DESIGN TIP: 6 Ways to Cut Costs with 3D Printing

Reduced cost of development as well as part production can certainly be achieved with industrial 3D printing processes, like selective laser sintering and direct metal laser sintering, but there are a few design rules you need to keep in mind.

Here is DMLS in action, as the machine sinters each layer. This process is repeated layer by layer until the build is complete.

This month’s design tip from Proto Labs discusses:

  • Optimizing part design for 3D printing
  • Embracing non-traditional design techniques like organic features
  • Designing for manufacturability if larger quantities are needed
  • Minimizing overhangs and other unfriendly features
  • Avoiding “over-tolerancing” your parts
  • Factoring in your product’s overall functionality in addition to cost reductions


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

Webinar: Designing for Selective Laser Sintering

This is the final part in our series of “Designing for 3D Printing” webinars. Just as we’ve looked at stereolithography and direct metal laser sintering in previous webinar, this presentation will provide insights into how to design for selective laser sintering (SLS), a discussion on material options, and recommended applications for SLS.

Post build

The presentation will include the following:

  • Comparison of SLS materials
  • Design guidelines for functional prototypes and production parts
  • Moldability considerations for effective development
  • Open Q&A session

TITLE: Designing for 3D Printing: Selective Laser Sintering
PRESENTER: Eric Van Roekel, SLS production manager
DATE: Thursday, October 27 at 1 p.m. CDT
REGISTER: Click here to sign up  

Can’t make it that day? You can still register and we’ll send you an on-demand version to watch when convenient. Also, feel free to forward this invite to your colleagues.

3D Printing Boosts Rocket Project for Engineering Students

University of Minnesota engineering students are readying a 3D-printed rocket engine for launch sometime later this year, with help from Proto Labs.

This cutaway view of the engine shows the cooling channel, which is one long tube that spirals down inside the wall.

David Deng, a senior aerospace engineering student at the U of M’s Twin Cities campus, is leading the extracurricular effort to design, build, and eventually fly a liquid-propellant rocket as project manager of LPRD Rocketry. The group’s name, pronounced “leopard,” is an acronym for Liquid Propellant Rocketry Design. The group includes aerospace engineering students and others studying electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering, and materials science.

The primary design challenges the group faced included the small overall size of the engine itself, and the need to also somehow incorporate a cooling system inside the engine.

David Deng (right), and the University of Minnesota student group LPRD Rocketry (left).

“The manufacturing of [the rocket engine] is incredibly difficult using conventional methods, especially for a very small engine,” Deng said. “The struggle was how do we [add] a single cooling channel through this entire engine, coiling around the side of it? That’s where Proto Labs came in. 3D printing is essentially the only way to get regenerative cooling on an engine this small and have it be a single channel.”


VIDEO: Lockheed Martin Drone Takes Flight with help from Proto Labs

The drone market in the U.S. is expected to soar to an $82-billion industry in the next decade, the New York Times recently reported. With that robust market in mind, Lockheed Martin, the aerospace, defense, and technology giant, developed a small, fold-up, lightweight drone, the Indago Quadcopter UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), turning to Proto Labs for quick-turn prototyping and low-volume production.

Proto Labs’ automated design for manufacturability (DFM) and quoting system was especially helpful in taking the Indago from 3D-printed prototypes to injection-molded parts, and getting finished parts delivered in days and weeks. The video tells the story: