3D printing FEM Analysis | Abaqus Additive Manufacturing simulation

3D printing simulation

3D printing or additive manufacturing! These are words we hear these days in the engineering world. A revolutionary way of production that will make big changes in many fields such as aerospace, medical engineering, civil, … . You can design anything you need in software and make it a reality. In this post, you will get anything you need to know about 3D printing and 3D printing simulation: What is 3D printing? Advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing, 3D printing simulation in FEM software (Abaqus), and simulation techniques for different 3D printing types.


All about 3D printing simulation

1. What is 3D printing?

1.1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of 3d printing?

2. 3D printing simulation in FEM software (Abaqus)

2.1.  3D printing simulation with python scripting and subroutine

2.2. 3D printing simulation with AM Modeler plug-in

2.2.1. Eigenstrain

2.2.2. Thermomechanical

3. Simulation techniques for different 3D printing types

3.1. Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

3.1.1. PBF simulation in Abaqus

3.2. Binder Jetting (BJ)

3.3. Direct Energy Deposition(DED)

3.3.1. DED simulation in Abaqus

3.4. Material Extrusion(ME)

3.4.1. FDM simulation in Abaqus

3.5. Sheet Lamination(SL)

3.6. VAT Photopolymerization(VPP)

3.6.1. Stereolithography simulation in Abaqus

3.7. Material Jetting(MJ)

4. Why use simulations in 3D printing?


1. What is 3D printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. Additive processes are used to create a 3D-printed product. In an added substance process, an item is made by setting down progressive layers of material until the object is made. Each of these layers can be observed as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object.

With 3D printing, you can create intricate shapes with less material than with other types of manufacturing. 3D printing enables you to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

Although the term “3D printing,” also known as “additive manufacturing,” may sound like something out of a science fiction novel; however, the history of 3D printing is much longer than you might think. The technology of 3D printing is a modern marvel. You are mistaken if you thought it really started in recent years. 3D printing has been around for a long time but has only recently become popular. Read More

You can see the history of 3D printing in the figure below. In this figure, the progress and application of 3D printing are briefly shown over the years.

3D printing time line

Figure 1: History of 3D printing


1.1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of 3d printing?

One of the most promising technologies among recent innovations is 3D printing because of its advantages. One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is the additive technology, which opens up a whole new way to make products and has many advantages over traditional manufacturing methods.

Numerous industries benefit greatly from 3D printing. However, it will not substitute for conventional manufacturing. As a result, product designers and manufacturers must view it as an addition to conventional manufacturing. They can use its unique capabilities to improve product design and produce brand-new, impossible-to-make products.

In the picture below, you can see the advantages and disadvantages of the 3D printing method. In the following section, each of the items will be briefly explained.

Advantages & disadvantages of 3D printing

Figure 2: Advantages & disadvantages of 3D printing

Read More

2. 3D printing simulation in FEM software (Abaqus)

First, let’s answer this common question: “How a 3D printing simulation is done?” Well, that depends on the software you use for the simulation; however, the basics of all of them are the same. The model you want to simulate must be designed in a CAD or the FEM software itself; then, the model must be layered in tiny slices and imported into the FEM software; next, the required equations, which describe the material properties variation, boundary and thermal conditions must be applied to the model due to the software settings. And finally, run the simulation. In this post, the 3D printing simulation in Abaqus software will be explained.


Figure 3: Basics of 3D printing simulation

The 3D printing simulation in Abaqus is done via two methods:

  1. Using python scripting and subroutine
  2. Using AM Modeler plug in

2.1. 3D printing simulation with python scripting and subroutine

As mentioned earlier, the model must be layered at first. It can be done using a CAD software, which is better, or by using the Abaqus itself. Each layer must be printed (activated) in each step; moreover, when a layer is printed, its boundary conditions, material properties, etc, must be applied according to the problem’s equations. These equations describe the material properties variations, thermal conditions, etc. These tasks are divided between python code and the required subroutines. You just need to insert your inputs, run the python code, and wait till the analysis is completed.

