Did you know every Corona Virus patient will require, on average, 10 disposable face shields per day?

We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us to ask how they can help with3D printing Face shields. Where we are sending headbands, who’s organising it and where they can get PetG sheets from.

There are many groups forming and looking for help and this is evolving rapidly. Some groups are now set up and taking deliveries. Other have been overwhelmed and taking a pause to work out how best to orginase all the goodwill out there.

we thought it would be easier to put all the information we are aware of into 1 post which we will update with new information as we get it.

Uk Government Guidance

This is well worth reading before you sign up to help as it provides useful information regarding the supply of these 3D Printed devices.

Our Guide to 3D Printing Face Shields

Please follow this link for our best practice techniques & step by step guide to follow when 3D printing these files.

Solid Print3D LinkedIn Group

This is the LinkedIn group for our customers who are printing the Prusa RC3 Headbands. We expect to receive (at minimum) around 1,000 per day currently. We have a downstream sterilization and assembly partner and we welcome everyone to get involved!

If you want to post us your 3D Printed Head bands for sterilization and assembly, please post to:

  • Solid Print3D
  • Building 500
  • Abbey Park
  • Warks
  • CV8 2LY

Video belew with further details from our friend Neil @ tficad.tips

The Best Design

In our opinion the best design we have seen is the Prusa Rc3 design. This is a 4 hr printer per band but is the easiest to wear and the most robust.

The Quickest Design To 3D Print

This design from 3D Verkstan prints in a round 20 minutes but isn’t as comfortable to wear and moves around quite a bit.

Verkstan facemask

3DCrowd.uk

3D Crowd are looking for volunteers to 3D print faceshields and volunteers to deliver face sheilds. You can sign up on the website.

You support theire GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/3dcrowd-emergency-3d-printed-face-shields

National 3D Printing Society

This is a great place to register as it is a well co-ordinated national effort by the body representing many 3D Printing enthusiasts and students.

The Medical & Dental Effort for 3D Printing Parts

A community of over 13,000 digital dentists and Technicians who have 3D Printing capabilities we could produce parts for the front line in the fight against COVID-19

Slack Group 1 – COVID-19_Volunteers_UK

This Slack group has over 230 printers available to it. Feel free to join the gorup and offer your services.

London Hackspace

A London-centric design group looking to help & print facemasks for healthworkers in the local area.

Scotland/ Highlands Face Mask Production

A Scottish Slack Group looking to centralise production & distribution from Glasgow

Midlands Face Shield Group

3P Innovation are leading the efforts of many companies with 3D printers in the Midlands to produce the face shields. They will take care of the assembly, cleaning & delivery to final destination and are looking for people to produce the headbands. Solid print3D are currently working with 3P and our group of 3D printing volunteers.

You can donate to the Gofundme campaign for 3P Innovation here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nhs-covid19-emergency-visor-supply

PETG Sheets

We are currently sourcing our 0.5mm PETG sheets from here and pay around £3 per sheet: www.signmaterialsdirect.com

What Else Can I do?

Don’t Have a 3D Printer But I Still Want To Help! Many of these groups need help with lositics, distribution, cleaning, social media, reaching out to hospitals, surgeries & health workers etc and all help is appreciated accross these channels.

If you do have a 3D printer we suggest you join our LinkedIn group and start printing the Prusa RC3 design.

Alternatively you can reach out to local health groups in your area. You can call surgeries and look around scoial media for groups that have been set up by doctors or to support doctors in this time. If you are interested in purchasing your own 3D Printers to help you can do that by browsing our range of printers with the entry level point being a Sindoh Dp200.

A guide to printing Face Shields – battling COVID-19 one 3D Print at a time. This guide shall run through the process we are using to print faceshields/masks to help with battling COVID-19/ Coronavirus.

Will self-isolation stop you from using a desktop 3D printer? Absolutely not! The 3D printers you can see in the aforementioned link are easy to setup and run print jobs, so everyone can do their bit to battle the Coronavirus.

https://d17kynu4zpq5hy.cloudfront.net/igi/prusa3d/jIAUx4rcWpWWHyqN.full covid19 face shield

A Step by Step process to create the Face Shield

These specific face shields are being created in collaboration with https://www.sgd3d.co.uk in order to get vital PPE to medical professionals across the U.K.

We are using the Prusa designed shield, which can be downloaded and constructed from inside the link below https://manual.prusa3d.com/Guide/How+to+assemble+the+Prusa+Face+Shield+-+RC1-RC2/1527

3D printers

1- Prepare the file for 3D printing

First step is to prepare the file, if you would like to download preset up G-codes for printing the face shields for the following printers, please contact us.

The Ultimaker S5 can fit three face masks printing at once, however the others can manage one at a time.

Ultimaker S5 printing covid19 face shield in cura

2- 3D Print it

We are printing with PLA, due to it being easy to obtain, print with, and is acceptable for use as a single-use face shield. Other materials such as Copper3D’s PLActive, or PETG could allow for easier cleaning and repeated use. Although we are manufacturing single use parts, the filament being used can include Filamentive RPLA (Recyled PLA).

