10 Replies Latest reply on Aug 13, 2015 2:18 PM by Kelson Lachance

    3-D Printer Support material

    Kelson Lachance

      We would like to automate the process of determining the prototype part costing within Solidworks.  One issue is calculating the amount of support material used. I would like to calculate this directly in Solidworks.

       

      Are there some tricks or tips with regards to figuring this out quickly?  Just looking for some general feedback with regards to approach.  If there is a simple approach the long term goal would be to write a macro to fully automate this.  The parts we deal with can be complex plastics.  There will be pass through, and over-hangs.   I think Creo might have this functionality (and I don't mean that as a jab).

       

      I have looked on line, and don't seem to find much information on this.  I am surprised as I thought this would be a common concern.  I have asked similar question on API but I thought I should step back and see if I am missing something with regards to approach.

       

      Thanks,

       

      Kelson

        • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
          Mark Kaiser

          I assume this means you do not have your own 3D printer?  If you did, you could easily just have the 3D printer software figure out how much support material it is going to use in the build, and cost it after that.  Otherwise I assume you could ball park it based on the projection of the area your part covers on the build platform, but you would be guessing a bit at how the vendor is going to set up your part for the build.

            • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
              Kelson Lachance

              Thanks for helping.

               

              We do own a Stratasys Connex2; awesome machine.

               

              Yes I can have the 3D printer softer figure this out; but it was just a question about efficiency and speed.   Ideally it would be great if we could hit a button and get the true cost of the print.  (Solidworks does not calculate support material).  Saving out and running costing might take 5 minutes; if I could hit a button and have it quickly while I work would be ideal.

               

              We would define the orientation so that is not a problem.  The complexity comes in the part geometry.  Trying to develop an algorithm that calculates the material from the platform up to the part with complex geometry is tricky.  There would be some pass-throughs for example.  Gut told me that other must have a similar issue.  May be as you suggested everyone just uses the supplied software and goes through motions.

                • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                  Derek Parks

                  Kelson,

                   

                  I just use the printer software for costing of material. To me its the only way I have figured out to get the exact amount of print and support materials used in each part. Unless you are printing in 1:1 all the time not sure doing it in Solidworks would work anyway unless you are scaling within Solidworks. Guess I am just confused on how this would save any time versus using printer software.You say Solidworks doesn't calculate Support material but are you using it for Print material? I don't see how that would even be accurate due to layer resolution, model interior types, etc. Can you explain how you are doing this?

                   

                  I am currently using 2013 and know they have added new 3D printing options in future versions so am just curious.

                   

                  Cheers,

                  Derek

                    • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                      Kelson Lachance

                      Derek,

                       

                      We do typically print 1 to 1 all the time so far.  In the odd cases we would scale.  Ideally I am expecting to hit a button written in VBA to calculate the support material.  To take this a step further the program would calculate the complete cost and possibly send an email out.  I have done this before with injection mould costing, which has similar complexities.  I am just stuck on support material.

                      The part material can be calculated directly form the volume.  The support material volume as you suggested depends on orientation and must be built up from the part model file.

                      One approach is the automate the process of building slices up from the platform and subtract volumes from the part model file until it transcends the bounding box.

                       

                      Kelson

                        • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                          Derek Parks

                          OK, I assume since you're calculating with volume it's still not 100% accurate unless you print everything solid,correct? I occasionally thicken around holes for tapping etc. since I rarely print solid. This would change my material amounts not seen in Solidworks unless modeled specifically for print within Solidworks.

                           

                          I am only using a Fortus 250 and Uprint machines though. As Mark said I assume your software is more complex for a Connex2. I am also now finding myself with a little bit of machine envy. That is one amazing machine.

                      • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                        Mark Kaiser

                        Totally jealous, sitting on a BST 768 here.  

                         

                        I understand what you are wanting, and faster would be better.  Seems like you could ball park it pretty close?  But not sure how without modeling some support material in SW.  Would be quite the algorithm I think.

                         

                        I don't see it taking 5 minutes though chugging it through the 3D printer software?  You have a more complex machine than I though.

                          • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                            Jeff Holliday

                            We have the SST 768 and an Eden 260V. Both of them have good software that gives very accurate info regarding amount of material and support needed for a given job. Each printer has its own unique characteristics about how it prints. I don't know how SW would be able to handle those differences (path length, number of layers, etc)

                             

                            There is some new functionality available to allow 3D Printing directly between SWorks and Windows.

                              • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                                Kelson Lachance

                                Interesting.

                                We were going to run some design experiments to try and correlate geometry and build times; as you suggested if we could get within 10% that would be great and then we could adjust the formulas.  Maybe it is just wishful thinking.  I also think it may be a little easier on a polyjet versus an fdm machine.

                                 

                                Appreciate all the comments.

                        • Re: 3-D Printer Support material
                          Mark Kaiser

                          Have you checked with the 3D printer reseller/manufacturer?  Maybe they would have a quick and dirty piece of software that would do this for you?