Additive manufacturing (AM) machinery has advanced over time; however, the necessary software for new machines often lags behind. To help mitigate this issue, researchers designed an automated process planning software to save money, time, and design resources.
Newer, five-axis machines are designed to move linearly along an x, y, and z plane and rotate among the planes to allow the machine to change an object’s orientation. These machines are an advancement on the traditional three-axis machines that lack rotation capabilities and require support structures. Such a machine can potentially lead to large cost and time savings; however, five-axis AM lacks the same design planning and automation that three-axis machines have. This is where the creation of planning software becomes critical.
The new methodology automatically maps designs from CAD (computer-aided design) software to AM to help cut unnecessary steps. The idea of the software is to make five-axis AM fully automated without the need for manual work or re-designs of a product.
The software’s algorithm automatically determines a part’s sections and the sections’ orientations. From this, the software designates when each section will be printed and in which orientation within the printing sequence. Through a decomposition process, the part’s geometry boils down into individual sections, each printable without support structures. As each piece is made in order, the machine can rotate throughout its axes to reorient the part and continue printing.
The algorithm can help inform a designer’s process plan to manufacture a part. It allows designers opportunities to make corrections or alter the design before printing, which can positively affect cost. The algorithm can also inform a designer how feasible a part may be to create using support-free manufacturing.