Once these files are on the printer, each part will take around 4 hours to print.

23 minutes left on a covid19 face shield

3- Carefully remove

When removing these prints from the machines, you have to run under the precaution that you have Coronavirus. Safety is the main concern with this process plan and therefore should be strictly adhered to.

You will need to wear the following items

  • Facemask
  • Prusa Face Shield
  • Gloves (I have been using anti-bacterial spray onto the gloves before use to ensure full cleanliness)

Store the parts immediately in a sealable bag.

Talk with whoever you’re making the face shields for, let them know about your manufacturing environment. This guide to printing Face Shields and battling COVID-19 one 3D Print at a time will only work if proper precautions are taken.

There is still debate about how long the virus survives on plastic, but most sources mention 2-3 days. That means that by letting the packed face shields sit for 2-3 days before distributing them, you’ll greatly reduce risk of transmission.

Do not store the entire stock in one place, minimise the risk of cross contamination

Further to this, we recommend writing on the sealable bags the exact date and time that the parts were sealed. This will avoid confusion and ensure that the parts are as safe as possible

bags of time stamped covid19 face shields

4- Create the other parts of the Face Shield

Creating the clear plastic shields can be done via a few different methods, depending on what tools you have. As most people will not have access to a CNC router, or laser cutter we have created another option. The link below will allow you to download a cutting template. You can use this template to cut down PETG 240x240mm sheets to the correct size.

https://grabcad.com/library/covid19-prusa-faceshield-cutting-template-1

For the Rubber band you can either use a thicker one and make a hole in it at each end (make at least 10 mm cut) or use a thin one and tie it to both ends of the shield.

cutting template for covid19 face shield

5- Construct the Face Shield

I am once again sharing the link below from Prusa, as this runs through the steps to build the COVID-19 Face Shields https://manual.prusa3d.com/Guide/How+to+assemble+the+Prusa+Face+Shield+-+RC1-RC2/1527

The basics to remember with the face shield are

  • This Face shield is a single use component
  • Wash your hands and your surroundings first, before you start to assemble the face shield.
  • Use gloves during the assembly.
  • Disinfect the shield before use – you can use this article
finished prints and cutting template covid19 face shield

Final note

There is no better time to own a 3D Printer, being able to continue to manufacture while the country is on lockdown is vital, and a desktop 3D printer is a viable solution.

This guide to printing face masks, hopefully helps you to understand how anyone can assist in battling Coronavirus – one 3D Print at a time.

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. To speak to a 3D Printing expert, call us on 01926 333 777 or check out our contact us section

Within this guide we shall be running through the basics of setting up files to be 3D printed with Markforged Eiger software on Markforged printers.

We have compiled a quick video that you can view within the link below, or you can stick with this blog where we shall be running through the same process.

Importing the file into Eiger

The first step is to bring the file into Eiger by clicking “Import STL” from the top right of the screen. You are then able to browse for the STL file and import it from the dialog box that appears in the middle of the screen.

Orientation

When the STL file imports into Eiger you may find that its not in the correct orientation. Lets solve this by using the tools built inside Eiger, orienting the part correctly before its 3D Printed.

We can use two different orientation tools to rotate the part. Either select onto a face to be parallel with the build platform, or use the manual rotation tool. The orientation shown below will be the most suitable for the part in question. Layers are now forming in the optimal orientation for strength and insertion of continuous fibres.

Markforged Eiger Orientation
Markforged Eiger Orientation 2

Printer and materials

We shall now look into changing the printer and material choice in the panel on the right of the screen. Starting in the “General” tab, we shall select the material choice of Onyx (nylon with chopped carbon fibre) a reinforcement of continuous carbon fibre, and it shall be printed on the Industrial series printers.

Markforged Eiger Materials

Moving to the “Settings” tab, we can confirm the layer height which shall be 0.125mm. This layer height is automatically selected when printing with fibre. We are able to control further details regarding the print, such as whether support material will be used, the scale of the part and build plate adhesion tricks.

Another interesting item is the “expand thin features” option. If we are not seeing thin walls during the internal view, then we can preserve them. However, this does come at the expense of some dimensional accuracy.

Markforged Eiger Part Settings
Part Settings

The last tab is the infill, if you are in need of a reminder as to what infill is, see the image below. Infill is the amount of material that is used to fill up the inside of the part. We can see this below by the triangular pattern.

Markforged Eiger Infill

These options are all controlled by Eiger, and only allow for a certain amount of changes to be made. These are due to the amount of testing that Markforged has done with the materials, and are therefore the recommended settings.

Markforged Eiger Infill 2
Infill 2

Internal View

Internal view is where Eiger is a little different to your normal slicing software. We access this view via the bottom right of the screen, which brings us into a different environment

Markforged Eiger Internal View

Within the internal view we get the same information in the top left of the screen- print time, cost, etc.

However we are now able to access a timeline at the bottom of the screen. Within this timeline we can add in information for the printer at specific layers.

