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Archive for September, 2013

Project Breakdown: SLA Prototypes Painted & Assembled

Posted on: September 19th, 2013 by The Technology House

Project Breakdown: SLA Prototypes Painted & Assembled

Customer in the transportation business needed to showcase different versions of their new style of equipment. They requested painted SLA prototypes to be used as scale models at tradeshows and as sales samples for their reps, and they needed them fast!!!

All the SLA prototypes needed to be run, finished, painted and assembled complete 3-4 days from the receipt of 3D files. The challenge was that each 3D file needed engineering modifications done in order to build the SLA prototypes. On top of this, the scale models were fairly large (12” x 4” x 6”) and needed to be extremely detailed with hand finishing and multiple custom color matched painting. This was critical so that the customer’s design modifications to their equipment could be well noticed.

1) File Review: After 3D files were received, our SLA technicians modified the .STL assembly files into manageable files that could be successfully built while still keeping all the exterior details. 3D files were then sectioned so that parts could run, be finished, painted, then assembled with greater ease.
2) SLA Prototyping Runs: Parts were orientated for the SLA prototype builds. Any parts that were small with a lot of detail ran on the 3D Systems Viper si2 High Resolution SLA Machine. Larger parts with less detail were run on the 3D systems SLA 7000 Machine.
3) SLA Finishing: By building the more detailed parts on the high resolution SLA machine, the SLA parts required less hand finishing so parts could make it to paint more quickly. Parts still required hand masking because most parts required multiple colors to be painted on each part.
4) Custom Painting: At first the customer supplied paint, but soon after we noticed that in order to save on time, we would do our own paint color matches for our own paint. This saved a lot of the dry time which was critical when painting multiple colors.
5) SLA Prototype Assembly: After all the parts were painted, the parts were then assembled and, if needed, modified due to revisions that happened on the fly in order for parts to fit and resemble the actual equipment.
6) Delivery: On average, a job like this would take at least 1 to 1.5 weeks, but this time around, each model was completed in 3-4 days.

Projects like these cannot be done without very open and honest communication from customer to vendor to team and vice versa. This is why there is a dedicated project manager assigned to each and every project that comes in. The best way to be successful in the rapid prototyping industry is by working together to get the best possible model in the best possible timeframe. All projects are not like this one, but it sure is nice to have a project manager on hand when a project like this is needed as well as team of engineers, finishers, painters, and assemblers willing to do whatever it takes to make everyone successful.

Additive Manufacturing-Which Process is Best for You?

Posted on: September 14th, 2013 by The Technology House

Additive manufacturing is a process that creates physical objects from digital models.  While traditional machining methods fabricate parts by cutting away at material, additive manufacturing builds the part up layer by layer.  Although the additive manufacturing process has been around since the 1980’s, there has been much excitement about it due to the numerous recent advancements in processes and materials. Companies are able to produce high-quality prototypes that come closer to the production piece.  For example, medical companies are exploring patient-customized implants that are fabricated through additive manufacturing.  But with the constant innovation, it can be difficult to stay informed on what will work best for you.  That is why we have compiled the following list to show how the different additive manufacturing processes can help you.

Stereolithography (SLA) Prototyping
SLA is available in numerous plastic materials (i.e. ABS-like, PC-like, PP-like, Water clear, and High heat) that simulate properties of actual plastics.  SLA is one of the most popular methods for initial prototypes because it is ideal for design review, and fit/function testing.  Accuracy and finish allow for SLA to be the best process for master pattern of urethane and metal castings.  In addition, SLA is favored for show models since it can be more easily sanded and painted compared to other methods.

SLA prototype golf ball

Click to see details about SLA Prototype Materials.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Like SLA, FDM is a popular method for additive manufacturing.  A major benefit to FDM is that the materials offer excellent thermal and mechanical properties.  FDM is ideal for more “under the hood” applications.  Unlike, SLA where one will get a similar material to the plastic; FDM offers the actual plastic (i.e. SLA offers an ABS-like material, while FDM offers an actual ABS material).  FDM is one of the most used processes for production additive manufacturing.

FDM prototype golf ball

Click to see details about FDM Prototype Materials.


Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
SLS builds rugged parts out of materials such as Nylon PA, Glass-Filled Nylon, or flame retardant Nylon. The parts can better withstand the wear and tear of functional testing.  They are a good choice for applications that require snap features, high heat, and chemical resistance. SLS is one of the most used processes for production additive manufacturing.

SLS prototype golf ball

Click to see details about SLS Prototype Materials.


Polyjet can fabricate parts in both shore A and shore D materials, as well as overmold parts.  It is a good alternative to urethanes when the timetable requires producing rubber-like parts within a few days.  Another benefit compared to urethane molding is that polyjet does not require any tooling.

Objet Prototype golf ball

Click to see Polyjet/Objet Prototype Materials.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS produces metal parts by fusing metal powder layer by layer.  DMLS parts have mechanical properties equivalent to production materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium.  They also have high detail resolution and excellent surface quality.  DMLS is ideal for small to medium sized parts that have highly complex geometry, as well as making direct tooling inserts.

DMLS prototype golf ball

Click to see Laser Sintering Materials.

Desktop 3D Printing

Desktop 3D printers are one of the most affordable additive manufacturing processes. Desktop 3D printing can fabricate plastic prototype pieces in a variety of colors. Parts fabricated from desktop 3D printers are ideal for design review. This process has been popular lately with individuals that want desktop and novelty parts.

Desktop 3D printed golf ball

It is easy to become inundated with the myriad of additive manufacturing news. But we hope this will help create a clear path on what will work best for you. This is an exciting time for our industry that will continue to see great advances in available processes and materials.