Simulation: Opening the Door to Improved Additive Manufacturing

A new Siemens NX software module for product development and manufacture simulates additive manufacturing processes. This allows product developers to optimize the manufacturing process virtually and print a component with no errors, no localized overheating, and no warpage. The idea and the algorithms come from experts at Siemens Corporate Technology. Siemens Digital Factory is now making the beta version of the module available to selected customers and Siemens colleagues for testing.


by Fenna Bleyl

Additive manufacturing of metal components, also known as 3D printing, does not yet work as smoothly as users would like. Currently, engineers mostly use a series of iterations to approach the ideal process. This may involve varying the printing parameters such as speed or laser power until the component has the precise dimensions and material qualities required. This normally does not happen the first time around because of localized overheating or warpage, which either directly impact the manufacturing process or make the component unusable.

Perfect Printing?

With this in mind, Daniel Reznik, an expert in additive manufacturing at Siemens Corporate Technology (CT), is simulating the process of selective laser melting (SLM). Together with his team of process and modeling experts, he has developed specialized algorithms designed to predict overheating and warpage, thus opening the door to optimizing the process at a virtual level. “This takes us much closer to our goal of being able to perfectly print a product that has been designed using CAD the first time around,” Reznik comments. When developing the new NX software module, experts from Siemens’ Digital Factory (DF) business area implemented Reznik’s algorithms in NX, structured the user interface, and created the beta version of the module that’s now being tested by firms such as Honeywell and Toolcraft, and by Siemens Power Generation, Power Services, and Material Solutions.

Compensating for Component Warpage

Omar Fergani, a product manager at DF, recalls: “This was a very agile project. About a year ago, we held initial discussions with our colleagues at CT, and now we’re already testing the project.” He sees the consistency of the new module as particularly important: “The module offers an end-to-end digital data chain. It combines several software packages to enable the user to implement all the stages from design to process simulation and actual printing using just one tool and a single powerful interface.” This level of integration means, for example, that the user can jump back and forth between design and process simulation and compensate for warpage in the component, which is calculated in advance, right at the design stage. The program then adapts all the necessary details in the process control system. 

"Build process simulation for additive manufacturing is one of the key components that will allow us to achieve stability."

Dave Madeley, architect of the DF additive manufacturing Program, has watched the development of the new module with interest. “Build process simulation for additive manufacturing is one of the key components that will allow us to achieve stability and predictability in what is a challenging manufacturing process. We will continue to invest in this area, pushing the joint DF / CT team to build upon the work already done in this module. The seamless integration between preparation for printing, simulation and print correction will drive sales and implementation of these industrialized processes into our customer base.”

Toward more Precise Digital Twins

Fergani already has plans for the next versions of the module. He’s working with Reznik on corrective measures for overheating and is also applying the the module’s end-to-end digital data chain to other additive manufacturing processes like wire-based manufacturing or directed energy deposition. Fergani is also working with simulation expert Lucia Mirabella at CT in Princeton, New Jersey on novel functionalities to enhance the NX workflow. These activities are strategically planned to develop the most precise digital twin of AM processes in the market.

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