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.

Webinar: Selecting the Right Material for 3D Printing

Join Proto Labs’ team of 3D printing application engineers as they share how to navigate the material selection process for three additive manufacturing processes: stereolithography (SL), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

In order to help you understand every variable that goes into selecting the right 3D printing material, the presentation will share:

  • Material properties attainable with SL, SLS, and DMLS
  • When to use each process and common applications
  • 3D printing specifications at Proto Labs

TITLE: Selecting the Right Material for 3D Printing
DATE: Thursday, December 15 at 11 a.m. CST
REGISTER: Click here to sign up

The presentation will conclude with an open Q&A session, so bring your 3D printing questions! Also, please feel free to forward this invite if you have a colleague or friend that may be interested.

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

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

READ FULL DESIGN TIP.