Like many of you, I love the idea of 3D printing. I used to be skeptical of its large-scale applications and ease of use. Well…that did not last long! The journey today will outline my route from concept to finished production parts, highlighting the ease of setup using Smartstream for the HP Multi Jet Fusion printers. On this trip, I will bring along SOLIDWORKS, my trusted parametric 3D computer aided design software used by millions of users around the world. My background as a CAD designer, instructor and troubleshooter creates a firm foundation for the understanding of how the 3D world operates. For what I don’t know, there are countless forums and user groups that can help me learn and improve.
So, what happens when an idea becomes a CAD model and asks to become a physical model, or hundreds of physical models, all in the span of a few days?
Sometimes, the CAD design comes from a customer, is downloaded from a 3D printing sharing site such as GrabCAD, or other times I design it myself. If it’s my own design, I generally follow a simple process, but first, I have to answer some questions:
What does the model need to do?
How will it be manufactured?
What kind of material am I using to make the part and what are its limitations?
How can it fail and where?
Can I analyze the failure? – think SOLIDWORKS Simulation
Once I answer these questions and create my model, I export it in one of three file formats: STL, 3MF or VRML. Today, I am using STL, for simplicity and ease of use. If the model sent from another user is in one of these formats, I can use it directly. If not, I can open it in SOLIDWORKS and save it as needed.
When I save a model from my CAD platform, I check for some very important file format items:
Output Units – use same units as per design
Resolution grade: Deviation and Angular tolerance – a fine resolution works best
File format type – if applicable
Any other save options the by software might have available for the file format
STL Figure 1
3MF Figure 2
VRML Figure 3
Binary STL is sufficient, as ASCII brings unnecessary information and increases the file size. For VRML, version 97 is the best option, as Version 1 is older and does not work with some slicing software.
Now it is time to setup my print job!
HP’s Smartstream 3D Build Manager is a very simple, robust and easy to use tool that many use for their printing needs. It can be downloaded from the HP website, here or by navigating to:
www.hp.com > Support: Software and Drivers > Printers > search Multi Jet Fusion > select HP software > expand Application-Solutions
This software is FREE! Yes, free and there are no license requirements. Now of course, it only works for the HP Multi Jet Fusion, the HP 4200/5200 series and 300/500 series printers, but I can have as many copies on as many computers as I need. It is very light, occupying little space on my hard drive and does not use a lot of system resources.
At times, the model is not well meshed and the surfaces are not water tight. That creates a problem for slicing software in determining where to place material. Smartstream has an integrated Repair tool. It analyzes, kits and re-meshes the surfaces of the model without altering the geometry. A single click starts the process and it requires no knowledge of CAD or meshing on the part of the user… me. 😊
Now that my model is loaded, here are some of the options I have to adjust and prepare my print:
Move – one part at a time or in groups
Scale – percentage scale or per xyz dimension
Rotate – 3 degrees of freedom (xyz +/-)
Duplicate – select and multiply parts as needed
Move to Bed – for ease of brining model within build area
Add color – VRML color scheme comes with the part; otherwise this option allows color
Adjust color Hue, Lightness and Saturation – general adjustments
Hollow model – select shell wall thickness and accuracy
To view my results, I have tools such as pan view, zoom, cut-away, orthographic views and orbit.
Prior to printing the part or parts, I can run a wall thickness analysis to determine if the model has any areas likely to fail. This can save me A LOT of time in reprinting. Since the Smartstream software is specifically tuned to the HP Multi Jet printers, the high accuracy of this analysis is to be expected.
Then, I can add more parts and auto pack them or arrange them by hand.
For administrative purposes, I can also run a report and see my parts’ dimensions and other necessary information. This is in PDF format and easy to print out.
A special feature of Smartstream is the Caging option. This allows me to create a cage around my small parts so they do not get lost during the cleaning process. Below, you see 32 gears and the caging parameters I used on the right side.
Then, I can connect to my printer using the IP address and send the job.
At the intersection of simplicity, reliability and performance, HP’s Smartstream 3D Build Manager is a great tool to have available. If more tools are needed, such as internal latticing, manual file repair, or topology optimization, third party software such as Materialize Magics or NetFabb have plug-ins specific for the HP Multi Jet Fusion. These software packages are license-based and must be purchased or leased. For the large majority of users, Smartstream is very adequate.
The user interface is very simple and similar to the HP wide format printers, thus making it very user friendly. I select the job and press print.
*I will note here that the printer is already ready by having enough Nylon 12, Nylon 11, or TPU powder material available and fusing, detailing and color agents*
Once it starts, I will have an accurate reading of how long the job will take. The HP 500/300 series printers have built in material processing, printing, and cooling. The 4200/5200 series has a separate processing station, which requires the build chamber be moved. This adds a step, but also allows a second job to print while the first one is cooling, increasing production capacity!
I look forward to using this printer every time someone needs parts printed. The ability to produce hundreds of parts per day is amazing! 3D printing has come a long way and is only getting better so be on the lookout for more innovative printers from the HP Multi Jet Fusion line.
For more on product design, validating, producing and management, check out this 3-part webinar series by our TPM team on Collaborative Manufacturing Design.
Cris Ivan, Technical Solutions Consultant, TPM Inc.