We've put together a video of some of the 3D Printing production projects that we have worked on over the last few months on the Slant 3D printer farm.. Our clients have come to us with everything from robots to chess pieces. We are literally producing parts at the same rate as any other process, without the cost of tooling and setup of traditional manufacturing.
Imagine what you could create if you could create and distribute a physical product as easily as a digital one.
3D Printing is an incredible resource for small companies and entrepreneurs. It allows you to start with an idea, create a prototype, and increase products from 1 unit, to 10, to 100, to 1000, to 20000, all without ever putting out the capital traditionally needed to produce a hardware product for setup and tooling like injection molds.
3D Printing also lets companies change a product immediately, simply by changing a 3D design file. Immediately every part created afterwards has that update. Again without having to go through the challenge of changing tooling.
Production 3D Printing literally makes it possible to create, launch, and scale hardware products as easily as software products. And we want to demonstrate this.
Over the next few months Slant 3D and Slant Concepts will be launching a new product nearly every week. Some will be launched on Kickstarter and others on the SlantStore (more on that later). Each product will be unique and will attempt to demonstrate how 3D printing manufacturing makes the product better than any other manufacturing process would.
The first product, which is launching this Friday on Kickstarter, are the Buggles. The Buggles are a disposable biodegradable Flytrap. They are meant to be a discreet and simple way of fixing the fly fly issues all of us are experiencing this summer at Picnics and in our homes.
3D Printing is not a very good personal technology. But it is an incredibly useful manufacturing technology. Because it lets a kid with a laptop create and scale a company, around a physical product, as easily as that kid could around a software product. 3D Printing is not slow or expensive, when it is used in production. Please join us this summer as we prove this again and again.
3D Printing is becoming a common method for producing parts and toys by small independent creators all over the world. These people often maintain several printers in their home or shop in order to make the products that they have created.
But if you are just starting out or trying to grow, the time and expense of your own personal 3D printers can make them prohibitive. Personal printers often cost $500-$3000 which, for a small cottage business is a high startup cost.
But with production 3D printing you can just upload you models and have your manufacturer hold them in digital inventory. That is, there is a onetime preparation fee, and then the part is ready to be printed forever. When an order comes in it is pushed to the manufacturer who will access the digital file and print the design.
And since companies like Slant 3D support dropshipping you can enter into a monthly plan where you pay a flat fee for each shipment and have Slant 3D print and ship the part only when it is ordered. This means you can create a business for basically zero upfront cost, and only pay the cost of manufacturing on a per-part basis. It is a lot like posting an app to the Appstore. You just create a digital design and it is copied when the design is ordered.
An Alternative method to operating on a small scale is to order inventory in small quantities for you to hold and then ship, like a traditional retailer. Again the design would be held in "digital inventory" by Slant 3D, and when you need 10-100 pieces for your stock you just send a message and the pieces will be printed and shipped to you within a few days.
And whenever you want to grow you business or add new products, you basically just send an e-mail. No more affording, maintaining, and operating your own printers. Just design great products without having to pay for them until they sell.
Use 3D printing to vary the density of production plastic parts.
Most 3D printed parts have the option of varying their percentage of infill. Infill is the honeycomb-like patter inside of an FDM printed part which helps to reduce material used while still creating a structurally sound part. But this infill has another advantage. It allows a part to be created with basically any weight needed (up to the solid density of material) without changing its dimensions. This means that 3D printed parts can emulate the density of other materials like various types of wood.
We recently had a project where this was a great resource. Our client had a prototype of several pieces of their product. The pieces were created to interact with each other in a particular way based on weight. Their prototypes had met their needs, but they were made out of wood. Going into production with any process the client needed a means to match the weight of the wooden prototypes. This was only possible with 3D printing.
Slant 3D was able to create a part with the same overal dimensions of the wooden prototype and then vary the infill density until the production part weighed exactly the same as the wooden piece. This isn't possible with injection molding. The client was elated.
The control of density that 3D printing allows is an incredible advantage of the technology. It allows the possibility of created pieces with the density varying throughout to create parts like self-righting chess pieces. Or one can create parts with high or low densities that they sink or float with the same volume. Nothing else can do that.
3D Printing is an ideal means of manufacturing custom electrical enclosures.
We have worked with many industrial clients that have utilized our large format 3D printing capacity to produce electrical enclosures. The reason they prefer 3D printing is to traditional machining is primarily based on cost.
The additive nature of 3D printing reduces the amount of material needed to create an enclosure when compared to subtractive machining. After all a delrin block is far more expensive than a kilogram of ABS. Injection molding is not an option because with larger enclosures, greater than 12 inches cubed, the cost of the mold is very prohibitive. Not to mention the time to have just 10-20 enclosures produced is too long. But 3D printing can produce the pieces in 1-2 weeks.
But as is the problem with most items submitted for 3D printing, the engineer of the enclosure does not design for 3D printing. They take a traditional enclosure and expect 3D printing to create a result that is identical to other processes. It will not be. So we wanted to compile some tips for designing electrical enclosures.
Design a Foundation Layer
When printing any part a decision must be made about what side of the part will be against the print bed. Traditionally this will be the largest single flat surface. This is used to have maximum bed adhesion which limits warping and failure of parts. Generally this side is the back or bottom of the enclosure that might be mounted against a wall.
