbone of software solutions to verify and help ensure the printability of even the most complex of parts. In the case of the spider bracket, our slice-based software ensured the printability of the lightweight structure generated by Altair’s OptiStruct team by creating a more manageable ‘lightweight file’. This data was then seamlessly transferred to the machine by the Renishaw Build Processor by Materialise, helping turn an impossible project into a 3D-printed reality.”

Lieve Boeykens, Business Line Director for 3D Printing Professionals at Materialise.

The striking spider bracket has been built successfully, translating almost 4GB of data. The never-seen-before design and the unique mix of solutions that were used provide an insight to the new era of shapes and products to come in metal 3D printing.

Do you use topology optimization, create metal 3D printing applications or need to process complex designs? Then have a look at our software suite or contact us.