Olaf Diegel

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Professor Olaf Diegel, Professor of Additive Manufacturing, University of Auckland, New Zealand


Design for AM – the key to the industrialization of additive manufacturing


Many industries approach additive manufacturing (AM) as a drop-in replacement for conventional manufacturing technologies. This approach, however, does not fully utilize the unique possibilities that additive processes offer. For over thirty years, AM has been extensively used as a rapid prototyping technology. When using the technologies for manufacturing, however, it should be noted that AM does not remove all manufacturing restrictions. It, instead, replaces them with a different set of design considerations that designers must take into account if they wish to successfully use the technologies to add value to their products. Otherwise AM can easily become a slow and uneconomical way of manufacturing products or parts.

It is also of great importance to understand that, despite much of the marketing hype over the past few decades, AM is not an “easy” technology that can make absolutely anything. It requires a good understanding of the different technologies and how to design for them. In fact, printing parts in metal, for example, can be downright hard, and the use of AM to manufacture metal parts should only be considered if the process truly adds value to the product.

This talk attempts to impart some practical guidance on the thought process required to design parts that gain the maximum benefit from what AM can offer.


Professor Olaf Diegel is both an educator and a practitioner of additive manufacturing and product development with an excellent track record of developing innovative solutions to engineering problems.

In his role as professor of additive manufacturing and product development, in the faculty of engineering at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, he is heavily involved in all aspects of product development and is widely published in the areas of additive manufacturing (AM) and rapid product development. He is also one of the principal authors of the annual Wohlers Report, considered by many to be the bible of AM. His current main area of research expertise is in design for AM. In his consulting practice he develops a wide range of products for companies around the world. Over the past three decades he has developed over 100 commercialized new products including innovative new theatre lighting products, security and marine products and several home health monitoring products and, for this work, has received numerous product development awards.

Over the last 20 years, Olaf has become a passionate follower of 3D printing (additive manufacturing). He believes it is one of the technologies that has been a real godsend to innovation as it allows designers and inventors to instantly test out ideas to see if they work. It also removes the traditional manufacturing constraints that have become a barrier to creativity, and allows us to get real products to market without the normally high costs that can become a barrier to innovation. In 2012, Olaf started manufacturing a range of 3D printed guitars and basses that has developed into a successful little side-business (and gives Olaf the therapy he needs in allowing him to make things that are a blend of high-technology and traditional hand-crafting).

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