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.
Each year the season comes around. Prime Day, Black Friday, Christmas, New Years. The quarter most consumer companies, big and small, look forward to. Sales spike across, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.
3D Printing companies this time of year often end up expanding their printing capacity by buying a few more machines. An investment of hundreds or thousands of dollars. The trouble is that after the season passes the machines are left idle. So the investment is not fully utilized. Certainly the machines may be "paid off" but profits are often reduced. And Christmas sales don't often correlate directly with business growth.
This problem is where services are valuable. They are able to bridge the production gap through the season. Clients are able to ramp up their production capacity using Slant 3D printing farms to complement their own. The benefit is there is no cash outlay for equipment that may go unused. The production is perfectly flexible. And the system is profitable on the first part since larger printer farms are often able to access greater economies than smaller 3D printing operations.
This is an especially a good system for small businesses such as Etsy stores. But applies equally well to the industrial sector where sales can spike and production rates need to increase.
Out of Darts is a Slant 3D client that utilized this resource in 2019. Normally Out of Darts manufactured Nerf mods that are 3D Printed on their Prusa Farm in Washington, but with spiking demand from the holiday season they did not have the ability to scale up production quickly enough to meet all of the orders.
Out of Darts reached out to Slant 3D to produce Nerf Dart Hoppers, a large part that absorbs a large amount of Print Time. Slant 3D was able to produce hundreds of the parts over a 2 week period in order to help them meet demand until they could scale up.
But there were challenges. Matching the same output as that associated with Out of Darts was difficult in the time allowed. Since they were using Prusa's and Slant 3D uses our internal Mason there was a conversion process that could've delay the production schedule. Not to mention color matching and other challenges. This is why it is important to prepare the the spike ahead of the need.
Slant 3D can accept quotes today for the christmas season and accept contracts based on need. Sampling and verification can all be completed as well to ensure that everything is ready when it is needed. This helps to prevent delays during the sales spike.
Slant 3D operates the largest 3D Printing farm in north america. We have a scale that allows any 3D Printed product company to scale up quickly in order to meet the short term demand.
Reach out to us for a quote for your 3D Printed product. And get great for the 4th quarter fun.
At the beginning on 2020 Print Farm Beta started construction. Within a month it started operating and was able to produce 10,000's of face shields during the height of the pandemic. It has continued to grow and produce parts at a rate of 1000's per week since. When fully complete Print Farm Beta will have over 800 3D Printers all producing parts on demand.
Print Farm Beta has been designed to truly scale up 3D Printing affordably. We have now reached a scale where 3D Printing is less expensive than injection molding up to about 50-100,000 pieces. But when factoring in warehousing, shipping, and lost inventory there are products that can never justify the up front cost of the mold. 3D Printing is the final option. But we are not stopping at production.
Print Farm Beta will be supporting a new era in manufacturing and product design. Today entrepreneurs can manufacture a product without the cost of molds and then sell it. We want to eliminate the need to even manufacture the product before it is sold.
Print Farm Beta is the backbone of Angled.io, as well as other print-on-demand services and business. A part is only made when a customer orders it. This means that designers and entrepreneurs can just upload a 3D model and immediately have it manufactured and delivered all over the world. All without having to build a website or supply chain. Everything from printing to shipping is taken care of inside of Print Farm Beta.
Print Farm Beta is basically the manufacturing equivalent of a server farm. Allowing small guys to have the same access as large guys. We are a manufacturing backend. Creators create and we take care of everything else.
Print Farm Beta still has some buildout to be done. But it is ready to usher in a whole new type of business at scale. So a kid in a dorm room can create a product on the weekend and just upload it to start selling. We hope to christen one of our first 3D Printing millionaires on Angled.io within the next year.
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.
One of the huge advantages of high volume 3D Printing is its ability to produce custom parts at scale without the cost of molds. This freedom allows for products to evolve during production, and reduces inventory holding requirements since parts can be made on demand.
