Can it be printed, and if yes, how much is it going to cost? These are the two essential questions that need to be answered before sending a digital model to the printer. For metal powder bed fusion, Thrinno helps its users finding good answers to both.
If you are familiar with the metal powder bed fusion process, then you probably know that the digital pre-processing phase is still largely manual. Process engineers use special software to orient, position and support parts before they are sent to the printer. Thrinno helps in automating digital pre-processing, and that is a good thing. It doesn’t do everything, but what it does, it does well.
Having gone over the formulas they use for cost estimates, I find them decent enough to come up with realistic cost estimates. And the formulas are customizable, which allows users to improve the accuracy.
If you as a designer or engineer are spending a lot of effort to optimize your part, then a lot of it may not be reflected in the price if your service providers uses a pricing model that only includes volume and surface area. With Thrinno, service providers can use a sophisticated and realistic cost model to drive their price model. This means that your design effort is going to be rewarded by lower prices. And because anyone can use Thrinno, you can use it yourself to find out whether your service provider is providing you with a fair price.
When running a cost calculation with Thrinno, the tool also computes a number of benchmarks for your design and shows them to you. Some of them are not available in the other check tools I use. I find this information helpful to determine the printability and overall suitability of a design as I am working on it. It frees my mind from worrying too much. I can design away, and rely on the tool a bit to catch my errors. Having to pay for uploading a new revision and the necessity to manually upload the part each time makes this process more difficult than it has to be, but maybe this is going to become easier in the future.
Thrinno is still new, and there are plenty of things to improve. The market for metal powder bed fusion is both small and tough, making it a real challenge to come up with great solutions. We will have to see how the team evolves the software, and how it can overcome both the kinks in its user interface and the challenges of the market they are in. But, the tool is a step in the right direction towards a real-time, honest and transparent market for contract manufacturing. And its first iteration is showing a lot of promise.
Every small improvement helps the industry getting closer to a fully digital manufacturing process. This is what we all want, both users and service providers. Thrinno is such an improvement.
The Thrinno tool is available on the web: www.thrinno.com