This work explores an additive-manufacturing-enabled combination-of-function approach for design of modular products. AM technologies allow the design and manufacturing of nearly free-form geometry, which can be used to create more complex, multi-function or multi-feature parts. The approach presented here replaces sub-assemblies within a modular product or system with more complex single parts that are designed and manufactured using AM technologies. This approach can increase the reliability of systems and products by reducing the number of interfaces, as well as allowing the optimization of the more complex parts during the design. The smaller part count and the ability of users to replace or upgrade the system or product parts on-demand should reduce user risk, life-cycle costs, and prevent obsolescence for the user of many systems. This study presents a detailed review on the current state-of-the-art in modular product design in order to demonstrate the place, need and usefulness of this AM-enabled method for systems and products that could benefit from it. A detailed case study is developed and presented to demonstrate the concepts.
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