Python scripting

The layers of the model must be imported one by one in the Part module. Next, the material properties must be assigned to each layer in the Property module. In the Assembly module, the layers must be piled up and assembled; Also, some geometry sets must be created for further use. Each layer will be printed in a step; for example, if there are six layers, the number of steps would be six. In the Interaction module, the activation of the layers must be set in the right step. The boundary conditions must be defined for each layer in the Load module. And finally, the layers will be meshed and the model is ready. In each module, the required settings must be applied to each layer, separately. Suppose there are hundreds of layers! What are you gonna do then? Apply the settings on each layer one by one!! Don’t you think it’s time-consuming and exhausting?! Simply execute the script, provide some inputs, and wait for the simulation to finish.


The elasticity of 3D printed objects is not constant and changes throughout the process, thus the proper subroutine is needed to calculate its elasticity properties according to the equations that describe these changes. Also, a subroutine is needed to compute the temperature variations that occur during the process. The USDFLD and DISP subroutines can be used for these purposes.

Figure 4: 3D printing simulation flowchart using python and subroutine [Ref]

This method can be used for several 3D printing types such as VAT Photopolymerization(VPP). You can find practical examples in the package below, which happens to be simulated a model of the VPP type.

2.2. 3D printing simulation with AM Modeler plug-in

The additive manufacturing plug-in, which is called “AM Modeler”, is a graphical user interface that offers a comprehensive and scalable solution to simulate 3D printing with minimum risks of making mistakes. You won’t need any python scripting, writing subroutines, or any other coding for this job. Simply just insert the required inputs, create a job, and start the simulation. This plug-in simulates 3D printing by two methods:

  1. Eigenstrain
  2. Thermomechanical

Each of these methods has several process types, and you can select any of them according to your problem.

The eigenstrain method has two process types: Trajectory-based and Pattern-based.

The thermomechanical method has four process types:

  • Trajectory-based powder bed fabrication
  • Pattern-based powder bed fabrication
  • Laser direct energy deposition
  • Fusion deposition modeling

You can simulate common 3D printing types with this plug-in such as Power Bed Fusion (PBF), Direct Energy Deposition (DED), and Material Extrusion (ME).

2.2.1. Eigenstrain

What is the eigenstrain? An engineering concept known as eigenstrain is used to account for all sources of inelastic deformation that result in residual stresses and distortions in manufactured components. It is also known as inherent strain, assumed strain, or “stress-free” strain. Mechanical parts experience residual stresses as a result of almost all manufacturing methods, including additive manufacturing.

A single static stress analysis of a printed part serves as the basis for an eigenstrain analysis of an additive manufacturing process. A predefined field of eigenstrains is then applied to each element upon activation to indicate the inelastic deformation caused by the process. Predicting distortions and residual stresses in the part is the goal of an eigenstrain analysis. Applying eigenstrains to a newly formed layer can cause residual stresses and distortion in the layers below. A thermal-stress analysis typically yields a more precise result than an eigenstrain analysis. Nonetheless, an eigenstrain analysis frequently takes less time to run because just a static procedure is needed.

In the figure below, there is an example of an additive manufacturing process of a two-layer build with the eigenstrain method:

  1. The first layer is added.
  2. The first layer is unconstrained—it contracts when negative eigenstrains are applied.
  3. The second layer is added on top of the first layer and bonded to the first layer.
  4. The contraction of the second layer is constrained by the bonding of the first layer, causing the part to distort and inducing residual stresses.

Figure 5: Distortion due to eigenstrains in a two-layer additive manufacturing process [Ref]

Trajectory-Based Eigenstrain Analysis

The activation of elements and application of eigenstrains in a trajectory-based eigenstrain analysis is specified by a defined trajectory of new material being fused or bonded to the underlying layer.

Pattern-Based Eigenstrain Analysis

A pattern-based eigenstrain analysis applies eigenstrain based on a predetermined in-plane eigenstrain pattern for each layer, activating elements layer by layer.

