So how is a final product manufactured with mass production 3D Printing? And more importantly what is the development process leading up to final production.
Well, there are a few steps. Mainly there to ensure that the final product is within spec for the client. Mass Production 3D Printing offers much more control and variation than traditional processes. And since it is relatively new there are areas that we think it is important that a client understand early on which can reduce cost and provide amazing new opportunities if utilized.
With this post we hope to outline the general process and why it exists, and give mass production 3D Printing clients a "look behind the curtain"
If the title is not clear enough this post focuses only on the process of mass production 3D Printing. Which is generally longer and more intensive than prototyping 3D printing. If you just need a part made quickly for testing we recommend going to our prototyping service Twist 3D Printing
Submit a 3D Model
3D Model Type
This sounds simple but can be confusing, mainly because there are dozens of 3D model formats. And what is submitted might have limitations.
When we request a 3D model we prefer a .STEP, .STL, the original CAD, or a .OBJ file. And if you are sending a zip a dimensioned drawing with critical tolerances is nice icing on the cake.
A .STEP file is the strongest because it is immediately editable, and contains accurate dimensional information. It is pretty much the universal 3D model file. And the editability is also great because we can quickly implement slight modifications that do not change the function of the part but improve its manufacturability.
Original CAD files can be converted but not always, and they can delay processing of quotes.
.STL and .OBJ are often submitted by clients with a history in 3D printing. And these files are fine. But they have no universal units associated with them and can therefore be incorrectly scaled during processing. And since they are generally files that have been developed for 3D Printing they are generally focused toward the machine or process that they were prototyped on. Which means that tolerances may be off for the mass production 3D Printing method. And last of all they are uneditable. So these standard 3D printing files are the easiest to work with but can lead to many problems.
The need for a dimensioned drawings ensures that critical features are highlighted and the tolerances associated with them. This helps during the design review.
Overall, if you can send one of each file type that is great. If you submit a .STL make sure you provide the dimensions it was created it. Or just submit a .STEP file. If you have all the files to submit place them in a zip file.
If you have none of the files requested. Send what you have and we will work through it. But do expect a delayed processing
No 3D Model
This is not uncommon. But a 3D model is required in order to 3D print the product so one must be created. Fortunately we offer a 3D modeling and engineering service, so we can create your model for you. Our team can create anything from engineering models to creative character modeling.
3D Modeling is billing at an hourly engineering rate. The advantage of our team is that they are able to optimize your part for mass production 3D Printing, speeding up the process down the line.
If you are still indeterminant about what the final production process will be, then we do recommend hiring an independent design firm. Because our team's expertise is focused on 3D Printing, therefore should that not be the ideal avenue we might not have "all the tricks" for converting your model over to something like an injection molded format optimally. We are specialists and not explicitly a design firm.
When submitting a part there is always an option to "elaborate" on it its function and specs. While it is optional, due to confidentiality reasons, we highly encourage completing it for engineering and economic reasons. The more we know about your product and what it needs to do to function, the more we can help by offering advice about optimization and good design for additive manufacturing so you get the most bang for your buck.
Any file submitted to Slant 3D is kept confidential and will not be shared outside of the organization. Any employee of the company is required to sign an Non-disclosure agreement upon hiring covrting all projects within the company that they may interact with.
That company NDA is enforced upon all employees. But we will also sign NDA's put forward by clients. If you would like to have a 3rd party NDA signed before submitting files please either contact us first or send your NDA to email@example.com
The Quote for Your Mass Production 3D Printing
Once a file is submitted to use it is forwarded one of our design engineers. These people have some of the most in depth knowledge of mass production 3D Printing in the industry. We know this because Slant 3D operates the largest 3D Printing farms in North America. Once assigned the design engineer will be with your from the beginning to the end of your project and they will be the main point of contact.
The first thing that engineer does is quote your part. This will include slicing it and receiving estimates of material use and print time. The engineer will then use their expertise to optimize the process as much as possible at this stage and give a reasonable estimate.
The design and features are then fed to our quoting system which takes into account dozens of features about the part including capacity available, lead time, rejection rate, and of course material and print time to create a final estimate.