Markforged Eiger Timeline

By selecting a few layers we are then able to introduce fibre reinforcement. We select “Use Fibre” and then “create group”.

Markforged Eiger Timeline 2
Markforged Eiger Fibre Settings

We are able to introduce two different versions of fibre into the parts; isotropic or concentric. However what do these mean, and why would we choose one over the other?

Concentric Fill reinforces the walls of the part, preventing the walls from deforming. This helps helps reinforce from bending around the Z axis.

Markforged Eiger Fibre

Isotropic fill simulates a traditional laminated carbon fibre pattern, effectively creating a unidirectional ‘sheet’ of fiber on each layer. The Isotropic Fiber fill pattern helps resist bending in the XY plane because any bending forces applied in that plane will generate a tensile load on at least some of the fibers, which are strongest in tension. Isotropic Fiber can also be used to set up sandwich panels to increase torsional strength.

Markforged Eiger Fibre

Another great option inside the internal view is the ability to flick between 2D and 3D views. Within 2D we are able to control not just the use of fibre, but also pausing after layer, and scanning after layer. Pausing after a layer allows us to insert components in to create captive nuts. Scan after layer uses the inbuilt laser to run a quality control check that can be viewed within Eiger during/after the print.

Markforged Eiger 2D Settings

Furthermore, a 2D view of a layer with continuous fibre reinforcement allows us to change and edit the settings that have been applied.

Markforged Eiger Fibre Layout

Print it!

All thats left of this run through of Eiger, is how to print. No matter if were inside the internal or part view, we can access the print icon in the bottom right hand side of the screen. We are then able to move the parts position around on the build platform, and change its rotation. We can add in other parts to fill the bed with, all while the left hand side of the screen re-evaluates costs and print time.

Markforged Eiger Final
kforged Eiger

When we click “Print” in the bottom right of the screen we are controlling two options; “Print Now” or “Add to Queue”. Adding to queue allows for us to send multiple jobs to the printer, so that we can print them when the machine/ ourselves are ready to do so. Furthermore, we are ensuring that prints can quickly be started after the last to ensure a fast turn around.

Markforged Eiger Print

Final note

There is no better time to own a 3D Printer, being able to continue to manufacture while the country is on lockdown is vital. The ability to print high strength parts via Markforged printers with the ease of Eiger could be a massive help to your business.

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. To speak to a 3D Printing expert, call us on 01926 333 777 or check out our contact us section.

Intro

Additive Manufacturing has become increasingly widespread since first emerging in 1987. In the past decade, lowering costs and technological advancements have led to a huge increase in uptake of 3D printing. Aerospike rocket nozzles, prosthetic legs and architectural models are only a handful of the huge variety of objects that have been successfully created with AM technologies. In the article we will discuss the Pros and Cons of Additive Manufacturing.

More recently, additive manufacturing has effectively provided rapid and vital solutions to the Coronavirus pandemic. Equipment including masks, valves and swabs that would otherwise be in short supply have been 3D printed.

As with any other technology, AM has it’s strengths and weaknesses. This can determine it’s applicability to a given manufacturing project. Here, we go through some of the most common advantages and disadvantages and how they could be relevant to different business cases.


Advantages


Allows for Rapid Innovation

3D printing provides a very rapid and fluid method to create prototypes. Once a product or part has been designed in CAD software, it is possible to immediately print a proof-of-concept very soon after. As there is minimal tooling involved, any changes or iterative improvements can be manufactured and tested immediately after they are implemented in the design.

This allows engineers to quickly create parts to be tested more rapidly than other more traditional techniques. It also allows architects to work with physical representations of their designs, and product designers to have their designs QA tested very rapidly.

In a recent survey, one of the main uses of 3D printing was prototyping and proof-of concept, and 80% of the surveyed companies stated that 3D printing helped them to innovate faster.


Reduces cost of small batch production

In addition to prototyping, additive manufacturing can be very well suited to manufacturing parts in small quantities. This is again due to AM’s minimal requirements for tooling and preprocessing.

Before 3D printing was a possibility, manufacturing small batches of complex parts was very expensive, especially in the aerospace industry. Bespoke components for aircraft and spacecraft required in relatively small numbers would be very expensive to produce per unit. Expensive tooling, such as the creation of moulds for injection moulding, is one of many factors that benefit from the economies of scale. Therefore, for small volumes they can easily dominate the cost of manufacture.

This is not the case for AM. Coupled with the ability to iterate designs quickly, this can reduce costs by an order of magnitude compared to subtractive methods.


More efficient use of material

More traditional fabrication methods, such as milling, drilling and lathe-turning, involve the removal of material from an initial volume to form parts and structures. Any material that is cut away is waste, and the more waste material there is, the higher the material costs will be per kilogram.

Clearly you want to use as large a proportion of the raw material as possible to minimize waste. This proportion is often called the buy-to-fly ratio in the aerospace industry. This is one of the areas AM has a clear advantage over other techniques.

Unlike subtractive manufacturing, AM builds up forms by continuously adding material. This results in minimal material waste, as only the amount required to constitute the part is used.

