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What is an Industrial FDM 3D Printer?
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is changing many industries. This includes the automotive and aerospace sectors. It also impacts healthcare and consumer products. 3D printing can create tools for manufacturing or even build parts for a rocket. The scope of possibilities is wide.
However, not all 3D printers are the same. You are likely familiar with fragile desktop single head 3D printers meant for hobbyists. You may also be familiar with printers that claim to be suited for industrial environments that look good in advertising, but, upon investigation, do not have key industrial machine requirements. Deciding which 3D printer to invest in can be tough.
Industrial 3D printers have a specific design. They are made for heavy-duty use. They need low maintenance and offer high uptime and repeatability. They produce high-quality parts. These parts are precise and durable. But recognizing an industrial 3D printer can be difficult. This is especially true when advertisements can be misleading.
This article will provide guidance. It will cover the key features and aspects of genuine industrial 3D printers. This will help you differentiate them from “pro”-consumer-grade and desktop hobby models.
On-site support team available.
On-site support is a significant aspect of ensuring smooth production flow. Having trained technicians on hand can be invaluable for addressing any immediate technical issues that arise. They can troubleshoot problems quickly and perform necessary repairs or adjustments, minimizing downtime. Beyond that, on-site support staff can also provide real-time training and tips to operators, enhancing the overall efficiency of your printing processes.
Industrial machines have regular preventive maintenance that not only prolongs the lifespan of your printers but also helps ensure they deliver consistent, high-quality results. This may involve lubricating the moving parts, calibrating the printer for accuracy, and checking for any wear and tear.
Remember, regular maintenance and robust on-site support are not just reactive measures, but proactive strategies. They are key to keeping your industrial 3D printers in peak condition, maximizing productivity, and, ultimately, ensuring the success of your factory operations.
If the system, you are reviewing does not offer an on-site repair and maintenance team then it is most likely not an industrial system.
Two heads: One for the material and One for the support.
The inclusion of a soluble support material head on your 3D printer truly opens a new world of possibilities. Soluble support permits the printing of virtually any geometry, no matter how complex or intricate. For example, you can print parts with steep overhangs, intricate internal structures, or even moving parts, all in one piece.
In contrast, traditional breakaway supports can limit the complexity of the designs you can print. Breakaway supports must be manually removed, and this might not be feasible for parts with intricate parts, movable assemblies, internal structures, or delicate features. Additionally, breakaway supports can leave behind small marks or rough surfaces on the finished print, while soluble supports often result in cleaner, higher quality surface finishes. So, by employing a dual-head printer with one head dedicated to soluble support material, you can truly maximize your 3D printing capabilities.
Temperature-controlled build chamber
Proper temperature control in 3D printing is not just about heating the build plate; it’s also about maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the entire build chamber. The main reason for this is to ensure the printed part’s integrity, minimizing the risk of delamination. Delamination, where layers of the print separate, is often a result of temperature inconsistencies during the printing process. By controlling the temperature throughout the entire build chamber, the printed material heats evenly and consistently, reducing the risk of delamination and warping.
Furthermore, full chamber temperature control enhances the repeatability of the printing process. This means you can print the same part today, next week, or even months later, and achieve the exact same result each time. This consistency is paramount in an industrial setting, where quality control and predictability are key. In conclusion, having a fully controlled temperature environment allows you to get the print right the first time and every time thereafter, saving time, resources, and ensuring the reliability of the output.
Materials designed for specific 3D printers.
The importance of using rigorously tested materials in an industrial 3D printing environment cannot be overstated. These materials come with comprehensive Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and specification sheets, providing detailed information about their chemical and physical properties. The MSDS is essential for ensuring safety in handling, usage, storage, and disposal of the material. The MSDS outlines potential hazards, safety precautions, and first aid measures. The specification sheet, on the other hand, offers information about the material’s physical characteristics, mechanical properties, performance under various conditions, and compatibility with different 3D printing systems.
This information is invaluable when deciding what material is appropriate for your specific application. For instance, you would need to understand a material’s tensile strength, flexibility, heat resistance, and durability among other factors when selecting it for a particular print. Materials that are specifically designed and thoroughly tested for specific 3D printers help to ensure optimal performance of the final product, minimize potential issues during the printing process, and help maintain safety standards. Using such materials gives you the confidence that the final printed part will meet the necessary requirements of your application.
Reliability and Low Repair Frequency
Engineers are paid for their engineering skills and not to be a 3d printer repairman. 3D printers not explicitly designed for industrial environments tend to require more frequent maintenance and can lead to productivity issues. Their increased tendency to breakdown can lead to downtime, interrupting workflows and potentially wasting valuable engineering hours that could be better utilized elsewhere. Moreover, they often lack the robustness required for continuous, heavy-duty operation and may not offer the precision, repeatability, and high-quality output necessary in an industrial setting. As a result, the resources spent fixing issues and adjusting prints could end up increasing the total cost of ownership, making them less efficient.
Cost; both initial cost of ownership and long-term costs.
When investing in a 3D printer, it’s important to recognize that the initial cost isn’t the only factor to consider. While it may seem at first glance that industrial printers are more expensive than non-industrial or desktop versions, it’s essential to consider the long-term value and total cost of ownership.
3D Printer companies, like Stratasys, invest significantly in engineering, durability, repeatability, and longevity. They produce printers designed to withstand heavy use over years of daily use. These printers often require:
- Less frequent maintenance
- Have much better uptime
- Have longer lifespans
- Offer consistent print quality, leading to lower costs over time.
This contrasts with some companies that might offer cheaper initial prices but spend more of their budget on advertising than on the actual development and durability of their products.
The thoughtfulness and attention to detail that goes into integrating the 3D printer’s design and its compatible materials can have a significant impact on the overall performance and reliability. A well-designed industrial printer, matched with high-quality, tested materials, can reduce print failures, enhance print quality, and ensure consistent results, saving you time and resources.
While the upfront cost might seem higher, an industrial 3D printer often provides better value for money over time. It’s an investment in reliability, consistency, and durability. Always consider these factors, and not just the initial price tag, when choosing the right 3D printer for your needs.
In summary, a genuine industrial 3D printer involves considering multiple factors. From understanding the machine’s design, aimed at heavy-duty use and high uptime, to assessing its key features such as on-site support, the inclusion of a second head for soluble support materials, and a temperature controlled build chamber. It’s also essential to consider the materials used, which should be meticulously designed and tested, and come with comprehensive MSDS and specification sheets. Lastly, the cost should not only include the initial price but also the long-term value provided, with respect to maintenance needs, durability, and performance consistency. These elements constitute an industrial FDM 3D printer.