Slant 3D has been doing mass production 3D Printing for years. It is an ideal way for companies to reduce tooling expenses on the PnL or amoritization the balance sheet. But what is it exactly, and how do we do it?
How We Got Started in Mass Production 3D Printing
Slant 3D started as a project inside of a product design company. There had been a product created that intially was expected to be low volume. So it was designed for 3D Printing. But it ultimately became quite successful and was put into retail channels.
This extra demand required that we scale up 3D Printing to produce it. We were confident with this decision because we were able to implement high levels of automation that allowed fleets of printers to produce large quantities of repeatable parts.
Ultimately Slant 3D was spun out of the other company so that we could continue to pursue larger scale.
In 2020 Slant 3D became more affordable than injection molding up to 100,000 pieces. So if you are making more than 100k units you should use traditional methods. And if you are making fewer than 100k units, mass production 3D Printing should beused, economically.
Today we continue to push that boundary and work to figure out how to allow those economies of scale to apply to lower quantity production.
How We Do Mass Production 3D Printing
At Slant 3D we focus on large scale 3D Print Farms to produce the quantities of parts.
There are no commericially available 3D Printers that can operate at the scale and quality that we pursue. So at Slant 3D we manufacture our printers in House. We call them SlantBoxes. Over the years we have created 14 iterations of the SlantBox, each improving reliability or automation.
But why the print farm format? FDM just provided a more viable supply chain and better products.
FDM takes advantage of existing injection molding thermoplastics as its raw material. This means that we do not have to invent new materials. We can print with PolyPropylene or use the normal 3D Printing bioplastics, or maybe you would prefer carbon fiber nylon. Not to mention that FDM is the only process that can do literally any color.
Since all of these are sourced from the regular molding supply, our raw materials are much lower cost than other processes, giving us more scale.
Additionally FDM has much less waste and liability in the processing. We really prefer if our team was not exposed to microscopic non-organic powders or fumes on a regular basis.
FDM also allows for massive scale. Since it is a proven and mechanicaly simple system it is very reliable. This allows us to deploy thousands of machines. Our Megafarm facility is setup for 3000 machines.
With that number of machines it is possible to produce at the same apparent rate as any other process. While a single machine may take an hour to grow a part. If you have 1000 machines you are now making 1000 parts per hour. All the while with minimal up front cost to the client. They order parts and only pay for the parts.
What are the Advantages of Mass Production 3DPrinting
This actually can be summed up quite quickly
No up Front Tooling Costs
Less Inventory and the costs associated
Ability to Update the Design based on Customer Feedback
Faster Turn around of Parts
Better Quality parts from more design freedom.
The tooling cost is quite obvious. All you have is the raw material and the power to convert that material. There is not a chiseled stone tablet that you need to amortize over the all of the parts that you make.
No mold, not only elminates that cost. But it makes parts cost easier to calculate because the part is the only cost. And you elminate the risk of that up front captial expense of traditional tooling.
But molds also require minimum order Quantities. These further add to your cost. Not only of the parts themselves, but with the shipping and storage of those parts. All while not having a guarantee that they will sell. 15% of inventory goes unsold in many industries. That is manufacturing cost that goes right down the drain. 3D Printing is able to match demand much more tightly so that waste is reduced.
But products go out of style and need to be updated to meet new customer needs. At that time you would need to start a whole new expense account with traditional manufacturing. But mass production 3D Printing lets you essentially email over a new part. And now your product is updated going forward. No new fresh expenses. In fact you likely reduced the cost of your parts because you have started optimizing for the process even more.
And printing can get you parts faster. Not all at once. But you can get some parts on the shelves much faster. Rather than waiting for another country to setup a tool, box up the parts, and ship them across the ocean you just order the parts. And when the first 1000 are complete then arrive to your warehouse in a few days. (And if you are really clever you would simply hold buffer inventory with continuous production behind it. That way you are constantly replenished and the cost of parts reduced even more.)
If you can get to that point then you are taking full advantage of mass production. And now you can start using the design freedom that it allows to truly create unique products. Products that could never be created before. Again, carving our product out of a stone tablet is quite limiting is what can be engineered. If you use 3D Printing as the end goal and embrace its capabilities you can create some truly unique products that had never existed before.
Conclusion about Mass Production 3D Printing
So hopefully this was a good primer about mass production using large 3D Printng farms. It is a truly unque process that empowers companies in ways that were never possible before.
If you have a product that you would like to have 3D Printed. Or would like to explore as an option for 3D printing please reach out to us for a quote.