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Archive for 2014

How Direct Metal Laser Sintering Can Help Solve Your Problems

Posted on: September 5th, 2014 by The Technology House

When parts need to be fabricated from metal, then Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) is the best 3D printing/direct digital manufacturing practice. Most 3D printing/direct digital manufacturing processes produce parts in either plastic or rubber, but DMLS is a manufacturing process that can build metal parts in materials ranging from aluminum, cobalt chrome, steel, nickel alloy, and titanium.

DMLS can be a good alternative to traditional CNC machining, but how do you know when is the correct time to use it?

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) example

Fixture and Tooling Cost
Traditional machining processes may require fixtures or tooling.  DMLS does not require any fixture or tooling, which will help reduce your total project cost.

Order Quantity
DMLS is ideal for short run/low-volume parts.  This is because parts can be built together on the same build.

Part Detail
Parts with unique surfaces or features can be easier to produce in DMLS rather than traditional machining or casting.  This is because material is sintered layer by layer.

Lead Time
Lead times for machined parts can range from 2-4 weeks for prototype parts, to 8-10 weeks for production parts.  DMLS can deliver parts as quickly as 1-2 weeks.

Industries
The DMLS process is used heavily in the following industries:
-Aerospace
-Automotive
-Defense
-Medical and Dental Instruments

Golf ball created using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)

On your next project that requires durable, accurate metal parts with fine detail, then consider DMLS.  Visit our material page to see what material will work best for your project.

5 Things You Need to Know About Cast Urethane

Posted on: August 28th, 2014 by The Technology House

Cast urethane, also known as polyurethane, is one of the most versatile processes to fabricate plastic and rubber parts. Cast urethane/polyurethane parts can be used in a variety of industries and applications. But how do you know if cast urethane is the best process for your product? Below are the 5 major benefits to using cast urethane:

Piece Price
Cast urethane parts are more cost effective in piece price than additive manufacturing when larger amounts of prototypes are needed. Additive manufacturing may require multiple builds to fabricate a larger amount of prototypes, which will increase the price. Whereas, the cast urethane process can continuously mold parts.

Tooling Cost
Silicone molds are used to fabricate cast urethane pieces. The cost for silicone molds is typically far less expensive than aluminum or steel tools used in injection molding. Molds to produce urethane parts may range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, where as injection mold tooling can range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Tooling Lead Time
The tooling leadtime for cast urethanes is shorter than traditional injection molding. The lead time for an injection mold tool can range from 4-8 weeks, but silicone molds used in cast urethane can be ready in 1-2 weeks.

cast urethane

Material Offerings
There is a wide range of materials available. Durometers range from 30A-90D. MR, UL, FDA, and clear materials are also available.

Part Finish
The strength and surface finish of cast urethanes is very comparable to injection molded pieces. Secondary applications can be done to parts, such as painting.

Cast Urethane parts

Click here, to see more examples of cast urethane parts.

Click here, to contact us, and one of our project managers will work with you to answer all of your questions.

3D Printing History

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by The Technology House

This month, our company turns 18. Throughout this time, we have seen the 3D printing industry jump leaps and bounds. We thought that this would be a good time to highlight some of the major advancements in the industry’s 30 year existence.

-The first 3D Printer was created in 1984 by 3D Systems. The initial process was known as stereolithography (SLA). This process uses UV Lasers to cure photopolymer resins layer by layer.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) was developed and patented at the University of Texas at Austin. SLS is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser to sinter powdered material into a solid structure. The laser sintering technique has also expanded to include metal. This process is known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

-In 1990, Strayasys developed the plastic extrusion technology Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).  FDM is an additive manufacturing process where plastic filament is extruded from a coil of material that builds parts layer by layer.

-As of 2012, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide.

These are some the major processes that helped build the foundation for the 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Since this time, machines and materials have expanded beyond hard plastics to include rubber and metal. Machines and materials are more readily available. Industries that utilize 3D printing are as far reaching as ever which include architecture, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military & defense, medical, biotechnology, fashion, jewelry, food, consumer goods, and many others.

Don’t Play Games With Your 3D Printing Cost

Posted on: August 12th, 2014 by The Technology House

One of the quickest ways to reduce prototype cost is to hollow the part. This is because less material is now needed to fabricate the part. Rather than running a part completely solid, it can be hollowed with a thick enough wall thickness to have the part still be durable.

In 3D printing processes that use a liquid photopolymer, such as SLA, a drain hole must be added to the hollowed part. This is so that any resin on the inside can drain out of the part. A plug can be glued into the drain hole once the part is fabricated in order to give the surface a clean look. If the resin is trapped inside, then it will harden when cured. Thus, the part will not save any material.

Solid 3D Model
This file is solid, and has a cubic volume of 19.957.