3D printing can also result in higher material efficiency by using complex geometry simply not possible with traditional techniques. By replacing solid sections with lattice structures, the University of Texas managed to use 42.4% less material using 3D printing. Many techniques used to further reduce material use, such as topology optimization, often produce designs only manufacturable through additive techniques.

Finally, AM techniques are very well-suited to re-manufacturing processes. An example is 3D printing weathered sections of a used part to restore end-of-life components. Such a process uses a fraction of the material that would be required to completely rebuild the part. Studies into applying this capability to more complex situations have yielded positive results

Additive Aerospace
Lightweight Components are of paramount importance in the Aerospace industry

Disadvantages


High Cost-of-Entry for Industrial Production

While there are many cases where additive manufacturing is cost-effective, there are others where it can be prohibitively expensive. Cost-effectiveness is often dependent on material, business case and other situational factors.

Industrial-grade metal 3D printers can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds each, requiring significant initial investment. Due to their complexities and extended capabilities, there are also often significant implementation costs, including setup and training costs. As a near-net-shape processes with unique sources of imperfection, AM can also require further investment in expensive finishing hardware such as hot isostatic presses.

In addition to the initial purchase and installation costs, raw material costs can be more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Alloys such as Ti-6Al-4V can cost significantly more in the powdered form required for Laser Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) printers than their raw, unprocessed forms. Furthermore, secondary chemicals such as shielding gases for Direct Energy Deposition (DED) printing also need to be factored in.

Finally, 3D printing is still a relatively new and pioneering form of manufacture. Thus, there can be a significant investment in R&D required for companies working with materials in ways not common to the manufacturing process in question.

These expenses are often balanced out by the other benefits of additive manufacturing, but they are important to consider. For structurally identical parts, a suggested rule-of-thumb is that metal 3D printing is competitive with subtractive manufacturing methods if the buy-to-fly ratio for the latter is greater than 10:1.


Speed

Similarly to it’s cost-effectiveness, the timeliness of Additive Manufacturing is highly dependent on use case and batch size. While 3D printing can greatly speed up prototyping and overall time to production for small volumes, the actual process of printing a part can be slow compared to traditional counterparts. Plastic parts that would take seconds to make with injection moulding could take hours with a 3D printer.

This is important to factor when considering additive manufacturing for larger volumes.


Conclusion

As with any other manufacturing technology, additive manufacturing is more suited to some use cases than other ones. Through the examples above, it’s clear that the Pros and Cons of Additive Manufacturing are highly dependent on the situation and various case-specific parameters.

To find out if your business case could benefit from introducing additive manufacturing, get in touch.

No longer are large budgets or huge machines required for 5-axis CNC, desktop 5 axis is here- and here to stay. Want to know more? Read through this blog post to get a better understanding of 5-Axis desktop CNC 3D printers.

Pocket NC Screencap 3
Pocket NC Screencap 3

What is CNC?

CNC stands for ‘computer numerical control’, it is a type of machining that uses subtractive manufacturing technology. The material removes material from a solid block using types of cutting tools. Typically, CNC devices have been known to have a 3-axis system that moves: left-right, back-forth and up-down. But now, a 5-Axis version is available and best of all, you can have it on your desk too.

A 5-axis desktop CNC is truly an effective way of manufacturing complex metal components quickly and for an affordable cost.

The 5 axis element of rotating along the left-right, back-forth and up-down axis creates a greater manoeuvrability. Therefore a device can use shorter cutting tools at a faster speed, resulting in improved finishes and fantastic detailing. The head of the machine is also positioned closer to the surface of the cutte. Therefore leading to a tool that has a longer life, and you can guarantee that the product it creates will look and act as you want it too.

How can a desktop CNC help me?

It can be used from a business point of view to explore different products. May this be for end use parts or to test a prototype design, the possibilities are endless. When engineers and designers first work on a product, they must keep in mind the limitations of the mass production process. However 3D printers and 5-axis desktop CNC can create aspects of design which would have previously been considered unachievable. This opens an entirely new world in the design phase, which could change the future of some products.

Businesses are using this technology not just for prototypes but to quickly create components of a system that are needed quickly. This machine allows for the creation of parts which otherwise might be unattainable or have a long wait time to access them.

While we’ve been referencing businesses here, there is always the desire by hobbyists to push technology further and to do something that mainstream culture hasn’t achieved yet. Some individuals keep a 5-axis desktop CNC in their homes to create toys, jewellery and DIY components.

The Pocket NC- Desktop 5 Axis

The version of a 5-Axis desktop CNC that we distribute is produced by Pocket NC and has recently been optimised. The new version of this design has increased speed, rigidity and accuracy. Pocket NC have reduced part counts in the machine and made the trunnion from one solid aluminium billet.  Each unit itself is also produced using multi-axis machining, removing human error from the equation.

This type of technology is capable of cutting any material with a hardness equivalent of 4140 Steel. This could be: types of aluminium, wax, wood etc and while the machine could, we do not recommend cutting ceramics or gemstones etc as this could shorten the life of tooling.

