High Density Stacking Capability Drives Productivity in End-Use 3D Part Production at Decathlon

Product: Figure 4
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

Decathlon, the world’s largest sporting goods retailer, is using the high-speed Figure 4 platform and new stacking feature of 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint® software to enable direct production of 3D printed end-use parts. The stacking feature enables batch production of one or multiple parts through a combination of user-defined and automated tools, and removes significant time from the print preparation process.

“By stacking parts we are able to print in batches of 100, and have reduced the time it takes to prepare a build from 30-60 minutes to just 6-10 minutes. The combination of stacking and production-grade materials makes Figure 4 ready for production.”

– Gregoire Mercusot, Materials Engineer, ADDLAB, Decathlon

The Challenge


Componente para gafas de Decathlon diseñado para conectar la lente al marco

When faced with a mold injection problem on a small component for shooting glasses that connects the frame to the lenses, Decathlon opted to test the new 3D stacking solution developed by 3D Systems to evaluate additive manufacturing for production. After conducting a feasibility study on the Figure 4 solution and stacking feature, Decathlon’s teams confirmed the productivity and economics of additive manufacturing and decided that this solution could be considered for batch-run production of the final product.

The Solution

01 Part Stacking Feature in 3D Sprint Software

Captura de pantalla del software 3D Sprint que demuestra la función de puntal para la fabricación apilada

Decathlon’s additive manufacturing lab (ADDLAB) uses 3D Systems’ Figure 4 3D printing solution across a range of applications (including mold master patterns), and is now considering using the new high density part stacking capability of 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint software to facilitate direct production. 3D Sprint is an advanced, all-in-one software that streamlines the file-to-pattern workflow with tools for print file preparation and optimization, including automatic support generation, and optimized part placement to maximize productivity. The new stacking feature helps users print high volume batches with an efficient file preparation workflow.

To use the stacking feature, users import a part and base file, define the stack in terms of orientation and part quantities, and use automated tools to replicate consecutive vertical stack layers and supports. According to Decathlon engineer Gregoire Mercusot, stacking has reduced print preparation time by as much as 80%. Builds that used to take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare can now be completed in six to 10 minutes.

Mercusot says the utility of this function goes well beyond production: “I use this feature several times a week whenever I need multiple parts. It’s incredible for production, but it’s also very useful for prototyping,” he says.

02 Production-Grade Materials

Decathlon is using the Figure 4® PRO-BLK 10 material for this functional eyeglass component, citing the material’s strong rigid properties and fast print speeds (62 mm/hr) as key benefits. This high precision material produces parts with smooth surface finish and sidewall quality, and has excellent long-term mechanical properties and environmental stability, bringing a new level of assurance to 3D production. From its production feasibility study, Decathlon confirmed reproducibility across print batches and full functionality of the part.

03 Print Speed

Placa de impresión llena de piezas impresas en 3D apiladas de Figure 4

Figure 4 is a projection-based additive manufacturing technology that uses a non-contact membrane to combine accuracy and amazing detail fidelity with ultra-fast print speeds. Decathlon uses the Figure 4 Modular system to print stacks of 100 parts in 85 minutes, which is equivalent to just 42 seconds per part. The Figure 4 Modular is a scalable, semi-automated 3D production solution comprised of a central controller that can be paired with a single printer-module up to 24 printer modules, making it a flexible option that poises businesses for growth.

04 Post-Processing

The high-density stacking capability of Figure 4 brings efficiencies of scale to post-processing as well as part building, allowing Decathlon to treat a batch of parts the same as a single part. This means that the time it would take for Decathlon to clean, cure, and remove the supports from a single part remains the same, even for a batch of 100 parts. For Decathlon’s safety glass application, it takes six minutes to clean all 100 parts, 90 minutes of hands-free time to cure them, and ten minutes to remove supports from the entire batch.

Siemens solutions assist in the design of an innovative marine stabilizer system

Product: NX CAD
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

Siemens Digital Industry Software solutions help marine manufacturer reduce testing time by up to 20 percent

Stability at sea

If there’s anything that can spoil a relaxing trip on the water, it’s an unstable boat. Choppy surf can cause significant damage to personal belongings as well as the boat. Whether you’re fishing, scuba diving or just out on the water, ship stability is an essential part of safe sea travel. As a result, ship stabilizers are valuable commodities. Any experienced sailor understands the importance of marine stability in ensuring a sound trip at sea; however, not every stabilizer system is perfect. In fact, a common issue with conventional fin-driven stabilizers is insufficient roll dampening at lower speeds and protruding fins. This issue has hampered the consumer experience. Stability is necessary at low speeds, and protruding fins can become damaged in shallow waters. The last thing your customer wants is to be out at sea when their new stabilizer fails. Considering consumers have a low tolerance for product failure, one bad experience may be all it takes for consumers to jump ship from your product. Only the stabilizer manufacturers who deliver consistent quality survive.

Realizing opportunity

Located in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, DMS Holland is an international specialist in the field of motion control on yachts of up to 30 meters. DMS Holland’s goal is to reduce the roll movement of yachts to improve onboard comfort, reduce sea sick-ness and improve safety. The speed in which DMS Holland’s marine stabilizer systems achieve stabilization differentiate themselves in the market. Their stabilizer systems are based on the Magnus effect, a phenomenon in which a rotating cylinder works away from its principal paths of motion to achieve stability. Where a traditional stabilizer requires a yacht to be traveling at a considerable speed, their product achieves stabilization at just 3 to 12 knots. This differs from conventional fin-based systems due to its small design and greater roll dampening abilities at lower speeds. Brabant Engineering, a mechanical engineering company in Best, Netherlands, is responsible for the design and development of DMS Holland’s Magnus Master, the newest generation of rotor stabilizing technology which features retractable rotors that eliminate the risk of damage. The company is providing DMS Holland with their design expertise to develop the forward-thinking product they envisioned.

“DMS Holland wanted to provide the highest level of stability, comfort, and safety onboard. Overall, we wanted to make life at sea much more comfortable and easy,” says Patrick Noor, sales and marketing director, DMS Holland. “To realize our vision, we need quality companies such as Brabant Engineering to assist us with the mechanical engineering for our stabilizers.”

