Mass Production 3D Printing is a very affordable means of producing custom shipping trays and packaging. Since there is no molding cost, but a still a high production capacity, custom packaging solutions can be created for the same of less cost as traditional methods. And, and since it is always a custom solution the results are often better.
PCB's come in all shapes and sizes. Because of this transport can sometimes be difficult. The pieces need to be well protected (both from physical harm and ESD dangers). Very often PCB makers and chip manufactures will resort to traditional generic packaging solutions. Such as vacuum-formed plastic trays and injection molded ESD safe waffle trays.
But these have a limited viability. A chip may need special features to help with manufacturing or just a shape that works with a PCB that is outside the norm.
3D Printing can quickly create custom trays at volume without a long lead time or high expense. Generally it takes about a 1-2 weeks to complete production of several hundred trays. And depending on material the cost per chip for the packaging can be between $0.10 and $0.50, comparable to traditional solutions.
But since 3D Printing is a different process these trays need to be designed slightly differently. Here are some basic notes for your internal design teams if they are looking to design custom PCB trays. Though we also offer Design services if needed
Use Nubs or Tabs as Finding Features
Traditional designs would just have a peg with a hole to act as a finding feature when trays are stacked. This does not work with 3D Printed PCB trays because that would create an overhangin during printing. And overhang is a feature that juts at 90 degrees from a part, like the branch of a tree. Most trays are printed on end so finding pegs become that overhang.
The best alternative it to just a use small nub. This will will still prevent shifting without creating an overhang.
The other option that perfectly replaced the peg is a slot and tab. Just make certain to have the the them positioned parallel to the longest side of the tray (Again because the part will be printed with its longest side vertical on the print bed.)
Angle the Chip Slots if Overly Large
FDM 3D Printing is used to create these types of trays therefore there is a limit to how large of an bridging overhand, like the top of a chip slot, can be. generally if that upper surface is greater than 1 inch wide then this option needs to be used.
Basically, the rotate chip slots so that they no longer follow a rectangular pattern. Instead of squares they become diamonds. This eliminates the overhang and instead gives each slot a slanted roof.
This is a very simple rule. But it provides a huge advantage because it can reduce cost and improve quality at the same time. Just eliminate any sharp edge, and if a fillet can be made larger, make it larger.
Add Labeling and Branding
While 3D Printing requires some shifts in design thinking due to manufacturing limitations, there are a few things that it contributes that can vastly improve your product. Since there is no mold involved you can actually create features for free that were not even possible before. Labeling is one of those.
This labeling can be something as simple as the name of the company producing the chips, or information about the batch and chip name for us in production. An example of branding is shown below for one of our clients Silicon Mountain Contract Services
Not many trays are able to actually retain the chip in place so that it won't fall out. These features are exceptionally difficult to mold affordably. But with 3D Printing they are free to add.
Production 3D Printing can create exceptionally complex mechanisms, again without significant added cost depending on the cost. But for specialty applications systems can be created that control chips in just the right way so that they are not damaged but are released when needed in a production line. When working with Plexus we created a simple locking tab system that was able to hold the proprietary chips from the side but them lock open so that they could be removed on the factory floor.
3D Printing is very affordable and very flexible, it is an ideal way to create custom packaging solutions for PCB's or any other type of product. Why we have even done consumer packaging at times.
But the quickest way to find out if 3D Printing is right for your application is to submit a quote with your needs and specifications and one of our account engineers will be in contact with you soon.
Up until about 10 years ago, if you wanted to manufacture a product the process would look something like this
And this system has worked. It is why we have cases for our iphones. Why there are more clothes in the world than anyone can deal with. And why about 90-99% of hardware product-based businesses fail in the first 3 years.
In order to get rich making stuff you have to already be rich. The barrier to entry in manufacturing has been very high. You have to buy engineering skill, buy the molds, pay for storage of the parts, all before you even sell one. Compare this to what Zuckerberg did with a laptop in a dorm room on a weekend. All he had to invest was his time. Can manufacturing ever be like this? With 3D Printing it already is.
Let's take a look at manufacturing a part with mass production 3D Printing at Slant 3D (other production 3D Printing companies follow a similar process).
The reason this is all possible is because 3D Printing does not have any tooling. Each part is grown from just the raw material. There are no stamps or significant setup. It is a digital process. All we need to make a part is a 3D model of the part. Basically you go from idea right to production.
