Rapid prototyping #1

3d product design development strategy consultants Plastic Design

Rapid prototyping #1

As technology advances and new methods of prototyping become available, clients expect high quality products and even shorter lead times. Reduced set up costs and the availability of 3D printing have evolved the way inventors, SMEs and blue-chip companies test their designs. 3D printing allows an individual to rigorously test their concept before investing large sums on tooling and committing to large scale production runs.

If you weren’t already familiar with 3D printing or additive manufacturing, you soon will be! 3D printing and additive manufacturing are the same thing. They both refer to a group of technologies that can construct three-dimensional objects in a variety of materials.

3d product design development strategy consultants Plastic Design

The image above shows four different 3D printers made by different manufacturers. Each of these 3D printers have slightly different applications, and produce different qualities. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be up to speed on the 4 most common 3D printing options available on the market today.

FDM (Fused deposition modelling)

3d product design development strategy consultants Plastic Design

How does it work?

FDM works by extruding melted plastic filament from a heated nozzle onto a bed a single layer at a time. The bed is lowered every time a new layer is extruded on top of the last. This process is repeated until the model is complete. Depending on the complexity of the model being printed, a support structure may be required. Support structures are always required if there are undercuts.

What is it used for?

FDM is commonly used for form and fit testing, prototyping new designs and making simple models. Usually FDM printers are aimed towards the consumer market who print infrequently, or who aren’t concerned about obtaining high resolution models.

The pro’s

  • FDM has a large variety of materials and some colour options that can be used.
  • Fast option if you’re looking to print a single part to test your design.
  • It’s cost-effective.
  • It’s the ‘desktop friendly’ option – perfect for in-house usage.
  • Won’t warp or absorb moisture.

The con’s

  • Very slow if you’re looking to print multiple parts.
  • The layering effect of FDM is obvious – low resolution print.
  • The layering can cause a weak bond on the Z axis.
  • Printed parts do not function to the same level as manufactured parts.
  • Removal of support structures required.

 

 

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

3d product design development strategy consultants Plastic Design

How does it work?

SLS requires a powerful laser to bond small particles of nylon powder in layers to create the part. After a singular layer is fused, the powder bed is lowered by the thickness of that same layer. A new layer of material is deposited across the top, and the process is then repeated until completion.

What is it used for?

SLS can be used to print multiple parts in one go, this is extremely cost-effective and offers short lead-times. The process known as ‘nesting’ allows multiple parts to fit within the boundaries of the machine.

The pro’s

  • Multiple material use (glass filled, aluminium filled etc).
  • Parts function similarly to how manufactured parts would.
  • Ideal for parts that require high heat requirements or chemical resistance.
  • Capable of producing parts with mechanical joints, snap fits or living hinges.
  • Doesn’t require the use of support material compared to FDM.

The con’s

  • SLS has much higher acquisition costs than other printing technologies.
  • It is impossible to fabricate a hollow but fully enclosed element.

SLA (Stereolithography)

How does it work?

SLA works by building up individual layers of a model with liquid polymer, hardened by a laser beam. After each layer is completed the model is lowered and another layer of liquid polymer exposed to the layer. This process is repeated until completion.

What is it used for?

SLA creates functional components with the quality required to evaluate the design of parts without additional post-processing. This is perfect for reducing product development time and side-stepping costly tooling alterations.

The pro’s

  • SLA models are highly accurate. Depending on the part geometry, surface features can be produced at 300 microns or less.
  • They print in high resolution.
  • Relatively low cost.
  • Produces parts with a smooth surface finish directly off the machine.
  • SLA creates a chemical bond by cross-linking photopolymers across layers resulting in fully dense parts.
  • The bond is water-and air-tight, and the strength doesn’t change with orientation.

The con’s

  • SLA models print slowly.
  • Printing top down means that the model’s height cannot be greater than the depth of the resin in the tank.
  • Resin in sticky, so completed parts must be cleaned down with alcohol to remove stickiness.
  • Post-finishing required.

Project 660 (Z Corporation)

3d product design development strategy consultants Plastic Design

How does it work?

The Project 660 (formerly known as the Z printer) works by printing a binding agent onto a layer of powder (Gypsum) where the part is to be solid. Once that layer is finished, the platform lowers and another layer of loose powder is spread on top of the finished layer. This process is repeated until completion.

What is it used for?

Project 660 printed models are great for presentation models since they print fairly high resolution and have the option of printing in multi-colour. They’re widely used for architectural models and product mock ups.

The pro’s

  • Can print quickly.
  • Offers users the benefit of relatively high-resolution prints.
  • Ability to print in multi-colour – removing the need to hand paint which can be time-consuming and costly.

The con’s

  • Printing below 1mm thickness can be problematic.
  • Material is rigid and can be fragile (limits use for functional parts).
  • Post-finishing required

 

Now you’re up to speed on the different types of 3D printing technology available, you’ll be able to evaluate which route is perfect for testing your idea. If you have any questions, or need a prototype made by any of the above methods – call us today on 01604 654 114

 



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