Sailing toward solutions

Brabant Engineering utilizes the innovative design applications found in Siemens Simcenter™ 3D to accurately design and simulate its projects.

“All the material properties are embedded into the software design, and Simcenter 3D helps us analyze the behavior and durability of our product,” says Bertie Tilmans, lead engineer, Brabant Engineering. “By providing accurate material properties and seamless integration of multiple design alternatives, we can save valuable time during product development.”

Brabant Engineering used Simcenter 3D to accurately simulate the Magnus effect and confirm the Magnus Master could handle 1,100 revolutions per minute. “I have been using Simcenter 3D for the last seven years and I am very fond of the versatility of the software,” says Tilmans. “This versatility allows companies to predict the behavior of different aspects of a product’s design to find the most effective solution.”

Reducing development costs and prototyping cycles

By properly utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) software – such as with their use of Siemens NX™ software – Brabant Engineering uses the powerful and flexible capabilities of NX CAD to drastically reduce the cost and time it takes to design such innovative products. The combination of NX CAD for design and Simcenter 3D for performance prediction help to accelerate product-to-market more efficiently.

Depending on the size of the device, physical prototypes can cost exponentially more than the price of the product. Simulations can save significant time and costs in the early stages of a project. Using Simcenter 3D, instead of relying on a costly physical prototype, Brabant Engineering saved approximately 10 to 20 percent of total testing and qualification time. They were able to shorten the test cycle and receive direct results.

Rikkert Gerits, project leader, Brabant Engineering, confirmed that using Simcenter 3D dramatically reduced the amount of physical prototyping necessary.

“Using 3D simulation tools, we don’t have to build an actual prototype, which saves us considerable time and money,” says Gerits. “We use several Siemens products, like Simcenter, NX CAD, and Teamcenter, and they’re delivered by cards PLM Solutions, a Siemens Digital Industries Software solution partner. We contact them with any specific question we have regarding the software.”

CAD systems offer users the ability to easily interchange various product components. CAD and computer-aided engineering (CAE) systems also provide the necessary tools to rapidly re-engineer and explore the performance of new designs. Gerits explained how these simulation systems also allow for a speedy virtual-proto-typing phase. By simulating the product in real time, users can more accurately predict product durability under certain conditions. This provides companies with significant cost and time savings when compared with designing, producing, testing and recording data of a physical prototype. Brabant Engineering estimates a 10 to 15 percent total cost savings by using simulation to prevent flaws compared to what it would cost to fix/repair those flaws.

Establishing a strong relationship

Sjef van de Laak, managing director, Brabant Engineering, says Siemens solutions are key in the company’s engineering design process. “Siemens is the supplier of the software we use, and the importance of cards PLM Solutions is they know the software very well and support our simulation needs,” he says. Product development would be disrupted without this open line of communication. As such, cards PLM Solutions and Brabant Engineering maintain a constant dialogue.

Sharing the Magnus Master worldwide

The Magnus Master is already receiving considerable attention. Since its introduction in 2015, the Magnus Master has developed a reputation of quality throughout the Netherlands and helped make DMS Holland a global business.

This combined effort between Brabant Engineering, DMS Holland, and Siemens is a perfect example of how cooperation can lead to groundbreaking innovation.

Electrolux implements worldwide 3D factory and material flow planning

Product: Tecnomatix
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

With Tecnomatix and Teamcenter, Electrolux creates uniform, efficient manufacturing processes and systems

Globally distributed production facilities

Electrolux AB, based in Stockholm, Sweden, sells appliances for household and commercial use in 150 countries around the world. With around 58,000 employees and 46 pro-duction sites, the company develops and manufactures products of numerous brands: in addition to Electrolux, the top brands Grand Cuisine, AEG, Zanussi, Frigidaire and Westinghouse enjoy a particularly high reputation. In 1996, the German AEG brand was acquired from Daimler Benz, together with several divisions and locations of the group. This is how the factory in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, founded in 1964, came to Electrolux, which today produces 600,000 stoves and 1,400,000 cooking ranges per year for the European market. “We attach great importance to implementing in detail the essential product characteristics of each brand in development and production,” reports Bernd Ebert, director of Global Manufacturing Engineering − Food Preparation at Electrolux. Based in Rothenburg, Ebert ensures that all Electrolux cooking appliance factories implement uniform processes and systems.

High priority for virtual factory planning

As part of a comprehensive digitalization strategy covering all areas, 11 digital manufacturing projects are on the agenda of the Swedish global corporation. Ebert has assumed responsibility for two global projects with the highest priority. They aim to create “digital twins” of all manufacturing sites: In the virtual manufacturing project, an advanced planning tool was selected and introduced for early design verification to develop products that are production- and assembly-friendly. For example, assembly sequences and movements will be planned and optimized three-dimensionally to pre-vent collisions. The prerequisite for this is the development of three-dimensional fac-tory layouts, which is the focus of the second project, 3D factory layout. The layouts will be created using a standard factory planning tool that can simulate both the plant and the material flow on the basis of 2D data in order to optimize capacity and efficiency.

Global platform for digital manufacturing

Software selection began in 2010, when only a few had powerful software for 3D factory planning. A small, specialist team led by Ebert worked closely with the company’s IT department in Stockholm. Starting in 2012, Teamcenter from Siemens Digital Industries Software was deployed there as a strategically important product development platform for product lifecycle management (PLM) at Electrolux. Discussions about Siemens’ future strategy led to an offer to test a pre-release version of the 3D layout software Line Designer in an early adopter program.

Siemens was given the opportunity to use original data to build a showcase demonstrating the performance of the software on real problems. As a result, in 2016 Line Designer was selected in conjunction with solutions in the Tecnomatix® portfolio, including the Process Simulate solution. The main reasons for this decision were the advantages of a tight Teamcenter integration of these solutions: “We can save all resources created with Line Designer as libraries in Teamcenter, manage them and make them available to all users worldwide,” explains Ebert. “This way we preserve an entire infrastructure of software and hard-ware including training material and can build on the existing users ́ experience with Teamcenter.” The expected results were a close alliance for product development and a global, common platform for factory planning and material flow optimization.

