High volume 3D Printing is production of more than 1,000 3D Printed parts as an alternative to injection molding.
The Benefits of High Volume 3D Printing
No Up Front Costs, Flexible Design, and Flexible Supply.
The Largest Benefit of production 3D Printing is that elimination of molding costs. 3D Printing does not require a mold. So all of that up front cost disappears
At low volumes 3D Printing can be expensive per part, but when you move past 1000, that added cost is negligible.
3D Printing is also a perfectly on-demand process. So you do not have to order 10,000's of parts and then warehouse them for months with the risk of none of them selling. You order what you need when you need it and it is produced then. No more, no less. In fact, at Slant 3D we support on-demand manufacturing. So a Part is made and shipped only when it is ordered.
The combination of those factors allow companies to test, iterate, and scale much faster than with molding. With Production 3D Printing if a design needs to be changed all that has to change is the CAD file. Then every part made after is updated. This is just like changing the color of your website. Companies can now iterate and test in production on products.
How it is Done
3D Printer Farm
At Slant 3D we deploy hundreds of FDM 3D Printers that run 24/7 making parts. With this process each individual part can take quite a bit of time to make. It might take an hour to make a part. But if 100 machines are making that part, we are now producing at 100 parts an hour and 2400 parts per day.
This type of system is called a 3D Printer Farm. Currently Slant 3D operates the largest commercial FDM 3D Printing farm in the US.
High Speed 3D Printing
With this process manufacturers use large single machines that are very fast.
For example Carbon 3D uses a Light-Resin technology to produce parts very quickly. So instead of a part requiring hours it can be done in minutes. This replaces the hundreds of machines with just a few machines. But if a machine breaks down then all of production stops.
HP Multijet Fusion is another high speed machine. But it is best optimized by producing hundreds of small parts in a single batch. Because the machine has to be stopped and the bins with the parts removed each time. With all other processes the part removal is much faster.
Where to Have it Done
High volume 3D Printing is not a common resource but there are a number of companies that can product 1000's of part for you in a number of different specs
Carbon 3D - SLA
Carbon will connect you with its production partners that can produce high resolution resin 3D Prints.
Slant 3D - FDM
Slant 3D Operates one of the largest 3D Printing Farms in the world. You can submit a design directly to them and they quote you within 1-2 days.
Forecast 3D - MJF
Forecast 3D is one of the original HP partners on MJF. They are experienced and able to produce large quantities of small parts very readily.
There are literally hundreds of 3D Printing companies out there. But who does what. Here are several of the most popular 3D Printing service companies for your next prototype or production project.
Carbon 3D - Resin-Based 3D Printing
For very intricate parts that require a smooth surface finish.
Carbon 3D manufactures high speed SLA 3D Printers using thier Carbon CLIP technology. These printers are used to create dentures, Bicycle seats, and even a line of shoes for Adidas.
The surface finish of SLA parts is very good, comparable to injection molding, but they can be expensive if they are very large or low volume. SLA is also able to handle very fine features well that are impossible with any of the other processes.
Carbon will connect you to services that use their technology. One of the most well known partners is Fast Radius. They have also worked with adidas to manufacture the Alphaedge 4D shoe.
Slant 3D - High Volume 3D Printing
Functional and cost effective alternative to injection molding at scales up to 100,000 pieces
Slant 3D operates one of the largest capacity 3D printer farms in the world. The original facility is able to produce 10,000 parts per week and Slant 3D is about to open an even larger facility with over 800 machines in the printer farm.
Slant 3D uses the FDM 3D Printing process. These parts are robust and excellent for functional products and industrial components. Slant 3D also produces pieces for consumer products and is able to fulfill orders as they are made.
Forecast 3D - Multijet Fusion
Functional parts based in nylon for engineering and functional applications.
Forecast 3D actually utilizes a large number of 3D printing processes. A company that has been in operation since the 90's Forecast was among the first to implement HP Multijet Fusion. Today they operate 24 MJF machines and made more than 1 million parts in the first year.
MJF is a process that creates high surface finish parts that are nearly isotropic. But it is limited to gray/black coloring and is only viable for production on pieces that are smaller.