Now many people question the scale of 3D Printing. That is, how many parts can it actually produce at a time. That question really depends on the part. But let us us try to break it down a bit.
On a cost basis 3D Printing is generally cheaper than injection molding up to about 100,000 pieces. So if you are making more than that a mold should be considered. If you are making fewer than that 3D Printing is likely the #1 choice.
As far as the ultimate quantity, our Print Farm Beta facility is able to produce between 30-80,000 pieces per week, and that number continues to increase.
Though again this really depends on the part. Print time and complexity can all affect this. A bigger piece is more expensive than a small piece. A Carbon Fiber Nylon piece is more expensive than something made from PLA. And 100,000 pieces will be produced more cheaply per unit than 1000 pieces.
The best way to find out for sure is to get a quote. Quoting is free and you can use the information to compare to other manufacturing options. And your project engineer will work with you get reduce the cost and improve the product.
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.
At Slant 3D, we build all of the machines for our printer farms. While most of the parts for the machine are manufacturered in house, there are components that we source...or used to.
One of the pieces where we used third party suppliers was the filament runout sensor for our machines. Filament runout sensors ensure that the machine is able to pause when a spool goes dry. That way filament and time is not wasted from a failure due to runout. (A problem that is dramatically compounded with hundreds of machines)
The sensor that we used historically was an off-the-self design that is sold by a number of 3D Printer supply sources. It is basically just a mechanical leaf switch in an injection molded housing. The main problem is that we have had continuous supply issues. Components have been miswired. Some have faded out overtime. And there is no way to access the problem easily when it occurs. So we designed a new filament runout switch. A nice simple one.
The Slant 3D Filament runout sensor is designed like our machines. Simple and easy to maintain.
The sensor itself is still just a switch. But it is now a universal switch from suppliers that we trust and have used for years. It is clean and simple.
The secret to a good filament runout sensor is design. Make sure that the switch is always fully depressed and cannot wobble or go out of alignment, throwing false positives. We have been able to do this.
Without the cost of injection molding we have been able to iterate on the design so that every single feature is optimized. The through holes are the minimum size possible. Holding filament in line and straight. The switch is only ever deactivated when filament is missing from the sensor. No wobbles or curves can throw a false positive.
Ultimately it is just simple. We took a standard switch and just designed a good filament guide for it.
Lastly. It has a lid. This means that loose debris or filament edges can be removed from the sensor if it somehow becomes jammed. On all other filament sensors this is almost impossible. And not only did we make a lid, but we labeled the feed direction.(Not that important but nice things are nice)
The Slant 3D Filament sensor will go up for preorder soon. And we will modify the mounting system so that it can work with as many 3D Printers as possible.
Look for it in the next few weeks.
The vast majority or machinery and electronics are manufactured overseas. But as we have seen from the pandemic, this creates a dramatic bottleneck when those oceanic supply chains stop functioning. During the height of the Covid-19 crisis 3D Printers were nowhere to be found as they were deployed to manufacture PPE.
But there are some 3D Printers that are assembled and manufactured in the USA. This not only makes them more reliable when supply chains overseas go down. But can also help long term with customer support and capabilities since they must be more than just the commodity machines that are often made in China.
The Printer Farm came first and then the Mason. Slant 3D focuses on large scale 3D Printing as an alternative to injection molding. In order to achieve that we had to design a machine that was durable enough to operate for years continuously without major breakdowns. Off-the-shelf consumer machines just could not hold up to that use.
There was also a need brought forward by clients about sampling. When a new project started several iterations of parts had to be sent back and forth for verification. This delays the projects and adds cost. We created the Mason consumer printer so clients could complete prototyping at their facility and then move immediately into production using the scale that Slant 3D printer farms provide. In short the Mason is for going from prototype to production as quickly and cost effectively as possible.
The Lulzbot Taz machines were originally created by Aleph Objects, which was then acquired by Fargo Additive Manufacturing.
The Original Taz 3D Printers were open source workhorse machines originally created at the height of the 3D Printing market. And that continues to be true.
Made from sheet-metal and 3D Printed parts the Lulzbot machines and rugged and reliable. And they have a heritage that make them a good option for large size prototyping. And the team in Fargo is continuing to improve the machines and keep them relevant in the market.