But we do want to emphasize that we do not always agree with the final quoting system. Design of a product and the optimization of it is a process that is so broad that there can be exceptions that our automated system can't deal with. That is why the design engineer is there, and we don't use a fully automatic quoting system. A good engineer can spot things that a computer can miss. And that leads to our next component
While the engineer and system are restricted to your design when quoting they will make design suggestions when the quote is delivered. 3D Printing is a new and often foreign process so we want to make sure that clients are able to utilize our expertise in the field to get the best result. There is no reason to hire a service if that service cannot lead to a more optimal solution.
So the engineer will offer modifications that can improve price, functionality, appearance, and manufacturability. These might be as simple as reminding a client that the best way to design for FDM production is to "Minimize surface area and don't worry about volume," an idea that is counterintuitive to those with a history in injection molding, to more detailed ideas such as adding specific features. The design engineer will also have the expertise to implement those design changes if necessary.
But this part is why it is so important to provide as much information about the function and critical features of the parts at submission. Without that information the engineer is not able to make optimal suggestions quickly. It is entirely possible that they could suggest something as simple as a different material to dramatically improve the economics. But if they don't know the function of the part then they must defer to the client entirely. Because the last thing we want to do it slow the process by changing your product. But we do think it is important to make our expertise available in every way possible.
When the quote and design review are sent over to you that is the first step of what will likely be an iterative process. Ideally the client will be able to implement any design notes that the design engineer offered and have the parts requoted.
Sampling is part of the process that we consider very necessary in order to ensure that reality match expectations. Again mass production 3D Printing is quite new and we want to be certain that client are getting what they want.
A roughcut sample is a piece that has not been optimized for production. That means that it is not final and is not representative of the final product.
So why do them? Well we use roughcut samples as a quick and often free way to illustrate a challenge with the part that the client should be made aware of. For example, it may show how support material could be converted into a functional feature of the part with a redesign.
Though we are often hesitant to create roughcut samples, because clients often misconstrue them as representative of the final product, and they are not meant to be. For example, while highlighting a feature like support material usage a roughcut sample might be made with a large layer height for the sake of speed. But the client might assume that the large layer height is somehow part of the final product as well, which it most certainly isn't. So we are cautious because these quick and dirty pieces can create confusion.
Shipping Time and cost can delay a project. And often mass production 3D Printing is used to shore up a leak in the manufacturing a supply chain. Much like in the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. So to expedite this we can do photo samples.
These pieces are production ready prints of the part which are photographed in our studio to highlight every critical feature of the part. Some include caliper measures and color comparisons.
While not the same as holding a part these samples are quite common and can create some ease of mind when a part is ordered in a rush.
Regular Sample/Production Prototype
Of course we do these. But we call them a production prototype. Therefore a fee is applied that is a prototyping fee. At this stage we go though the full optimization process. It might include several iterations on the part finding the optimal process and tweaking tolerances. This is not a push-button part of the process. Therefore it can be quite expensive. While 3D Printing is most certainly more flexible than injection molding it is incorrect to assume that there is not still a setup process for a new part or product to make it just right.
The cost of a sample is the standard setup fee, plus shipping, plus the cost of the prototype of that part at the prototype quantity. Often these will be included in the first quote you receive.
Quality Control From Samples
There is a lot of possible variation in 3D Printing. There are different processes and an infinite control of part material behavior. Depending on application there is also a broad variation of requirement from clients. A bracket might not need to look good, but a vase must be immaculate. But those words are not quantifiable. Many clients will use "good surface finish," but that phrase can have wildly different interpretations based on their backgrounds.
Therefore we have adopted the "Eye Doctor" QC method during sampling. In most cases with new clients we will send multiple iterations of the same part to the client for them to evaluate. Some will be blatantly bad, some will be "immaculate." (Particularly in the area of appearance, tolerances after all are very cut and dry. "Look good" doesn't mean anything to an engineer.) When the client receives these samples we will use their feedback to establish a QC checklist that will be used during post processing in production to verify that parts are up to spec during production. This checklist might evolve and become more narrow overtime.
