A new startup is reimagining slicing in additive manufacturing.
Laramie, WY-based Teton SImulation is getting ready for its public debut.
With a small wave of brand-new players gearing up for their introductions at the upcoming RAPID + TCT, including some highly intriguing pursuits in software, it’s an interesting time right now for conversations. A very trusted contact in the software world thoughtfully pointed me to Teton as one to watch.
And so I spoke with Doug Kenik, Teton’s Vice President of Product, to learn more about what sets this young enterprise apart. (Spoiler alert: I agree that they’re one to watch.)
Two years ago, founders Mike Kmetz (CEO) and Andy Hanson (Director of Research) set out to leverage their experience to create a new enterprise. Kenik describes the company as having its roots in essentially employees from two other companies: Firehole Composites (founded by Hanson; acquired by Autodesk in 2013) and IDES (a plastics database founded by Kmetz; acquired by UL in 2012).
With experience in technology and startup culture, “we know what success looks like and how to get there,” said Kenik, a former member of the Firehole/Autodesk team.
Teton began exploring an offering in as-manufactured simulation of injection molded plastics. Injection molding, as it happens, is already a rather saturated market, and the team looked outward. They had a solid idea, but the question became where to apply it.
The idea was so solid the company was granted an NSF grant to explore the possibilities.
“NSF requires a lot of customer validation and research before developing a product,” Kenik told me. “They realized through interviewing customers that the market’s saturated — but there’s lots of opportunity in the additive manufacturing space for the same kind of product.”
For phase II of the grant, all focus was on as-manufactured simulation for 3D printed parts, and the team started to talk about where that might fit. The market, they found, was interesting, “but what really hadn’t been discussed was slicing parameters,” Kenik said.
Based on user feedback and apparent need, Teton has developed an intelligent slicing automation solution.
“Especially in additive, we know everything impacts everything else,” said Kenik in regards to design workflow. “Similar to injection molding, there’s a branch of design for manufacturing and a branch for structural design, and these come together at the end in ‘go make it,’ which is where the slicer comes into play. What no one else has been saying is, can the structural validation influence all the other settings like infill, shell, and orientation? Absolutely. And if these aren’t coupled early on, you’re under-optimizing the design and coming up with designs that shouldn’t be on the market.”
When it comes to software in additive manufacturing, a great deal of attention right now is going into generative design. For good reason: the designs generated are in many cases wholly new, creating new options that can be created with processes that weren’t historically available. But generative design is of course not a complete answer in and of itself.
“What I noticed is all these companies are out there asking how to design for additive, meaning how to create geometries, not how to design, or how to optimize topology for additive. It just so happens that topology optimization works well for this; the problem, though, is that topology optimization and generative design techniques can only say that a design can be manufactured. They don’t say how the design should be manufactured. And that’s where we’re coming in,” Kenik said.
That is, of course, not to undermine the “wonderful things” happening in generative design and topology optimization today, which “can have a large impact.” But looking at a more complete picture is opening new doors for Teton’s solution.
“We’re calling it intelligent slicing automation. We explored the question of can we move some validation and physics downstream in an optimization move, and leverage process validation to impact infill, shell, orientation, and other processes within that in slicing technology. We decided to attack not by designing a new slicer; there are a lot on the market. But they’re pretty dumb. We’re trying to build intelligence in the slicers,” he said.
More details will be revealed at RAPID + TCT, so stay tuned for the specifics. Kenik did show me an early demo to see the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the new offering.
Teton’s intelligent slicing automation solution is coupled with machine learning to create a cloud-based service that can “navigate a complex space of parameters.” Objectives for a part — based on geometry, material, process/system, and part performance — are taken into account and a design for validation emerges quickly.
“Quickly” is relative in manufacturing. More concretely, that design comes out in about 20 seconds. (Indeed, during the demo, that was about the timing.)
Again, more details will come out later when Teton is ready to dig deeper into its tech and all the offerings that will be there. The demo I saw was impressive, ran smoothly, and offered intuitive results (your basic green-is-good); I’m already looking forward to the demo at RAPID, which will have progressed beyond this preview.
Teton Simulation is gearing up for a big year. With more to share soon, things are looking good. The company is working with some solid partners, including the NSF and Dassault Systèmes on the technology side, and several engineering service partners. They are currently seeking partnerships with slicing companies and hardware OEMs with their own slicers.
“As we move more toward production, we will need better software tools… Additive is so complex, and what we’ve noticed is that software is definitely lagging hardware in additive manufacturing. This happens in every manufacturing space when they start to scale. People say that’s a good machine, but I can’t use it because of the software. We’re hitting that point in additive, and need to bring the software back up,” Kenik said.
That software is a major need at this point in additive manufacturing is no secret. Emerging solutions like this from Teton Simulation are offering new ways of approaching the existing gaps in the process.
From what I saw, there will be many opportunities for Teton to make its mark in the 3D printing market. Partnerships will indeed be key to the next stages in development to see where exactly this solution can fit in as a solution.
Via Teton Simulation