A problem that has existed when these machines were first introduced was the lack of CAD/CAM software. The software has been typically overly complicated or expensive – but this has changed. The Pocket NC team provide their software free for maker, educational, or startup useage and CAM packages can create the tool paths for the Pocket NC.

It’s not just the software that’s easy, it’s everything to do with the 5-axis desktop CNC.  You can get started by simply connecting a USB from the machine to your computer and go to your machine’s web address in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or common web browser. The programme is easy to operate and has an intuitive interface.  Users can seamlessly switch between imperial and metric units, upload programs and more. 

If you want a non-committal conversation about this technology, or if you want to trial the technology, see a case study or see it in action then please free to contact us on sales@solidprint3d.co.uk or 01926 333 777. We’re always happy to help you find the right 3D printer for your requirements.

Please feel free to look at our other blog posts, or to contact us for further details

Professional manufacturers make use of jigs and fixtures on a routine basis, with each of these tools securing and guiding manual manufacturing processes. The jig is typically an appliance and allows for the precise use of cutting tools. It attaches securely to the work-piece, which can be moved around freely as required. The fixture is a standard device which can be used for the secure attachment of an item to a work surface; enabling modifications to be made safely and efficiently. Jigs may be used across a range of work surfaces and stations, where fixtures are commonly used for a restricted range of manual fabrication tasks.

Manufactured jigs and fixtures will ideally fulfil these requirements:

  • High levels of rigidity
  • Precise manufacturing
  • Rapid and repeatable production
  • Desirable cost-efficiency
  • Hassle-free fabrication

It has traditionally been necessary to assemble jigs and fixtures either from modular kits or through the injection of molded design and tooling. The metal tooling process was carried out in-house or outsourced to industry specialists. However, the development of 3D printing technology has allowed for the on-site manufacture of tough and durable tools. The use of functional resins has become increasingly widespread across machining, assembly, and other production lines.

Jigs and fixtures may take the following forms:

  • Soft Jaw Vise Inserts
  • Drill Guides
  • Go/No Go Gauges
  • Assembly/Disassembly Jigs
  • Bonding Jigs

Prior to the use of 3D printers it was necessary to undergo the complete process of ordering, waiting for production, and trialling the use of a new jig or fixture. This was expected to take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, development of the 3D printer has enabled the overnight modification and production of jigs and fixtures suited to business requirements. Skilled manufacturing staff are not required to machine and fabricate new tools. One well-known car manufacture was able to achieve a lead time reduction of 92% (from 18 to 1.5) days through the integration of 3D printing technology.

Using 3D Printing for Significant Savings on your jigs and fixtures

The initial investment in 3D printing technology will soon be recouped when compared with the ongoing expense of outsourced manufacturing and supply. The essential tools can be made from resins with high levels of chemical and heat resistance. Such tools can also be produced in a variety of colours and surface finishes. There is a reduced risk of damage to those parts which are secured and manipulated with the printed jigs and fixtures. Manufacturers can make the most of the resulting time and cost savings in the creation of multiple tools for the achievement of improved worker comfort and safety. The skilled machinists are now able to spend time on key business tasks, with the jigs and fixtures being produced automatically on-site.

Consider the difference in cost and time associated with the production of a simple fixture as outlined in this table, and the case study shown below:


Milled from aluminium Milled from HDPE Printing in tough resin
Price £400.00 £300.00 £40.00
Lead Time 3 – 5 Days 3 – 5 Days Printed In <1 Day
Markforged Use Case - Dixon Gripper Composite Preview
Markforged Use Case – Dixon Gripper Composite Preview

Advanced 3D printing technologies from leading brands such as Markforged, Peel 3D and Pocket NC allow for the production of high quality jigs and fixtures. The tools can be easily customised, so the risk of product defects is greatly reduced. Investment in 3D printing technology will result in the desirable competitive edge and achievement of customer satisfaction given the production of high-precision jigs and fixtures.

Enhanced Design Capabilities

As there is no cost associated with the addition of complex design features it is worth considering the types of customisations that can be made with the 3D printing technology. You can add features and create geometries which would either be impossible or highly expensive to achieve in the machining process. Serial numbers, fabrication dates, and other key data can all be integrated; allowing for enhanced inventory management and tracking. Components which would be separated in the machining process can be combined when 3D printing. This will result in the minimisation of gap space and unwanted accumulation of dust and chips.

You can improve the functionality of printed jigs and fixtures through the addition of stock parts from industrial suppliers. This may allow for the increased rigidity and conductivity required in some applications. Metal shafts may be added for connection between expanded work spaces, without any reduction in rigidity. Washers may also be incorporated for the distribution of screw clamping loads across surface areas. The jigs and fixtures will inevitably wear given repeat use. However, the ability to rapidly produce these key tools will have the effect of cutting the supply chain and eliminating down-time.

