When designing a product every feature of the item must be considered. The curves, the safety, the color. Since 3D printing has long been just a prototyping technology, color has been one of the last features to be considered. Mainly because the creation of custom, pantone-matched 3D printing materials would just add unnecessary cost to a part a customer would never see.
But production 3D printing is changing that. It is now possible to create finished products with 3D printing manufacturing at scale. So 3D printing is a viable alternative to injection molding. But the color problem has persisted. Up to this point the only options have been the primary colors with a few variations.
Slant 3D has changed that. From this point forward Slant 3D is offering pantone-matching of 3D printed parts. We will work with our customers to make sure that the 3D printed parts they want to produce are the final color that they are looking for.
3D printing can now match injection molding not only in pricing but color options. Designers now have an equal amount of freedom to use the color pallet for 3D printed products as with any other process.
Even very successful crowdfunding campaigns are under a financial crunch. This is especially true for campaigns that are started by companies and inventors with no previous funding. And since crowdfunding generally results in just preorders, all the money goes to setup and fulfillment. There is no profit and very tight budget constraints. The production of hardware is especially vicious, because of unforeseen problems with suppliers and design, that aren't identified during prototyping.
We are going to focus on hardware in this discussion. If a Kickstarter is making a physical product, a drone, or a gadget, they will undoubtedly have a plastic part or two comprising it. To make these plastic parts traditionally injection molding has been required. This means that molds have to be made.
Let's take a look at the LittleArm 2C. A very successful campaign that Slant 3D manufactured the parts for.
The LittleArm 2C has 7 individual plastic parts that had to be manufactured. Even if the molds were made in China the average cost would be $2000 per part.(the lowest being $700 and the highest being $5000). The crowfunding campaign raised approximately $17,500. So even before anything could be made, packed, or shipped, the team around the Littlearm would need to spend about $14,000 just to get the molds made. And each mold had to be perfect on the first try (which rarely happens).
Basically all of the campaign funded would go to tooling. But there would still be labor and design time for optimizing the kit. There was still packaging and shipping. And there was still all of the inventory of components needed to create the kit chipsets, servos, etc.
But the LittleArm Team did not use injection molding. They designed the the Littlearm to be 3D printed. So instead of using all of the campaign funds for tooling upfront, they were able to work on a per part cost basis. It resulted in the set of LittleArm plastic parts costing 3-6 dollars apiece. While this is a bit more expensive than injection molded pieces, the LittleArm Team was able to fulfill the Kickstarter with the funds available as they searched out retail partners to build on their success.
The use of 3D printing also allowed the LittleArm Team to develop the kit during production, and quickly update the design as customers found minor flaws that weren't identified during design. This flexible manufacturing ensured that most inventory was not outmoded on the shelf.
With that initial 3D printing pricing the Littlearm team were able to manufacture a 3500 Littlearm Kits before they even reached the upfront cost the molds they could have used. The Kickstarter required less than 300 kits be manufactured. So the Littlearm team was able to do what so few Kickstarters can boast of, turn a profit.
3D printing makes crowdfunding campaigns more than just a market validation. It allows hardware to be created in the low volumes needed to address the preorders, without using all of the campaign funds just to get started. It saves the startup money until it hits much broader mainstream success.
But 3D printing has become affordable enough now that "graduation" to injection molds is never necessary. The LittleArm and its sister kits are still manufactured by Slant 3D, and it can be purchased though most major online retail channels.
3D printing is not just an option for crowdfunding campaigns. It should be the obvious choice, to manufacture the first units of your product.
3D Printing is often considered to be more expensive than injection molding when used as production manufacturing process at higher volumes. But that is simply not the case any more. In many situations, 3D printing is more affordable due to the implementation of large scale 3D printing farms, such as Slant 3D, which utilize hundreds of printers operating 24/7.
Just take a look at the chart below. It is a comparison of the effective cost per part if using 3D printing versus injection molding.
In this case it is estimated that a mold would immediately cost the client $5000 to have manufactured. Now molding costs do vary depending on the size and shape of the part and where it is made. But, on the whole, when you consider design time, iterations, and the spectrum of mold sizes, $5000 is a very good average. After the mold is made the price per part is $0.20.
However, the 3D printing cost per part is only $0.70 per part, and there is no initial investment to get set-up.
In this situation it is more economical to use 3D printing to manufacture the part if you are creating less than about 10,000 units. This is because it takes that many units for the effective cost per injection molded part to drop below the 3D printed cost per part.
Now Consider the other benefits. 3D printing allows you to update and change you design throughout the entire production process. It also increases your speed to market, because there is not all the time spent on the design, set-up and collaboration with an injection molder. All that is needed is an e-mail with the design file attached. 3D printing provides you a product immediately without a large upfront investment, And there are fewer limitations in geometry when designing the part.
Overall, 3D printing is a much more affordable option to injection molding when producing several thousand parts. It reduces your risk and your expenditure. For start-ups or small businesses this is invaluable and opens up opportunities that have never existed before.