Ideally this side should have no complex features such as text. Just holes. If there is text, they it can become unreadable as the first layer is often "squashed" in order to help with adhesion.
When designing your enclosure try to create a large simple side which can serve as the foundation
If all side of an enclosure require critical details there are multiple solutions.
Printing the part with the open face down will require a longer set-up period. This orientation is difficult tp print reliably. It also requires that the enclosure be printed with support material throughout. This results in a rough interior texture and more expense, due to the support material. There is also the risk of any interior bosses or features losing detail because they printed on support material. You can see a comparison of sections of the same part printed open side down and up in the photos below.
Infill or Ribs
When a part is 3D printed there is the ability to either create a solid piece or reduce the density of thick areas of the part by using internal lattices. This "infill" reduces print time and material used and is highly recommended.
The infill makes the part behave like a sandwiched composite. So even though it uses less material it is structurally very strong at low infill percentages of less than 50%.
However if more structure is required we recommend adding ribs. These are simple to print and provide a large amount of strength. Using ribs with thin walled enclosures are ideal as they result in even less material used than infill and better control the structure of the enclosure.
Since electrical enclosures are generally purely functional, they are often printed at the lowest resolution possible. The layering is visible, but it reduces lead time and has not structural downside.
If a more refined surface is necessary the layering can be be made to nearly disappear with high resolution printing. The downside is that the printing time per part can go up as much as 300%. And the smooth surface can only be created on straight vertical surfaces. Any sort of incline or vertical curve will make the layering more visible. All of this is well defined in the part below, where it was printed with high resolution.
Reduce Rims and Overhangs
It is very common to create a rim around the top of an enclosure or case. This improves rigidity for a lid or for ejection from a mold. These rims often protrude some distance horizontally from the part with little filleting below them. This is done to reduce material used, but that is unnecessary for 3D printing (infill eliminates excess material from thick areas).
These rims in fact increase the cost and difficulty in manufacturing the part with 3D printing, because they must be supported. In the case of the part above an entire secondary structure of support material from the base of the case to the rim must be built simply to support the rim in the last 0.25 inches of the part. This adds a great amount of print time and material, therefore increasing the cost of the part.
The way to avoid this is simple to add a chamfer of fillet underneath the rim, so that it seems to gradually protrude from the case as it is grown layer by layer. Examples of this filleting are shown below.
In this particular case, the enclosure actually has an overhang angle of 90 degrees, thus requiring support. If a 45 degree chamber was adding it would greatly reduce the cost of the part.
Hopefully these pointers will help you when working on your next enclosure. When working with Slant 3D one of our engineers is always available to help you through the process. And when you submit a design for quotation we will always be willing to make recommendations in order to reduce cost.
3D Printing is a very viable manufacturing option for electrical enclosures. But to use the process effectively you must design for it. Pressing an part designed for injection molding into a 3D printer will never created an injection molded part. Better to design a part for 3D printing.
We run a commercial 3D printing farm. We have literally thrown away hundreds of spools and we hate it. The weight of the spools increases our freight cost, and they are just a waste of plastic in general, not to mention the environment issues. So we created this reusable filament spool as a resource to filament manufacturers that wish to eliminate the cost of spools to their customers and in their production.
We recently ran across the MasterSpool, by RichRep and while he had a good concept for individual 3D printers, the MasterSpool doesn't work at the larger scale. It uses too much material and has more Guff associated with it than what we want. So we continued on and designed a spool that we wanted to use in our printer farm.
The SlantSpool is just one piece, printed twice. We created a special latching system, so there is no right and left. You can put any two of the SlantSpool halves together. This is great when you have a lot of them because you don't have to worry about printing a right and left, which saves some mental effort, and if you ever break one, all you have to do is grab a half that isn't being used. There is only one spare part.
We are working with filament suppliers to manufacture these rolls at scale now. In order to make that production affordable at scale we had to reduce the material used.
So we went ahead and reduced the material needed by half. We made the outer walls thinner and used ribs along the inside of the walls to give it the necessary rigidity. Then we changed the securing mechanism of the Spool to a design that decreased the surface area of the spool so that it prints more quickly and uses less material to create the walls.
The connecting system is actually the true innovation in the SlantSpool. We have made a quarter-turn system that is fast and easy to put together. You just press the two halves together, twist and it is latched. This is much faster than spinning the halves several times to get them to stick together.
The SlantSpool was designed for the either the frugal Maker or the commercial user. Anyone that would like to have many of these manufactured for their filament refills may contact us at email@example.com.
We have partnered with Keene Village Plastics who will be releasing refills, called the Koil, for the SlantSpool on April 9th. Refills will also be available from other online sources such as MatterHackers.
We are happy to announce that Slant 3D can now manufacture pieces as large as 400 x 400 x 400 millimeters in size. Making it possible to prototype and produce produces such as furniture, large decorative pieces, and even industrial electrical enclosures. Get a quote for your 3D printed product to take advantage of this new capability.
3D Printing has an incredible ability to not require certain geometries. But if you are designing a piece from scratch for 3D printing, there are several rules-of-thumb to follow in order to create a parts that address the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing. The graphic below is a good start when designing for 3D printing.
If you have any questions or would like to see if your part should be 3D printed. Submit it for a quote. We will determine cost and give you a full design evaluation.
The original source of this graphic can be viewed here
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.