A Guide to Industrial 3D Printers
Table of Contents
Tradition + Technology
3D printers have been in the industrial space for more than 30 years and the technology is constantly evolving. These workhorses can print super fine details (the thickness of a human hair) for medical and veterinary models; lightweight and flexible products like midsoles of shoes for the footwear industry; strong and sturdy endparts for the aerospace and automotive industries; cool 3D cartoon and 3D character models like Bugs Bunny and SheRa; architectural and industrial models for businesses and 3D art for the creative industry. This list is just the tip of the iceberg. The possibilities of what 3D printing can do are endless.
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers use nylon and wax-like filament
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) printers use polymer powder (nylon-based material)
- Color Jet Printing (CJP) printers use gypsum powder
- Stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP) printers use resin (liquid polymer)
- Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) printers use metal powder
WhiteClouds does not sell 3D printers, but we’ve pulled the basic details from the three largest players in the industrial 3D printer space to help you choose the best technology for your needs. These 3D printers are capable of building everything from intricate pieces of jewelry to jet engine parts; from hearing aids to eyewear; high-quality end-parts to clear dental aligners. Whether you’re looking for DMLS, SLS, SLA, MultiJet, PolyJet or FDM printers, it’s all here.
Industrial 3D Printers
EOS has been producing high-quality 3D industrial printers for 30 years. This Munich-based manufacturer has locations in many countries including the U. S. EOS’ printers use DMLS, SLS and Stereolithography technology to produce high-quality end-parts, jewelry and watches.
Stratasys has been a leader in 3D printers technology for over 30 years. They make a variety of high-quality 3D printers that use FDM, PolyJet and Stereolithography technologies. The company, founded by Scott and Lisa Crump, merged with Objet in 2012.
3D Systems3D Systems is an innovative company and has more than 33 years of expertise in the 3D printers industry. 3D Systems was co-founded by Chuck Hull, the inventor of stereolithography and was the first 3D printers company in the world. 3D Systems offer several models for SLS and DMLS, Multijet, Full color and Dental 3D printers.
Consumer 3D Printers
There are a variety of 3D printers that have smaller-scale applications for consumers. Fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS) and digital light processing (DLP) technologies are the most common technologies used. Prices for these 3D printers range from $160 to $3,500.
- Creality CR – FDM
- MakerBot Replicator – FDM
- Ultimaker 3 – FDM
- Formlabs Form 2 – SLA
Which 3D Printer Is Right For You?Challenges you may want to consider when purchasing a 3D printer:
- Purpose: What are you going to use it for? Rapid prototyping, medical modeling or manufacturing. Based on that question, you’ll have a better idea of the technologies that will 3D print your product or part.
- Technology: Does your part or model require fine detail? The complexity of your product or part will determine which technology you’ll need to make it happen.
- Materials: Do you need strength, durability, flexibility? Metal, filament, plastic and resin are used for different products.
- Budget: How much do you want to spend? 3D printers like the Stratasys line range from $6,000 – $750,000.
- Specialized equipment you may need to use or set up for production and cleanup processes.
- Learn what skills may be needed to operate and maintain each technology.
- What other supplies, tools and manpower are needed.
Challenges you may want to consider when purchasing a 3D printer:
There are a lot of different software options for 3D printing so it’s worth your time to investigate them all to be sure you’ve got the best one for your manufacturing needs.
Capital expenditures and on-going expenses might include software costs, cost of materials for your chosen technology; purchase of new 3D printers; depreciation (most printers are used for about five years); consumables needed for post processing, packaging and shipping; printing time; electricity usage; repairs and upgrades; manpower needed to complete projects; and cost of failed prints.
Printer maintenance includes having the technicians lined up or employees trained to do this. Be sure to schedule specific uptime and preventive maintenance regularly. Doing so will help you avoid major down time when machines breakdown.
There is always something new on the market so doing thorough research is an important part of the business process. Ask yourself if the machine will grow with your needs.
There are a broad range of technologies to choose from. You’ll want to investigate each of them so you choose the right one for your product. They include: FDM, CJP, DMLS, SLS, SLA, CLIP, Jet Fusion, DLP, MJP, and PolyJet printing.
Maintaining material freshness is important in the 3D printing process. Be sure to plan for sufficient inventory needed to get started and to continue manufacturing products. You’ll need to have the physical space to store all materials required. There may be reorder challenges so you may want to have multiple sources for purchasing supplies or plenty of materials/consumables in your inventory, so you don’t run out during a print job.
Printer Environment is a key component in additive manufacturing. Be sure to have the proper humidity, clean air, venting, temperature, electrical set up for the technology you choose. For example, SLS machines print highly detailed parts and can be very cost effective but because of the fine powder used you’ll have dust everywhere and you’ll need to have a protective breathing mask. It’s best used in an industrial setting because of the volume it’s capable of printing.
Be sure to consider the many post processing finishes that may be needed to complete the products you manufacture. They include UV protection and waterproofing, bead blasting, washing, waxing, melting, cyanoacrylate strengthening, toxic waste, sanding and grinding.
You need to determine whether your going to ship only locally or worldwide as it affects packaging and shipping options available to you. Some shipping boxes need to be custom-built so you’ll need extra manpower and supplies to accommodate the different sizes of the completed projects.
Do you have a question we didn‘t answer? Don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-385-206-8700 or [email protected].