Roll-out strategy after pilot project

In a pilot project carried out in Rothenburg in 2016, employees received training by Siemens and developed, among other things, a new assembly line and automated housing assembly with Line Designer. Ergonomics studies were carried out with Process Simulate and cycle times were successfully optimized using simulations. “The Tecnomatix and Teamcenter solutions have proven themselves in the best way,” reports Ebert as project manager. “At the same time, we have gained valuable experience for a worldwide deployment.” The core team has now trained specialists for each of the three software solutions, who can provide advice and support to the decentralized employees at the locations. The system areas created with Line Designer, such as conveyors and lifts, or models of material transport trolleys and other devices, can be parameterized. “By making the 3D models and scenarios avail-able worldwide, we save lots of work,” reports Ebert. “After adjusting the parameters, they are simply re-used elsewhere. This brings us almost automatically closer to the desired standardization of processes and systems across the product lines − cooking, washing and dishwashing, drying and cooling/freezing − as well as the sectors USA, South America, Asia/Pacific and Europe.” “Based on the experience gained from the pilot project, the worldwide rollout has now been carried out in waves, each of which includes the intensive training and familiarization of the employees at one location,” says Ebert. “In order to secure our major projects, we initially selected four locations with high investment volumes.”

Project Anderson, South Carolina

One location involves the complete construction of a new refrigerator factory in Anderson, South Carolina, in which refrigerator production is to be concentrated on the American continent by mid-2019. There, a higher degree of automation should save around 30 percent of human labor. Many processes were planned with Tecnomatix in order to develop a new automation concept, to plan the factory correctly at the first attempt and to secure the immense investment.

A very time-consuming production area is the plant for foaming the refrigerator walls with hardening. All areas before and after are based on the process times there. In order to design this bottleneck correctly at the first attempt, the process was mapped and simulated as a one-piece flow. “A lot of details had to be taken into account, such as different materials and different models,” says Ebert. “To depict all this was very time-consuming, but it was worth it.” The accurate results of Plant Simulation eliminate the need for large buffers, saving approximately $2,000,000 by having one conveyor and one high-bay warehouse for 5,000 refrigerators. After foaming, the assembly processes branch to four lines. Here, the train routes of the material flows were planned, simulated and optimized with all purchased parts of the parts lists for 30 models of the modular product design that go from the truck to the assembly lines. “An employee of Siemens has laid the foundations for the train routes. But in the meantime, our mate-rial flow is improved daily by our own employee − we have already achieved our effectiveness targets,” reports Ebert.

With Process Simulate, the employees also planned robot cells that would take over some of the previously manual processes. “Even if the cells are not yet completely detailed, we can decide with a high degree of certainty whether we need one or three robots,” says Ebert. The high planning reliability is conveyed to the management in 3D scenarios and videos.

“A big investment requires a lot of persuasiveness,” Ebert asserts. “With the good visualization possibilities of Tecnomatix, I can show the management an early stage of planning that makes the processes plausible. The 3D technology helps with the verification of assembly concepts as well as with the selection of suppliers for automation solutions and provides insights that I didn’t have before.”

Worldwide deployment concept

The first projects have proved that Tecnomatix and Teamcenter tools can be used to solve tasks and achieve goals. However, the employees deal with the powerful tools regularly. “We need specialists to take on new roles in our global team,” Ebert says. “For successful standardization, every topic must be described centrally.” Further major projects are now also pending in Europe. “The factory is too expensive to use as an experimental field,” Ebert says, referring to Professor Dr. Hans-Jürgen Warnecke, a well-known scientist and former president of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in Germany. “To test new concepts, there are efficient simulation tools that make production downtime superfluous.”

IHC Handling Systems improves virtual prototypes and ultimate quality of offshore equipment; tight integration of Simcenter Femap and Solid Edge makes it possible

Product: Femap, Simcenter
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

With Simcenter Femap, company increases re-use of proven designs, boosting productivity and decreasing costs.

The need for virtual prototypes

In the offshore industry, operational certainty is one of the most important requirements. The installations are large and the investments are high. Virtually everything is unique and leaves little room for error. As a supplier of tools for the installation of offshore equipment, IHC Handling Systems v.o.f. (IHC Handling Systems) is very familiar with the market. Functionality and quality must be validated prior to production. Virtual prototypes are the only way to ensure this.

IHC Handling Systems is part of IHC Merwede, a world leader in the dredging and offshore industry. IHC Merwede’s products include dredging vessels, equipment and components, as well special-purpose vessels and technology. IHC Handling Systems focuses on products for oil, gas and wind, such as equipment for pipe laying, equipment for the installation of oil and gas rigs and equipment for the installation of offshore wind mills.

Quick response and communication

In order to lay pipelines on the seabed or put piles of windmills upright, the thin-wall, tubular pipes need to be picked up by grippers. These are metal clamps that are placed on the inside and outside of the tube. The force with which the clamps grip the steel enables the lifting of the product. For the leveling of oil rigs, IHC Handling Systems provides equipment to establish a temporary connection between the seabed construction and the jackets on which the platform rests. Most of the products produced are project-specific. IHC Handling Systems usually has an early involvement in new offshore projects. “Customers approach us because of our reputation and experience,” says Cor Belder, concept engineer at IHC Handling Systems. It is important to have certainty about the concept solution in an early stage. A quick response to customer demands and communication are essential. “At the same time, we also want to offer functional certainty. That can only be achieved using advanced and integrated design tools.”

Lower cost of software

A few years ago, IHC Handling Systems purchased licenses of Siemens Digital Industries Software’s Solid Edge® software, a comprehensive hybrid 2D/3D computer-aided design (CAD) system, and Algor® Simulation software (which is currently owned by Autodesk and is offered under the name Autodesk® Simulation Mechanical) for finite element analysis (FEA). Both solutions were bought through Bosch Engineering, a Siemens Digital Industries Software partner. “Together with a sister company in the IHC Merwede group, we were forerunners in using Solid Edge,” says Belder. “Algor worked nicely together with Solid Edge, and data transfer between the two applications allowed for quick analysis of design alternatives.” But in a recent reassessment of the computer-aided engineering (CAE) applications, Belder saw room for improvement, specifically in the areas of data integration, meshing and programming.

