Developing new, and perfecting the existing, sinter-based additive manufacturing (AM) technologies is crucial to meeting the growing demand for technologically powerful solutions that can effectively and predictably control the microstructure of metal parts during the sintering process.

With this in mind, Desktop Metal, an award-winning metal 3D printer manufacturer, selected AMC Bridge to develop a software application to not only generate a part but also predict shrinkage and deformation during the metal sintering process.

  • Customer Benefits
    • The resulting solution is a competitive advantage in the metal additive manufacturing market.
    • The client expanded and diversified its client base.
  • Project highlights
    • Industry leading simulation software application that fully meets Desktop Metal’s users’ needs and requirements.
    • More reliable dimensional accuracy leading to parts of higher quality.
  • Why AMC Bridge?
    • The AMC Bridge team successfully advanced the existing Desktop Metal’s Live Parts™ technology, which supports the Live Sinter technology.
    • Deep knowledge and experience in engineering and simulation software development.

Client

Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM), based in Burlington, Massachusetts, is pioneering a new generation of additive manufacturing technologies focused on producing end-use parts. The company designs and markets 3D printing solutions for all scales of production—from complex prototypes and on-demand tooling to the rapid manufacture of thousands of parts.

Founded in 2015 by leaders in advanced manufacturing, metallurgy, and robotics, Desktop Metal addresses the unmet challenges of speed, cost, and quality to make metal 3D printing an essential tool for engineers and manufacturers around the world.


Challenges

As affordable metal AM technologies continue to take the industry by storm, the need for sintering simulation to produce high-accuracy metal models is moving to the forefront. Modeling for metal parts differs from other kinds of AM modeling and simulation due to the deformation of the part while sintering. As parts are heated to sintering temperatures, they experience significant forces, shrinkage, and deformation.

To overcome the current limitations of sinter-based AM processes, Desktop Metal needed a reliable simulation tool that would not only auto-generate part designs, but simulate the sintering process for metal parts, to predict part behavior under high temperatures and make sintering technologies more understandable, predictable, repeatable, and widely adoptable.

Considering the profound expertise demonstrated by the AMC Bridge team when collaborating on the Desktop Metal’s Live Parts technology extension, Desktop Metal entrusted AMC Bridge with this new project.


Solution

In close collaboration with Desktop Metal’s subject matter experts, the AMC Bridge team developed Live Sinter™, a first-of-its-kind software application that makes sintering more understandable and repeatable, particularly for users with limited experience with sintered parts.

Live Sinter simulates the sintering process for metal parts to predict their behavior under high temperatures, see deformations they undergo as they sinter, tune the results, and back-solve to provide the correct shape before sintering. Using a GPU-accelerated engine, the software performs a dynamic sintering simulation of complex parts. It generates ‘negative offset’ geometry which, when sintered, produces straight and defect-free parts out of the furnace.

The functionality of Live Sinter enables:

  • 3D visualization and modeling of metal parts
  • Optimization of the 3D modeling process
  • Predicting part shapes for pre- and post-sinter and their behavior under high temperatures
  • Simulating part deformation during the sintering process considering gravity drop, shrinkage pull, density warp, centroid rotation, and so on
  • Adjusting the results and receiving the correct part shape after sintering


Process

Having carefully elicited and analyzed all necessary requirements, the AMC Bridge development team closely collaborated with the Desktop Metal team.

Using the existing Live Parts solution as a base for the Live Sinter technology development, firstly, the AMC Bridge team was entrusted with adapting it to the new challenge.

The overall development process included the following Live Sinter advancements:

  • Licensing library integration. To make a standalone application, a proper licensing option was integrated into an installer.
  • Message system and state machine. The changes were made to provide the ability to launch Live Sinter without using scripts and simplify UI by creating logic sequences.
  • Heatmap generation. A mechanism for evaluating the accuracy and quality of sintering simulation was added with two kinds of heatmap: comparison by points and by regions.
  • Machine learning for parts tuning. This was the most challenging part of the project that aimed to train a neural network on multiple sintering parameters for a particular model. It resulted in a mechanism for predicting the best parameters for a specific model based on different initial conditions set by the user.
  • Application update mechanism.


Results

Efficiently contributing to the technology design and implementation, AMC Bridge delivered a specialized simulation application that fully met the client’s expectations. Live Sinter makes the simulation and sintering processes more understandable and repeatable and gives its users full control over the geometry of final, sintered parts. Thus, it makes the metal 3D printing process accessible and valuable to more manufacturers and engineers.

As a result, Desktop Metal offered the implemented solution to its end users as supplementary software for the 3D printers they produce and distribute.

The dedicated efforts of the project team were appreciated by the client. In his feedback, Andy Roberts, Technical Fellow at Desktop Metal, praised the work of the AMC Bridge team:

‘Continue to have a great experience working with the team. Highly communicative and appreciate the partnership!’

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