Inspire part optimisation
To make good 3D prints, you need good 3D software. That’s probably where the confusion comes from for those who don’t quite ‘get it’ – you kind of have to design the thing first before pressing print.
Leading 3D software developers SolidThinking, were at last week’s TCT Show demonstrating two programs, SolidThinking Inspire and SolidThinking Evolve. SolidThinking President, Jim Hassberger was on hand to tell us about what makes them both so special, the latest features and what we can expect from them in 2015.
“Evolve does 3D concept design for designers,” explains Jim. “It’s used a lot in production with 3D printing because it creates a fully enclosed solid. A lot of our customers do concept design and one of the next steps in that phase is to create a physical prototype. SolidThinking Inspire is a tool for design engineers and it has great ties with additive manufacturing. We learn about it from our customers, they discovered it.”
Inspire is beneficial to additive manufacturing processes because it can help to optimise parts to their full potential whilst preserving material. In essence, designing things lighter and faster.
“Most of our customers are design engineers that are trying to make strong, structural parts and lightweight,” says Jim. “Many of our customers who are experimenting with additive manufacturing found that especially for metal based additive manufacturing, it really doesn’t make sense to just manufacture things that were designed for other processing –you really don’t gain much benefit. What Inspire does is it actually gives you the best shape for the part based on what it has to do. So you give it the package space, the loading and other constraints and it comes back and gives you the ideal shape which will be the lightest and make the part do what it needs to do.”
Inspire produces shapes that are much more reminiscent of organic structures rather than standard mechanically engineered parts. Examples of automotive and aerospace designs do not look like traditional pieces, instead they have a much more interesting, natural quality to them that provides several benefits.
“If you look at forms of nature, they’re very organic but very difficult to make using traditional manufacturing methods so if you use this process to design your parts or structures, you can then use additive manufacturing to produce that. Most of our customers for Inspire are companies like aerospace companies, automotive, architecture, people that care about finding the best form and saving material.”
For inspire the goal is to have a simple interface that people can learn from and remember as they go along. The latest version features a simplify tool and validation and analysis tool that highlights areas of weakness. Designers can also apply the forces to their design to show how the part would react to various stresses. In something like a simple bike part, the software has the ability to remove half of the material used in traditional manufacturing.
Organic print at TCT Show
Evolve is a little different and comes with a construction history that makes it much easier to go back into models and tweak them as a project develops. The program is more about getting into 3D faster using a series of lines and then pushing and pulling to tweak it. With the construction history, the design automatically updates without having to worry about the geometry. Seeing the problems designers have with other 3D software, SolidThinking went back and looked at those problems that for many designers, meant making sacrifices and came up with a solution in Evolve.
“We’re constantly improving the features,” says Jim. “We just had our 2014 release of both products and we’re planning for the end of the year a 2015 release. In Evolve we’re adding the ability to create very irregular shapes. It’s basically taking freeform shapes, moderating them and then going directly to geometry files. That has a little bit of a tie in with Inspire because many times people want to take the Inspire results and create a concept model from them and move forward. That was one of the reasons we created this software to capture very organic forms and go forward with geometry representations.”
Jim said the team continue to make improvements to the software, taking on board requests from users who are helping them to get a good picture of what customers are actually utilising both programs for.
“We’ve received a lot of attention and got a lot of new users and customers and with that attention we of course have requests to handle new types of connections so in its initial form Inspire is very good for single parts and now we’re adding the ability to do more assemblies and connections so that companies can do more complicated problems with the program. We’re also working on what we call, manufacturing constraints. We have those today for Inspire but its for casting or extrusion, those types of processes. We’re working on that today with additive manufacturing.”