The potential for innovation in 3D design and 3D printing is infinite, and features continue to expand, whether in rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing end-use parts. From the ability to create complex geometries, to speed in turnaround and greater efficiency in product development, 3D printing offers benefits for every level of manufacturing. Economics are key in any project though, and staying within or under budget is the goal for most industrial endeavors.
3D printing is lauded as a technique offering both quality and affordability, but taking advantage of those savings requires forethought. This means taking time to become educated in the product development process, understanding compatibility between 3D printing materials and technology, and gaining knowledge about guidelines and settings.
Designing for Success and Budget–It’s All in the Details
The key to success in 3D printing is planning. While innovation is known to involve risk, there are numerous rules to follow for ensuring printability–and affordability. When a Shapeways customer uploads a 3D model, the system activates an instant quote and 3D printability analysis. While analysis is reliable, optimizing 3D models before uploading saves time, expense, and headaches. This includes attention to the geometry overall.
Common rejections for 3D printability often begin with weak geometries. To avoid this type of rejection, check for strength in these areas ahead of time:
- Wall thickness
- Fine details like engraving in 3D printed metal products like jewelry
- Compatibility between materials and technology
The majority of 3D models are uploaded and 3D printed without obstacles, but in some cases there are details prohibiting manufacturing.
“We are able to regenerate models that originally were not printable,” says Angeliki Sioliou, User Application Design Specialist at Shapeways.
“Different materials have different guidelines, and sometimes we run into problems when a model is set for a material that isn’t compatible with a more complicated type of geometry,” continues Angeliki. “It saves a lot of time to know exactly what material you want to work with and to research its guidelines before designing.”
For customers working with a set of product requirements for 3D printed parts, a one-on-one consultation with the UA Team could help them cross the final hurdle to start scaling their manufacturing. The consultation includes a deeper analysis to explore the current 3D model, why it may or may not survive the manufacturing process, what types of post-processing will be necessary, and what to expect in the 3D printed product. At that point, customers can re-work 3D designs, choose different 3D printing materials for a better fit–or explore other technologies–all key factors in leading them to the next level in additive manufacturing.
Rapid Prototyping to Reduce Cost
The product development process was improved significantly upon the inception of 3D printing in the 1980s. The ability to make a 3D model and 3D print it expediently can make the difference between waiting a few days–or a few months. The savings are vast, beginning with the ability to make unlimited iterations–economically–for perfecting parts.
“Our goal is to make the customer experience as seamless as possible,” says Matthew Nadler, User Application Materials Specialist at Shapeways. “We unlock all that Shapeways has to offer for our customers, and enable them to leverage our full capabilities in rapid prototyping and end-use manufacturing.”
Other savings via prototyping include the ability to:
- Optimize designs and reduce cost.
- Use materials and technology effectively for prototyping and high-quality manufacturing.
- Nail down final designs for mass production of parts.
On-Demand 3D Printing
With the ability to additive manufacture parts on demand, potential savings on the bottom line are multi-layered. On-demand 3D printing opens up an entirely new dynamic for business owners to cut down on warehouse space and substantially reduce the inventory on hand. Shapeways 3D prints customized parts quickly, and production (whether in low or high volume) is localized rather than waiting for products from other areas continually impacted by supply chain issues.
Other major advantages of on-demand 3D printing include:
- Security in uploading, maintaining, and storing 3D digital inventories, along with preventing issues like overproduction. Not only is the need for warehouse space decreased or eliminated, extra inventory no longer has to gather dust. Spare parts can be printed as needed, as well as other parts that may have become outdated and are no longer possible to make via traditional manufacturing. This is a common benefit for applications like automotive, railways or the aerospace industry.
- The ability to 3D print with reduced assemblies to streamline production; in fact, for some larger pieces, part counts can be decreased exponentially and ultimately, the 3D printed structures are lighter in weight too. The overall result is greater efficiency with higher quality and optimization of parts, combined with less use of resources and energy.
- Greater efficiency and a faster time to market whether in manufacturing high-performance components.
Uploading the 3D Model and Understanding How 3D Printing Prices Are Calculated
The instant quote and printability analysis process begin upon uploading of any 3D model at Shapeways. Pricing is based on numerous factors, to include:
- Material volume - The amount of material used to 3D print a model affects pricing. Reducing the volume of any 3D model reduces cost. This goes for machine space too: the larger a 3D model is, the more space it takes up in a 3D printer.
- Assembly of parts - This refers to the number of parts that are handled during 3D printing production. Each part must be planned for packing in the 3D printer and proper orientation must be set. In post-processing, 3D printed parts are cleaned, sorted, and packaged for shipping. Dyeing and polishing includes several added steps, increasing the cost per part.
- Breakdown of production costs - Associated production costs include labor, quality control, machine maintenance, general utilities, and other supporting services.
- Support volume - This price is calculated in reference to the extra amount of materials used for supports to stabilize parts during 3D printing.
Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.