“Early on in the evaluation, we developed a preference for Simcenter Femap,” says Belder. “Simcenter Femap offers a significant improvement in functionality over Algor at lower software costs. We want to spend our time on the evaluation of alter-native designs and don’t want to lose it over issues related to data transfer. Simcenter Femap and Solid Edge are tightly integrated, which saves time and reduces risk.” Belder notes that in addition to the robust geometry exchange, the mesh is more constant and allows for better local refinement.

Fast iterations

In a typical project, the concept engineer develops new models or combines and re-uses existing ones. “Concepts are almost always modeled in Solid Edge,” says Belder. “In the early stages, these are simplified designs focused on functionality, but ready to be used in preliminary CAE analyzes. The integration of Simcenter Femap and Solid Edge allows for fast iterations in this concept phase.” These functional concept designs are also used for client communication.

IHC Handling Systems uses both the linear and the nonlinear functionality of the NX™ Nastran® software solver embedded in Simcenter Femap™ software. The linear functionality is used for all static calculations as well as for contact analysis. Contact analysis is often used for designing lifting tools, where steel friction pads are pressed on the inside and outside of the pipe or pillar using hydraulic cylinders. The nonlinear analysis is used for the calculation of the friction between the steel pillar and the friction pads. This friction is the basis of the grip needed to lift the pillar or pipe. The amount of friction is defined by the pressure exerted on the cylinders. At the same time, the pressure should not lead to deformation of the pipe. “These are complex calculations taking up to 20 hours,” notes Belder. “We need to find the technical and economical optimum, in other words, the functionality must be ensured at the lowest cost possible. We take the calculations to the elasticity limit of the material.”

Re-use of proven designs

The re-use of meshes and load cases saves IHC Handling Systems a lot of time, especially in projects where existing concepts can be used, even though there may be many possible variations. An example is the upending tool that is used for lifting pillars. Upending tools must be able to handle many different diameter/wall thickness combinations and must be able to pick up pillars with diameters up to 6,000 millimeters. The customer specifies the diameter of the pillar and the lifting capacity of the available crane. To find the most economical solution, the engineer would traditionally select variants and perform the necessary calculations. This implies that, for every variant, the generation of the mesh and the application of the load case are required to perform a single calculation. The geometry of the variants differs too much to re-use the mesh and load case.

Using the programming capabilities of Simcenter Femap, the CAE model can be configured and generated automatically, for example, from Excel® spreadsheet software, including the mesh and the load case to be analyzed. Moreover, programming with Simcenter Femap is easy to learn. “Using the traditional way of working, we would be able to analyze only three combinations a day,” says Belder. “Programming in Simcenter Femap saves us a significant part of the time needed for modeling, meshing and applying the load case. The preparations can be reduced from hours to minutes. We can respond much quicker to changing customer requirements.” According to Belder, building the application of the upending tool took, all in all, no more than a week: “The investment has already paid for itself, because we always need to do calculations in projects for upending tools, which we use often in our projects.”

The goal to work better, faster and more cost-efficient using Simcenter Femap has been achieved. “We were satisfied with the engineering tools we had, but there is always room for improvement. Using Simcenter Femap allows us, better than ever before, to serve our customers with our experience and quality,” concludes Belder.

Cisco Uses ProJet 3D Printing Technology to Help Uphold Scandinavian Design Tradition

Product: CJP Print
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

“We get prototypes quickly, we refine them quickly, we create new ones, and we derive our elite designs….” – Eskild Hansen, Head of European Design Centre, Cisco Consumer Business Group.

This is the story of how professional designers combined time-honored aesthetic principles with 3D printing technology to produce some of the world’s most elegant consumer electronic equipment.

Devices like wireless routers, the media hub, and the wireless home audio system create what the Cisco Consumer Business Group calls the connected life, a life that’s more personal, more social, and more visual. Constant network connectivity is a given, and the focus is on the content — the music, video, Web pages, and work materials coursing through the home, office, or classroom.


As these devices further infiltrate the home, networking gear becomes more central to our lives, moving from the “computer room” to the living space. Thus, like a stainless steel refrigerator, electronics must be aesthetically pleasing with sleeker, less boxy lines, while increasing connectivity, reliability, and intuitive operation. Thus, making functional objects both simple and beautiful is the challenge Cisco engineers face every day.

Upholding traditional design standards in the fast-growing consumer electronics world

Since design excellence is paramount for the Cisco Consumer Business Group, the company recently established a European Design Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here the company continues the venerable tradition of Scandinavian design — functional, minimal, and affordable — without compromising design aesthetics.

Scandinavian design tradition requires the engineer to hold a prototype of his or her creation in their hands, absorb the proportions, heed what the object has to tell them, and ensure that the form ultimately follows the function. The artisan then modifies the design, creates another prototype, and examines the new design just like the first.

The problem is that traditional handcrafted prototypes are time-consuming and expensive to create. Most automated rapid prototyping technologies are just as costly and must be outsourced, adding time and inconvenience to the process. And though many designers rely on 2D screen images alone, they are simply insufficient to create the quality that the Cisco Consumer Business Group demands. The challenge, then, is upholding the highest aesthetic standards while meeting deadlines in the highly competitive consumer electronics business, where time to market is critical.

Investing in 3D printing technology

Using the ProJet CJP full-color 3D technology helps Cisco quickly and inexpensively create the physical models it needs.

3D printing gave the Cisco Consumer Business Group a way to apply its exacting design standards in a way that keeps the development cycle humming, ensuring that products get to market on schedule. The ProJet 460Plus pumps out prototypes in hours instead of weeks and for one-fifth the cost.

“Proportions and ergonomics are paramount, yet too many designers rely on computer screens alone as their design medium,” says Eskild Hansen, Head of Cisco’s European Design Centre. “For our strategic design approach, we depend on physical prototypes and the ProJet 460Plus for each design review, both locally and globally in concert with our design partners in the United States. The ProJet 460Plus provides an easy and effective way to conduct a productive global design review.”