2.2.2. Thermomechanical

This method is a sequential thermal-stress analysis of an additive manufacturing process. It means a heat transfer analysis must be done first; then, a static structural analysis is done and the results of the thermal analysis, which are temperature fields must be applied to it. The simulation provides you precise control over the fidelity of the solution and allows you to specify processing conditions precisely in both time and space. Although the simulation is thorough and realistic, it can become computationally expensive as time and spatial (mesh) resolution increase.

The following aspects of the procedure must be simulated for the heat transfer analysis:

  • Progressive material deposition: every AM process adds new material over time.
  • Progressive heating of the deposited material: In some additive manufacturing techniques, the deposited material is heated until it melts, causing the material to fuse to a substrate or an underlying layer.
  • Progressive cooling of the printed part: A part’s cooling surface changes over time as it is printed.

For stress analysis:

  • The stress analysis is driven by the temperatures from the heat transfer analysis.
  • It is possible to apply progressive material deposition methods that are comparable to heat transfer analysis.
  • For precise stress results, temperature-dependent material properties can be used.

Figure 6: AM Modeler plug in

More details and practical examples can be found in:

3. Simulation techniques for different 3D printing types

3D printing refers to a group of manufacturing technologies that build parts layer by layer. Material selection, surface finish, durability, manufacturing speed, and cost can all be different between them. The seven main types of 3D printing are as follows:

3D printing types

Figure 7: The seven main types of 3D printing

Also, you can see the 3D printing category in figure 8.

3D printing category

Figure 8: 3D printing category

3.1. Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

Powder bed fusion (PBF) methods melt and fuse the material powder using either a laser or an electron beam. Electron beam melting (EBM) methods require a vacuum but can be used to create functional parts from metals and alloys. The powder material is spread over previous layers in all PBF processes. The powder-based method is one of the most important and widely used types of 3D printing. The powder material’s high reusability rate, quick production speed, strong functional parts, low cost, lack of or minimal support structures, numerous application areas, and wide range of compatible materials are some of the reasons for its widespread use.

Application of this method in the industry: PBF is being studied extensively and used in various industries, including the aerospace, automobile, medical, and energy sectors.

Industrial part produced by Powder Bed Fusion method

Figure 9: Industrial part produced by Powder Bed Fusion method [Ref]

Powder Bed Fusion – Step by Step:

Powder Bed Fusion steps

Figure 10: Powder Bed Fusion steps

Material: The Powder bed fusion process uses powder-based materials, but common metals and polymers are shown in figure 11.

Powder Bed Fusion materials

Figure 11: Powder Bed Fusion  materials


Schematic of PBF

Figure 12: Schematic image of Powder Bed Fusion method device [Ref]

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), electron beam melting (EBM), selective heat sintering (SHS), selective laser melting (SLM), and selective laser sintering (SLS) are all common printing techniques used in the Powder Bed Fusion process.

3.1.1. PBF simulation in Abaqus

The simulation of the PBF method in Abaqus can be done via the AM Modeler plug-in with the thermomechanical analysis type, which has two process types: Trajectory-based powder bed fabrication and Pattern-based powder bed fabrication.

Trajectory-based powder bed fabrication

An event series in the form of a table of time, spatial coordinates, and process parameters can be used to represent the time-location history of the heating source (laser beam scanning path) and both the sequence of material deposition (recoater motion). The event series data is fed into the toolpath-mesh intersection module, which automatically computes all the information necessary to activate the elements and apply the correct thermal energy to the model. To describe extra process parameters required for the simulation, table collections that encompass parameter tables or property tables can be employed.

The detail of the simulation with an example can be found in:

Read More

3.2. Binder Jetting (BJ)

The process of depositing an adhesive binding agent onto thin layers of powdered material is known as binder jetting in 3D printing. Metal (like stainless steel) or ceramic-based (like glass or gypsum) is the powdered material.