Unfortunately there are not currently universal engineering standards within the additive manufacturing sector. So this has been the best method we have to ensure that we meet the clients standards when each client is different, and the technology is incompletely understood or designed for.
The quickest way to create a sample is to print it yourself and iterate until your have what you want. That eliminates shipping, and Slant 3D providing iterations to choose from. It can also be very fast since shipping and communication lags are eliminated. The reason it is not general practice is because no 3D Printer or process is created equal. And there are costs in the machine itself as well as skill of operation. We have years of experience, your company may only use it causally.
But we have fixed this problem with our Mason 3D Printer. The Mason is a prototyping machine. But one that leads directly to production with no intermediate steps. Anything made on a Mason is identical to what will come out of our 3D Printing farms. This dramatically speeds up sampling because the client can do it themselves. And if they do not have expertise in a particular area your design engineer can prepare an iteration of the part and email it you to print on your Mason. So you get our experience and one of our machines to work with in your facility or business.
Our clients who use this model often have many products (such as in a toy company) or designs which change dynamically (such as factory tooling).
Adjustment of the Quote after Sampling
As we have said the creation of the production sample is an iterative process. There is experimentation that can reveal problems with the piece that were overlooked during the digital quoting and evaluation process. Therefore after a production sample is made and evaluated the quote made need to be adjusted, either from features we find or from client feedback.
Very often the design itself will change after samples are created. And every time the design changes the quote must be updated as well.
So the part has been submitted, the design has been optimized. The Sample has been approved. Now we are ready to actually make thousands of parts and really utilize mass production 3D Printing.
The payment method and structure will be decided during the quoting process. Generally it is quoted as payment upon order if the order is under a certain dollar amount. But that is flexible based on size of the order and the structure of the contract. 50% down and Net30 are common.
Note: The setup fees are applied anytime a design is changed or a production context changes. So the setup fee is billed at sampling and at production.
We Make the Parts
Not much to say here. We make the number of parts requested with the same specs as the approved samples. We do this by using fleets of 3D Printers.
Shipping can be done a number of ways. The most common are shipping in batches, just in time, and bulk shipping.
Batches are generally the fastest way to get parts, but can increase shipping costs. But this method can allow for the payment on delivery contract that spreads out expense over a longer period of time and allows for tighter control and iteration in between shipments. Remember 3D Printing allows for a design to be changed during production without a big uproar, just a refreshed setup fee.
Just in Time is often partnered with Slant 3D's fulfillment capabilities. When an order is made we are notified though a number of means and the part is printed and shipped. This can also include warehousing of inventory or just digital inventory. This is optimal for spare parts and high margin businesses where the cost of the single part can be higher.
Bulk Shipping, is just like injection molding. We make 100,000 parts and send them to you on a pallet.
The Baker's Dozen Rule
3D Printing is new. Things are overlooked and sometimes problems can slip through. Therefore at Slant 3D we have a "Baker's Dozen Rule" where we intentionally overproduce on nearly every job to make sure that there are spares and replacements. Just in case.
We Guarantee Our Parts
Once a sample is approved and we have shipped those parts we are responsible for those parts to your doorstep. If they are damaged in transit we will replace them. If they are not up to the specs outlined and agreed upon we will replace them. A supplier should not require oversight. The reason a company uses a supplier is because they think the supplier can do the job better then they could. If we can't then it should be taken inhouse. If we screw up we own it and pay for it.
Gabe was able to speak with Senior Industrial Designer John Mauriello of the youtube Channel Design Theory several months ago. But, due to a number of issues that we won't get into here, Making Products was delayed. But we are back up now.
It was a great conversation. During the discussion Gabe and John covered everything from trends and why shoes are a common project in industrial design school to reactions to the Tesla Cybertruck.
Check out some of John's videos at his youtube channel where he discusses Industrial Design practices and theory.
And get new podcast episodes on Spotify and other audio platforms.
This episode of Making Products was made possible by Angled.io
We have begun production of a low cost, recyclable, 3D printer filament spool, that is an improvement on the tradtional MC-008W 1KG SPool.
