Stratasys 3D printers can now go directly from CAD to print with GrabCAD Print, a cloud-based CAD software. This removes the conversion to mesh file step to streamline the workflow.
Mark Walker, Stratasys’ Lead Software Product Manager, explained that for design and manufacturing engineers, ‘dumbing down’ a CAD file to STL format requires subsequent re-injection of design intent into the STL printing process, which leads to frustration. The software removes this complexity and allows designers to reduce iterations and design cycles in order to achieve a high-quality, realistic prototype and final part within a shorter timeframe.
GrabCAD, a Massachusetts-based startup owned by Stratasys, launched GrabCAD Print in 2016 to make the workflow of Stratasys 3D printers more efficient. They have added the Advanced FDM feature, which can slice CAD models directly for 3D printing, thus making the manufacturing process leaner. GrabCAD Print is used by McLaren and Eckhart, an industrial automation company.
Robert Heath, Eckhart’s Additive Manufacturing Application Engineer, explained that GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM’s geometry-based workflows have allowed them to fine-tune part builds, meet application requirements and process parts faster than before. The seamless transition of moving a build between applications is easy and intuitive.
All CAD files need to be translated into a mesh file before they are sliced for 3D printing. Mesh files such as .stl and .obj have been the standard for creating 2D slices (or 3D printer toolpath). Thus, there is a step in between the CAD file and the gcode that is sent to the 3D printer. As a CAD file contains a high level of detail about the part geometry, converting it into a mesh file creates problems such as loss of geometrical information, which can be fixed by using Netfabb or GrabCAD Advanced FDM so that users can create a toolpath (gcode) for 3D printing directly from the CAD model.
Dave Hewitson, Rapid Prototyping Programmer at McLaren, explained that Advanced FDM has proved invaluable in improving part processing time. When processing a very large number of tools and fixtures in a very time pressured environment, it is crucial to ensure stronger tool areas are correct the first time, every time.
GrabCAD Advanced FDM feature supports all of Stratasys Fortus systems except the 250mc, 360mc, F900 and F370. Due to the nature of workflow of the Advanced FDM (i.e. from CAD to 3D print), .stl and .obj are not supported. However, professional CAD file formats such as IGES, STEP, CATPART and SLDPRT are supported. The sliced file can be exported to the cloud or to the 3D printer as a .cmb file. The ability to support industry standard file formats adds efficiency to the CAD to print workflow.
As Hewitson explained, advanced FDM negates the requirement for multiple programs and creates a streamlined process, thus allowing them to effectively control the structure of end-use car parts, which was previously unachievable. This means that they can get better parts to the track faster than before.