Etteplan, a Finland-based engineering services company, is hoping to drastically streamline cost estimation for additive manufacturing with its new browser-based tool, Etteplan AMOTool. The new online feature, which is free to use, calculates the production costs of AM, taking into account production method and object, with the aim of helping end-users understand the economic benefits of additive manufacturing before they hit print.
The new tool is based on an algorithm that was developed by Etteplan’s Additive Manufacturing & Optimization (AMO) team and has been in use by the company for years. The browser-based AMOTool offers this functionality to a broader base of users through a user-friendly interface. By providing accurate cost estimation for AM, the company hopes to remove some of the barriers to AM adoption.
“With this tool, our objective is not only to remove a major obstacle, but also to encourage our customers and the entire industry to make use of 3D printing technology and improve the competitiveness of products,” said Riku Riikonen, Senior Vice President of Engineering Solutions at Etteplan. “The tool makes it possible to compare metal 3D printing with traditional manufacturing methods.”
The tool, developed with support from Business Finland, also addresses the question of intellectual property rights. In short, users do not have to upload their 3D model to the cloud, which means that their designs are protected from any outside parties. Further, AMOTool lets users know if and how modifying their design can improve its cost effectiveness, whether the design is unfit for 3D printing or if redesigning the part would be beneficial from a cost perspective.
“Additive manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing, open up excellent opportunities for companies to improve their cost-effectiveness and competitiveness. Distributed manufacturing increases operational flexibility, which is particularly valuable during exceptional periods like the one we are experiencing now with the coronavirus,” said Toni Mattila, Director of Business Finland’s Sustainable Manufacturing Finland program. “In addition, AM methods help manufacturing companies improve their material efficiency and sustainability. Despite the numerous benefits, however, many companies are still skeptical about the costs involved in using AM. That makes opening up the costs related to AM methods using a calculation service such as Etteplan AMOTool very valuable. We hope that this free cloud service will lower the threshold for companies to try 3D printing to adopt future technologies.”
The newly launched online tool for AM has been in the works for three years and Etteplan says it has successfully undergone a pilot phase that saw participation from some leading industrial players. Ultimately, the Finnish engineering company hopes that AMOTool will enable users and manufacturers to understand the cost benefits of using AM and ease the adoption of the technology across many industries.
“Assessing the cost level of 3D printing is challenging because with previous methods, a reliable cost estimate is obtained only after the product has already been designed,” added Tero Hämeenaho, Etteplan AMO Department Manager. “AMOTool solves this nagging problem. Our tool makes it possible to estimate the price of a 3D printed product even before starting an engineering project and then determine whether it makes sense to use 3D printing.”