There is a great deal of disruptive technology in the world today, ranging from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence and machine learning. One highly revolutionary concept, but often overlooked, is “additive manufacturing” or 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing (AM) has the potential to transform the way that we live and work just as significantly as AI. By depositing layers of composite material onto a base plate, it’s possible to create anything from jet engine parts to custom filters. The results of AM include everything from faster time to market, to reduced costs and more bespoke designs.
However, to fully leverage the value of additive manufacturing, companies need more than just the right machines and technology – they also need the correct mindset.

Adopting a Modern Manufacturing Mindset

According to Siemens studies, additive manufacturing is a game-changer that can reduce resource use by 64%, improve time to market by 75%, and cut greenhouse gasses by 30%. Improved design flexibility and processes ensure that today’s innovative manufacturers can accomplish more with AM materials than ever before. However, to truly take advantage of the benefits of 3D printing, manufacturers need a new “DFAM” mindset.
A DFAM, or Design for Additive Manufacturing mindset asks today’s professionals to change the way they’ve historically approached design problems. For instance, many engineers have spent years learning how to think about specific shapes and parts in the machining world. They know that internal channels, undercuts, fillet placements, and more are all essential design constraints with traditional practices. However, the same issues don’t hold weight with the AM environment.
The beauty of additive manufacturing is that it allows organisations to create intricate and complex shapes and geometries that ignore traditional parameters, ensuring greater design freedom. Modern engineers need to be able to get their head around this fact as they begin to work with 3D printing.

Taking a New Approach to Design

For the first time in manufacturing history, it’s easier than ever to create sophisticated products without expensive or complicated processes. 3D printing a component with rounded edges, holes, and notches is much easier than it used to be. AM tools give designers and developers unprecedented levels of control over the composition of matter. Some of the more advanced 3D printers can even combine multiple materials into intricate patterns at high-speed, allowing for incredible rates of innovation.
To embrace this new and modern mindset, today’s engineers need to think about manufacturing differently, using things like generative design tools and topology optimisation. Software solutions like Creo Topology Optimization extension allow engineers to automatically determine the best design for their components at the touch of a button.
Additionally, engineers and designers will also need to begin paying more attention to the “lattice” in design. Lattices are frameworks of crossed strips that are essential to 3D printing. With an optimised lattice, developers can create lightweight structures that are stronger and more efficient while using less material.
Additive manufacturing also allows engineers to consolidate many different parts into a single component, which means that you can begin to rethink the way that parts and assemblies work together. For instance, GE recently redesigned its LEAP jet engine nozzle, combining 18 separate components into a single piece. Using the right topology optimisation CAD tools, lattice frameworks, and an innovative mindset, GE was able to change its entire manufacturing process. What’s more, the GE nozzle is now much stronger and more lightweight than it once was.

Embracing the Future of Design

Additive manufacturing is quickly emerging as the future of design. Companies are finding unique applications for 3D printing in almost every industry, from automotive to healthcare sectors. According to PWC surveys, two-thirds of manufacturers are already using AM in their processes.
The availability and accessibility of 3D printing tools are making it easier for companies from all backgrounds to unlock the benefits of AM for themselves. However, to truly make the most of this new concept, companies need more than just the right technology. The designers and engineers in a manufacturing space need to begin thinking beyond the constraints of traditional manufacturing processes when it comes to solving complex problems.
By stepping outside of the box and adopting a new “DFAM” mindset, companies can truly begin to bring the benefits of 3D printing into their organisation.