The production of large sand casting cores and molds, low-cost 3D printed metal parts, and full-color prototypes (like figurines) are just a few examples of the many applications for Binder Jetting.

Because there are so many different uses for Binder Jetting, it is essential for a designer to understand the fundamental mechanics of the process and how these relate to the main benefits and drawbacks of this method.

Application of this method in the industry: Binder jetting can be used in a wide range of applications and industries, including architecture, aerospace, art and design, and automotive.

Industrial parts produced by the Binder Jetting method | 3D printing simulation

Figure 13: Industrial parts produced by the Binder Jetting method [Ref]

Binder Jetting – Step by Step:

Figure 14: Binder Jetting steps


Binder Jetting materials

Figure 15: Binder Jetting materials

Schematic of Binder Jetting

Figure 16: Schematic image of Binder Jetting method device [Ref]

Read More

3.3. Direct Energy Deposition (DED)

Direct energy deposition uses a laser and metal feedstock to produce parts. The stock, which can be wire or powder, and the laser both sit on a single print head that simultaneously dispenses and fuses material, in contrast to powder bed fusion. With a few key differences and opportunities, the resulting components are very similar to those produced by Powder Bed Fusion. (3D printing simulation)

Application of this method in the industry: Aerospace, defense, oil & gas, and the marine sector already make use of DED for things like aircraft frames and structures, refractory metal components, ballistic material tooling repair and reconditioning, and marine propulsion, among other things.

Industrial part produced by Direct Energy Deposition method

Figure 17: Industrial part  produced by Direct Energy Deposition method [Ref]

Direct Energy Deposition – Step by Step:

Direct Energy Deposition steps

Figure 18: Direct Energy Deposition steps


Direct Energy Deposition materials

Figure 19: Direct Energy Deposition materials

Figure 20: Schematic image of the Direct Energy Deposition method device [Ref]

3.3.1. DED simulation in Abaqus

The simulation of the DED method in Abaqus is done via the AM Modeler plug-in with the thermomechanical analysis. The simulation procedure of the DED and ME types is the same. In a structural analysis or a thermal analysis, progressive element activation is used to model the deposition of raw material from a moving nozzle. Any form, such as a rectangle or circle, can be used for the cross-section of the nozzle and the bead of material being deposited. More info is in the FDM simulation in Abaqus.

Read More

3.4. Material Extrusion (ME)

Material extrusion is an additive manufacturing (AM) process that builds 3D parts layer by layer out of thermoplastic or composite materials. The fiber is taken care of from a spool through a warmed expelling spout, which warms the material and stores it in a formative stage.

Material extrusion is the most widely used 3D printing method for hobby-grade home use, despite its lack of accuracy or speed compared to other additive manufacturing processes. Material extrusion is used for rapid prototyping in an industrial setting.

Material expulsion added substance producing innovation includes taking care of a persistent fiber of thermoplastic or composite material through an expelling spout to build 3D parts.

Application of this method in the industry: Material extrusion is frequently utilized in low-cost home and hobby 3D printers, but it is also utilized in more industrial settings for constructing buildings through concrete extrusion or producing human tissues and organs for medical use.

Industrial parts produced by Material Extrusion method

Figure 22: Industrial parts produced by Material Extrusion method [Ref]

Material Extrusion – Step by Step:

Material Extrusion steps

Figure 23: Material Extrusion steps


Material Extrusion materials

Figure 24: Material Extrusion materials

Schematic of Material Extrusion

Figure 25: Schematic image of the Material Extrusion method device

Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

Fused deposition modeling, or FDM for short, is an additive manufacturing technique for extruding materials through a nozzle to form three-dimensional objects.

The “standard” FDM process stands out from other methods for extruding materials, like concrete and food 3D printing, by using thermoplastics as its feedstock, usually in the form of pellets or filaments.

Therefore, a typical FDM 3D printer pushes a polymer-based filament through a heated nozzle, melting the material and depositing it in two-dimensional layers on the build platform. These layers eventually fuse together to form a three-dimensional part while they are still warm.

