Unlimited Benefits of 3D Printing Technology to Small Manufacturing Businesses

Additive manufacturing, known as 3D Printing, has countless uses. 3D Printing assists in manufacturing many designs and even tools to help bolster the products your company offers. 3D Printing is the go-to method for most small-scale manufacturing industries nowadays. Moreover, 3D Printing allows for producing products without paying for tooling. But if you are wondering how it benefits the manufacturing industries, you’ve come to the right place.

3D Printing

3D Printing Benefits

In general, 3D Printing is advantageous to small industries for creating small scale products, components for larger assemblies, and prototypes. Besides, 3D Printing is suitable for most industries because the in-house production of many parts, tools, and small scale products help diversify a company’s portfolio. Although 3D Printing may not replace current plastic manufacturing techniques, its versatility as a production technique puts it at the forefront for most engineering companies to prototype and test a product’s functionality.
Similarly, 3D printers are relatively cheap and more accessible than other plastic manufacturing techniques that provide similar outputs, thus allowing users of all levels around the world to benefit from the manufacturing process.
A great example of this is the use of 3D Printing during the COVID-19 outbreak. Individuals from the 3D crowd and other similar organisations used their printers to print facemasks, which was donated to the NHS and health care workers worldwide.

Printing Methods

To summarise, there are various 3D printer methods such as Selective Laser Sintering SLS, Stereolithography SLA, Fused deposition Modeling FDM. Each of these methods come with their benefits and hindrances.

FDM

Typically, FDM needs support material and is usually hollow. FDM printing has a higher chance of interruption during the print process, such as clogged filaments and layer adhesion issues. Although it can print complex geometry, supports are a must to have a successful output.

SLA (as a three-part process)

There are three parts to this method, print, clean, and cure. This method is typically robust and provides a more stable output without the worries of filaments clogging during the Printing. Besides, integrating supports can yield complex geometry.

SLS (two-part process)

There are two parts to this method, print and cool down. On the contrary, this method does not require Printing support because the powder used itself works as a support. Hence, allowing the Printing of complex geometry without any external supports.

However, all of the above processes can be time-consuming as each print is completed layer by layer. Nonetheless, it is faster than conventional prototyping techniques with typical lead times of two to six weeks.

Cutting down costs

In summary, the most cost-effective and readily available of the three techniques above is FDM printing. FDM printers are excellent for printing items smaller or up to the same size as the printer. Besides, these printers are relatively cost-effective and usually lie in the £150 to £1000 range.

In comparison, SLA and SLS have similar technologies, but the results are distinguishably different. Compared to FDM, SLA printing is currently the choice for many engineering companies as it creates high-resolution products. Furthermore, a significant degree of testing can be conducted on the printed parts compared to FDM printing.
Conversely, SLS is still a growing industry for desktop printers, but the superior of the techniques mentioned, it is the best technique for precise Printing, particularly for working models. The self-supported printed parts can be rigorously tested; this high-resolution printing process enables the commercialisation of printed parts.

Size

First, opting for a smaller sized printer is a viable decision as the printer itself does not occupy much space. Although 3D printers come with different configurations, some keep the workspace stationary, and the head moves. While in the others, the head is stationary, and the workspace moves. Usually, the average size of an FDM printer is around 40cm x 40cm x 40cm and is provided by brands like MakerBot, Prusa, ender, etc.However, 3D printers of this dimension are significantly smaller than industrial machinery. Additionally, these small printers have the added benefit of portability, like lifting and moving from one place to another is hassle-free.
Due to many reasons like the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, most companies had to shut down temporarily. This resulted in some employees moving equipment to their homes to continue prototyping and testing. In such a situation, small 3D-printers like these can be easily moved, set up, and used.

3D printing

Shift between products during manufacturing

When using a 3D-printer, modifying a product is not a problem. It is just a few clicks away. Consequently, it makes the prototype designing more accessible than ever by reducing the time from months to days. If you decide to cycle between different products during production, all that is required is a few clicks on your personal computer or the printer itself. Press start, and you are good to go.
No tools or attachments are changed or added for a change in the product. After printing, just remove the previous part produced, select the new design you want to print, and start the printing process. Therefore, reducing production time.

Similarly, newer printers come with a mobile application to access the printer through your mobile phone as long as both the mobile phone and printer are connected to a working internet connection. Therefore, allowing you to check in on the print process from wherever you are and whenever you want.
Advanced printers like the Makerbot are equipped with filament clogging sensors that alert the user through the application that clogging has interrupted the printing process; in many cases, printers like the MakerBot run through a preset unclogging process so the current print job can be completed.

Compatibility with designing software (CAD Software)

Mostly, all printers require 3D Cad parts in an STL or OBJ file format. Most 3D CAD software can export to STL, so no matter what designing tool you or your company uses, you will be able to export your parts to STL for 3D Printing. Additional slicing software is required to split the STL design into layers converted into G codes. G codes are used by the printer to print the parts at your desired location on the build plate; Slicing software is typically free. Here are a few examples to get you started.