If you are interested in having your product 3D printed send us your design and we will work up a quote and some samples for you to take a look at.
3D Printing manufacturing allows for the creation and production of impossible parts that can't be created with any other process.
3D printing is the most versatile plastic forming process available. Arguably the most versatile manufacturing process available. Geometry-wise you can literally create anything. Now there are sometimes tradeoffs in quality, speed, and overall manufacturability when you make "anything" but rarely do you have to completely redesign an part to have it 3D printed. This is the primary reason that 3D printing has been embraced as a prototyping technology. But as a production technology, where thousands of parts are created, 3D printing manufacturing offers capabilities beyond what traditional processes, like injection molding ever could.
3D printed parts can have geometries within geometries. In the example of the fractal above, this pyramid has a repeating pattern throughout. There are triangular holes inside and outside the pyramid in all 3 dimensions. It would be impossible to mold this shape, because there is no way to remove the part from the mold because of its complexity. Even if it were possible it would be phenomenally expensive.
Another simple impossible part would be a hollow Cube that is not thin-walled. Or perhaps a solid cube with a sphere of space inside of it. There is no way that any other process than 3D printing can create those types of geometries. because no tool can create a void inside a part without cutting though the outside of the part.
Another example of impossible parts are shown above. These gear shafts were built around a bearing, making the entire assembly effectively a single part. Traditionally plastic parts would have to be designed to interlock, and pull apart so that a bearing could be added. In this particular case what is now manufactured as a single assembly would be have to be split into the gear, the toothed pulley, the shaft, and the bearing. Then they would all be assembled after each was manufactured individually.
Since this part was 3D printed. The gear, pulley, and shaft could be combined into a single part. Then, during production, each part would pause to have the bearing added. Then the part would continue to be built around it. 3D printing reduced 4 parts into 2 that are manufactured as 1. The manufacturing cost was dramatically reduced because there was no assembly and none of the tooling needed to make 3 new parts and combine them with 1 bearing.
3D Printing is an incredibly valuable process for creating impossible parts. And now that it is possible to created thousands of these parts with 3D printing manufacturers, designers and engineers are free to create much more efficient and complicated parts to use in their products.
Get an estimate for production of your parts at our online quote form.
If you ever visit a youtube channel or blog, more often then not you are going to be asked to "check out their store for branded swag." Generally this merchandise is limited to apparel, like tee-shirts and some posters. Youtubers and content creators generally don't add anything else because it's either not very profitable or not very unique. T-shirt designs stand out, keychains do not.
But with 3D printing it is now possible for everything from toys and statuettes of the host to keychains and pins to be made for the store and truly differentiate what the channel has to offer. 3D printing also helps with the business model, because the channel can run preorder campaigns on websites such as Celery and then have the 3D printer manufacturer make only the volume of units ordered. Even custom t-shirts have minimum volumes that must be created to make it worth it.
3D printing lets creators, control their brand merchandise at a level that has never been possible. And 3D printing companies often have partner programs, where they will handle 3D design of merchandise in order to partner with creators. Simply contact 3D printing manufacturers, like Slant 3D, and let us know what you want.
Here the step-by-step how to create 3D printed merchandise for your blog, website, or youtube channel.
Most Kickstarters are really just a market validation. Proof that there are people out there who will buy your product if you create. But a Kickstarter generally doesn't really make much money, After all of the launch costs and production of preorders, most kickstarters are lucky if they break even.
This problem is even more pronounced for hardware projects, when, once funded, the team has to pay for molds (thousands of dollars) fight production delays, and pay for inventory. It is not cheap, And while Kickstarter gives you a "kickstart" if doesn't fund much of this unless your campaign is wildly successful and the product is ready for production.
But what if molding and inventory wasn't a problem? With the growth of 3D printing farms, which can produce at volumes comparable to injection molding, there is really little reason to use molds, especially when you are just starting out.
3D Printing does not have a minimum volume of production, and if you are working with a good farm, the set-up fees will be minimal. For kickstarters, which generally only have a few thousand units to produce this can be godsend.
Now there is a question of cost. Most people perceive 3D printing has been a very expensive alternative, especially on a per unit basis compared to molds. Actually, at this moment production 3D printing is only about 1-1.5 times more expensive than injection molding. If you were going to pay 50 cents per unit for injection molded parts, there is good chance you can get the same part 3D printed for about $1.00 to $1.50. This is not a bad option when you are faced with the choice of using all of your funding to produce the parts for your backers, or using all of your funding to jsut get set-up to produce the parts for your kickstarter with molds.
Overall, 3D printing is a great method for getting your first few runs of production out the door. It is is fast, affordable, and give you flexibility and security when you are starting out. Molds are a large investment and risk that just get you ready to start.
Littlebots is a great example of using 3D printing to start and grow a Kickstarted business.
The LittleBots are a family of 3D printed educational robotics kits. Each one of the 5 kits was put through Kickstarter. Every plastic part was 3D printed by Slant 3D. At this point, the LittleBots' LittleArm is one of the most popular robotics kits in the world and is still fully 3D printed.