Solid Print 3D stock a wide variety of printers entirely suitable for the production of quality jigs and fixtures. If you’re wondering which printer is best suited to your professional purposes then please go ahead and give us a call on 01926 333777 or drop us a message on the contact us page. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and make 3D printing recommendations based on your requirements.

The art of jewel crafting has been with us for thousands of years. With mold casting the manufacturing process of choice, it requires skilled artisans to manage every single detail with refinement.

On the other hand, 3D printing is revolutionizing the way we do manufacturing. Jewelry is not the exception, on the contrary, it is one of the industries that have beneficiated the most out of this. And even when talking about small entrepreneurs and designers, desktop 3D printers are becoming more accessible each year.

Formlabs Consumables Jewellery Resins

Investment Casting

Out of all casting methods, investment casting or lost wax casting is the choice for jewelry. Since accuracy and surface finish are indispensable requirements for jewel making, other casting methods like sand casting, wouldn’t be enough to achieve this.

On the other hand, materials used in jewelry like platinum, steel or tungsten require high melting points that can’t be handled with plaster casting, for example. It is also a fast and easy method for achieving the final product.

Investment casting consists of creating a mold from a wax figure known as a pattern. Then submerging it in refractory material or investment, which hardens to reproduce the shape. During the process, the wax evaporates to leave the hollow cavity where molten metal is cast.

Traditional investment casting requires a meticulous hand made work to create a pattern, which is time-consuming and requires an exceptional skill for details. With CAD modeling and 3D printing, this is a thing of the past.

An Alternative to Traditional Sculpting

To produce a pattern there was a need for sculpting a master pattern of hard materials like wood, clay and plastics to create a mold where the wax pattern would be created. Thanks to CAD modeling you can skip the sculpting process to get a master model.

CAD software allows you to modify your model for your needs and ensures dimensional accuracy. Experimenting with complex geometries wouldn’t need exceptional skill, which means creative freedom for experimentation on design.

With 3D printing, you can create a wax pattern with the same quality on resolution and surface finish as traditional wax patterns. It’s important to clarify that what is referred to wax, isn’t wax in the strict sense, but any resin that satisfies the requirements for the investment casting process. Thankfully, castable resin exists for 3D printing. So, you can skip all those steps that involve pouring wax on a mold.

Taking into account how digital technologies would alter the jewelry market:

  • A 3D model eases how you preserve, modify and experiment with your design, saving up time and costs.
  • Jewelry production is tied to customization. The jeweler has to adapt his design to customer wishes. Digital technologies improve communication on the design process and prototyping. Customer feedback is more present than ever.
  • Even with the best craftsmen, some details are exceptionally difficult. 3D technologies can achieve beyond what the human hand can do.
  • 3D models allow spreadability. You can easily send and replicate your model for casting anywhere in the world. Moreover, with just one printing, many wax patterns can be made.
  • With high-quality desktop printers being more accessible than before, independent jewelers can benefit from this business. This would mean, the jewelry business is inevitably decentralizing.  

Workflow

Direct investment casting has a workflow that is reduced in the first steps with the help of 3D technologies. The rest of the process hasn’t changed. The following are the steps for manufacturing a piece of jewelry.

Modeling

Every CAD software can create a jewel design, but there are some made specifically for the matter. CAD allows for different design and evaluation options in order to guarantee smooth and precise results.

Sprues, which are feed channels that improve mold filling, can be designed directly from the software. They also work as support for intricate parts.

Printing

When 3D printing a wax pattern, there are two main considerations to take:

  • Printer accuracy and resolution for small delicate parts
  • The material has the properties needed for investment casting

For this objective, stereolithography (SLA) is the method of choice. Since SLA printers are one of the most precise methods, also there are photocurable resins that are castable. We recommend the Formlabs Form 3. Not just because is the market leader for desktop resin printers, but because of its friendly relation between cost and quality.

Depending on the resin of choice, the process will vary. Some are easier to work with than others. Each resin reacts differently to how thick supports must be and how they are applied. Both washing and post-curing steps depend on the resin.

While some resins harden fast and easy without the need for a post-curing light, some require more skill to avoid failure. Even for a sanding process, there are better castable resins than others.

Since Formlabs has lead development on 3D printing integration into investment casting, two very reliable options for resins have come out of this: Formlabs Castable Resin and Formlabs Castable Wax Resin.

In the end, what’s most important is that material evacuates efficiently without damaging the investment or leaving residue during the burnout.

We are currently printing a motorbike carburettor using the castable wax resin on the Form3 printer, which you can see in the video below

Wax tree assembly

Before preparing the mold, patterns must be connected to the main sprue bar through branch sprues. With the help of sticky wax and a heat pen, connections must be made in a smooth way to guarantee optimal casting material flow. The main sprue must be firmly attached to a rubber base. This assembly is called a sprue tree, because of its final shape.

One of the main concerns of investment casting is bubbles sticking to the wax surface. To avoid this issue, wax patterns must be dipped in a surfactant coating solution before investment.

Apply investment

The investment comes in powder form, then mixed in water. Too much water into the mix involves a weaker mold, but too few will make the mix more viscous and harder to degas. Recommended proportions are often provided by the manufacturer.

