How to Select the Right 3D Printing Technology

The term 3D printing encompasses several manufacturing technologies that build parts layer-by-layer. Each vary in the way they form plastic and metal parts and can differ in material selection, surface finish, durability, and manufacturing speed and cost.

Selecting the right 3D printing technology for your application requires an understanding of each process’ strengths and weaknesses and mapping those attributes to your product development needs. Let’s first discuss how 3D printing fits within the product development cycle and then take a look at common 3D printing technologies and the advantages of each.

Metal 3D-printed parts can enable design features not possible with traditional manufacturing processes.

3D Printing for Prototyping and Beyond
It’s safe to say 3D printing is most often used for prototyping. Its ability to quickly manufacture a single part enables product developers to validate and share ideas in a cost-effective manner. Determining the purpose of your prototype will inform which 3D printing technology will be the most beneficial. Additive manufacturing can be suitable for a range of prototypes that span from simple physical models to parts used for functional testing.

Despite 3D printing being nearly synonymous with rapid prototyping, there are scenarios when it’s a viable production process. Typically these applications involve low-volumes and complex geometries. Often, components for aerospace and medical applications are ideal candidates for production 3D printing as they frequently match the criteria previously described. Continue reading

Video: Industrial 3D printing for Prototyping and Production

It takes more than designing a digital 3D model and pressing the print button to produce quality 3D-printed parts. Understanding material properties, support structures, post-build processing, and the differences between additive manufacturing processes all contribute to the quality of a 3D-printed part.

In this video, you’ll learn how we produce precise and repeatable results across our three industrial 3D printing processes and how you can best leverage additive manufacturing during product development.

 

 

Want to better understand the capabilities and benefits of industrial 3D printing? Check out our resources to learn more.

3D Printing Design Fundamentals

Download “Design Essentials for 3D Printing”

3D printing opens up new design possibilities like hollow parts and complex organic geometries, but it’s still important to keep a few fundamentals in mind to take full advantage of 3D printing’s capabilities.

Understanding materials and processes as well as considerations like support structures and feature resolution are crucial for success. These design essentials will help you make the most out of your 3D-printed parts and accelerate your product development efforts.

In the following guide to 3D printing we focus on these topics:

  • 3D printing prototypes and fully functional, end-use parts
  • Designing for metal 3D printing
  • Comparing additive manufacturing processes
  • Material properties and selection

Click here to download Design Essentials for 3D Printing.

3D Printing’s Next Dimension? 7 Questions for Industry Experts

Rob Connelly

Patrick Dunne

A higher profile for industrial-grade 3D printing over the past decade has led to notable technology developments and potential new applications. The buzz over 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has also created a lot of speculation in the trade press about whether this technology, which has been around for more than 30 years, is poised to make a giant leap forward in capabilities.

“We are just now starting to see the fruits of these developments,” said Rob Connelly, vice president of additive manufacturing for Proto Labs, referring to a spate of recent announcements about advancements in new machines, materials, and software.

We recently interviewed three leaders from the 3D printing industry for insight into the current and future state of 3D printing:

John Murray

  • Rob Connelly, Vice President, Additive Manufacturing, Proto Labs
  • Patrick Dunne, Vice President, Advanced Application Development, 3D Systems, which manufactures and sells 3D printers
  • John Murray, President and CEO, U.S., Concept Laser, a global provider of 3D metal printing systems

Continue reading

How to Design 4 Common Metal 3D Printing Features

Click to watch an on-demand webinar on how to design for direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is not intended to replace traditional metal manufacturing like casting, metal injection molding, or machining. Rather, it’s a product development tool that opens up new design possibilities. Product designers and engineers commonly rely on metal 3D printing to manufacture complex geometries, reduce the number of components in an assembly, or even lightweight objects.

Here’s a look at how to design 4 common features found in metal 3D-printed parts.

1. Self-Supporting Angles
A self-supporting angle describes the feature’s angle relative to the build plate. The lower the angle, the less the likely it is to support itself.

Support angles built with direct metal laser sintering

Designing support angles no less than 45 degrees will ensure a quality surface finish and detail.

Each material will perform slightly different, but the general rule of thumb is to avoid designing a self-supporting feature that is less than 45 degrees. This tip will serve you well across all available materials. As you can see in the picture above, as the angle decreases, the part’s surface finish becomes rougher and eventually the part will fail if the angle is reduced too far. Continue reading