With all of the innovation in the 3D Printing space, the MC-008W spool has stayed relatively unchanged. But why? They are expensive to ship, nearly impossible to recycle, and in production they are not efficient or easy. Not to mention that new covid restrictions and tarriffs on the chinese-made spool have increased so that they have become expensive. But it is what there is.
There are some filament suppliers that use cardboard spools, but those are not ideal for 1KG material. The community have created reusable spools. But these are not universal and can lead to tangles. There just is not a good alternative to the tried and true MC-008W 1KG filament spool. So we made the SlantSpool V3
The SlantSpool V3 was created in order to allow for a US supplier of good quality, recyclable 1KG spools for 3D Printer filament.
The SlantSpool V3 is modeled off the MC-008W spool. The core interface is dimensionally identical so that it can fit on existing fixtures. The outer cardboard flanges are stamped from white-coated cardboard to prevent dust contamination of filament. The entire spool is half the weight of traditional MK-008W spools so shipping costs are lower both from Slant 3D and to customers, saving filament suppliers thousands of dollars.
We have also adjusted the design to make use simpler. The Core has 4 primary anchoring holes for the filament that are over-large to make starting the spool easier on the winder machine. And the hole is curved to ensure that filament is not kinked at the end causing a jam in the 3D Printer when it is used.
The Core of the SlantSpool is manufactured with 3D printing in our production 3D Printing Farms. This manufacturing method not only allows it be made affordably at the same quantities as injection molding, but allows the design to be easily changed. We can create custom spools with the logo of the filament supplier and we can adjust the hub configuration for different fixturing. We are not limited to the 1KG MC-008W. We can make any spool you want.
The cardboard flanges serve a number of functions. First of all they can be recycled easily, eliminating the piles of spools 3D printing users have to deal with. They are also cut in an octagon so they can be stored on a standard shelf without stacking to keep them from rolling off. And last of all the cardboard can be slit to anchor the end wherever it is without having to trim of kink filament to hit the one hole.
Overall the SlantSpool was designed by 3D Printer users and a Filament production line. Making it optimal for all. Not just "the spool that works." We are working with several filament suppliers now to get the spools into production and they are obviously in use on our own production lines and printer farms. Small labs and 3D Filament producers can purchase the spools quickly and painlessly at the listing above. It you need special hub design or quote please contact us.
As the pandemic continues to drag on, we are seeing more and more depression partially from the imposition of current masks. They are uncomfortable, and they really hinder interaction. But the team at TrueContour lead by Jonathan Swartz are looking to change that.
The TrueContour Mask is a fully custom and transparent protective facemask. So it fits to your face perfectly and allows other people to still see you. This not only improves protection from the better fit, but it also improves interaction and human connection, something that seems to be waning with current masks and work at home trends.
The TrueContour is manufactured through a number of steps. First the customer scans their face using the TrueContour app on a iPhone. This scan is then converted into a 3D model that is used as a mold for the mask.
Slant 3D has partnered with TrueContour to produce these molds on demand as orders come in. Our 3D Printing farms, composed of hundreds of 3D Printers, ensure that demand will never outstrip production capacity.
Once the molds are 3D Printed, then the masks are vacuum-formed and final processing produces the final mask.
This design and method of manufacturing is brilliant. True contour is fixing many of the primary problems with current masks by improving the seal and just allowing people to not look like a bank robber everywhere they go.
They are also taking advantage of a perfectly flexible supply chain brought on by Production 3D Printing and lean manufacturing principles. They will never have excess inventory and will be able to produce perfectly custom items quickly and on demand. We are very excited to be working with such a great and forward thinking company.
The Value of 3D Printed Architectural Models
It is hard to sell houses. It is a not a decision made quickly. When the customer leaves all they have is a flat floorplan to mull over. And you can't keep a version of every house available for walkthroughs. Combine that with the fact that some people just are not able to visualize 3D spaces very well, and you realize the need for a 3D model of what you are selling.