At the same time, a flask is tightly adjusted to the spur base. While pouring the investment solution there should be special care for bubbles, we highly recommend using a vacuum chamber.

After that, just let the mold rest until it gets hard and dry, then retire the rubber base.

Burnout

After the mold is dry enough, the flask goes into the oven to completely vaporize the resin. This is arguably the most delicate step, as heating requires optimal temperatures, times and rates for everything to work nicely. In other words, there is a need to establish a burnout schedule before heating. It may vary depending on the following:

  • Flask size
  • Investment properties
  • Resin type

After heating for some hours, the mold should be ready.

Casting and Finishing

Finally, molten metal is poured into the cavity. Manufacturers must make sure the mold surface is hot enough for the metal to flow without solidifying. Fastening the flow is important to make sure the material fills the cavity, a centrifuge promises a nice result. After hardening put the mold on the water to retire the casting. After cutting the spurs, the only thing left is to clean and polish the surface to get the finishing details.

Solid Print3D are here to help you make the right decision with your next 3D Printer purchase. For more information, please call Solid Print3D on 01926 333 777 or email on info@solidprint3d.co.uk

Introduction

Why compare Markforged, Ultimaker and Formlabs? Each of these are suited to very different applications and this blog outlines which printers are best suited to which application; whilst also comparing build volumes, resolution and cost.

Markforged Overview

Markforged has a series of printers ranging from desktop machines to industrial machines. All Markforged printers can print in Onyx, a nylon based filament with carbon fibre particles, and white nylon. The top of the range desktop machine, the Mark Two and the top of the range industrial machine X7 can print using a range of continuous fibres such as carbon, glassfibre, high temperature glassfibre and Kevlar to reinforce the parts to make them as strong as aluminum. The industrial X7 machine can also print with a material called Onyx FR which is a flame retardant material.

Markforged printers are commonly used for high accuracy end use parts. Using carbon fibre reinforced parts instead of aluminium cuts down on machining costs and lead times whilst being lighter than aluminium.

Markforged Specs

Technology: FFF/FDM

Advantages: High strength, high accuracy

Maximum Build Volume: 330 x 270 x 200mm

Minimum layer resolution: 50μm

XY Resolution: 125μm

Open source: No

Price: £4,000 – £52,500

Ultimaker Overview

Ultimakers are an established brand in a diverse 3D printing market. They are great all-round easy to use printers that can print a wide range of materials. The latest releases are the S3 and the S5 which both have duel head extruders with the S5 being the bigger of the two models with a larger build volume. With the S5 model you can also add an Air Manager and Material Station to make it a fully enclosed unit with HEPA filters to clear away any fumes and also can store up to 6 filaments in a temperature controlled environment with automatic loading to ensure that your machine keeps printing if a filament spool runs out.

Ultimakers are open source lending to the ability to use a huge range of materials including: PLA, Tough PLA, ABS, Nylon, CPE, CPE+, PC, PP, TPU 95A and PVA

Ultimaker Specs

Technology: FFF/FDM

Advantages: Easy to use, wide range of materials

Maximum Build Volume: 330 x 240 x 300mm

Minimum layer resolution: 60μm

XY Resolution: 100μm

Open source: Yes

Price: £3,400 – £8,500

Formlabs Overview

Formlabs printers use a different type of 3D printing technology compared with Markforged and Ulitmaker referred to as SLA. This type of technology leads itself to very high resolutions with Formlabs printers boasting 25μm layer height to achieve great surface finish. Formlabs printers also have a wide range of materials for different uses ranging from durable resins to castable wax resins.  

Formlabs machines come in a few different models the Form 3, Form 3L and Form 3B. All models use the same technology and can print highly detailed parts. The Form 3L is a large format version of the Form 3 which has a considerably larger build volume. The Form 3B is a dental specific model that can print with various materials designed specifically for the dental industry such as anatomical models and surgical guides.

Formlabs Specs

Technology: SLA

Advantages: Great surface finish, wide range of materials

Maximum Build Volume: 300 x 335 x 200mm

Minimum layer resolution: 25μm

XY Resolution: 25μm

Open source: No

Price: £2,900 – £8,000

Summary

If you would like to find out about any of these 3D printers in more detail or request a free sample, feel free to give us a call on 01926 333777 or drop us an email to info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

3D Scanners can use various technologies to scan objects for reverse engineering purposes. Two of the most common technologies used in 3D hand scanners are structured light (sometimes referred to as white light scanners) and laser scanning. Both technologies are non-contact measurement devices that are capable of capturing data to within micro millimetre accuracy. However deciding on what the best fit for you is, is down to the application you are using it for and your budget.

How do they work?

Structured Light scanners were typically tripod mounted but hand held options are increasingly available. They project light patterns, typically parallel strips, which become distorted by the surface of the object being scanned. The light is projected across the 3D surface of the object and cameras on the scanner works out the variances in the 2D lines which in turn generates point cloud data. A 3D model is then generated using the position of the points using XYZ coordinates. Both the Peel 3D – Peel 2 and Creaforms’ Go!SCAN 3D use white light technology.