Lots of models for productive design reviews


Cisco uses the ProJet 460Plus to create 10 models per week, on average, for design review. Models are printed directly from 3D CAD files submitted by Cisco designers around the world.

Designers pass around the resulting models, mark them up with pencil, revise designs in the software, print out new models, and repeat the cycle as necessary. The hands-on steps are an absolute must, according to Hansen, who selected the technology because of confidence in the brand and his experience using it in other settings. “We get prototypes quickly, we refine them quickly, we create new ones, and we derive our elite designs,” says Hansen.

ProJets are the only 3D printers capable of simultaneously printing in multiple colors. Color dramatically communicates the proposed look, feel and style of engineering product designs and develops architectural concepts, landscapes, entertainment figures, and medical information.

“It’s inspiring to see what my team can do with what the world has always received as a basic black box,” says Hansen. “Designs like these don’t just emerge from a computer screen. Because design is very important, 3D printing is an important element of our product strategy.”

Startup Exept uses Simcenter Femap with Nastran to develop monocoque frame for road bikes in a virtual environment

Product: Femap
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

Siemens solution enables EXEPT to go from concept design to product launch in less than a year

Developing the custom monocoque

Until recently any cyclist who wanted to buy a new bicycle had two options: Either purchase one of the big brands with a monocoque frame that is available in a fixed range of sizes with performance based on stiffness by weight, or a tailor-made frame manufactured with the tube-to-tube technique. This kind of bike has tubes that are cut, welded and wrapped with carbon fiber around the joints (knots), with the inevitable drawbacks in stiffness.

Now the Italian startup EXEPT, which is based in Savona, is providing a third way. It has developed a process that combines the benefits of both traditional approaches to create tailor-made monocoque frames. The custom monocoque technique invented by EXEPT uses movable molds to cast monocoque frames without any carbon fiber dis-continuity so it can be made to order for each cyclist.

“The key to economic sustainability in bike production is the cost of tooling,” says Alessandro Giusto, who is the co-founder of the company and the innovation and simulation manager. “A mold may cost up to €50,000 to 60,000, therefore only the big brands can reach volumes large enough to make a mold for each size. Instead, we have developed an innovative technology to build all sizes with one adjustable mold.”

The biggest Italian brand makes 15,000 high-end bikes a year, while EXEPT’s business plan calls for producing up to 3,000 pieces annually in five years.

All-round expertise

The movable mold concept was developed by the three founders and reflects their passion for bicycles. Giusto previously worked at Continental, a global leader in tire manufacturing, and also had experience in aerospace and the design of car-bon components for the sporting goods business. The second business partner, Alessio Rebagliati, is a colleague from Continental, while the third founder, Wolfgang Turainsky, is a German engineer who used to work for a Spanish manufacturer of bike components.

It took two years and two prototyping cycles to make prototypes that proved the feasibility of the custom monocoque process. Prior to being analyzed with simulation and finite element method (FEM) tools, the first frame was given to a former cycling professional for testing. Once the firm received his technical approval, EXEPT presented the project to an investment fund (Focus Futuro), which provided the necessary resources to move on to detailed design, testing and certification.

“The bike was designed from the very start according to the new concept,” Giusto says. “However, we did not focus on car-bon fiber initially, as composite material design is a complex activity that is a full-time job. Once we got the funds to finance our innovative idea, we could quit our previous jobs and plunge into the new enterprise.”

The pretest on the first prototype in May 2018, which was developed with just three months of design, confirmed the results of simulation and reassured Giusto and his partners they were ready to launch the bicycle at the Eurobike show in July, 2018.

Foolproof decision

In his experience in engineering companies in the aerospace and sporting goods industries, Giusto had the opportunity to learn and appreciate Simcenter™ Nastran® software, specifically the finite element modeling, and the pre- and postprocessing environment of Simcenter Femap™ software from Siemens.

“In aerospace, Simcenter Nastran is a de facto choice and we also used Simcenter Femap in our company,” Giusto remembers. “In six years, from 2007 to 2013, I acquired advanced skills with these tools, then I was in charge of the calculation department at Continental, where nonlinear analysis is performed using totally different tools.”

As a result, when the EXEPT project began, Giusto immediately reactivated his contacts with Siemens. “We did not need comparative analysis or benchmarking,” he says. “I knew we needed Simcenter Nastran, and the quality/price tradeoff for Simcenter Femap was excellent. All I had to do was call Siemens to explain our requirements and get an adequate offer, which we accepted immediately.”

EXEPT purchased a node locked bundle that incorporates Simcenter Femap with Nastran Basic in a single, integrated solution.

The EXEPT team initially worked with pencil and paper, proceeding by increasing levels of complexity to identify the loads that acted on the structure. The next stage was the development of the first simplified FEM model.

“We made a very simple model; in aero-space, they call it Global FEM, which is made up of one-dimensional elements (bars), and we investigated the load properties of these tubes in different riding, braking and impact conditions,” Giusto explains. “This approach is very useful as it provides quick feedback for each frame section. Then we moved on to a model of isotropic material, simulating an aluminum frame with constant thick-ness, and using the information from the Global FEM, we identified where we should decrease or increase the cross sections to optimize stiffness and weight. Finally, we worked on the geometry, which was re-meshed with four modifications to increase stiffness by 27 percent. This was done by just addressing the geometry!”

The carbon challenge

After optimizing the frame stiffness, the EXEPT’s engineers focused on carbon design. To define the ply book, also known as the lamination sequence, Giusto adjusted the structure 82 times, achieving extraordinary results.

“Compared to the initial stiffness of the nonoptimized prototype, we increased torsional stiffness by 150 percent while increasing the monocoque weight by only 12 percent,” Giusto says. “In this phase, Simcenter Femap offered huge benefits in terms of time and costs, enabling us to test and analyze the layering and direction of fibers only in the virtual domain, without increasing the quantity of material used.”

EXEPT executed an in-depth comparative analysis of the performance of more than 800 stock frames (in stan-dard sizes) developed and sold in the past three to four years in order to identify and achieve high-end stiffness and weight targets.

