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February 2021

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Process Simulation Software for Metal AM

Desktop Metal, a provider of mass production and turn-key additive manufacturing solutions, offers Live Sinter, a software solution designed to eliminate the trial and error required to achieve high-accuracy parts via powder metallurgy-based additive manufacturing (AM) processes like binder jetting.

"Live Sinter not only corrects for the shrinkage and distortion parts typically experience during sintering, but also opens the door to printing geometries that, without the software, would present significant challenges to sintering," said a company spokesperson. "By improving the shape and dimensional tolerances of sintered parts, first-time part success for complex geometries is improved and the cost and time associated with post-processing are minimized. In many cases, the software even enables parts to be sintered without the use of supports."

The solution is compatible with any sintering-based powder metallurgy process, including metal injection molding (MIM).

"The manufacturing industry is witnessing the transformative power that AM has across many industries, from automotive and aerospace to heavy machinery and consumer products with respect to quality, performance and cost savings. We believe Live Sinter will be a critical companion in continuing to drive forward the success of AM," said Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal. "As manufacturers look to capitalize on the flexibility of volume production delivered through technologies such as binder jetting, Live Sinter is a first-of-its-kind solution that offers a path to predictable and repeatable outcomes by demystifying the sintering process."

Challenges of Sintering and Powder Metallurgy-Based AM

"Sintering is a critical step in powder metallurgy-based manufacturing processes, including binder jetting," said the spokesperson. "It involves heating parts to near melting in order to impart strength and integrity, and typically causes parts to shrink by as much as 20% from their original printed or molded dimensions. During the process, improperly supported parts also face significant risk of deformation, resulting in parts that emerge from the furnace cracked, distorted or requiring costly post-processing to achieve dimensional accuracy."

"Sintering distortion has been a reality for the powder metallurgy industry for decades," continued the spokesperson. "For much of that time, the solution has been to rely on the experience of industry veterans who, based on repeated trial and error, combine adjustments to part designs with various sintering supports, or `setters,' to enable stable, high-volume production. Live Sinter changes the game by minimizing the reliance on trial and error and offering a streamlined, easy-to-use software solution that delivers accurate parts without requiring users to be experts in powder metallurgy."

Software-Generated "Negative Offset" Geometry Compensates for Distortion

Developed in collaboration with Desktop Metal materials scientists, Live Sinter can be calibrated to a variety of alloys. It predicts the shrinkage and distortion that parts undergo during sintering, and automatically compensates for such changes, creating "negative offset" geometries that, once printed, will sinter to the original, intended design specifications. These negative offsets are the result of a GPU-accelerated iterative process, in which the software proactively pre-deforms part geometries by precise amounts in specific directions, allowing them to achieve their intended shape as they sinter.

"Sintering simulation is a complex multi-physics problem that involves modeling how parts and materials respond to a number of factors, including gravity, shrinkage, density variations, elastic bending, plastic deformation, friction drag and more," said the spokesperson. "Moreover, the thermodynamic and mechanical transformations that occur during sintering take place under intense heat, making them difficult to observe without either halting the sintering process mid-cycle or installing windows in the furnace to observe distortions from images taken at high temperature. While such methods are potentially tolerable in R&D environments, they create significant delays and costs in time to market for production applications."

According to Andy Roberts, Desktop Metal VP of Software, "Live Sinter was developed by joining forces with-instead of fighting against-sintering-based challenges. In doing so, the software generates negative offset part geometries that sinter to the intended shapes and dimensional specifications. It also tackles some of sintering's biggest challenges, such as the use of setters. For years, creating setters that prop up parts in the furnace relied on the intuition of few engineers with years of hands-on experience. Now, the process is easier, more predictable and more controllable using Live Sinter."

High-Speed Simulation Powered by GPUs and Streamlined Calibration

Live Sinter runs on a GPU-accelerated multi-physics engine that is capable of modeling collisions and interactions between hundreds of thousands of connected particle masses and rigid bodies. The multi-physics engine's dynamic simulation is refined using an integrated meshless finite element analysis (FEA), which computes stress, strain and displacement across part geometries used to predict not only shrinkage and deformation, but also risks and failures, validating the feasibility of a part for sintering-based AM before the build begins.

"Armed with this dual-engine approach, which strikes a balance between speed and accuracy, Live Sinter can simulate a typical sintering furnace cycle in as little as five minutes and generate negative offset geometries that compensate for shrinkage and distortion in as little as fifteen minutes, compared to more general-purpose simulation tools that use complex meshes and require complex set-ups and hours to complete," said the spokesperson. "Moreover, the software can be calibrated to new materials and sintering hardware and process parameters with minimal additional effort."

For more information contact:

Desktop Metal

63 Third Avenue

Burlington, MA 01803


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