Hollow 3D Model

This part is hollowed with .080″ wall thickness, and has a cubic volume of 9.934.  Since it is hollowed, it is saving 10.02 cubic inches of material.

In 3D printing processes that fabricate parts with extruded material, such as FDM, the parts can be either made solid or sparse.  Fabricating a part with a sparse interior will help reduce the amount of material needed.   For example, if we took this same arcade and applied a sparse interior structure in the FDM process, then it would require  11.03 cubic inches of material. Thus saving, 5.92 cubic inches of material.

If you have any unanswered questions, please feel free to contact us.

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Don’t Make a “Ruff” Prototype

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

When one wants a 3D printed part to be as accurate as possible, then it is important to save the .stl file for the build in a fine or high resolution.  This will help eliminate any facets being built in the part.  It will also yield a smoother and more dimensionally accurate part.

Low resolution 3D design

This file shown above is not saved in a high resolution, so the facets will be visible when the part is printed.

High resolution 3D design

This file is saved at a higher resolution, so when printed its surface finish will be smoother than the previous file.

When saving your file as an .stl, one should review the parameters like chord height, deviation, and angle tolerance.  These parameters will help determine how smooth your file will be.

Printing parts that are saved at a fine resolution will not only allow for more cosmetically pleasing parts, but the parts will also fit better when assembled.  For example, holes will be smooth and round.

As accurate as a 3D printed dog could be, it will never be the same as having man’s best friend by your side.  Meet my puppy, Captain Boots:

Captain Boots

 

Click here to learn what 3D printing capabilities and finishes meet your needs.

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DeBunking 3D Printing Myths, Part II

Posted on: July 25th, 2014 by The Technology House

Last week we discussed about 3D printing applications, and 3D design. Your file is ready to print-GREAT! But now you may be wondering:

What should you expect from the build? How long will you have to wait until you have parts? And the question that almost everyone wonders-How much will it cost?

We will help answers these questions by correcting the following 3D printing myths.

3D Printing Will Replace Traditional Manufacturing Processes
Designing and creating a product takes multiple stages.  3D printing helps with the design and initial stages, but one can rarely fabricate an entire and completed product through 3D printing alone.  Currently, 3D printing is primarily used for prototyping.  Products may require materials or components that cannot be 3D printed.  For larger quantities, economics of scale may not be best for 3D printing.  Traditional manufacturing processes can produce a larger quantity of parts with a shorter cycle time.  Finally, tolerances of processes like CNC machining or injection molding are tighter than 3D printing.  If certain features are more critical than others, processes like CNC machining can be calibrated to focus on those features whereas 3D printing cannot.

 

3D Printing is Cheap
3D printing is one of the most economical ways to build parts, but not all parts are equal in price.  Part size and finish are major factors that determine cost.  Cubic volume and height determine the price of a part.   With that said, the part will cost more the larger it is.  Machine resolution will as factor into the price.  Finer resolution parts will take longer to build, thus adding more cost.  For example, a part building at .004″ layers will take approximately 20% longer to build than a part building at .005″ layers.  Finally, if a part needs a higher quality finish, then that will also increase the price.  This is because the finishing and painting is primarily done by hand, which at times, can be rather time consuming.

 

3D Printing is Fast
3D printing does fabricate parts quickly, but not at the snap of your fingers.  Most 3D printing processes can generate parts within a couple of days, but the timing is dependent upon the process and part geometry.  Parts that are large in size, and have a large cubic volume will take longer to build.  The run time will be longer because more material is required and the printer needs to build more layers, which increases the run time.

In conclusion, this article is not to be negative on 3D printing. But rather, we want to set the record straight on some common misconceptions we have heard. 3D printing is extremely beneficial to the product development cycle, and helps stream line various product development stages. The technology has made leaps and bounds from where it started 30 years ago. The future of 3D printing remains very positive, with advancements in both materials and processes constantly occurring.

Click here to learn what 3D printing process will work best for your project.

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Debunking 3D Printing Myths

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

 

3D printing has been receiving a lot of attention by the media and press in the past couple of years. This has been great for our industry, as it is well deserved for the technology. Yet, at times, the attention can be over zealous, and some general facts stated may not be completely true or reported properly.

This blog is the first of a two part series to better educate you the reader, and correct some of the 3D printing misconceptions. Our intent is that we can better educate you so that you know what to look for when 3D printing parts. It is easy for someone new to 3D printing to get inundated with the technology. Our hope is that this blog series will be a guide to help you down the 3D printing path.

 

3D Printing Applications are Infinite
3D printing does allow one to fabricate more complex parts than through traditional manufacturing processes. But one is still limited on aspects like the materials, and tolerances of the machines. Although there have been great advances in material capabilities, part accuracy, and part application, 3D printed parts in certain applications are not useful as parts fabricated in other traditional manufacturing processes (i.e. CNC machining, injection molding, cast urethane, etc.). It is important to tailor the 3D printing process and material to the application of the part.

