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Archive for 2014

3D Printed Trophies

Posted on: December 29th, 2014 by The Technology House

After 16 exciting (or grueling depending on who you ask) weeks, our 2014 Fantasy Football League has come to an end.  The winners of our league received these coveted 3D printed trophies.

3D printed trophies

We personalized the trophies by designing in the winners’ names on each one.

The parts were 3D printed in the SLA process in an ABS-like material. This material was used due to its accuracy and surface finish.  The parts were printed over the Christmas holiday.  While we were enjoying time with our loved ones, the parts were running unattended on our SLA machines.

Afterwards, the second place trophy was painted silver, and the first place trophy was painted gold.

3D Printed Trophies

It took about a week to print, finish, and paint these trophies. Show models like these are one of the many benefits of 3D printing.

In addition, we have now published a 3D printing handbook on our website. This handbook is an all encompassing guide on 3D printing, and is available for download here.

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CNC Machining vs DMLS. Which One is Best for You?

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by The Technology House

The recent advancements in Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) have made it easier to print parts in metal.  Parts can be printed in as little as a few days.  Regardless of these advancements, DMLS will not replace CNC Machining.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)  is a 3D printing/additive manufacturing technology that produces metal prototype and production parts.  DMLS prints metal parts by sintering various metal and alloy particles together. Whereas CNC machining is the automation on machine tools that cuts away at a piece of material to produce a part.

DMLS is an additive manufacturing process because it is “adding” material to build a part, while CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process because it is “subtracting” material in order to produce a part. But how do you know which process is best for your part?

Here are 4 quick points that will help you decide between CNC machining vs DMLS.

Surface Finish As shown on this initial picture below, the surface finish on CNC parts is typically much smoother compared to DMLS.

Finish on CNC machined part

The DMLS process involves fusing powered metal together. As a result of this fabrication process, the surface finish on DMLS tends to be porous as shown below.

Porous DMLS finish

Part Geometry & Design Innovation
Due to the parameters of CNC machining, all features on exotic or complex geometry parts may not be machined.  Features like cavities or undercuts may not be able to be machined in traditional CNC machining.  Since the DMLS process sinters powered metal together layer by layer, a lot of complex features can now be produced.

Set-up and Fixture Cost
Some CNC parts may require additional charges for setups and fixtures.  DMLS does not require any additional setup or fixture charges.  DMLS machines run completely unattended, regardless of how complicated the part is.

Prototype vs Production Parts
For one-off prototypes, or very small volumes, DMLS parts can be more economical than CNC machining.  DMLS can be a good bridge between initial prototyping and large volume production. CNC machining better utilizes economies of scale once in higher production.

Segment of a hip replacement fabricated through DMLS

This image is part of a hip replacement-fabricated through DMLS.  This component connects the hip bone and the femur.  These are produced as individual parts, and can be custom-made to the patient.  Because of this, DMLS is the more applicable process. One process is not superior to the other, but rather both have their benefits pending on the objectives of the part.  Both processes can complement each other in order to move the part efficiently through the product development cycle. Request a Quote for your DMLS project

What is the difference between 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, and Rapid Prototyping?

Posted on: December 8th, 2014 by The Technology House

Although the technology is about 30 years old, 3D Printing, has been well documented and defined during the past couple of years. We are frequently asked by people new to the industry if there is any difference in terminology between 3D printing, additive manufacturing, and rapid prototyping.

Between the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing, there is no difference. 3D printing and additive manufacturing are synonyms for the same process. Both terms reference the process of building parts by joining material layer by layer from a CAD file.  This is as opposed to a traditional manufacturing process, like CNC Machining, where a part is built by subtracting material from a block of material. 3D printing and additive manufacturing can be used regardless if the parts are fabricated in plastic, metal, or rubber.

3d printing vs additive manufacturing

Based off our general perception, it seems as though people who work in an industrial or manufacturing setting prefer additive manufacturing since it sounds more formal. In comparison, the media and hobbyists prefer the term 3D printing. The term 3D printing has been used more ever since inexpensive desktop printers became more popular.

The term rapid prototyping is different from 3D printing/additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is the technique of fabricating a prototype model from a CAD file. In other words, 3D printing/additive manufacturing is the process, and rapid prototyping is the end result. Rapid prototyping is one of many applications under the 3D printing/additive manufacturing umbrella.

