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Hexagon implements additive build preparation in ESPRIT CAM to streamline hybrid manufacturing, scale up production

By Hexagon Press Release

Computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) software introduced Wednesday by Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division provides the digital tools needed to prepare 3D printed components for manufacturing using powder bed fusion (PBF) technologies, the company said.

Because hybrid manufacturing entails performing additive and subtractive processes, integrating build-preparation tools within CAM software streamlines workflows per part and offers significant efficiency improvements when scaling up additive manufacturing volumes, the company explained.

ESPRIT CAM reads parametric CAD formats to automatically identify surfaces that require support (shown in red).

PBF is the most mature additive manufacturing technology for industrial production, representing 86 percent of the worldwide machine install base, according to AMPOWER Report 2021. PBF is used to build 3D parts by heating successive layers of powder, typically at the micron level, and generally produces parts that require finishing with conventional CNC machine tools to achieve a high-quality surface finish. 

Hexagon’s ESPRIT CAM software now offers a build preparation workflow within the CAM environment to provide a single, streamlined platform for both the additive build and finishing operations. Its patented Part-to-Build workflow was developed to change the prevailing 3D printing paradigm from the preparation of rapid prototypes to industrialization with a true CAM experience, the company said. That includes build-preparation steps and the programming tools for post-processing printed parts with wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) and milling machine tools.

In series production, a given part will be produced hundreds of times with the same build plates, orientation, support structure generation and exposure strategy assignment. The Part-to-Build workflow addresses part preparation and job preparation with dedicated functionality within one piece of software, making manufacturing smarter by enabling volume efficiencies and automating repetitive tasks, such as slicing, the company said.

Hip replacement cup showing support structure generated by ESPRIT CAM from parametric CAD (yellow) and lattice from STL format.

Designed for CAM programmers, ESPRIT CAM’s build preparation employs a workflow based on parametric data that ensures high accuracy and adherence to the geometry of the original computer-aided design (CAD) model until it is sliced in preparation for 3D printing. The software reads and manipulates all popular parametric CAD formats and automatically identifies surfaces that require support.

The software also assists with creating support structures, generating parametric surfaces with teeth, fragmentation and perforation. Support generation can be automated for future builds by assigning a preset to a region in the surface, capturing valuable production know-how and improving productivity. Because the majority of models for 3D printed parts are STL-based, ESPRIT CAM also provides an STL (mesh) slicer that leverages a built-in software kernel.

Once a part is sliced, it can be imported to the software’s job preparation environment and reused whenever needed. Here, exposure strategies are automatically assigned according to the chosen machine setup. As the part is already sliced, the programmer need only nest them, and the corresponding machine file is generated based on the target machine setup.

Hexagon enjoys close collaboration with machine manufacturers, providing factory-certified machine files for optimal performance and confidence, and partners with world-leading additive research institutions to continuously apply the latest cutting-edge technologies, the company said.

“Combining build preparation in the CAM environment is the first step on the journey to true computer-aided manufacturing using additive methods, enabling higher levels of automation and productivity,” said Clement Girard, product manager for additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence at Hexagon. “Our goal is to make the programmer’s life easier, thereby making the shop floor more productive and future-ready to apply the best available machinery and processes to the part in hand.” 

By using ESPRIT Additive PBF in conjunction with other Hexagon products, such as MSC Apex Generative Design and Simufact Additive, customers can further optimize their part designs for additive manufacturing.

For more information, visit the ESPRIT CAM website.

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