Because FDM printers print in layers, the orientation of the object being printed can be important. Bonds between layers are often weaker than linear runs of plastic. As such, placement on the bed should take that into account for any objects that are likely to be under stress. FDM printers come in a variety of sizes.
The larger the size, the more challenging the print, because it's often difficult to balance the heat characteristics within the full build area. FDM printers also offer a variety of nozzle sizes. The larger the nozzle, the more material extruded per minute, but the less refined the final result. The smaller the nozzle, the more detailed the print. Printing with large nozzles or small nozzles will introduce other challenges, often related to supports, bridging, and heat management. SLA printers often have very small build areas, resulting in generally tiny prints.
The resin is often specifically formulated for a given printer, so users can be locked into a vendor's offerings, which may limit material and color choices. Even so, SLA printers have started to grow in popularity, mostly because they are capable of producing prints with very fine detail and few layer lines. This makes them particularly suited for prototyping jewelry designs and molds, small medical and dental designs, and hobbies, like model railroading and gaming miniatures. The process of going from an idea to a 3D-printed object must always pass through two software tool technologies first: 3D-modeling or CAD software and slicers.
In the same way you might use Photoshop to create a graphic, Illustrator to create an illustration, or Word to create an article like this one, CAD software is used to create the design for a 3D model. There are many CAD programs out there, each best-suited to different tasks. I alternate between TinkerCAD and Fusion , depending on whether I need to build a quick part or a more complex design. TinkerCAD is a very easy-to-use program that's often taught to school kids.
It allows for super-quick prototyping of simple designs. Fusion is a full engineering design program with features not only for design, but motion simulation and stress testing as well. There are many other tools, like ZBrush and Meshmixer , that are often used for sculpting in virtual space. Resources for learning common 3D printing programs are available in many online classes, taught in colleges, and found in abundance on YouTube.
That said, since tools like Fusion can be used to design and virtually test projects like car engines, they can be challenging to master. Often specific-discipline engineering skill is required to understand not only how the tool works, but the physics involved in the operation of the final object. CAD programs produce virtual models of 3D objects. But most 3D printing occurs layer-by-layer, in slices. The process of converting a 3D design into a series of machine movements on a two-dimensional plane and then moving the plane is the job of a slicer program.
Most slicers produce G-code, a standard form of numerical control language understood by most computer-aided fabrication devices not just 3D printers. This means that G-code usually needs to be generated by the slicer for specific brands and models of numerically controlled devices. While some slicers can be operated programmatically by just passing a 3D model file into it and getting G-code output, most slicers today allow for a fully interactive interface.
This allows the operator to adjust print orientation and examine the print process layer-by-layer in order to locate potential print problems before a print is sent to the printer. It's also at this time that different printing settings are configured, ranging from nozzle and build plate temperature, adhesion techniques, infill methods, print speeds, and even custom G-code blocks to account for special procedures, like stopping a print to embed magnets, and then allowing the print to continue.
As with 3D printers and CAD programs, there are many slicers available to choose from. Some of the most popular, like Cura and Slic3r , are open source. There are also robust commercial offerings like Simplify3D. Additionally, some vendors like Zortrax and MakerBot have created their own proprietary slicers tied to their individual hardware. As you might imagine, there are some benefits in this approach for tight machine integration, but the lock-in often means that operators who own multiple brands of 3D printers can't standardize on one slicing tool if they use these machines.
Some machines with custom slicers ship with incomplete software, which tends to reflect poorly on the product's design and usability. For those organizations used to traditional production processes, 3D printers can save a tremendous amount of time. One example is Volkswagen Autoeuropa. In a discussion with 3D printer maker Ultimaker's president back in , I was told:. The company [Volkswagen] turned to desktop 3D printing to create custom tools and jigs that are used daily on the assembly line, replacing an old process that required outsourcing and long lead times.
Not only did 3D printing introduce a more cost-effective way to produce the tools, it gave time back to the company. I built a set of custom adapters that go between my shop dust collection system and the dust port for each of my tools. Printing each adapter at low resolution took about three hours.
I was able to create a custom adapter system perfectly tailored to my specific needs. Because I was able to do my own design, I incurred no design cost. Adapters like these, built using traditional methods, would have required custom machining, and take weeks from design to delivery. Costs would have been thousands of dollars more than I paid. Because the turnaround from idea to object was so short, and because the out-of-pocket cost was so low, I was able to avail myself of a productivity-improving custom solution I might not otherwise have had.
This is another benefit of 3D printing: because the cost is so low, there's very little cost barrier to innovation, and as such, more innovation happens. The thing is, comparing 3D printed objects to traditionally manufactured objects can't necessarily be quantified by cost.
Understanding Accuracy, Precision, and Tolerance in 3D Printing
Traditionally manufactured objects often have a huge upfront expense necessary to build molds, fixtures, and even factories. But once those expenses have been incurred, the individual unit cost and time to delivery can be nearly instantaneous. The company reports:. I downloaded a classic 4x2 four studs by two studs rectangular LEGO brick model from 3D object sharing site Thingiverse. This is an exact fit-compatible version, which gives us an ideal comparison of production processes.