Request a Quote for your 3D printing, additive manufacturing, or rapid prototyping project.


3D Printing Fixtures and Jigs with FDM

Posted on: November 22nd, 2014 by The Technology House

Fixtures and Jigs are used to assemble, align, hold, and fit check parts during the various stages of the manufacturing process.  Fixtures and jigs are heavily relied on in order to help maintain the quality of the parts, and production efficiency.  Fixtures and jigs should not be overlooked, for they help make the manufacturing process run efficiently.

Fixtures and jigs printed in the Fuse Deposition Modeling (FDM) process can help avoid any halts in the manufacturing process.  FDM fixtures and jigs can be produced in days rather than weeks or months when compared to producing fixtures and jigs through traditional machining processes.

FDM fixtures and jigs can be printed in ABS, PC, or ULTEM material. The material can be tailored to your objective.  For example, if the part needs to withstand high heat, then the fixture/jig should be printed in ULTEM. Regardless of which material is used, all FDM materials are very durable, and can withstand most handling.

In addition, if there is the potential for several iterations, then one-off FDM’s will be more cost effective than one-off machined fixtures.

Benefits to FDM Fixtures and Jigs:
-Reduced cost
-Durable materials
-Reduced Lead time
-More complex designs can be created
-Revised fixtures can be easily produce


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Getting in the Holiday Spirit With 3D Printing

Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by The Technology House

We recently took part in the “3D Printed Ornament Design Challenge” that was presented by Instructables.  Instructables is a website specializing in user-created and uploaded do-it-yourself projects.

There were over 300 entry’s into this contest, and the people ranged from individuals new to 3D printing to seasoned professionals. All the designs and models were very creative, and each had their own unique look and flare that reflected the magic of the holiday season. The winners will have their ornament printed, and displayed on the White House Christmas tree.

We designed, printed, and finished and dyed snowflake ornaments either clear, blue, or green, and then frosted.  The snow flakes were printed in the SLA process using the 7870 material.

3D printed snowflake ornaments

The entire process from design to finish took us less than a week, which goes to show how quickly 3D printing can produce parts.

3D printed snowflake ornaments

Although we did not win, we applaud those who did, and thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the entries.

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6 Most Unusual Prototype Requests. Part II of II

Posted on: October 31st, 2014 by The Technology House

In this second of two blog series, we will discuss some of the more interesting and outside the box thinking prototype requests we have ever received.  Each one of these projects utilized different processes and materials to meet their specific objectives.


Outer Space Smoke Detector
Smoke produced in a reduced gravity environment does not exhibit the same characteristics as smoke produced on Earth.  As such, the smoke detection and suppression systems on a space craft has to be designed accordingly.  The Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME) was a highly successful experiment in which valuable data of smoke particle was collected and analyzed to assist in the development of future fire detection and suppression systems for space craft.

3D printed parts for the Smoke Aerosol Measurement Experiment (SAME)

The red arrows indicate some of the components that were 3D printed.

Many of the pieces that went into building SAME were 3D printed and rapid prototyped. The 3D printed parts were fabricated in the 5530 high heat SLA material.  Traditionally, flight hardware mainily consists of metal and other non-flammable components  As a result the SLA’s were coated with nickel in order to make them less flammable and improve structural rigidity.

3D printed parts in use on the International Space Station

Fully assembled and in use on the International Space Station.

A customer required replicas of a 1714 Stradivarius Violin in order to show the shape and contour of the violin.  Since this type of violin is so rare, prototypes needed to be produced.  We used an actual 1714 Stradivarius Violin as a master to make a silicone mold, and then mold cast urethanes in an ABS plastic. These prototypes are accurate renditions in the look and feel of the original violin.

Lemonade Stand
A customer needed a trade show model of their new product, a children’s lemonade stand.  The product needed to be fabricated and fully finished and painted in a short amount of time.  Components were 3D printed and CNC machined from plastic and foam.  Once all the parts were made, the parts were then finished and painted to replicate the production model.  The customer heavily relied on us for process and material recommendations.  The prototype was completed on-time, and under budget.

3D model of lemonade stand


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6 Most Unusual Prototype Requests. Part I of II

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by The Technology House

In this new two part blog series, we will review the 6 most unusual prototype requests we have ever received. The first part will cover 3 requests that misunderstood 3D printing, and the second part will cover 3 unusual requests that pushed the boundaries of 3D printing.