How is it Done
OK, so the value is pretty clear. 3D Printed Architectural Models improve communication and connection with the buyer. But how are they made?
We first off Slant 3D would need a 3D Model. Ideally your builder or architect can provide 3D models of a building in .STL, .OBJ, or .STEP. Not all architects or architecture software can provide the files for 3D Printing. That is why Slant 3D has an inhouse design team that can take your floorplans and drawings and convert them to a perfectly printable 3D Model.
If your inhouse folks have the ability they can see this article on creating Architectural 3D models for some tips. But do also contact your Slant 3D engineer for more specific information.
Once Slant 3D receives the 3D model then we will prepare it for printing. Our 3D Printing machine are limited in size. So for larger models the building will need to be broken into several pieces, that are printed individually and then slotted together later.
We may also edit some features so that they are manufacturable. This can include tweaking windows and the thickness of the walls.
Lastly if necessary we will work with you to create an removable roof so the inside can be viewed. Though it is perfectly alright to create an exterior-only architectural model. We can 3D Print either one.
That's all there is too it. Send us a 3D model and we can start printing.
Once the model is sent over and finalized we will quote production for you. Whether it be a single large model or thousands of showroom giveaways. Both are equally feasible.
Hopefully this has cleared up some of the challenges with 3D Printed architectural models. Let us know if you have any questions.
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.
They should only be used as a last resort. That is what we would like to say to health professionals that might not be fully aware of what the technology is capable off. With this post we would like to outline the risks of using 3D printed respirator masks, both for the general public, the 3D printing community, and the medical community that might not fully understand what is being pushed by a panicked, but anxious to help, 3D printing community.
If you are using crowd-sourced masks. That is, masks that are made by local individuals with garage 3D Printers. Then you essentially have hundreds of individuals handling your masks in their homes. Those people may not be tested for Covid-19. so they could be infecting the masks that they are supplying. This means that they could potentially be directly infecting you staff if you utilize these masks. Amateur manufacturing means amateur facilities and handling.
Due to the layer lines in DIY 3D printed parts these masks can't be reliably sanitized. Therefore even though they will be relatively expensive to manufacture (2-5 dollars each). They would have to be disposable, if they can reliably be used in the first place.
The vast majority of masks printed are being printed from the baseline design in rigid materials. They do not compensate for male or female. This means that they do not fit most faces. In fact most of these masks fit little better than the oxygen mask in an airplane.
The only option to make them fit is to heat them up in boiling water or in a microwave and then press the softened plastic onto the face of the individual using the mask.
The problem is that these masks are not reusable. They cannot be sterilized. So a worker has to potentially scald their face each time they put on a disposable mask. And the seal is still not viable. Because the mask would lose its seal as soon as the healthcare worker moves their jaw.
The poor fit essentially makes the mask useless except as a splatter guard.
Again, due to the rigid materials, and DIY designs. Most of these masks do not seal around the face. Admittedly many paper masks don't perfectly seal either. But they also do not force air to move through the few crevasses that exist. And again the only way to get a reasonable fit (other than a plastic part in front of your mouth) is to heat the plastic and form it to your face.
Due to this problem healthcare professionals would almost be as protected if they simply tied a dishtowel in front of their face. Maybe better protected. (Read the full study about these materials effectiveness)
At Slant 3D we have tested every publicly available 3D Printed face mask. The one that prints the fastest is complete in 2 hours. That means that a single printer could produce 12 a day. There are only about 1.5-2 million 3D printers worldwide. That means that only 24 million masks could be manufactured per day if every printer was working on it 24/7.
China has the capability to manufacture 116 million N95 masks per day right now. And then it takes 2-5 days to ship those out. The US is expected to only need 3.5 billion masks to address coronavirus for a year. That is basically 1 month of production.
3D printing is not necessary and is not viable to address the supply shortages. Supply shortages that do not yet exist. They are only projected based on worst case scenarios. Please everyone calm down and allow the supply chains a few days to catch up.