3D Printing Design is Easy
One cannot simply take a design program and with a few clicks of their mouse create a part. Designers have to consider the end use of the product, constraints of the materials and processes. One must also be aware of the interaction of the mating parts and the assembly of the product.

All CAD files are ready to be 3D Printed
Most 3D printers require a file to be in an stl format, and fortunately most design programs allow one to save the design in the stl format. At times the design program may not properly convert the file to the stl format. It is important for one to be aware that the file converts properly to an stl. In addition, a file should be saved at a high resolution.  This will help ensure that the 3D printed part is not faceted.

 

Next week, we will discuss more on 3D printing vs. traditional manufacturing processes, 3D printing cost, and 3D printing timing.

We hope this first of two series has been informative. Feel free to contact us so that we can be a valuable resource for your needs.

Click here to learn more about our 3D printing capabilities.

 

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What Will Help Advance 3D Printing?

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

Last month we attended the Rapid Exposition and Conference in Detroit, MI. A majority of the people we met and spoke to had specific projects in mind that required 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. Whereas people at last year’s show were mainly there to understand and learn about the concept of 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing. People are now moving from learning about the machines and materials to moving towards fully utilizing their capabilities.

 

A major requirement we heard from people at this year’s show is that they need a material that would act as close to the end production material. Rather than focus on the least expensive material or process, people need parts fabricated from processes like SLA, FDM, SLS, or DMLS that allow one to conduct “under the hood” testing. Fit and function testing can be better utilized from the materials of these processes. Of course other features are also important (i.e. price, part finish, tolerances, etc.) but material selection is one of the major keys in acceptance and innovation in 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing.

Click here to learn what material and process can improve your product.

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3D Printing Innovation Through the Rapid 2014 Conference and Exposition

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

We exhibited at this year’s Rapid Conference and Exposition. This event is one of the most comprehensive events that focus on 3D Printing. There were over 3,400 attendees at this year’s event, which helped make the show one of its best in its 24-year history!

We had a number of our team member who ran our booth, and interacted with a lot of attendees. Below are some of their thoughts on the show and on the 3D Printing industry.

What Were the Major Difference You Saw Between this Year’s Show and Last Year’s?

-Much greater interest in production parts than last year. Last year, everyone seemed to be looking for general information on 3D Printing and additive manufacturing. This year everyone seemed to know the basics and was looking for the next step.

-The audience had a lot more engineers, buyers, and technical/materials personnel looking to either purchase a machine, or purchase services based on current projects or developing for future projects. Last year seemed like everyone was feeling out the industry, how to invest in it, how to make material or parts for it, and how their company could use it. In short, this year seemed to have more specific ideas and projects for additive manufacturing, while last year was much more of an industry research feel.

What Were Some of the Major Industries that Benefited from 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing?

-I think any industry that requires small complex parts with low quantities can benefit from it.

-I can’t speak for how industries have benefitted from additive manufacturing, but my opinion is that medical and aerospace have gotten the most from it. It gives them options. Industrial is using it more and more for non-load bearing parts as well as production fixtures.

Where Do You See 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing Improving the Product Development Process?

-Options for more testing and low volume part production or testing.

-I don’t see additive manufacturing being the be all end all solution for the product development/manufacturing process. I don’t think all parts in 10 years will be made with only additive manufacturing. I see all processes, additive, and subtractive, working together in sync to help stream line the product development and manufacturing.

 

Learn how our 3D printing and additive manufacturing process can improve your product.

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Scale Model Helps Prove Proof of Concept

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

TimkenSteel, a global steel and bearing manufacturer, contacted us in need scaled model of a “Brick Manipulator”. This machine assists a worker with stacking bricks on shelves rather than the worker manually stacking the bricks, thus making the work load more efficient and safer.

Scale Model of Brick Manipulator

The 3d scale model needed to be sturdy and can be assembled and disassembled when transported. The model was scaled to 1:24-approximately 14″x16″x14″. The FDM process was chosen due to its strength as well as its ability to print in multiple colors. Parts were printed in both white and grey in order to highlight model features.

Scale Model of Brick Manipulator

When assembled, the end model would move and rotate like the life size model. This included rotation, bending, and even hydraulic lifts that went up and down. Metal pins were used to represent the bricks. The crane was designed to pick up the metal pins in order to give a good representation of how the bricks are transported.

Scale Model of Brick Manipulator

This project required an ample amount of open communication between the customer, the project manager, SLA technicians, and the operations department to ensure that each piece was done correctly to meet the customer’s needs.

Scale Model of Brick Manipulator - 4

Click here to learn how our 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes can improve your product.

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