UK researchers release open source RMADS code for Matlab to help users find best 3D printing …

Sep 16, 2016 | By Alec

Now that the dust from the desktop 3D printing explosion has settled, one thing has become clear: desktop 3D printing is fantastic, but DIY part design comes with a huge learning curve. Even experienced users regularly run into design challenges and issues surrounding materials and costs. But there is a solution. British researchers from Newcastle University have just shared their own open source RMADS code for Matlab, which consists of a detailed 3D printing advice system that helps users find the best and most cost-effective 3D printing solution.

RMADS stands for ‘Rapid Manufacturing Advice System’, and is completely aimed at those non-expert users that want to explore some 3D printing alternatives but simply don’t have the technical know-how to reach a satisfactory result. What material is best suited for what application, and what 3D printer or 3D printing service provides the results I need right now? Questions that even more seasoned makers tend to answer through a lengthy and costly trial-and-error process.

Thanks to the release of this new RMADS software for Matlab, makers can now call on a quick and open selection guide to speed up the decision making process. In a nutshell, RMADS provides a built-in logic system that creates multi-criteria rankings for processes, materials and cost alternatives. As Newcastle University’s Javier Munguia revealed, the code was originally written for various EU design projects, such as KARMA and AFOOTPRINT. The latter project, from 2014, used the code to generate and 3D print the most accurate custom foot supports for patients with disabling foot and ankle conditions.

According to Munguia, various companies and other partners were increasingly inquiring about similar solutions for their sectors. “recently we have seen an increase in requests particularly from private companies of all sizes, from heavy machinery to aerospace firms, asking for a working version to use it for their particular needs,” he recalls. Instead of making custom versions to satifsfy each and every request, the Newcastle University team decided to release RMADS as open source code that everyone can adapt and modify for their own needs.

However, Munguia was quick to add that this is not a PDM software, or an automatic quoting system for 3D printing services. “Instead, you can think of RMADS as a front-end piece of software that has the capacity to help non-expert users explore all the possible 3D printing options for a particular component,” he explains. “The code makes use of ‘relational databases’ which compare your component’s requirements with the 3D printing process and materials properties stored in the system.”

This allows for users to make an initial screening of their 3D printing plans and capacity, and select alternatives from a shortlist of options – made by comparing available material properties and costs. The cost algorithm itself was developed using ‘Neural Networks’, which allows it to base suggestions on historic results. “Herein lays the complexity of making an expanded system: we don’t have access to all the 3D printers in the world! But if the code is adopted, for example, by a firm that owns a lab with a couple of EBM, SLM and FDM systems then it’s possible to train the system and get cost estimations with an error margin below 6%,” Munguia says.

While RMADS thus requires users to adapt the code to their own needs, it definitely has the potential to make the entire 3D printing process far more effective – especially in environments with access to multiple 3D printers. If you’re interested, you can download the code from GitHub here (Open License). To get it running, you will need a version of MatLab or another code-converting app, and need to tweak the code a bit for your own needs. Demonstration videos for RMADS are forthcoming as well.

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