“The first nonoptimized frame we made was the third-best in terms of stiffness out of 800 frames we analyzed,” Giusto says. “We pushed stiffness so far that we decided to reduce it afterwards for road tests, to find the best tradeoff between stiffness and rideability. You know, reducing an optimized parameter is much easier than increasing it.”

At the end of June 2018, the excellent performance of EXEPT’s custom monocoque and the reliability of Simcenter Femap simulations was confirmed and certified with tests by an independent German laboratory: The deviation between real test and simulation was below 5 percent.

Giusto highlights how using Simcenter Femap accelerated the development of new frames: “We purchased Simcenter Femap with Nastran in September 2017 and started to laminate carbon in January 2018, delivering the ply book at the end of March. With Simcenter Femap, it took less than three months for over 80 iteration cycles. Just consider the average lead time for a brand bike is two years. We launched our model in July, having started to work on it less than one year before.

“All of this was possible only thanks to simulation; we made no physical iterations. No one in the cycling industry in Italy currently has comparable tools. At the beginning we contacted the engineering departments of big brands to present our concept; they have a conventional approach because they never develop a frame from scratch. They start with the expertise of their carbon supplier and rely on external partners for the subsequent development.”

Combining software and services

Giusto has no doubts when asked to list the key benefits of Simcenter Femap: “The key success factor is postprocessing. Simcenter Femap is definitely the best of all postprocessing engines I have used in my career. Simcenter Femap with Nastran has a complete environment for linear stress analysis of composites structures, which is suitable for our tasks. The Siemens software allows us to query the model and extract as much information as possible from structures like our frames; for instance, using free-body analysis to identify the interplay of forces inside the structure.”

The clear and intuitive visual display of Simcenter Femap helps the user under-stand the model better and provides advanced reporting tools for data extraction. As a result, the model construction is intuitive, fast and lean. “When I started to work full time with Simcenter Femap and Simcenter Nastran to simulate our frames, I did not start from scratch, but still I needed some training to refresh my memory after seven years using different software. Anytime I have a problem, I just have to pick up the phone and the engineers are always ready to answer questions to my full satisfaction. They can indicate the best way to approach analysis with a limited budget while using the best-fitting software configuration for our needs, regardless of the situation.”

With the advanced FEM capabilities of Simcenter Femap, EXEPT can execute sophisticated and critical simulations, static and dynamic tests, and simulations of complex mechanical events like falling and impact.

The ProJet MJP 3D Printer Saves Citizen Watch Time and Money

Product: MJP Printing
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

3D Systems’ ProJet® 3500 HD 3D Printer Saves Citizen Watch Time and Money
“With the high-precision 3D printed mock-ups of our wristwatch designs, we improved quality and saved three times the installation costs of our ProJet MJP within six months.” — Mr. Naito, Product Development, Citizen Watch

Citizen Watch introduced its first wristwatch in 1931. Since then, Citizen has grown into the global brand it is today, and earned a strong reputation through innovative products like the ‘Eco Drive’, which converts light into electrical energy, and radio-controlled clocks that use standard radio waves from an atomic clock to update to the correct time within 1 second every 100,000 years.

To maintain their confidential development strategy, Citizen relies on an in-house prototyping division. Before getting their 3D printer, Citizen used NC lathes in their machining center to create mock-ups of final watch designs and assembly jigs. Because this type of machining frequently adds costs and timeline delays, however, Citizen decided to explore their options in 3D printing to reduce the time and money their development center spent on prototypes.

Going from a designer’s sketch to a prototype involves repeated design reviews and adjustments, and machining a new prototype following each suggested change takes huge amounts of time and money. Since timeline restraints limited the number of verification models that could be made, Citizen could not explore all their ideas with machining. This limitation pushed the company to investigate 3D printing as a way to give its designers more time to thoroughly review designs during early stages so they could produce better final designs.

Of the ten 3D printers Citizen evaluated, 3D Systems’ ProJet MJP (MulitJet Printer) HD printer was the only one that satisfied all of their needs. The 3D printer produces durable, high-quality plastic parts using MultiJet Printing technology, and 3D Systems’ robust, UV-curable VisiJet® materials in an assortment of colors. With a net build volume of 11.75 x 7.3 x 8 inches, the printer provides a high speed print mode and delivers high definition prints with exceptional detail precision and surface quality.

Citizen ended up using its ProJet MJP for more than prototyping, however. “Since the VisiJet material can be dyed or painted, we can quickly and easily evaluate mock-ups that have the look of a finished product,” said Mr. Naito of Citizen’s Technical Development Division. “We saved three times the installation cost of our ProJet within six months, and it has helped us spot problems with physical models that we couldn’t see with CAD alone. We can now fine-tune and improve products before following through with the final mock-up, which has led to improved quality and valuable reductions in time and cost.”

Citizen is also using their MJP printer to magnify and print tiny structural parts at three times their actual size to examine their movement and invent new assembly jigs. Before getting its 3D printer, Citizen produced one variety of assembly jig. Since getting its ProJet, however, Citizen has created new jig candidates, enabling Citizen to make the best-suited shape for the required fit in the shortest amount of time. The MJP printer has transformed a 20- to 30-day process into overnight production and has been seamlessly incorporated into Citizen’s workflow as a powerful development tool.

“If nothing else, the ProJet MJP has an extraordinarily high level of precision, which is extremely important when piecing together small watch assemblies,” said Mr. Naito. “But the ProJet has other significant advantages as well. There is minimal distortion, warping, or variation in batches, and the surface quality is superb, with fine details and sharp edges. The material is of a higher quality, stronger and less brittle than competitors’ and has easy post-processing, with the ability to melt wax away. It’s also exceptionally easy to use. Even a beginner can master it in two to three days.”

3D printed jig helps Citizen watch rapidly assemble its products

Citizen’s 3D printer went into immediate operation and is now used by many of Citizen’s designers. It has made the company’s operations less confusing, and has  inspired the watchmakers to continue looking for ways to use it beyond its research and development departments. “We want to move beyond traditional divisions and include departments that are directly involved with production and have pressing needs of their own,” Naito said.