LittleBots uses 3D printing partly because they wanted their kits to be modifiable, both by their customers and by themselves. They have created 5 separate kits and each kit is constantly upgrading. Having the kits be 3D printed allows LittleBots to develop and market new kits without any more investment than a prototype and a video to get started. Their start-up costs are minimal, and their manufacturing costs are only that of the parts, no tooling.
Using 3D printing LittleBots is able to reliable manufacture new kits, without having to worry about storing inventory, or worrying about molds being wasted because of a mistake in the design. They can also have a product to market in weeks rather than months. And since there are no minimum orders LittleBots is able to run small, profitable Kickstarter campaigns, without fear of having to hit a high magic number to afford production.
If Littlebots was using traditional manufacturing methods, they likely would never have been created. But 3D printing lets them leverage platforms such as Kickstarter much more to their benefit. Now they use the platform as a store as much as a jumping off point.
3D printed keychains provide the ultimate in customizability. Normally when a business looks for promotional products they shoose form a list of generic items that then have the businesses logo printed onto them. This makes them look cheap and generic. 3D printed keychains allow a business to create a keychains that is completely unique from what any other organization may be giving away at a tradeshow.
Slant 3D manufactures custom 3D printed keychains for any number of clients. All a business has to do is provide us their logo and we will convert it into a 3D printable design and produce whatever quntity you need whether it be 10 or 10,000. The the price is identical to normal custom keychains (40-80 cents apiece)
To order your own custom 3D printed keychain, visit this page and send us your logo and we will convert it into a 3D printable design and send you a quote
3D printed business cards really get attention. When you are at a trade show, a party, or any other event where you may give out a card, you want to ensure that it stands out. Slant 3D manufactures completely unique 3D printed plastic business cards. They are rigid and can be made in any size or shape that best defines your company. When everyone else is handing around slips of paper with different colored ink you want a card that make a statement.
3D printed business cards are also not more expensive than most premium business cars. They can be made for as low as 49 cents apiece.
To order your custom cards, simply send your logo to us with any information you would like on the card and any style preferences you have, and we will create a design and quote for you within 1-2 days.
We are happy to announce a new service. Custom 3D printed Business Cards and 3D Printed Keychains for businesses. Now, instead of just standard 2D printed give-aways, companies can stand out at tradeshows and conferences.
To order simply send in your business card or logo to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our designers will convert it into a 3D design that can then be produced in any quantity you want, from 10 to 1000.
Pricing is based on volume and there is an initial conversion/design fee per individual design of $25.
So your company has finished prototyping a product. They have used 3D printing to make the rough out and are now ready to move onto true production.
Traditionally the next step would be to have the molds made for the various parts in the design. Molds which cost thousands of dollars to manufacture. Molds, which will be out of date as soon as you change your product to adjust to customer demands. Molds which take weeks to make and finalize. While the process of creating these molds has improved and countries such as China have driven the price of molds down considerably, for many companies, that price is still significant and makes new products risky to pursue. But it has traditionally been the only option. But it isn’t. 3D printing is now a viable means of production, not just prototyping.
The reason 3D printing has been used exclusively as a prototyping process is the fact that it is not limited by geometry. You can create anything in the morning and have a physical model ready by the next day, without expensive machining costs. But it appears to be too slow to be used in production. A single part a day will generally not meet the demand of any company.
Fortunately, 3D printer manufacturers exist, such as Slant 3D, which have hundreds of printers working. So instead of a single part a day hundreds (or thousands) of parts a day are produced. Since the issue of creating a volume of parts is solved with these large farms the benefits become clear. Since 3D printers only need a 3D file to create a part, the cost for machine set-up is basically zero. And since the printers do not need to produce some volume of parts to be cost effective there are no quantity requirements. A company may order 500 pieces, market test them, change the design, order 100 of those, and then order 10,000, all basically for the cost of e-mailing some files and the plastic used in the parts. This is the ultimate in lean manufacturing. Using 3D printing as a manufacturing process (instead of just a prototyping process.) allows companies to test their products and change, as those products are being produced, without delays or restrictions.
Now, there are some cons to 3D printing manufacturing. Traditional FDM printing does leave slight textures on parts. This is generally not an issue, particularly if the parts are functional, (such as the bracket for an auto dashboard), since the texture is quite subtle. Sometimes the tecture is actually desirable because it make parts appear softer and more friendly to touch, since smudges do not appear.
Sometimes accuracy can be a concern. FDM printers generally only have an accuracy of .1 mm vertically and about .2-.3 mm horizontally. Again for functional/structural parts this is not a big deal. And for aesthetic parts is can be designed around. Just contact your 3D printing manufacturer for a consultation on your design. At Slant 3D we have produced parts for 3D printed robot arms with a precision of 50 microns. If 3D printing is precise enough to create something like that, than it is precise enough for anything.
Molding is great if you are going to create millions of an item. But if you are just exploring a market, fulfilling a kickstarter, getting started, or are just smaller than 3D printing manufacturing is often a great option to produce your product.