Basic rules and tips to get started designing a product for high volume 3D Printing.
Molding Design Does not Apply
This is a problem that plagues the industry. Designers conditioned to use molding do not adjust for the new process. 3D Printing is not injection molding. It is a different process. Just as you use difference rules when using wood rather than plastic, so to should you use different rules when considering 3D Printing or Injection Molding. If cost is the driving factor lead how 3D Printing compares to Injection Molding on Pricing.
Round, Smooth, Fat
Here is the fundamental rule for designing a product for optimum production with FDM 3D Printing. If nothing else remember this when designing for FDM 3D Printing.
Work to minimize Surface Area and do not worry about Volume
This leads to several key design traits that should be paid special attention to.
Always design with a Single Flat/Datum Edge.
FDM 3D Printing works by laying down one layer after another using a nozzle depositing melted plastic that hardens. This process must begin on the bed of the printer. Often glass. So every 3D Printed part should be designed to allow for this single flat side to be present. Do note that this side will likely have a difference texture from the rest of your part.
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM) is a an entire discipline that could fill textbooks. But here are the remaining design tips that you might need in one single chart. Though let us highlight a couple.
Piel is a Plush Robot Manufactured with high volume 3D Printing to teach Kids STEM
Teddy robotics is a robotics startup that began as a senior Project in 2017. After several years and several robots later, they have launched Piel, a STEM robot for learning programming. While Piel is very unique for its plush exterior. Underneath it is a sofisticated robot that is composed of 3D Printed Components.
Piel is currently on Kickstarter if you would like to support the project.
Teddy Robotics will be working with Slant 3D to manufacture the Piel using high volume 3D Printing.
Composed of several complex 3D Plastic pieces, injection molding would have been far to expensive for the young startup. The combination of crowdfunding and 3D Printing allows them to quickly and efficiently launch an entirely new product.
Piel is a perfect example of a product that might not have been created if production 3D printing did not exist. The team at Teddy robotics have been able to prototype the design, and when complete the prototype can go directly into production. There are fewer intermediary steps between the idea and an actual product for consumers.
If you are in need of high volume 3D Printing reach out to Slant 3D for a quote on your project.
Voodoo Manufacturing Shutting Down
Republsihed from 3D Printing Industry
3D printing service provider Voodoo Manufacturing has closed down for good. In an explanatory message on its main page, the New York-based startup cites the COVID-19 pandemic as the root cause, stating that a lack of clear end in sight meant the company “couldn’t make it to the other side”.
Founded in 2015, Voodoo had built up a manufacturing system of over 200 3D printers capable of producing thousands of parts a week. Since its co-founders, including CEO Max Friefeld, were all former MakerBot employees, the company already had a sizeable portfolio of FDM systems when it spun off. In 2017, Voodoo received its final seed investment of $1.5M, bringing its total valuation to an impressive $10M. Its mission was to provide affordable manufacturing to anyone that needed it, allowing SMEs and large businesses alike to launch test products without the financial strain.
As soon as the U.S. cases started on their now rapid rise, Voodoo repurposed two of its manufacturing facilities to produce PPE for medical professionals. Through donations and individual purchases, the company managed to 3D print and distribute more than 15,000 face shields across the country using its army of MakerBot FDM printers. This undoubtedly alleviated some of the resource pressure felt by healthcare institutions.
Unfortunately, the pivot couldn’t last as Voodoo’s operational costs were simply too high, leading the company to shut its doors permanently. The fact that Voodoo was mainly operating in Brooklyn, which is notorious for its high property prices, certainly didn’t help its profits. Its heavy investment in professional-grade desktop systems was somewhat a pioneering move. However, increasingly manufacturing companies are seeing the benefits of including desktop systems in their manufacturing toolkit. For example, Jabil, Volkswagen, and others have brought desktop systems in-house, and alongside industrial equipment.
While it is apparent that desktop 3D printers have a role to play in manufacturing, focusing only on such systems does restrict the type of jobs a company is able to take on.
Quarter two of 2020 brought with it a near-universal decline in revenue at many companies, and the 3D printing industry was no exception. 3D Systems recently posted its financial results, with a 28% decrease in total revenue compared to the same period in 2019. For the 3D printer manufacturer, this equates to a $45M drop. With it, the company announced a strategic refocus involving a 20% workforce cut in a bit to reduce operational costs by up to $100M.
