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A guide to design for Desktop Metal’s BMD process

Desktop Metal design guidelines enable end-users to achieve optimized 3D printed metal components

Increasing the accessibility and cost-efficiency of metal additive manufacturing has been a goal of the industry since its early days. Today, as broad industrialization looms on the horizon, there is one company that can be credited as helping to dramatically accelerate this journey: Desktop Metal.

The Massachusetts-based company, which drew early investments from high profile backers like Google Ventures, BMW i Ventures, and Ford Motor Company, has brought to market an office-friendly metal 3D printing solution that unlocks mass production capabilities. At the core of Desktop Metal’s unique AM offering is its patented Bound Metal Deposition (BMD) technology.

Know your bound metal deposition

Inspired by Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Desktop Metal pioneered a metal AM process that uses bound metal rods made from a combination of metal powder and a wax and polymer binder. In the BMD process, these filament-like metal rods are fed through a heated extruder onto a build plate, layer by layer, until a green part is built.

In Desktop Metal’s Studio System solution, the green part is placed into a debinder, where a proprietary fluid dissolves the primary binder in preparation for the third step, sintering. The debinded part—known as a “brown” part—is then put into the Studio System’s sintering furnace, which works similarly to traditional sintering furnaces used in powder metallurgy processes such as metal injection molding (MIM).

Discover what bound metal 3D printing can do for your business →

 

Designing for BMD

In order to create parts that can fully benefit from Desktop Metal’s Bound Metal Deposition technology, certain considerations must be taken into account at the design stage. Because the debinding and sintering processes can influence the part’s final structure and dimensions, manufacturers must follow guidelines to achieve optimal part features, addressing build orientation, support structures, infill and other factors.

Like any manufacturing process, BMD is bound by certain constraints, like minimum and maximum part size, minimum wall thickness and hole size, minimum clearance and more (see table below).

Standard Printhead (400 μm)

Hi-Res Printhead (250 μm)

Maximum Part Size

X 240 mm / 9.4in

Y 150 mm / 6.0in

Z 155 mm / 6.1in

X 60 mm / 2.4in

Y 60 mm / 2.4in

Z 60 mm / 2.4in

Minimum Part Size

X 6 mm / 0.24in

Y 6 mm / 0.24in

Z 6 mm / 0.24in

X 3 mm / 0.14in

Y 3 mm / 0.14in

Z 3 mm / 0.14in

Minimum Wall Thickness

1.00 mm / 0.04in

0.6 mm / 0.02in

Minimum Hole Thickness

1.50 mm / 0.06in

0.75mm / 0.03in

As BMD is a material extrusion technology, some other very important guidelines to keep in mind are that the minimum unsupported overhang angle is 40° and that layer height can range from 150-200 μm to 50 μm (for high-resolution). And don’t forget to check infill wall spacing and maximum shell thickness. Desktop Metal’s comprehensive BMD Design Guide goes deeper into the system’s design capabilities and constraints, describing the size of embossed and de-bossed features, minimum pin diameter, minimum clearance and more.

There are also many best practices to follow when designing for BMD. For example, because tall cylinders and walls are the least stable geometries, the ratio of height to width for tall walls or pillars should not exceed 8:1. It is also important to note that the use of infill reduces the amount of material and time required to print a part, as well as reduces the debinding and sintering cycle times.

 

Making BMD work for you

Not all parts make sense to 3D print. Part geometry, economics and performance are important factors tied to the fabrication method. As you evaluate parts for BMD, review a wide range of components. Start by identifying custom parts, low-volume parts, complex parts and parts with long lead times. Eliminate parts that do not conform to size and/or geometry constraints, and which cannot be modified to follow BMD design guidelines. Manufacturers can also use estimates for BMD fabrication time and part cost to determine where BMD is most cost-competitive and the faster production option. Finally, benchmark the selected parts to evaluate part performance.

Throughout the evaluation process, it is important to keep in mind that most existing parts were designed for another fabrication process. And while there may be value in producing these parts on the Studio System without design modifications—in fact, this is what most adopters do initially—simply replicating a design subjects the part to the restrictions of the 3D printing process. Adapting or optimizing your design for BMD, on the other hand, allows you to reap the benefits of 3D printing.

Desktop Metal BMD design guide

Getting your BMD parts to the factory floor

Desktop Metal’s solutions help engineers and companies move rapidly from design to production and from the office to the factory floor. This end-to-end, design-to-final part workflow can encompass all types of parts, from prototypes to tools and spare parts to serial parts.

These new design methodologies and manufacturing technologies can facilitate the transition of metal additive manufacturing from a technology capable of producing up to 200 high-performance parts to a serial production method capable of streamlining and digitalizing the serial production of several million parts.

A webinar hosted by Desktop Metal CTO Jonah Myerberg, titled “Manufacturing the cars of tomorrow,” illustrates how you can leverage the benefits of additive manufacturing for production. The webinar content delves into how AM is transforming the automotive industry and provides a model for applying the lessons learnt in automotive to any industrial segment.

This article was published in collaboration with Desktop Metal.

 

Discover what bound metal 3D printing can do for your business →

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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