Hexagon and Raytheon Develop New Software Tool That Predicts Metal 3D Printing Defects


Swedish software developer Hexagon and aerospace company Raytheon Technologies have developed a program that allows users of metal 3D printers to predict and prevent part defects before they occur.

Developed using the companies’ joint software expertise, the program is supposed to allow designers to gauge the outcome of an upcoming print, without having to go through painstaking trial and error. Designed to complement Hexagon’s Simufact Additive platform, the software tool would launch with a similar user interface, so users can access greater functionality without having to relearn interfaces.

“We have partnered with Raytheon Technologies to provide an intuitive and accessible tool that will help engineers quickly predict and mitigate risk,” said Jeff Robertson, Director of Global Business Development at Hexagon. “The ability to evaluate fully laser powder bed fused (LPBF) parts at the meso scale will reduce the effort to achieve part certification and thus promote industrialization. »

Hexagon’s Simufact Additive platform is used to analyze a part. Image via Hexagon.

Raytheon’s 3D printing excursions

Based in Virginia, Raytheon is a multinational aerospace and defense company. As such, the company’s R&D efforts span multiple industries and technologies, but it has maintained a longstanding interest in 3D printing, particularly on the aerospace side of its business. In July 2020, America Makes named Raytheon as the winner of one of its project calls, as well as its $841,000 funding prize.

The company’s project submission, which included input from its Intelligence and Space, Missiles and Defense, and Research Center divisions, proposed the development of a revised LPBF software workflow. Using this, Raytheon said it would be possible for adopters to easily create topologically optimized “exotic designs” with conventional additive materials, such as 3D-printed optical mounts optimized for the US Air Force.

Engine manufacturer and Raytheon subsidiary Pratt & Whitney is also a long-time supporter of the technology. At the 2019 Paris International Aeronautics and Space Show, GKN Aerospace revealed that it had extended its partnership with the company to 3D print GTF engine parts, including a mounting ring for fabricated fan housing and a fan spacer.

Simufact Complementary Additive

Hexagon’s existing Simufact Additive program is designed to allow users of metal 3D printers to significantly reduce testing time, by simulating builds before they are printed. Compatible with LPBF, Direct Energy Deposition (DED), and Binder Jetting technologies, the platform takes a multi-scale approach to problem solving, which ranges from mechanical verification to full thermomechanical analysis of transients.

The platform itself is based on numerical simulation specialist MSC Software’s MARC solver, a technology that covers a wide range of physical effects and has been adapted for 3D printing. In Simufact Additive, the software tool allows users to minimize residual stresses, compensate for distortions, identify potential part failures, assess the impact of post-processing, optimize plate nesting building, etc

Essentially, the program does this by allowing users to simulate prints before comparing the results to a build’s target geometry, so as to clarify flaws, and then highlighting fixes through analysis. According to Hexagon, Simufact Additive ultimately reduces learning processes for manufacturers, while ensuring that they maximize employee productivity and minimize time to market for their products.

In its latest software innovation, Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division has worked with Pratt and Whitney of Raytheon Technologies to develop an all-new simulation tool. As well as being complementary to Simufact Additive, it was revealed that the technology will allow designers to assess print results based on a combination of materials, geometries and printing processes.

It is also said that the similarity of the software’s user interface will allow its easy integration into existing manufacturing processes without the need for extensive training, which David Furrer, Pratt & Whitney’s Principal Investigator for Materials and Processes, adds ” will help makers at all levels of experience.” produce better products with greater efficiency.

FEA example of a turbine blade.  Image via ANSYS
A turbine blade being evaluated using ANSYS software. Image via ANSYS

While there’s no doubt that Simufact Additive has proven popular, as its customer base includes Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar, it’s far from the only software in this space. ANSYS Additive Print, for example, allows users to assess how materials stress or deform during a build, and take corrective action to get the parts right the first time.

Similarly, Riven’s Warp Adapted Model software allows users to capture and use full 3D data from an initial design to identify and fix errors in minutes. Designed to work with Authentise AMES, FFF, SLA, MJF and binder projection compatible technology unlocks full contextual data capture, as a means of detecting part model discrepancies.

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The featured image shows Hexagon’s Simufact additive platform being used to analyze a part. Image via Hexagon.


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