3.4.1. FDM simulation in Abaqus

As mentioned earlier, the material extrusion (FDM) type and the DED have the same simulation procedure in the Abaqus.

The short version of this procedure: The element activation (deposition of raw material) is done, gradually. The path of the nozzle is defined by an event series. The required settings in the plug-in must be specified for the material deposition, which you can see in figure 26. Next, the thermal energy used to heat the bead to the melting point will be applied when the bead is deposited (activated element). This energy can be distributed over the activated elements in different ways concentrated, uniform, and Goldak.

material deposition settings in AM Modeler

Figure 26: material deposition settings in AM Modeler

Each of the tiny bars or strands that are deposited from the nozzle to form the object is called the “bead”; it can have a circular or rectangular shape. See figure 28 for a better understanding. And finally, the cooling process will be done by the conductivity and radiation heat transfer.

applying heat source settings

Figure 27: applying heat source settings

bead definition

Figure 28: bead definition

You can find a practical example with complete explanations in the package below:

3.5. Sheet Lamination (SL)

In order to produce an object, the Sheet Lamination (SL) 3D printing process, also known as Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), involves superpositioning several layers of foil-based material. Using a knife or laser, the operator shaped each foil to fit the object’s cross-section.

Application of this method in the industry: Ergonomics studies, topography visualization, and architecture models for paper-made objects are some of the applications for parts made with 3D laminated objects. Fibers and thermoplastics make it possible to directly manufacture cost-effective, lightweight technical parts for the aerospace and automotive industries.

Industrial parts produced by Sheet Lamination method

Figure 29: Industrial parts produced by Sheet Lamination method [Ref]

Sheet Lamination – Step by Step:

Sheet Lamination steps

Figure 30: Sheet Lamination steps


Sheet Lamination materials

Figure 31: Sheet Lamination materials

Schematic of sheet lamination

Figure 32: Schematic image of the Sheet Lamination method device [Ref]

Read More

3.6. VAT Photopolymerization (VPP)

UV light is used to solidify photo-sensitive resin in a process called photopolymerization. It is utilized by a variety of 3D printing procedures, including Stereolithography (SLA), MultiJet printers, and 3D Digital Light Processing (DLP). In both academic and commercial research settings, the field of 3D printing continues to grow rapidly. Photopolymerization-based processes, which use adaptable polymer chemistry, offer flexibility over the materials’ final properties compared to other 3D printing methods.

Application of this method in the industry: Surgical learning tools, facial prosthetics, and hearing aids are among the most common applications in the medical and dental fields. Vat photopolymerization can also be used to make molds for low-volume injection molding.

Industrial part produced by VAT Photopolymerisation method

Figure 33: Industrial part produced by VAT Photopolymerisation method [Ref]

VAT Photopolymerisation – Step by Step:

VAT Photopolymerisation steps

Figure 34: VAT Photopolymerisation steps

Materials: The Vat polymerization process uses Plastics and Polymers.

VAT Photopolymerisation materials

Figure 35: VAT Photopolymerisation materials

Schematic image of VAT Photopolymerisation

Figure 36: Schematic image of VAT Photopolymerisation method device [Ref]

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) is a commercial 3D printing method that can produce concept models, cosmetic prototypes and intricately shaped parts in as little as one day. SLA allows for a wide range of materials, extremely high feature resolutions, and high-quality surface finishes.

Because SLA is all about precision and accuracy, it is frequently utilized in situations where form, fit, and assembly are crucial. SLA provides the smoothest surface finish of any additive manufacturing process, and the tolerances on SLA parts are typically less than 0.05 mm. Due to the quality that SLA can achieve is especially useful for making functional prototypes, presentation models, form and fit testing, and highly precise casting patterns (such as injection molding, casting, and vacuum casting). SLA technology is extremely adaptable and can be utilized in various settings where precision is of the utmost importance.Read More

3.6.1. Stereolithography simulation in Abaqus

The simulation of the SLA method can be done with the first method, which is using python scripting and subroutines. The short version of the procedure was explained in section 2.1.

