HP and Siemens have been partners for many years, but the companies continue to build on the relationship with an eye toward pushing out innovation in additive manufacturing (AM), transforming it from a prototyping technology to a cost-effective production technology. AM, according to HP and Siemens, can help companies “escape the limits of conventional manufacturing.” One of the ways to accomplish this, they say, is to improve industrial 3D printing to increase speed to market, differentiate on product performance, and simplify production and supply chain operations. Eliminating data conversions and third-party tools is a good start, and this means a single software environment for design to production.
To this end, Siemens recently introduced a new software suite, Siemens NX AM for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer. The module is an extension of NX, Siemens’ flagship software for product development and manufacturing. The solution creates an end-to-end design-to-production software environment for companies using the Multi Jet Fusion, a 1,200 nozzle per square inch industrial 3D printer that allows for control down to the individual voxel level. (A voxel is like a pixel, but in three-dimensional space.) Users of the new software and the printer can develop and manage parts in a single software environment without the need for third-party solutions and tools, essentially creating a design-to-finished-part workflow efficiency.
|Siemens NX users can maximize the number of prints to be executed within the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer build volume by loading multiple 3D part models into NX, and then auto nesting and submitting them (powered by integrated Materialise capabilities) directly to the HP 3D printer. (Image source: Siemens)|
Included in the Siemens’ NX AM for HP Multi Jet Fusion module is technology supplied by Belgian company Materialise NV, a certified Siemens partner that has built an open platform to enable co-creation and collaboration between different players in the 3D printing and manufacturing eco-system. Materialise technology enables automatic 3D nesting of parts within the building volume and a direct connection to HP Multi Jet Fusion printers.
The result, according to Siemens and HP, is new product possibilities including 3D printed parts with variable colors, textures, density, strength and friction, as well as thermal, electrical and conductivity characteristics. At the recent Siemens Industry Analyst Conference, HP and Siemens unveiled a 3D printed multi-material “living” part that can communicate its up-to-date state of wear and tear. The part has both conductive and non-conductive characteristics, was designed in NX, and 3D printed using fusing agents currently being researched at HP.
In addition to enabling innovation, the new software module aims to bring down costs and manufacturing time compared to existing AM technology. Andreas Saar, VP of Manufacturing Engineering Solutions at Siemens PLM, told Design News that there are many barriers in the additive manufacturing process that need to be overcome in order to scale up additive manufacturing for industrial production.
“The new NX AM software automates 3D nesting of parts in the building volume to maximize the number of parts printed per job and help manufacturers save time and money,” he said. “Furthermore, as design changes are made, the parts in the build tray will update automatically, so no re-work of the build tray is necessary. The new module also minimizes the number of steps for manufacturers to complete the overall design-to-finished part workflow meaning there is less time required to prepare print jobs leading to an overall cost savings.”
Saar told Design News that many companies waste time and money in inefficient AM practices, working between different solutions that don’t necessarily inter-operate, which interrupts the workflow. In the new software module, Siemens draws on its Teamcenter product, a widely used product lifecycle management (PLM) solution.
“We often see companies using multiple, disconnected software applications to design, optimize, simulate, prepare print jobs and inspect parts,” he said. “This way of working results in costly data conversions, uncontrolled workflows and extra process steps. With the new NX solution, HP Multi Jet Fusion printer customers can complete and control the end-to-end process using a single, integrated software system in order make additive manufacturing an integral part of their mainstream operations. When NX is combined with Teamcenter, a digital thread flows through entire PLM workflow from requirements to manufacturing, managed without interruption.”
Because the new module, in conjunction with the HP Multi Jet Fusion, enables more design freedom, it can create new options for manufacturers looking to innovate in product development. Siemens and HP are aligning future technology roadmaps to open new possibilities for designers and engineers to control material characteristics of prints down to the voxel level. Emerging generations of the Siemens-HP system will allow voxel-level manipulation of surface texture, wear and friction to control material characteristics, according to Saar.
“In the future, engineers will be able to design and print parts that might have one area that is highly elastic and another area that is rigid, or one area that is opaque and another area that is translucent, or even one area that is dielectric and another area that is conductive,” he told Design News. “These upcoming capabilities will open up a new frontier of product development possibilities for businesses that use 3D printing.”