3D Printing Companies And Services For Rapid Prototyping And Industrial Applications
The industrial market for 3D printing companies and services is dominated by a few companies. They support on-demand 3D printing starting with single pieces and rapid prototyping, through to large volume commercial production.
Industrial 3D printers can also provide a level of resolution to objects which is not typically found in the hobbyist and home use printers. In this article, we’ll focus on the commercial and industrial applications. For 3D printing and services related to the hobbyist or home use, please see the article referenced below.
Related Article – 3D Printing Companies And Services For Small Scale And Hobbyists
A primer on the technology of 3D printing – a designer creates a model with a computer aided design (CAD) program to generate a build file for the printer. Some printers require using proprietary software to generate the necessary files. Others will accept files from a variety of standard programs.
Related Article – AutoDesk releases their free CAD tools, 123D, to enable quick and robust 3D model designs
The process of creating the object begins with an empty space in the build chamber of the 3D printer. One or more nozzles will spray down layer after layer of material on top of each other to build to the desired shape. This is different from subtractive processes such as machining, milling or sculpting. As its name implies, the subtractive process begins with a piece of material in which portions are removed until the final shape is reached. One major benefit of the additive process in 3D printing is that objects do not need to be completely filled. This saves on material costs, object weight and construction time. For example, a 3D printed object may be built with an internal honeycomb structure to provide structural strength.
As mentioned above, the commercial and industrial 3D printers are designed to accommodate large scale format and high volume or rapid prototype requirements. Alternatively, the industrial grade 3D printers can be used for very fine detail objects or special purpose, such as in medical applications.
Related Article – 3D Printing For Medical Applications
For industrial applications, the worlds’ two largest 3D printing companies are Stratasys and 3D Systems Corp . These specialize in the areas of:
- Concept modeling
- Functional prototyping
- End-Use Parts
- Manufacturing Tooling
- Finishing Applications
Generally the industries that would use an industrial 3D printing service, or purchase equipment for internal usage are in the areas of:
- Commercial Product Development
- Consumer Product development
- General Manufacturing
- Medical / Dental
In addition to the standard ABS and PLA materials used in 3D printing for home use, the industrial printers are capable of building with FDM Thermoplastics and PolyJet Photopolymers. For special products, such as medical, they may also use custom developed materials like polyvinyl alcohol based plasticine.
Stratasys offers their ” Fortus 900mc 3D Production Systems ” with a large build area for parts as large as 914 x 610 x 914 mm (36 x 24 x 36 in.). To support a production environment, the Fortus 900mc features two material bays for maximum uninterrupted printing. Depending on the desired finished product, the usable printing materials include high-performance thermoplastics for biocompatibility, static dissipation and resistance to heat and chemicals. It is also possible to adjust the layer thickness from three different settings to chose between build time and feature resolution.
The 900mc is the high end 3D printer in the Stratasys Fortus family. This has a build throughput which is more than double the entry level printer, 250mc. The 250mc also has a smaller build chamber, which can support parts up to 254 x 254 x 305 mm (10 x 10 x 12 in.).
There are two mid-range 3D printers which have build chambers, print resolution and throughput capacity between the 250mc and the 900mc. These are the 360mc and the 400mc . For complete details and specifications on all four 3D printers, please refer to the Stratasys Production Series page.
3DSystems ” iPro ” family of 3D printers has the ” 900 XL” at the high end. This offers the largest build volume in the industry, at 1500 x 750 x 550 mm (59 x 30 x 22). Similar to other production 3D printers, the iPro family has multiple material bays which can print with a diverse variety of materials. Multiple nozzle configurations provide varying degrees of resolution and build time options.
Their iPro series consists of the 8000, the 8000 MP and 9000 in addition to the 9000 XL.
For complete specifications and notes, please visit the iPro SLA Production Printer page.
A new entry into the extremely large build category for 3D printing is KamerMaker (translated this means ” Room Maker “). While these machines are not for full scale production, the can fill other needs such as creating an entire semi-permanent living space for disaster recovery situation. KamerMaker is also approaching large scale printing in a unique way by taking their equipment on a road show. At various conventions and events, they will set up their large format machine and print user designs. It’s a very engaging experience and provides a hands-on opportunity to see what can be done with this technology.
Related Article – KamerMaker unveiled large scale 3D printer capable of building furniture, ships and rooms
Both 3DSystems and Stratasys will 3D print your designs for you using their in-house production facilities. This can be a single item up through production quantities. The cost will vary depending on the volume of material required, the material type, the resolution of the finished object and set-up fees. Please contact their representatives for a price quote.
(Image Credit – Stratasys)
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