The objective of this first blog is to help properly educate our readers on the proper steps to inquire about 3D printing and rapid prototyping . While the second part will help open up your eyes to show what can be accomplished with 3D printing.

1) Printing off a Homemade Video
We were once asked to quote and build a part off a YouTube video. Despite the great production quality, 3D printing is done off CAD files. Specifically 3D printers read CAD files in an .stl format.  Although the video is a good reference of how the product functions, this can only be used as a reference.

2) Printing off Hand Drawn Sketches
A customer once mailed via the post office a hand written request for quote with hand written sketches. Although the sketches were a good starting point on what was needed, it was not adequate information to build a part to.  Any images, whether hand drawn or professional 2D prints, will help show how the product functions.  The product needs to be properly designed in CAD software for it to be made.

3) Printing Fully Assembled Production Parts
A customer once asked us to 3D print couches. But the customer was expecting life-size, fully functional couches with all the same fabrics as the couch in one’s living room to be printed. This is a misunderstanding of the capabilities of 3D printing. 3D printing fabricates parts in plastic, rubber, or metal, not materials like wood and fabric. In addition 3D printing primarily prints components and not fully functional products. One must also be aware of the interaction of the mating parts and the assembly of the product as it is being designed and printed.

If you are interested in learning more about the applications and history of 3D printing, then here is a link to our website.

Next week we will discuss certain projects that have pushed the boundaries of 3D printing……..even all the way to outer space.

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What Modern Manufacturing Really Looks Like

Posted on: October 8th, 2014 by The Technology House

On Friday October 3rd, we attended the [M]Power Manufacturing Assembly presented by Magnet (The Manufacturing Advocacy  & Growth Network) and Crain’s Cleveland Business. This event celebrated National Manufacturing Day and emphasized the vital role of digital manufacturing in Northeast Ohio.

The event was well attended, and the topics discussed ranged from digital marketing to shop floor sustainability. Attendees were even able to try Lincoln Electric’s virtual welding machine.  Some people who tried the virtual welding may have found a second career calling…

Keynote speakers included Christopher Mapes, President and CEO of Lincoln Electric, and Joe Quinn, senior director of issue management and strategic outreach of Wal-Mat.

Christopher spoke about how he initially wanted to be a lawyer after college.  He became involved in a program at General Motors that made him passionate about digital manufacturing. He highlighted that today’s digital manufacturing world is different than previous generations.  Today’s digital manufacturing world requires highly skilled labor in an environment that is clean, very efficient, and technologically advanced.

Joe highlighted that Wal-Mart is making great strides to re-shore products to be made and/or assembled in the United States. Wal-Mart is taking action to support digital manufacturing in the U.S., and job growth.

This was [M]Power’s inaugural event, and based off the motivation and commitment to progressing manufacturing in this area, it won’t be its last.

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A Material for Both Your Prototype and Production Needs.

Posted on: September 30th, 2014 by The Technology House

When one needs a material to build durable concept & show models, prototypes, tooling & fixtures, and low-volume production parts, then the resilient and high-performance Fused Deposition Material (FDM) material, ULTEM , is a good candidate.

The ULTEM material allows one to work more iteratively, test more thoroughly, and move confidently and efficiently from prototype to production.

ULTEM is a flame retardant high performance thermoplastic material. This FDM material is ideal for functional and end-use parts that require high strength-to-weight ratio and its FST (flame, smoke, and toxicity) rating. ULTEM widely used in the aerospace, defense and automotive industries.

ULTEM Manufacturing Properties

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How Can You Get Production-like Prototypes Faster?

Posted on: September 26th, 2014 by The Technology House

Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing process most well known for creating dimensionally and visually accurate prototypes. But SLA’s can be used in injection molding to fabricate production parts.

Below is an image of a SLA mold that is used in injection molding. This strain relief was overmolded onto the cable.  We call this a “SLAM” (SLA Molding) Tool.

SLA Mold with SLAM tool

Rather than building an insert tool out of aluminum, or steel, we fabricate the tool in a high heat SLA.  The SLA tool can be ready to mold parts in as little as 1-2 business days. Materials ranging from rubber, to ABS, and to Glass-Filled Nylon can be injected into this tool.  This process is ideal for simple designed parts in quantities ranging from 1-25.

SLA Mold

A SLAM Tool allows you to better satisfy your prototype and production needs in a more time and cost effective manner.

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