3D Printer Manufacturing Cells

3D Printer Manufacturing Cells

Can 3D printers be used to produce volume production parts?

3D printers are capable of manufacturing the un-manufacturable.

Traditional manufacturing techniques are incapable of producing many simple 3D printed features that even novice 3D printer users take for granted, and design into their prints on a daily basis. Weight reducing internal voids with lattice support structure were previously impossible. 3D printing requires no tooling drafts, injection points or ejection features.

Negative draft, returns or complex shapes are not a problem. Printed parts require no expensive or bespoke mould tools. They just produce parts one layer at a time.

“Breaking the Mould”

3D printing breaks the convention and constraints of tooling design. Many production parts are compromised on functionality due to tooling limitations and cost of complex multi cavity mouldings.

3D printing is as dynamic as your mind, and the final product is only constrained by the size of your print bed and build volume.

Rapid prototyping in Industry

Additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping as it was previously referred to, was traditionally used to demonstrate an idea or concept, or to produce production intent prototype parts for internal design reviews.

Rapid prototyping was used to reduce risk and give confidence to the manufacturer before committing to expensive and long lead time tooling.

Committing to production tooling is a worrying time for any engineer no matter how experienced.

The rapid prototype parts used to validate the design are either stored for reference or simply thrown away.

Why haven’t printers been used to produce production parts?

Historical issues with 3D printing

  • Slow production cycles

  • Non representative material properties

  • Inconsistent part quality

  • Lack of understanding or resistance to adopt new technology

  • Lack of engineering experience to design for additive manufacture

  • Slow production cycles

  • Non representative material properties

  • Inconsistent part quality

  • Lack of understanding or resistance to adopt new technology

  • Lack of engineering experience to design for additive manufacture

Recent advances in 3D printers and materials have now solved many of the these issues.

The only outstanding problems to address are the education of engineers to design for additive manufacture, and to speed up production times.

How can 3D printers compete with traditional volume production methods and cycle times?

If we judge a single 3D printer on volume production against a 5 axis CNC machine or an industrial injection moulding tool, a single 3D printer has no chance of competing.

This is a real David and Goliath situation in which Goliath always wins, until now.

20 Benefits of 3D printer manufacturing cells or farms over large CNC machines or traditional injection moulding techniques.

  • Reduced set up costs

  • Reduced overheads

  • Quicker return on investment

  • Reduced production risk as production is spread over multiple machines

  • No expensive tooling costs or bespoke tooling

  • No tool maintenance

  • No tooling change over times

  • No tooling storage

  • No tooling material handling equipment

  • Reduced energy consumption

  • Reduced carbon emissions

  • Printers can produce a variety of different parts for different projects

  • Total manufacturing flexibility

  • Reduced production area required for multi part production

  • Increased part accuracy due to zero tool wear

  • Lack of tooling reduces design to production part delivery schedule

  • Future part modifications require no tooling changes

  • Reduced production down time

  • Broken printers can be easily swapped out for repair, service, or maintenance

  • Minimal material waste compared with subtractive manufacturing

  • Minimal support staff required

  • Minimal support equipment required

  • Equipment can react quicker to market requirements, support production assembly lines and JIT processes.

  • Reduced set up costs

  • Reduced overheads

  • Quicker return on investment

  • Reduced production risk as production is spread over multiple machines

  • No expensive tooling costs or bespoke tooling

  • No tool maintenance

  • No tooling change over times

  • No tooling storage

  • No tooling material handling equipment

  • Reduced energy consumption

  • Reduced carbon emissions

  • Printers can produce a variety of different parts for different projects

  • Total manufacturing flexibility

  • Reduced production area required for multi part production

  • Increased part accuracy due to zero tool wear

  • Lack of tooling reduces design to production part delivery schedule

  • Future part modifications require no tooling changes

  • Reduced production down time

  • Broken printers can be easily swapped out for repair, service, or maintenance

  • Minimal material waste compared with subtractive manufacturing

  • Minimal support staff required

  • Minimal support equipment required

  • Equipment can react quicker to market requirements, support production assembly lines and JIT processes.

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