Earlier this month, 3D printing software and service provider Materialise also posted its Q2 financial results. The Belgian firm reported a 21.8% decline in its total revenue, down from €48.4M to €38.1M. This is in spite of the company’s growth in its software sales, as its manufacturing segment, much like Voodoo, took the brunt of the hit with a 31.8% decrease.
A better indicator would be to look at companies using 3D printing for manufacturing. Looking at Protolabs’ Q2 financial results, its 3D printing revenue saw a decline of only 7.2% from $15.2M to $14.2M. However, unlike Voodoo, Protolabs offers a much more diverse technology and materials range.
If you are in need of high volume 3D Printing services please reach out to us for a quote. Slant 3D is focused on providing highly-affordable FDM 3D printing at large scales.
An Alternative to Voodoo Manufacturing for Companies in Need of Production 3D Printing
It was recently announced that Production 3D Printing service Voodoo Manufacturing was shutting down permanently due to challenges during the covid-19 pandemic. This is a blow to many small businesses and startups that relied on Voodoo to manufacture their products on demand. These companies now need to find alternatives in order to meet the demand that has been created for e-retail.
Slant 3D is happy to announce that not only are we healthy. We are expanding as fast as possible. We are currently still building out our Flagship Factory Print Farm Beta which will have over 800 3D Printers. We are also working to expand to a new location in Austin Texas which will be online in a few months.
We are currently producing 10,000's of parts for clients such as Amazon, Plexus, Natureworks, and small businesses and startups all over the world. And we are working to make perfectly on demand production possible with Angled.io
Slant 3D has been operating for over 3 years and was born out of the need to have affordable and scalable manufacturing of a product. To do that we have built custom machines just for production. We have less expensive than injection molding between 50-100,000 parts in most cases. And we are passionate about helping new businesses get started and grow
3D Printing has long been discussed as a potential alternative to injection molding. And there are many advantages to the technology that make that the case from a design perspective.
But injection molding is generally considered to be a less expensive option at scale. That is because when hundreds of thousands of parts are being produced the cost of the parts is so low and the cost of the mold is easily amortized across all of those parts. So if you can take the upfront cost, injection molding can be cheaper than 3D Printing.
But that is only at the manufacturing stage. There are so many other factors in the supply chain that contribute to the cost of a product. And really 3D Printing is arguably less expansive than injection molding when you take all of those other factors into account. There is the upstream design and iteration that is quicker and cheaper. And there is the downstream assembly and warehousing that can be substantially reduced.
Injection molding is only ideal if you are making millions of parts and can afford to build and maintain that inventory. In all other instances 3D Printing should be an option when choosing manufacturing methods.
So let's go through all the reasons 3D Printing is a cheaper alternative than injection molding.
Quicker Design Turn Around
As soon as you have created a product you are competing. Speed can make the difference between a successful launch or having to wait a full year until the next Christmas Season.
With traditional manufacturing designers have to develop prototypes with a number of methods. They may go from cardboard, to 3d prints, to machined plastic, to aluminum molds all trying to get closer to the final product. There can be weeks between iterations. But that refinement is necessary and expensive. Salaries have to be paid while waiting and the various steps are not cheap.
With 3D printing the prototype is the production version. Iterations can happen in days, if not hours. Which means that new products can go from concept to creation much more quickly.
It is not unreasonable for 3D printed products go from a napkin sketch to a finished product for less than 1/10th the cost of traditional methods. With 3D Printing Physical product design is able to adapt a lean mentality similar to software design.
Never Stuck with a Bad/Flawed Design
In the past, if you created a product, you would purchase a mold and the first few thousand units of your product. If that product was unsuccessful you can go through all of that expense again, to modify your molds, or you would go out of business. Because you can't sell what you have.
3D Printing eliminates this risk. There is no longer the requirement of only home run or striking out. 3D Printing can create products on demand. Which mean that inventors can literally just make the design then print and sell a few (or none) and then iterate and scale up. The product is able to evolve with the market, rather than being "make or break."
While it is true that print-on-demand is more expensive per part than injection molding, the risk is so much less. It is the difference between successfully starting with a small profit or risking everything for a larger profit.
No Molding Costs
This has already been discussed tangentially. But it is important to bring up.