Birdstone Proves Packaging Design with Clear 3D Printed Prototypes

Product: SLA Printing
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

Anyone who has opened a box of crackers to find the contents reduced to broken bits and pieces knows firsthand the consequences of poor packaging. Carman’s, an Australian food company passionate about only using the best ingredients, is mindful of how it delivers its products to consumers to ensure a high quality experience before the first bite is ever taken. Therefore, when Carman’s launched its new Super Seed & Grain Crackers, the food company kept presentation and preservation top of mind, and enlisted Birdstone, an Australian packaging design agency, to design an engaging tray insert. Due to the various requirements they needed to balance, multiple prototypes were required to demonstrate the proposed designs both aesthetically and functionally.


Balancing client requirements in packaging design

The packaging considerations in play for Carman’s were multifaceted: it needed to be easy to open, functional as a serving vessel, and enable Carman’s customers to reclose the container for storage. For ease of access, it was determined that the crackers should be stacked in three columns with room to encase the top crackers without crushing them, but also be easy to fill to not disrupt the production line. Lastly, the packaging needed to meet the retailer requirement for vertical packaging to maximize differentiation on the shelves. There was also a question of on-shelf instability due to the light weight of the product and the properties of the tray material.

Birdstone knew that arriving at the correct design would require accurate prototypes, and therefore reached out to 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing due to previous successful collaborations.

Collaborating to deliver functionality and build brand equity

Birdstone worked closely with Carman’s marketing and product development teams as well as its packaging supplier to review and narrow the packaging design concepts to two. From the outset, the top priority was to maintain supply chain efficiency throughout packaging manufacturing and product filling, followed closely by building brand equity into the tray with an effective and hassle-free customer experience. Relaying this information to 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing, Birdstone and the 3D printing service bureau talked about the requirements for the prototypes.

Due to the complexity of the casing designs and unique functional requirements involved, 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing experts helped Birdstone select the most suitable prototyping process, materials, and finishing process to meet its outlined requirements. Using Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing on 3D Systems ProX® 800 machine, 3D Systems built both a one- and two-piece prototype in Accura® ClearVue™, a rigid and tough clear 3D plastic material offering the highest clarity and transparency on the market.

Prototyping functional and aesthetic packaging

In just four days, the SLA prototypes were printed and finished to meet Birdstone’s quality and realism requirements. 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing experts followed the premium finishing protocol for Accura ClearVue to deliver water-clear prototypes through a process of wet and dry sanding followed by clear coating. These prototypes were then submitted for manufacturing tests and consumer research to validate and rate the success of each concept, and to assess the performance and limitations of each packaging option at all critical touch points.

At this stage, Birdstone ordered four copies of the leading packaging design from 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing, which were created using 3D Systems’ cast urethane process. The preferred SLA prototype was used to make a mold which was then used to cast additional water-clear copies using polyurethane, a material very close to what would be used for the final product.

Arriving at the final design

Following full evaluation of the clear prototypes, the final design was officially selected: an attractive one-piece clamshell case, uniquely contoured to the shape of the stacked biscuits. According to Grant Davies, Director, Design & Strategy at Birdstone, “The final design plays to the strengths of the packaging material and provides a secure, re-useable home for the crackers throughout the supply chain and into the customers’ hands. It is functional enough to be filled, stylish enough to serve from, and securely re-closeable for on-the-go snacking.” Birdstone says that by adding another level of consumer engagement through functional and aesthetic packaging, Carman’s is able to offer a deeper brand experience beyond consumption.

Carman’s exciting range of crackers has forged a new place in the market for the company, and the tray has earned it many fans through the cleverness and convenience of its design. Birdstone says it is delighted to have contributed to a successful final product for its client, and to answer the unique challenges of the project within a tight deadline. “As usual,” says Davies, “3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing was a wonderful partner and worked with us to provide the most effective and appealing concept prototypes within the project budget.”

Birdstone’s packaging insert for Carman’s Super Seed & Grain Crackers was a 2018 finalist in the Packaging & Processing Innovation & Design Awards.

Glass Bottle Redesigned with Confidence Using Clear SLA 3D Printing

Product: SLA Printing
Industry: Consumer products and retail

Packaging redesigns are a serious undertaking. On the marketing side, changes are visual and emotional; on the manufacturing side, changes cost money. Before making the investment to overhaul its glass bottle tooling systems, the maker of Australia’s James Boag’s Premium Lager needed to know an update to its bottle would not be change for change’s sake. It needed to be sure the new bottle would look good and be well received by customers. Ideally, this confidence would come before spending major time and capital on the project.

As the supplier of Boag’s bottles, Orora had skin in the game to validate the design quickly and accurately. Orora’s Innovation & Design team put wheels into motion by contacting 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing, a long-time partner, to develop a state-of-the-art 3D printed prototype. Keeping Boag’s existing supply chain processes top of mind, a new-look bottle was designed to comply with the manufacturing infrastructure already in place to help avoid expensive and time-consuming changes.

3D printing a lookalike for glass

To get Boag’s buy-in on the new design, a credible appearance model was needed for evaluation. To be convincing, the 3D printed models needed to have the same clarity and hue as glass as well as the same in-hand heft. 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing experts accounted for weight disparities by adjusting the interior wall thickness of the design file based on the density of the selected stereolithography (SLA) resin, and then got to work on color-matching to achieve the iconic green of the classic Boag bottle.

Using 3D Systems’ leading SLA 3D printing technology and VisiJet® SL Clear resin, 3D Systems’ On Demand Manufacturing experts printed four SLA prototypes. “Successful lab testing of 3D Systems’ clear materials verify they are the best solution for transparent 3D prints,” said Dr. Don Titterington, Vice President of Materials R&D, 3D Systems. “Used in a variety of demanding applications, clear materials deliver high-performing, cost-effective choices for functional, transparent prototypes.”

Once printed, the bottles were put through an in-house finishing protocol to bring them to final product quality. This included wet and dry sanding, applying a surface tint, and a final clear coat to deliver a glass-like sheen. With just a few simple steps, clear SLA prints can be transformed with incredible results. According to 3D Systems’ Tracy Beard, general manager for On Demand Manufacturing’s facility in Lawrenceburg, TN, thousands of clear parts are produced each week in the Lawrenceburg facility alone. “The materials are versatile enough to be quickly finished and tinted for perfect prototypes,” Beard says.