This is especially true for parts in industrial settings. These types of parts include custom hardware like gears, rollers and handles. But here we are going to focus on custom electrical enclosures. Large Scale 3D Printing is able to produce custom electrical enclosures reliably and quickly using all types of materials.
Creating New Enclosures
Electronics enclosures cannot accommodate the millions of PCB designs that are created every year. Often certain custom boards are just placed into a generic box enclosure. While this can be affordable. It can compromise the longevity of the part, and diminishes the brand of the board inside. If possible every company would prefer to use custom enclosures. This way the enclosure can complement the board inside. Both on engineering specs and company identity.
But custom enclosures require custom molds. This leads to minimum volumes to amortize the cost of the mold. And the enclosure is obsolete as soon as the PCB is.
3D Printing, on the other hand, allows just the right number of parts to be produced for what is sold. They can be made on demand as the parts are sold, so there is no inventory carrying cost. And as the PCB changes or diversifies the case can immediately be updated.
And of course with 3D Printing there is no molding cost. So for most simple enclosures 3D Printing is generally less expensive or at least matches the cost of molding.
Recreating Old Products
The benefits if 3D Printed enclosures does not only extend to the new. Old systems can be revitalized. If an enclosure has gone out or production, or out of style, it can be quickly and efficiently recreated. Then it can be put back into to production without the startup and carrying costs that molding requires.
The process of injection molding is quite limited. Or at least with special materials, quite expensive. At Slant 3D we have worked with clients searching for ESD safe or even Carbon Fiber enclosures to be manufactured. Few molding systems can support the abrasive characteristics of these types of materials.
Molders very often specialize in only one material. Whereas 3D Printing is much more flexible. Literally we can print in rubbery materials, hardhat TPU, carbon fiber, and biodegradable, to name just a few. This allows clients to iterate and diversify while only have to establish and maintain one relationship rather than one for each SKU.
And then, within material, there is always color. Again with molding minimums play a roll. The distributed nature of 3D Printing allows clients to order 1000 parts, but make 250 of red, blue, yellow, and green.
All told 3D Printing is a way to improve efficiency with products that require a large number of SKU's. But it can scale to large volume. But really if you are making more than 100,000 pieces at a go then go get a mold.
But 3D Printing is able to produce many variants quickly and easily. Changing material, color, and very importantly geometry. And it is able to easily adjust to supply and demand. 3D Printing does not require an order of 100,000 pieces. 100,000 pieces that must then be shipped and stored. Instead, parts can be produced at a rate that meets demand. Less cash is tied up in inventory, and there is less risk for new products.
3D Printing is simply a more efficient process.
We are happy to announce Twist 3D Printing. A Fast and simple 3D Printing service for creating prototypes quickly and painlessly.
Twist is a project that we have been testing for a while now. There is no simple way to just order a 3D Printed part anymore. No place to just upload a model, pay, and get the model. Today you have to sign up, then create a profile, then pick through 50 settings, and then tweak things. We thought people should just be able to print something again.
Twist is a flat rate 3D Printing service. You can print any part, that fits in a 8x8x8 inch volume, for $29 with free shipping ($34 with expedited 2 day shipping).
And we have simplified it as far as we can. The only material option is Black PETG printed at a 0.2mm layer resolution.
PETG is a good plastic that can be used for functional applications, as well as cosmetic needs. The layer resolution is twice the thickness of a human hair. There is no reason to have a "draft quality" 3D print, we are just going to make a good 3D Print.
Any part order is 3D printed and shipped within 2 days. Making it a excellent fast solution for prototypes.
As time goes by we may add more colors and potentially other materials. But for now "You can have any color you want, as long as it is black." This allows us to create great quality 3D Prints on Demand for the same flat rate.
So Get a Part 3D Printed Today.
if you need more than one part prototyped or need high volume production of your prototype please visit our 3D Printing Quoting page.