3D printer Slicer table.xlsx

SoftwareOperating SystemPurchaseSkill Required
MakerBot PrintWindows & MacFreeBeginner
Z-SuiteWindows & MacFreeBeginners
Tinkerine SuiteWindows & MacFreeBeginner
CuraWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeBeginner to Advanced
PrusaSlicerWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeBeginner to Advanced
MatterControlWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeBeginner to Advanced
Simplify3DWindows & MacOne-time Beginner to Advanced
ideaMakerWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeBeginner to Advanced
AstroprintBrowser, Raspberry Pi & pcDuinoFreeBeginner to Advanced
CraftWareWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeBeginner to Advanced
3DPrinterOSBrowser, Windows & MacFreeBeginner to Advanced
SelfCADBrowserFree trial, Thereafter monthly subscriptionBeginner to Advanced
KISSlicerWindows, Mac, Linux & Raspberry PieFreeBeginner to Advanced
Netfabb StandardWindowsAnnual SubscriptionIntermediate to Advanced
OctoPrintRaspberry Pi, Windows & Mac LinuxFreeIntermediate to Advanced
RepetierWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeIntermediate to Advanced
IceSLWindows, LinuxFreeAdvanced
SliceCrafterBrowserFreeAdvanced
Slic3rWindows, Mac & LinuxFreeAdvanced to Professional

User Friendly

Designing a new product can be time-consuming. However, once the design is completed, you’re just a few clicks away. Many companies, like JOA designs, can create outstanding designs for you. Doing the rest is as easy as it can get. The printer itself and the slicing software have straightforward user interfaces and require little to no experience to operate.

Similarly, a 3D slicer works as a translator for the printer by creating a tool path based on the STL-file content and deduces the infill percentages for the 3D printer. A good 3D slicer guarantees superior results with mediocre printers as well, finding the ideal slicer settings is the key.

Safety

While there aren’t many hazards involved in operating a 3D-printer, there are a few to be noted. The print nozzle can heat up to 230ºC so that the filament plastic can reach its melting point; fumes are common. Therefore, when Printing is in progress, keep the room ventilated, particularly for ABS filament.

Not limited to product manufacturing

3D printers can be utilised in an industrial setting to ease specific production processes, which require some special custom tools to facilitate the procedures. By using a 3D printer, custom parts can be created to reduce downtime and increase production efficiency.

3D Printing

Low production costs

Compared to the printer, the plastic itself is not so expensive and it is also the primary raw material used in 3D Printing. The replenishment process is possible at meagre prices, resulting in low production costs. In particular, depending upon the printing material quality, the filament ranges anywhere between £15 -20 per kg

Negligible infrastructure costs

A 3D-printer requires no more than an ordinary 120-volt power outlet to operate. In some situations, regarding closed environments, ventilation fans may be necessary.

New to 3D printing?

Explore online platforms such as Thingiverse to find useful files for various gadgets to print to help around the house or office. 
If you’re looking to develop a new printer, reach out to us, and we can help you achieve your goals efficiently. JOA Designs are experienced in 3D printing technology, and we have designed many 3D printers to use in house.

Budget friendly 3D printers to Professionals

3D PrinterBuild Volume (mm)Market Price (£)Check Prices Here
Anycubic Mega Zero220 x 220 x 250 mm136Check Here
Creality Ender 3220 x 220 x 250 mm159Check here
Creality Ender 3 V2220 x 220 x 250 mm204Check Here
Flashforge Finder140 x 140 x 140 mm227Check Here
Creality Ender 5 Pro220 x 220 x 300 mm296Check Here
Anycubic Mega X300 x 300 x 305 mm459Check Here
Monoprice Voxel 150 x 150 x 150 mm303Check Here
Original Prusa Mini180 x 180 x 180 mm321Check Here
Artillery Sidewinder X1300 x 300 x 400 mm354Check Here
Qidi Tech X-Pro230 x 150 x 150 mm455Check Here
Original Prusa i3 MK3S250 x 250 x 210 mm689Check Here
Original Prusa i3 MK3S250 x 210 x 210918Check Here
Zortrax M300 Plus300 x 300 x 3002272Check Here
Formlabs Form 3145 x 145  x 1852659Check Here
SprintRay MoonRay S127 x 81 x 2033039Check Here
LulzBot Taz Pro280 x 280 x 2853762Check Here
Ultimaker S5330 x 240 x 3004556Check Here
Raise3D Pro2 Plus305 x 305 x 6054559Check Here
Intamsys Funmat HT260 x 260 x 2604940Check Here
DWS XFABØ 180×1806535Check Here
Formlabs Fuse 1165 x 165 x 3207599Check Here
Markforged Mark 2320 x 132 x 15410259Check Here
Rize One300 x 200 x 15019760Check Here
Delta WASP 4070 INDUSTRIALØ400 x h7006460Check Here

Was this blog helpful in getting started with your printer? For more information, contact us.

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