It is truly great to see the 3D Printing community stepping up to help with local manufacturing. But respirators are not the item to manufacture. There is not yet a need, and when there is, 3D printing is not a viable solution. Please believe us we do mass manufacturing with 3D Printing for a living. Time would be much better spent on face shields, potentially ventilator parts, and general everyday aides.
To the medical community. If you have a drastic need for facemasks please use your knowledge to make a call. At this point there is no magical antibacterial 3D printing material that makes 3D printed masks much better than a torn tshirt tied across your mouth.Use your own judgement. It is possible that 3D Printed masks can help to limit the spread from covid-positive patients. But again, tshirt.
Please feel free to reach out to us here at Slant 3D if you have any questions or need to have some other part manufactured. We are standing by and reserving capacity when viable solutions become apparent.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, 3D Printing can help to mitigate supply shortages of parts and devices needed to help. Slant 3D is comitting a large portion of our production 3D Printing capacity of several hundred printers to help as needed. But there are thousands of other printers in the world that can also contribute.
Here are several 3D printing files that can be printed to help deal with the Coronavirus epidemic.
We would like to take this moment to say that masks are largely ineffective. It is assumed at this point that is Covid-19 is tranmitted predominantly through direct contact with body fluids. This makes a mask useless unless you are in a crowded area among those who are infected and symptomatic. This means that masks are mainly needed in hospitals.
But if you or a person you know becomes symptomatic you can protect the people around you by wearing a mask because droplets can be spewed around an area through coughing and sneezing. So a mask does help but mainly as a catcher. You do not need to have a HEPA filter simple fabric like a handkerchief in the mask helps a huge amount.
Another interesting mask for holding a cloth cover in place. This mask is printed flat with PLA and then heated with a hairdryer or in boiling water to then form to the face. It will create a more comfortable fit and likely a better seal.
Since the COVID-19 seems to be transfered through direct contact door handles and other common touch-points can be contaminated. Materialize has created a design to be a used with round handled doors which can be easily printed and installed. These fixtures make is easy to open the door with an elbow.
Helping with more general tasks this device allows you to interact with commonly touched surfaces in order to avoid contact. A Simple hook lets you open doors and you can also use it to turn on lights and maybe even the knob in the bathroom.
We will update this list with new posts as more designs are created. We are aslo comitting capacity to the production of such devices. We hope that we can help in some way limit the supply shortages that are arising. If you a have a part that needs to be produced please submit it to us and we will do our best to help.
Most of all we would like to say "Please stay calm." Supply chains are functioning. Infrastructure is fine. It is the burst of panic that has limited toilet paper in the stores. Please only take what you need and plan food and consumables for a potential 2 weeks shutdown. Please do not do more as you will add to a vicious cycle of hoarding. We will come through this epidemic.
Production 3D Printing is a new technology. And not everyone has interacted with it or understands what kind of pieces and features can be made with it. That is why we designed the Slant 3D Sample Brick. This 3D Printed part demonstrates many of the key features and capabilities of the additive manufacturing process. Everything from complex internal geometries to complex surface textures.
The sample Brick can be ordered for free with the form below. Just let us know where to send it and we will get it to you.
Clients may use the 3d printed sample brick as a reference for proper design of 3D printed parts. As well as a way to evaluate our high volume 3D printing processes.
Features on the Brick
What is the Process of preparing a product to be manufactured with high volume production 3D printing?
Production 3D Printing is able to produce 100,000's of parts more affordably than injection molding. This savings is a result of the eliminated upfront cost of tooling and reducing design time and the long terms costs of warehousing.
But what is the process of moving a product into Production 3D Printing? It is very important to know this process to ensure that there are as few delays as possible as you are going into production.
I have an Idea/Sketch
I have an Engineered Design
I have a Physical Part I need Re-manufactured or is no Longer in Production
The Most Important Thing
The most important thing is to make sure that you part is designed and optimized for production 3D printing. This makes sure that the quality, performance, and cost of the part is the best case possible. Additive manufacturing is rarely an exact replacement to injection molding. It is an alternative process that must be considered during design. That is why we keep a team of engineers who are the world leaders in design for additive manufacturing and they are here to make sure that your part meets your needs.