3.7. Material Jetting (MJ)

Material jetting is similar to a two-dimensional inkjet printer in that it produces objects. A continuous or Drop on Demand (DOD) method is used to jet material onto a build platform.

The model is constructed layer by layer after the material is jetted onto the build surface or platform, where it solidifies. A nozzle that moves horizontally across the build platform deposits the material. The complexity of machines and how they control material deposition vary. After that, ultraviolet (UV) light is used to cure or harden the material layers.

The number of materials that can be used is limited because the material must be deposited in drops. Due to their viscosity and capacity to form drops, polymers, and waxes are suitable and frequently utilized materials.

Application of this method in the industry: Material jetting technologies are used in a wide range of industries, including medical, engineering, aerospace, and jewelry.

Industrial part produced by Material jetting method | 3D printing simulation

Figure 37: Industrial part  produced by Material jetting method [Ref]

Material Jetting – Step by Step:

Material Jetting steps

Figure 38: Material Jetting steps

Materials: The material jetting process uses polymers and plastics.

Material Jetting materials

Figure 39: Material Jetting materials

Schematic image of the Material jetting method device | 3D printing simulation

Figure 40: Schematic image of the Material jetting method device

Read More

The following table briefly shows the advantages and disadvantages of the mentioned methods.


4. Why use simulations in 3D printing?

Simulation enables one to predict or estimate how a material will behave under specific constraints or conditions. This is a necessary tool in engineering and science to either investigate and gain a deeper understanding of a particular process’s physics or evaluate a component’s functionality before manufacturing or production.

First and foremost, simulation or visual experimentation is absolutely necessary for almost all engineering problems. Approximate solutions have been developed for situations where analytical or precise solutions are challenging to locate. Due to its high cost and lengthy duration, it also serves as an alternative to actual experiments. Problems can be solved best when numerical and simulation tools are used in conjunction. As a result, it eventually bridges the gap between imagination and reality.

The 3D printing simulation process is very valuable because it helps to:

  1. Avoid print failures, and parts rejected for geometric issues, saving time and reducing overall cost.
  2. Evaluate the production risk and give pointers to mitigate the probability of failure.
  3. Understand the physics of the manufacturing process.
  4. Predict the microstructural characteristics of the end part.
  5. Optimize production to improve manufacturing speed, reduce post-processing operations or improve accuracy by reducing the part and support deformation.
  6. Predict the residual stresses in a part.
  7. Minimize the gap between the designed and manufactured parts through process optimization.
  8. Evaluate how a manufactured part performs under realistic loading conditions in an assembly with other components.

During manufacturing, the results of simulations aid in identifying critical areas of significant deformation or internal stress prior to support generation. The designer can then modify the geometry of the 3D model to improve the quality of the final product, change the print orientation to change the areas of heat accumulation, or add adapted support structures to reduce deformation. 3D printing simulation in Abaqus is widely discussed in the training packages below.

After the generation of support, simulations reduce the likelihood of production failure, ensure that the final part’s dimensions fall within a predetermined tolerance range, and evaluate the effects of various print parameters (such as contrasting production-optimized parameters with accuracy-optimized parameters).

Simulations save weeks of production time and thousands of dollars in development and production costs in both instances by lowering the risk of high-value manufacturing and increasing the productivity of high-volume 3D printing.

If you are interested in 3D printing simulation in Abaqus, you can check the below training packages:

3D printing or additive manufacturing simulation in ABAQUS-package 3D printing simulation tutorial 3D printing simulation tutorial

It would be helpful to see Abaqus Documentation to understand how it would be hard to start an Abaqus simulation without any Abaqus tutorial.

One thought on “3D printing FEM Analysis | Abaqus Additive Manufacturing simulation

  1. rein.flox says:

    This article was very good. In our college we have 3D printer but teachers were not that much able to explain. But this article made me that able because of which I can teach to classmates too.

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