Very few products are produced by the millions. More and more niche products are being created, which require molds. that will only sell several thousand. Without millions of parts to amortize the molding costs this up front expenditure can be significant. It is one of the main contributing factors in the high cost of medical equipment.
This is also especially true for multi-part product. A robot toy or a building kit could require several molds. Each mold requiring between $1000-$10000 up front before the first product is made. This is a large risk for a new company. (Especially when molds sometimes can't be moved from their company/country of manufacture as needs change)
Since 3D Printing does not use molds of any type that entire up front cost is avoided.
Additionally, at very high volumes production 3D Printing can meet the same per-part cost as injection molding, just without the up front mold cost. This is achieved with good design and actual large volumes. 3D Printing is not limited to your first 1000 pieces. Not even close.
No Warehousing Cost
Whenever you manufacture a product you have to store it. You might have containers crossing the ocean. Then you have warehouses and distribution centers. All charging fee for the square footage occupied by your product.
Depending on how long you are storing your product warehousing can account for anywhere from 5-20% of the total cost of the product.
3D Printing reduces the volumes that need to be stored. You don't have to store millions for years, you can just store the few thousand for that month. Then the product can be replenished on demand. This is exceptionally valuable in the area of spare parts. Automotive companies will store thousands of parts for the useful life of a car model (usually about 15-20 years). 3D Printing could eliminate those decades of waste and simply produce the parts as needed. (And in perpetuity)
For some products it is possible to eliminate the warehouse all together and just produce the customer's order when it is made. This is what we achieving with Angled.io. A Print on demand service for physical products. This lets designers simply upload a 3D model and then they never have to deal with warehousing, or any other part of the manufacturing process.
Less Waste/Lost Inventory
In 2019 it was reported that an amazon fulfillment center sent several hundred thousand unsold items to a landfill. Each year millions of unsold toys are scrapped after Christmas. Companies must overproduce cheap plastic items to ensure that demand does not outstrip supply when a the new Star Wars movie hits.
But all of that waste adds to the cost of the product. In our experience, about 3-5% of inventory is unsold and must be thrown out in order to make room for new versions.
Again, since 3D printing is able to perfectly match demand. There is no waste. A product does not have to be made until it is sold. 3D Printing can eliminate the tons of plastic waste and the cost associated with it, because it does not overproduce.
There is also the secondary benefit of 3D Printing being an additive process, so there is less waste when a part is created. But that is entirely dependent upon the part in questions.
Lower Assembly Costs
If you are manufacturing a relatively complex design, to mold it it will have to be broken into several pieces. And therefore several molds. Once those pieces leave the molder they will have to go to assembly when additional screws and labor will be added to the parts to put them back into the final shape the design calls for. Why not just make the fully assembled plastic part in one go? Injection molding can't do that. It has to be broken up. That is not the case with 3D Printing
There is nearly complete freedom of geometry with 3D Printed plastic parts. Which means that you can design very complex pieces. Pieces that can't be molded. This means that you can combine sections of an assembly into a single part. This eliminated later assembly and also reduced the chances of failure in the part from incorrect assembly.
In short the product is cheaper to make because several molds have been reduced to none. And the cost of assembly is less since there is less-none needed.
3D Printing reduces a great deal of the cost down-stream from the production process.
3D Printing at Scale is Not Expensive
It is often considered that 3D Printing is an expensive process. This is because historically 3D Printing was limited to prototyping. That low rate of production requires high costs.
But 3D Printing is not expensive. At Slant 3D we regularly produce parts with a per-piece cost of far less than $1. And logically this makes sense. 3D Printing just requires electricity and plastic to work. Those raw materials are not expensive. Therefore there is no reason that it can't operate at the same price tier as injection molding.
Organizations with the efficiency to implement 3D Printing at scale are rarer. That is why it is not common for manufacturing industry professionals to consider it as a viable alternative to injection molding. But on a cost basis it is. Even without all the other advantages of 3D Printing. Today additive can produce products at the same per-part cost as injection molding.
3D Printing is not an expensive alternative to injection molding. It is simply an alternative, and in fact often a cheaper one. An alternative that is often overlooked because it is new not well understood. Hopefully it is clearer now that the value in a manufacturing process is not just when the plastic part comes off the machine. But in all the ways a new process can reduce costs in the rest of the supply chain that part travels along. 3D Printing provides tremendous value all the way along. And it is not expensive when the part comes off the machine either.