Introducing Performance Advisor: Stronger Parts at the Click of a Button
3D printed parts that are strong and durable are a key differentiator for Markforged and one of the primary reasons businesses look to us for additive manufacturing solutions. The first step to manufacturing strong parts with Markforged printers is to configure print settings in Eiger. Several of these can influence the strength (performance) of a part, some more than others. For example, it is clear that adding continuous fiber reinforcement will make a part significantly stronger, but it is less clear what the impact will be when adding an extra wall layer or adjusting the fill density. Further, strong parts are desired but not at the expense of excessive increases in material cost and print time. Ultimately, the ideal print settings are those that result in a strong part that is manufactured efficiently - a part that balances strength improvements with minimal increases in cost and print time.
Customers can use our Simulation tool to explore how changes in print settings impact part performance, and optimize for cost and print time. However, Simulation requires a known use case - how the part will be loaded and how it interacts with other objects when it is in service - which is often unknown.
What if it was possible to optimize the performance of a part without having to specify a use case? And what if the optimization was so easy that everything was fully automated?
Stronger parts - automatically
To address this challenge, we developed a novel method of analyzing part performance to recommend print settings that will make your parts a known quantity stronger, while keeping added costs and print time to a minimum.
The best part is, it is fully automated - no user input is needed to generate the results. After you save a part in Eiger, Performance Advisor will automatically analyze the part and recommend print settings that, relative to the default settings, improve the strength while keeping material cost and print time low. As a user, you get to decide if the performance improvement is worth the added cost and print time. You can apply the recommended settings with one-click or ignore them and proceed with your Eiger workflow.
How it works
It’s time to get our hands dirty and discuss the technology powering Performance Advisor. Our engineers developed a patent-pending, physics-based analysis method to address the challenge of doing structural analysis without a use case. In lieu of defining a use case, the shapes in which a part naturally vibrates (the eigenmodes) of the part geometry are used to explore the impact of print settings on part performance.
The image below shows the characteristic shape of the lowest energy eigenmode for an L-shaped bracket. This is one of the shapes in which this part would naturally vibrate. Imagine printing this part and bending it with your hands - this is likely the shape you would get as it is the shape (or mode) with the least resistance to bending. This shape provides Performance Advisor with information about the regions of the part that are most susceptible to deformation and stress and allow it to find print settings that make those regions stronger.
Computing the lowest energy eigenmode is the first step. The second step is to run a machine learning driven optimization procedure that scores print settings using three variables:
Print settings that score high in strength and low in cost and print time are considered optimal. Such configurations are what Performance Advisor aims to recommend.
The capabilities of Performance Advisor will grow over time. For the initial release, important limitations are:
Onyx is the only supported material.
Wall Layers and Roof and Floor Layers are the only print settings adjusted.
The Fill Pattern is Triangular and the default Fill Density is held constant.
Performance Advisor may not be able to analyze parts with extremely complex STL meshes.
Next level strength analysis with Simulation
Performance Advisor is a fast and easy way to get stronger parts, particularly when use cases are unknown. For applications where the use case is known, Simulation is the tool of choice.
With Simulation, users configure a use case (which represents how the part will be loaded in the real world) and a Safety Factor is calculated providing an estimate of the strength of the part, as opposed to a strength ratio provided by Performance Advisor. Further, if the part has specific strength requirements (e.g. if a part is required to have a minimum Safety Factor, for example), Simulation can optimize the print settings to satisfy the Safety Factor target, while also keeping material cost and print time to a minimum.
These additional user inputs, combined with our Finite Element solver that is tailored to the FFF manufacturing process, results in more realistic and accurate strength estimates compared to Performance Advisor.
The major differences between Simulation and Performance Advisor are:
- Use case
Simulation requires a use case which means the results generated are based on how the part will be used in the real world.
Performance Advisor is use case independent. This means the strength ratio that is computed is not specific to how the part will be loaded when in service.
Simulation computes a Safety Factor, which tells you the load when your part will begin to fail.
Performance Advisor provides the strength increase of the recommended part relative to the part with default settings. This does not tell you anything about the load the part can withstand.
Simulation is powered by a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) engine, tailored for the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) manufacturing method.
Performance Advisor uses a patent-pending analysis methodology, based on the lowest-energy eigenmode of the part.
Performance Advisor provides a fast and easy way to get stronger parts, automatically and without any user input. Because it eliminates the need to define a use case, it brings the benefits of simulation tools to all Markforged customers. Ultimately, it gives you stronger, more robust parts while maintaining a balance with material and print time efficiency - all at the click of a button.
Log into Eiger today and try it out!
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