A high end professional machine the F410 is targeted at both the industrial and education markets. With a very large and enclosed build volume it is able to handle performance materials, especially with its european designed E3D extruder.
The F410 is a machine that must be quoted and ordered so the lead time is a bit longer. But it is a reasonable US alternative to the Ultimaker S5 made in the Netherlands if you have a need for large format machines.
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.
Over the last week 3D Printing Stocks got a boost based on a job posting from Tesla looking for an additive Manufacturing Technician. The 3D printing community was abuzz about the idea of one of the most prominent manufacturers in the United States making a push into 3D Printing. Just one problem. This is not new and means nothing.
Tesla has always utilized 3D Printing, both in a prototyping and a production context to make final parts for its cars. The Model Y was shipped with FDM parts modifying its components. Tesla and SpaceX both heavily utilize metal 3D Printing. Musk is not one to shy away from trying to utilize new technology, and never has been.
Now Tesla is certainly a growing opportunity for additive manufacturing. Both through its continued product development and the continuous additions of new plants which could all utilize custom tooling and emergency production. That is why company, including Slant 3D, are expanding operations near Tesla locations.
Overall, this job posting and the rumors around it are indicative of nothing and certainly don't justify a significant change in 3D Printing stock prices.. But we do applaud Tesla on continuing to add to their 3D Printing team. Best of luck to the person that gets the position.
3D Printing farms are a becoming a critical part of manufacturing and small businesses in the creation of prototypes and tooling and actual finished products. But what are good printers to deploy in fleets? In this post we will discuss printers with proven track records of being used in 3D Printing farms.
The Mason 3D Printer is the machine used in all Slant 3D Printing farms. The Mason was originally never intended as a commercially saleable product. It was developed internally to be optimized for production. This mean high reliability and simple maintenance since they were meant to be deployed by the thousands the way data centers deploy servers.
Versions of the Mason are the predominant machine used in Print Farm Beta being built in Boise Idaho, which will house 800 3D Printers when complete, producing hundreds of thousands of parts.
The Mason was made commercially available in 2019, 2 years after the original versions were created and put into use in Slant 3D. They were made for clients that needed ready access to prototyping. Having a Mason allowed them to iterate on a prototype until they were satisfied and then immediately start production with Slant 3D printing services without lengthy sampling and verification. Any part made on a Mason 3D Printer is identical to what comes out of Slant 3D Printing farms, which are composed of Masons. That means a product can go from prototype to full scale production with no steps in between.
The Mason is a machine for experienced users. Since it was designed for production it does not have many of the trendy bells and whistles of other machines. It is workhorse machine not a beginner trainer. It is meant to be a reliable and sturdy and last a few years without being a headache.
A popular machine among the 3D Printing community because of its user friendliness and reliability, the Prusa i3 was originally produced in 2018 and has been going strong since.
Manufactured in Prague and based on the original RepRap project, the Prusa i3 was developed by Prusa Research. While the i3 is considered a consumer/hobbyist machine Prusa does use a fleet of 300-500 3D Printers at its factory in Prague to produce the 3D Printed parts for the printers that it sells. This does give them the credibility of "eating their own cooking."
The Prusa i3 is recognized for its removable lined build-plate and auto bed leveling. Both of these features can make it simpler to operate. The downside is that it is a moving bed Cartesian design which limits the height of certain parts because the foundation of the part moving under it can lead to rippling at the the stop of the part.
Ultimaker is one of the leading brands of 3D Printers. Manufactured in Denmark Ultimaker focuses on making professional desktop printers.
While Ultimaker does not use 3D Printing to make any of their machines the reliability and integration of their machines makes them ideal for many manufacturing settings where many personnel will be sharing the machines.
Companies such as Gantri utilize a 3D Printing farm of Ultimaker machines to manufacture custom Lamps. And companies such as Jabil use the machines within their factories for prototyping and jigs.
The Ultimaker machines are nearly second to none in print quality and ease of integration in a professional setting. But that also means that they are one of the most expensive options in creating a 3D Printing farm.
These are the machines that we consider viable for creating reliable 3D Printing farms. Lower cost machines, while easy to setup, often only have a usable life of less than a year with heavy use in a 3D Printing farm. Many of them also have defects or lack of consistency that just makes them a pain to work with. The machines in this post are all battle hardened and have a proven track record of actually working successfully in 3D Printing Farms.