Shapeways - Laser Sintering
Delicate and fine detail parts from specialty materials
Shapeways is easily one of the oldest 3D printing services. Started in 2007 they have established themselves as an online print on demand platform for designers. Shapeways offers predominantly laser sintering services. Which allows them to create fine detail items ranging from rubber-like plastic to gold.
If you are a jewelry designer or have a small and precise part to make Shapeways is a good option.
Voodoo Manufacturing - FDM
One-off prints to test a part and potentially scale up to 100-1000
Voodoo Manufacturing is another larger FDM printer farm. Utilizing Replicator II Makerbot machines and Formlabs SLA parts Voodoo is able to produce 1-off parts very quickly and quite affordably. Their 3D Printer farm of nearly 150 machines also allows you to scale up production to nearly 1000 parts.
Selection of Suppliers with defined standards and various 3D Printing Processes.
Another old name in the 3D Printing world. 3D Hubs was started as a network of independent garage 3D printers. In 2017-2018 they refocused on industrial 3D Printing.
They now connect customers with 3D printing services that are ISO certified and held to very high standards. They are an excellent resource for finding new suppliers and having prototypes produced that are engineering grade.
Injection Molding has been the primary means of producing large quantities of plastic parts for nearly 100 years. 3D Printing has been a means of prototyping for only about 30 years. But they are beginning to overlap. And there are many reasons that 3D Printing is starting to become a better alternative to injection molding.
The key advantage of production 3D Printing is that it does not require molds. A design can be changed simply by changing a CAD design. This means that companies can produce several versions of the same physical product at scale and test how they sell. This is much how internet companies test different versions of a website to see how they perform.
The ability to iterate without setting a part into stone, allows companies to test products, and make changes based on customer needs. It also allows companies to have many variations of the same product made without extra cost in order to address different customer niches.
3D Printing is able to produce hundreds of thousands of parts at a cost similar to injection molding. But it is also able to produce just a few parts at a price that is much less than injection molding. This means that a company company can make 10 pieces of a product, test market those, and then make 100 pieces. Then a 1000, then 10,000.
3D Printing is very scalable. So a small business can start with small production runs and then scale up to whatever the demand for the product is. This means that no cost is ever wasted. The parts can be made as needed without much need for warehousing or inventory or any kind.
The way most 3D printing printing processes work, especially FDM, there are far fewer constraints on geometry than with molding. Parts can be made thick with a hollow honeycomb interior so that they are stronger than molded parts. Holes can be cut that curve through the parts, again impossible with injection molding.
Something as simple as a solid 2 inch cube is impossible to produce with injection molding. But is simple and very affordable with 3D Printing.
Another large advantage of 3D printing is the precise control of the surface of the part. 3D Printed parts can have a texture applied to them while they are being made. So the texture is basically free to add to the part.
There is a common misconception that 3D Printing is far more expensive than injection molding. This may have been true 5 years ago. But it is no longer.
At Slant 3D we find that on average we can produce up to 20-50,000 parts or more before a mold becomes more economical than 3D printing. This is not only because of the cost of the mold. But the cost of warehousing and wasted product. Generally 10% of the cost of a final product is in the inventory. And often 10-20% of all inventory is just not sold.
Since production 3D Printing allows parts to be made on demand it is possible to produce parts only as needed. So less warehousing is needed and there is never unsold inventory. In some cased Slant 3D will only produce parts for a client once those parts are sold, so there is never any inventory or wasted product.
The fact that production 3D printing is reaching a point where is is simply more efficient to produce parts with than injection molding, and give companies the ability to better address product problems makes is very compelling compared to molding.
There is also the fact that the design freedom of 3D printing allows businesses to address individual niches very affordably. So even though 3D printing can't yet make the Millions of parts that molding can, the necessity for that volume may not be necessary. Why sell 1 million of a single product when you can sell 1000, of 100 different products that each customer would like better.
3D Printing very likely will drive the market away from injection molding. The high up front cost and lack of flexibility will simply become to expensive.
Interested in having your product manufactured with Production 3D Printing. Get a free quote from Slant 3D within 1-2 business day.