Fast feedback for fast progress

The appearance models were ready within a week, allowing Orora and Boag to quickly transition the new design to customer trials and gauge the public’s reaction. They filled the 3D printed bottles with liquid, outfitted them with a label and cap, and put them in a shop for monitoring. Feedback from these in-store trials indicated that the new design was a hit, clearing the new design for production.


“The new James Boag’s Lager bottle has set a standard within Orora for the way packaging design and 3D prototyping can come together seamlessly with short notice,” said Orora’s Innovation & Design team. “It’s the sort of technology innovation that’s giving us a critical edge when it comes to developing best-practice bottling design and manufacturing solutions for our customers.”

BOA Dials In to Better Performance Fit Systems with Figure 4 Parts

Product: DLP Printing
Industry: Consumer Products and Retail

Whether they realize it or not, over half of the cyclists in the Tour de France rely on the BOA® Fit System as they churn out mile after mile on the course. BOA is also the common thread that connects workwear, medical bracing, and sports like golf, snowboarding, and trail running – as each integrates BOA’s patented three-part fit system into high-performance products, keeping workers and athletes dialed in.

The BOA Fit System is incorporated into the products of market-leading brands across industries that partner with BOA to give their users the best in performance. Available in a range of power levels designed to match the intensity of the sport and closure force needed for the product, BOA’s performance systems are designed to deliver a fast, effortless, precision fit.

The hunt for functional 3D printed materials

One of the main components of the BOA Fit System is the dial. The dials are engineered to three different power levels depending on the lace tensions achieved by the gear they are fitted to. This includes the high power snowboard dials with gear reductions for high torque that launched BOA’s success in 2001. Daniel Hipwood is a senior design engineer at BOA who spends his time working out the mechanical design for these products.

BOA has been using 3D printing to prototype for several years now, but according to Hipwood, it has been difficult to match BOA’s applications with the material performance they need. Because BOA’s products are small and mechanical properties are paramount, many 3D printing materials could only help BOA with concept verification and aesthetics.

“We’ve been really hamstrung by the materials available to us,” says Hipwood, explaining that the parts BOA was printing were turning brittle and not holding up over time. “We’d have a concept and three days later, if the part fell off a desk in a meeting, it would just shatter into a million pieces. It’s been a real challenge to find thermoplastic-like performance at the resolutions we need, and to actually 3D print parts that function at our scale and can still hold those properties.”

Although BOA’s workflow will still include small runs of pre-production injection molded parts for the foreseeable future, the company wanted to close the gap between 3D printed part durability and final injection molded parts so it could push its designs further, faster, and with greater confidence before beginning the tooling process. Its research led BOA to 3D Systems’ Figure 4 technology and materials.

Figure 4 3D printed part on fingertip

Taking testing farther with Figure 4

Figure 4 is a projection-based additive manufacturing technology that uses a non-contact membrane to combine accuracy and amazing detail fidelity with ultra-fast print speeds. Together with 3D Systems’ production-grade Figure 4 materials, BOA is able to use the Figure 4® Standalone to get early insights into production part performance. Rather than wait the typical three weeks for machined parts, BOA can now assess the viability of its designs in the same afternoon using Figure 4.

BOA uses several of 3D Systems’ Figure 4 materials, and is particularly fond of Figure 4® PRO-BLK 10. Unlike other additive materials BOA has tried in the past, this high precision, production-grade material has long-term environmental stability and thermoplastic-like behavior. This has proved highly beneficial and answered BOA’s search for a material that would deliver resolution and performance with the ability to hold its properties. The material is working exceedingly well for BOA’s purposes, and the company is conducting ongoing correlation tests between final production parts and Figure 4 parts to understand the threshold performance requirements it needs before moving on to production. “Sometimes it’s actually one-to-one, so they’re performing the same as our injection molded components,” says Hipwood.

As part of product development, BOA likes to take viable prototypes and get them on shoes early into the design process so testers can interact with them. Even for designs that will not go on to final production, attaching dials to shoes and putting them through routine abuse helps BOA gather design and performance data on what works and what doesn’t. This aspect of testing requires the dials to be sewn directly into fabric without molded holes. According to Hipwood, finding conventional plastics that can be stitched is difficult enough, let alone finding a UV cured material that will perform without cracking. “Punching a needle through plastic is a toughness problem. You need a material that is resilient, but still maintains enough stiffness to carry out its other uses. Part count reduction is key, so that stitched component may have other important functions that require a stiff plastic material,” says Hipwood. The fact that Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10 can be used to prototype in this manner has been a major help to BOA, saving time and money to quickly iterate its designs for the highest performance.

Along with its fit system, BOA is known for its lifetime warranty: The BOA Guarantee. Product quality out of the gate is paramount and having functional printed parts helps Hipwood and the team of engineers at BOA deliver new innovative products with faster design cycles and less redesign of components after tooling creation. “Everyone is striving to shrink and optimize their products, which makes it critical to identify the weak spots as early in the design process as possible to avoid finding problems when molds have already been created.”

Additional materials in use at BOA include Figure 4® TOUGH-GRY 15, a durable gray prototyping material, and Figure 4® ELAST-BLK 10, an elastomeric prototyping material. Beyond the small mechanical parts inside the lacing dial systems, BOA uses the Figure 4 Standalone to print aesthetic proofs of concept, end-use fixturing, and rubber-grip overmolds.

A track record of success

According to Hipwood, BOA’s decision to invest in 3D Systems’ technology was twofold. The first factor was BOA’s positive experience talking with the 3D Systems team, and the level of support and expertise 3D Systems demonstrated. The second factor was 3D Systems’ track record. As the originator of the 3D printing industry with an established and robust portfolio, BOA was confident in the longevity of its investment if it worked with 3D Systems. “Other options we explored felt kind of like an alpha or beta product that wasn’t quite tested,” says Hipwood. 3D Systems’ clear focus on innovation and advancing the state of additive manufacturing made the company stand out.

BOA is happy with its decision to bring Figure 4 onboard. “There are more than a few people here who can speak to how the printer is helping them validate their work,” says Hipwood.