If you’ve ever tried to assemble furniture without using the instructions, then you know it can be a bit more complicated than it looks. When parts come in a flat box, but the final product is a 3D object, understanding how pieces go together, especially when the instructions are simple pictures, often requires some mental processing. In 3D printing, that processing is done by specialized software that is often proprietary, depending upon the printer manufacturer. It’s worth looking at exactly how that software works and how it guides the printing process.
There’s quite a bit of software involved in the 3D printing process. The design begins with computer-aided design (CAD) software. The first part of any 3D printing process has to be integrated with the design software like Autodesk and SOLIDWORKS and the printing software itself. HP 3D does have the ability to work with native CAD files and so is, in that sense, universal.
Then, typically, a proprietary application directly integrates with the design application or file type. Hence, the printer understands how to create layers and other necessary features for material distribution. HP 3D’s case is HP 3D Build Manager, which works with Autodesk to manage the printing process from start to finish.
However, 3D printing software is far more robust these days. It enables enterprise-level functionality as HP 3D’s software solutions do. First, let’s look at how it works with the printer.
Slicing software is the precise application (or part of an application) that converts your CAD file to the clear and accurate instructions the printer needs to create layers. Therefore, the first step in the process is breaking up the layers and identifying the linear pattern the extruder and finishing nozzles will need to follow.
Once the initial pattern is determined, the software searches for other design elements, including:
Because solid objects take considerable time and material to create, the software can determine what portions of the project may instead be built “hollow” and filled with internal structures ranging from honeycomb/latticework to support “walls.” Infill density also allows the program to determine how much internal support is needed to provide for the intended durability and strength of the project.
One of the most significant benefits of 3D printing technology is printing complex objects that may be difficult or impossible to create through traditional manufacturing methods. One of the features that enable that type of complexity is the ability for the software to identify where there are overhangs or other structural areas that would require additional support during the printing process. Those supports are typically made of the same material. Still, it is not reinforced in the same manner so that in the final “washing” process, the supports are removed.
The bottom layer of the 3D object is placed right on the bed of the printer. So when production is done, that positioning can sometimes create issues ranging from filament deposit anomalies to rougher finish. To avoid complications, slicing software can add a skirt, brim, or raft structure upon which the object is built, much like supports removed during the final stage of the printing process.
For HP Multi-jet Fusion Printers, the slicing software is built into the software solutions provided by HP, which, as noted above, includes a full suite of software solutions that don’t just handle your printing processes but also can guide production from start to finish.
HP’s primary software offerings are the Build Manager and 3D Command Center, but they also offer other solutions to facilitate productivity and efficiency. The goal of the software solutions is not just to enable the printing process but also to offer manufacturing predictability, automated processes for production, production tracking, and dashboard monitoring for KPI tracking.
Build Manager provides a single platform to manage build processes that enables automation and optimization to save both time and costs in the production process. Further, Build Manager supports various materials, and 3D printing technologies to provide the power and control manufacturing facilities need to streamline printing jobs.
If control is what you need, then HP’s cloud-based command center is the solution for your team. While the Build Manager oversees the printing processes, the command center oversees your workflow, monitors, and tracks historical records to assist in your forecasting abilities, and provides technical information regarding the health and status of your equipment so you can avoid downtime due to maintenance and/or material needs.
The HP application interface enables teams to program jobs remotely. More importantly, the API allows integration across other software solutions and vendor software to speed up workflows and allow partners to identify potential opportunities to improve production efficiency.
The Universal Build Manager, while robust, is not designed for all HP products. To provide that same level of service, the SmartStream Build Manager provides production and printing oversight explicitly designed for HP Jet Fusion 5200, 500/300 Series, and 4200 3D Printing Solutions.
Designers and engineers have praised HP’s ability to provide comprehensive oversight of the entire production pipeline, which helps improve both productivity and efficiency. While the software that turns a design into a product is immensely important to the industry, building robust software solutions that help address all the issues manufacturers see shows a greater understanding of the process from start to finish. Whether it’s integrating vendor software, tracking and forecasting production needs, turning complex designs into finished products, HP software solutions support all of those goals.
If you’re ready to look at how HP 3D printing, supported by HP’s software solutions, can improve your 3D printing capabilities, get in touch with the TPM team today and let our experts assist you in improving your production processes.