Additive manufacturing is the future

Satabdee Dash
Product development, Lund University

“Additive manufacturing is the future – but we have to change our mindsets”

2021-07-02. Satabdee Dash recently started her PhD in work package two. A love for machines, airplanes and design brought her from India to Germany, Stockholm, and finally to Lund – where she is researching on development of tools and methodologies for DfAM, otherwise referred to as design for additive manufacturing. Within the WP2, she works with DfAM in the context of plastics.

– During my masters with Scania, I got really interested in optimization driven design and most specifically how to design for additive manufacturing in an effective manner. The potential is huge.

She explains that the general public think of 3D-printing when they hear the word additive manufacturing, AM. But AM is a transformative approach to product design that enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems – by adding layers of materials on top of each other to create a 3D part from a digital file. Hence, AM holds much more meaning to it.

– Many people think it is very easy to do 3D-printing, and do not understand the power of it. The general view is ‘anything and everything can be made with AM’. The more you work with AM, the more you realise the associated challenges and limitations that come in the way of creating excellent products using AM.

– Design guidance, along with sufficient domain knowledge, as well as expertise is required to unravel the true potential of AM.

Some of the challenges for AM involve: repeatability; material availability, scalability; and standardization. Today, only a few materials are suitable to use for AM, and there are challenges in producing consistently reliable parts, as well as scaling up production. In spite of this, Satabdee Dash is convinced that AM is the future.

– With AM you can produce industrial prototypes and spare parts as well as parts with integrated functionalities. You can also produce parts with highly complex geometries, purely customized to the needs of a user, some examples are individualized products such as shoe soles, prosthetics parts, and hearing aids. In a way you can use it for anything where there is a need for complex topology to fill in a required function.

Plastics and AM
As part of her PhD within the STEPS programme, Satabdee Dash will explore AM in relation to plastics.

– Everyone knows the impact of using plastics. If I am a designer, I have to have a sense of the environmental impacts of my designs. I want to explore the sustainability aspect of AM and strive to produce biobased sustainable alternatives.

– The inherent properties of plastics make it easy to explore with AM. As part of STEPS mission to develop 3D printed foam for upholstery applications and in collaboration with JI, I will be investigating a additively manufactured structure that can behave like foam to replace currently used oil-based polyurethane for upholstery.

During her PhD, Satabdee hopes that she can add value to the research within the field of DfAM and contribute towards enabling the shift of designers’ mindset from conventional manufacturing to AM.

– AM can change society. But we need to change the way we think and this requires moving away from the mindset of traditional manufacturing. If we want to use AM in the way we could potentially do it, we have to have a willingness to shift.

– That shift includes doing more research on the type of materials we can use for AM, to develop better and more advanced machinery, to build a holistic design framework and to enable knowhow of the capabilities and challenges of AM along with the associated design rules. We also need to create a proper supply chain; how should the good be manufactured and distributed large scale? Finally, we need standardization and legislation to enable streamlined AM design of products, she concludes.