We're comparing the exact models using the same plastic. On my Ultimaker S5 which is the same machine used in the Ford and Volkswagen factories , it would take 29 minutes to 3D print one brick, or about two an hour. Filling the large build plate, it's possible to print 65 bricks at once, but the process will take one day, seven hours, and 39 minutes to complete. In the same 31 hours it takes to produce one plate of 65 bricks, LEGO produces In other words, you'd need roughly one million 3D printers running full time to produce what LEGO produces in its factories.
Each brick produced by a 3D printer takes about 3g of filament about half a meter. By contrast, LEGO sells its bricks to consumers for an average of While it might be possible to produce LEGO bricks in volume via 3D printing, it's neither practical nor cost-effective. While some companies need to churn out products in the thousands or millions, other companies need to produce a relatively small number of units or produce units on-demand.
Production for in-house use: A small number of internal departments or users can benefit from the build. Jigs and frameworks fit this need perfectly. Test market production: A limited number of units are produced at a manageable cost to test for either suitability for sale, or functionality and performance of features.
If buyers respond well, more units can be produced using traditional production means. On-demand production: Units needed rarely, or in a back catalog can be "stored in the cloud" and produced only when needed. This allows a large warehouse of parts to be stored virtually, and yet made available to customers as needed. Entrepreneurial ventures: Small numbers of units can be produced as proof-of-concept for crowdfunding or to provide to influencers and reviewers to create initial press and awareness of a product before full funding has been closed. It's this low-volume, on-demand capability that 3D printing provides that can be transformative to industry overall, not just manufacturing.
- Step 2: Using the Right Application.
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By being able to quickly and inexpensively create and test new objects, it's possible to innovate at a pace impossible with traditional means. Additionally, 3D printing promotes the idea of "think global, make local" in the sense that designs for objects can be shared internationally, but new units can be printed out wherever they are needed.
Take, for example, a fixture used in Ford's pilot plant in Cologne, Germany. The company has a small-scale manufacturing line which tests production of new vehicles.
University of Wollongong: Refining the Cochlear Implant with 3D Printing
As part of this process, engineers use 3D printers to create jigs, tools, and fixtures. Once tested and confirmed to be effective, delivering fixtures and jigs to other plants around the world would take shipping time, cost for international express shipping, as well as possible customs or other international transit paperwork. But if engineers at the AutoAlliance plant a joint venture between Ford and Mazda in the Rayong province of Thailand wanted to use a jig developed in Cologne, all they would need to do is download the digital file and print it.
The result would be the transferring of a custom-made tool across the world in hours, not days, for pennies, not hundreds or thousands of dollars, and with none of the paperwork hassle normally involved in international shipping. According to Ultimaker's Heiden: "3D printing continues to evolve within the manufacturing sector, and factory workers have led the adoption of the technology.
3D Printing For Dummies, 2nd Edition
As their skills continue to develop, the impact of 3D printing will continue to grow in every aspect of the manufacturing process. That said, 3D printing is not necessarily suited to volume manufacturing. Because prints can take hours or days, once a prototype is developed, you may want to move to a faster production process for your final sale products. On the other hand, 3D printing is ideal for creating molds, so you can design your object in a CAD program like Autodesk's Fusion , print out a prototype, and refine it until it meets your needs.
Filament producer Polymaker, for example, has created a special ash-free filament called PolyCast. This filament can produce investment-casting objects that can be placed inside mold shells and then burnt out, creating a mold with no ash, ready for metal casting. But if you look at manufacturing solely through the lens of 3D printing, you'll be missing a much larger trend, that of " Industry 4. The consulting firm contends there are four vast disruptions that will drive change in industrial processes and goods manufacturing:. Data volume and compute capacity: It's not just big data, it's the tremendous flow of data, the increase in computational power, and ubiquitous connectivity.
Ultimate Guide to Sanding 3D Prints | MakerBot 3D Printers
McKinsey specifically calls attention to the impact of low-power, wide-area networks common among Internet of Things. Analytics: Between AI and big data, the opportunity to subject every process to detailed examination and optimization based on advanced business analytics will drive supply chains that can be both dynamically reactive to worldwide events and micro-changes, as well as predictive based on accumulations of analytical resources from global sources.
New user interfaces: McKinsey believes that touch-interfaces, augmented-reality systems, and other forms of human-machine interaction will drive change in the manufacturing sector. You can consider 3D printing a new user interface as well, because the opportunity to hold a design concept in your hand can transform how you understand an object at a visceral level. Digital numerical control: McKinsey describes this as "improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world," which is, in effect, G-code.
But it's actually more than that. It's not only the transfer of instructions, which we've had for years. It's the technologies ranging from 3D printing to robotics capable of acting on those instructions that are proving to be transformative. In looking at how manufacturing is transforming, it's necessary to look beyond just basics of production to transformations in asset management, labor human, robot, and hybrid solutions , inventory management, quality via advanced process control, machine vision, and business intelligence , supply chain management, time-to-market, and even after sales service.
If you're curious about 3D printing, perhaps the best way to understand how it might impact your business is to buy a 3D printer.