MfAM Walks so DfAM Can Run!

Chelsea Cummings – The Barnes Global Advisors

Chelsea Cummings is a Senior Additive Manufacturing Engineer and Digital Applications ADDvisor with The Barnes Global Advisors. Drawing on years of experience at Honeywell Aerospace and Arconic, Chelsea leads projects supporting the design process, advising clients on the effective use of digital tools to augment their additive manufacturing (AM) strategies.

With a career that includes qualifying the first of its kind Inconel 718 L-PBF flight hardware with the FAA in 2015 at Honeywell, flight hardware part family into AM production for Airbus A320neo upgrade in 2018 and first Army-developed, metal AM, flight safety component flown on a U.S. Army rotorcraft in 2022, Chelsea has a wealth of experience in the DfAM, but also the essential qualification process required to validate critical.

But not every design can start with a clean sheet, as Chelsea and her colleagues often help their clients how to adopt MfAM (Modify for Additive Manufacturing), so they can learn and gain experience and confidence before fully embracing DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing).

Chelsea will be presenting ‘MfAM Walks so DfAM Can Run!’ at CDFAM Symposium, so we asked her a few questions about her background, experience, and what she will be covering in the presentation.

Can you describe your role at The Barnes Global Advisors, and explain how you leverage your experience in qualifying AM parts for aerospace companies such as Honeywell, Alcoa, and Airbus within that position?

As Digital Applications Advisor, I aim to characterize applications to help customers identify the software and hardware best suited for their AM project.

Various user (and operator) workflows can have significant impact on design outcomes for various applications. By orienting design around process principles and target part performance, I can tailor optimization of parts across diverse use-cases.

Having worked very closely with the process to qualify parts with highly constraining requirements, I am able to help customers anticipate design, manufacturing, and project risks early on, and help implement control plans before project schedule and/or quality are compromised.

How has your early experience in qualifying the first AM parts, which involved both educating the FAA and being audited by them, influenced your current approach to guiding clients on AM application and navigating the qualification process?

Participating in early part qualifications of a technology new to production was challenging because it was like writing a test, while also taking the test with intent to pass, while remaining ethical.

I carry the same sense of responsibility into client projects today. Every case is different, but there are often three similar obstacles as those when qualifying parts with an auditing entity.

There is an educational aspect, cultural aspect, and of course, technical aspect. Education around the process and typical workflows helps everyone get on the same page to prioritize project tasks correctly.

Cultural barriers remain when it comes to adopting any new technology, especially in long-running organizations – in the case of AM, it is often addressed by ensuring the right application(s) has been chosen.

Finally, there is the technical aspect which continues to require a specific amount of rigor in terms of testing and data, despite the technology’s ongoing maturation. Above all, remaining forthright and objective throughout all aspects is the greatest enabler of a successful part qualification.  

As awareness grows around the significance of designing for performance and production, could you shed light on when or to what degree the inspection and qualification process should be integrated into the design process?

Undoubtedly inspection and qualification processes should be considered at the design stage.

The ideal candidate for an AM part is a clean sheet design where performance boosting features that are only possible with AM can be accounted for in the whole of the production and qualification processes early on.

These types of considerations are especially relevant as more inspections move to digital formats that may eventually feed machine learning that can advise the process for continuous improvement. 

In your upcoming presentation at CDFAM titled ‘MfAM Walks so DfAM Can Run!’ (embracing all the ‘fAM’s here), could you summarize what you plan to discuss and emphasize during your talk?

In my upcoming presentation I will illuminate how acknowledging process constraints finally enables the impressive showpiece designs of AM that have long been advertised, but not always well-suited for production.

When one understands MfAM, modifying for AM, only then can one truly embrace DfAM, designing for AM. The two concepts combined achieve the most success with AM.

Are you seeing clients come to The Barnes Global Advisors with more of an understanding or inclination leaning towards MfAM or DfAM?

This inclination is actually most often derived from the cultural aspect, and it can go one of a few ways.

If an organization has overcome certain cultural barriers to the adoption of the technology, they often have their sights set on DfAM – the showpiece designs that are only possible with AM.

On the other hand, more conservative clients that carry more skepticism or have experienced enough trial-by-error with the wrong applications, carry an understanding of MfAM principles. Both perspectives are important to make the whole successful. 

Balancing design for performance, manufacturing, inspection, and qualification is already a complex task. How do you incorporate business analysis into the process and determine which parts are financially viable candidates for these considerations?

At TBGA we have internal tools that we maintain specifically for the business and financial considerations.

We can take a part and extract certain characteristics to plug into our models that will yield output that lays the foundation for discussion. Some aspects are very nuanced, but fortunately there is enough collective experience on the team to work through specific challenges that may be relevant to a given project or application.

We are particularly conscientious of not forcing applications that are not meant for AM, because without the business case, there isn’t any business. 

Down-selecting parts implies that the client is looking to modify an existing ‘part’ , do clients typically need to “walk” through the MfAM process of improving existing designs before they can “run” with DfAM and eventually “fly” by realizing the full benefits of performance and efficiency through part/assembly consolidation or designing from scratch for AM?

Yes. In short, yes. MfAM often applies to existing parts that may be good candidates for AM, but it can also apply to the iterative aspect of tuning new parts to a certain AM process.

In either case, this “walking” builds the foundational knowledge that backs DfAM principles that will get a client to “running” speed, upon which designs have enabled some advantage such as reduced assembly count or material cost savings via lightweighting.

Through steady practice of these principles, their clean sheet designs will eventually be “flying” in terms of enhanced performance made possible with designs only buildable with AM.

Thanks for your time, I am really looking forward to seeing your full presentation at CDFAM. What are you hoping to learn or take away from the symposium?

I am most looking forward to hearing about development around simulation and how it is being tuned to an AM workflow.

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