3D printing enables reduce part weight, raw material and cut total energy used in production. But to take advantage of 3D printing, engineers need updated, intuitive and easy-to-learn CAD tools.
So in order to keep pace with deveopment in 3D printing, CAD technology must move into the cloud, become easier to use and be better able to support eccentric and not-yet-dreamed-of designs.
If CAD technology can evolve everyday objects like electric toothbrush, blender or even the engine within your automobile, will take the shape of nothing one has ever seen before.
That matter is CAD keeping up with 3D printing. Most 3D printers take their printing instructions from 3D CAD files. Since the 3D printer receives its instructions from CAD files, the printers are limited in the shapes they print that those CAD systems generate.
The 3D printers can print objects with geometries yet unimagined. Any shape, no matter how twisting, undulating or odd, it might be.
But CAD software allows for designers to work with recognized geometries: circles and ovals, squares and rectangles, and so on.
Guided by the design file, a 3D printer lays down layer after layer of a material to print an object in 3D. Some of today’s printers and materials can create objects that can instantly be utilised, doing away with the need for another manufacturing step.
While CAD continues to evolve, changes to that software are seen in the way engineers interact with the software rather than in the designs and shapes they can create with the software.
For example, sketching applications that allow engineers to draw their designs as they would on paper, instead of pulling or piecing together existing geometries. Catchbook, from Siemens PLM, is one such example.
A recent advancement in 3D printing has been from printing prototypes to printing end-use parts.
While CAD continues to evolve, changes to that software are mainly seen in the way the engineers interact with the software rather than in the shapes and designs they can create with the software.
Other examples of freehand-drawing-style applications that include SketchUp, Sketches and Drawing Pad. Even though SketchUp can be used on a desktop, most of these drawing applications are made for the tablet, with your stylus or finger acting as the pencil.
But even these freehand design programs come with drawbacks that mean they can’t be used to print odd and eccentric shapes on a 3D printer.
The industrial drawing engine behind Catchbook, turns the individual parts of a drawing into recognized geometries. If a Catchbook user draws a lopsided circle, the engine creates a perfect circle.
Another recent advances in 3D printing has been from printing prototypes to printing end-use parts.
Recently, GE Aviation announced plans to include 3D-printed parts in its CFM Leap aircraft engine platform beginning in 2016. The engines are produced by GE and partner Snecma jointly will include 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles in the combustion system.
Last May, Stratasys a printer manufacturer announced that its printers had been used to produce above 1,000 flight parts for the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft, that was delivered in December 2014.
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