Laser line scanners can be both handheld and tripod mounted. A laser is projected onto the surface of the object to be scanned. A camera then looks for the location of the reflected laser spot. Depending on the distance to the object the laser dot will appear at different locations in the cameras field of view enabling the angle to be calculated to capture the distance: This is referred to as triangulation. Creaforms’ HandySCAN 3D use laser line technology.

Pro’s and Con’s

ProsCons
Structured LightSpeed (scans multiple points at once), precise, portable, eye safeSensitive to lighting conditions and surface of the part. Dark, matt and highly reflective surfaces can be hard to scan
Laser ScanningHigh accuracy ~10 microns (depending on working distance)Limited working distance

Summary

If you are looking to scan large objects quickly then structured light scanners are a good option. However if you are looking to scan highly detailed objects then laser scanners may be best suited but are substantially more expensive.

If you would like to discuss 3D scanners further and find out what is going to be the best fit for you, give us a call on 01926 333777 or drop us an email to info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

The basics of FDM 3D printing, is that layers are extruded on top of each other to create a desired shape- however when the layers cannot be extruded, how do we fix the problem? This guide will run through a few areas, and will explain how we can fix the problem of an FDM printer not extruding.

Where could the issue be occurring from?

One of the best starting points is to think about all the significant sections of the printing process. The image and key below helps to give an understanding of where each issue can build up.

parts of the printing process

A) Slicing software

B) Filament

C) Filament path

D) Extruder

E) Hot End/Heating

F) Nozzle

G) Extruded filament

H) Build platform

As part “G) Extruded filament” is not occurring as our FDM 3D printer is not extruding, we shall remove this from the equation. Working our way through all the other sections will allow us to understand where issues might occur.

Slicing software

The answer to the extrusion issues could be very simple, and not actually an issue with the printer itself. Its always worth checking software for faults before looking into hardware, as it tends to be an easier (and sometimes cleaner!) fix.

The first place to check is what material are you printing with, often each manufacturer will have a material guide online or with the boxed filament. Check inside here for the temperature they recommend setting. If you are using a value outside of their specified range then the filament could be too cold (causing it to get stuck inside the nozzle),or too hot (causing it to burn up and clog the nozzle).

temperature setting inside slicing software

Filament

We just discussed the filament within the slicing software, and how you can ensure that the temperatures are correct. However there is another simple check you can do. If youre finding that your FDM 3D printer isnt extruding, it could be that it doesnt have enough material. The simplest reason, is that its ran out of material, in which case you will need to re-load with a new spool. Another reason, could be that the filament is tangled or has defects.

The best way to check if your filament is the cause of the issue is to unload, and then you can check by hand if there are any tangles. Its then recommend to cut off about 200mm of filament, and cut the end at an angle as shown below. Cutting it an angle will help the filament to feed through the filaments path and out the nozzle.

How to cut filament

Filament Path

The filaments path is a term used to encompass the journey of the filament from the spool to the nozzle. The reason we have used this term as there are different designs on the market and terminology associated depending on how the printer is contructed.

Your printer could have a mixture of guide tubes, bowden tubes, PTFE tubes, and more.

Depending on the printer and material, there is sometimes a greater likelihood of filament snapping and becoming jammed inside the path. If there is a blockage then the filament cannot pass through and your printer will not be able to extrude correctly.

Its worthwhile investing in a small diameter metal rod, as this can be used to gently push through the path (some printers will come with them). Another method is to remove the guide/bowden tubes and visibly inspect the areas for blockages.

bowden tube

Extruder

Although there are different extruder’s on the market the principle is widely the same, they take the filament and push it through at the correct speed- or in this case, our FDM 3D printer is not extruding.

If there is a blockage inside the extruder then it will be unable to move filament through the path. With most printers its very easy to either remove the extruder or inspect inside it. You should then be able to see an arrangement of cogs/gears that are used to grab ahold of the filament and push it through. If there is a build up of filament dust then you will want to remove this, and if possible decrease the pressure of the cogs/gears on the filament, as its grounding it up. If there are any solid pieces of snapped filament remove these also

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Hot end/ Heating

If your hot end is unable to heat the material, then it wont be able to reduce down from 1.75mm/2.85mm to the nozzle size you have (usually 0.4mm). This could be a more complex fault, however there are some simple things that can be checked. Often there is a PTFE tube, or an area where the filament passes to the heater. Its often worthwhile checking this component to ensure that the material can pass successfully into the heater before looking for more complex issues.

How_to_use_the_print_core_CC_Red_0.6_Installing_Print-core-CC-Red.jpg https://i1.wp.com/support.ultimaker.com/hc/article_attachments/360009208660/How_to_use_the_print_core_CC_Red_0.6_Installing_Print-core-CC-Red.jpg?w=640&ssl=1

Nozzle

Another area which can cause your FDM 3D Printer to not extrude is the nozzle. We have mentioned throughout this blog post already different areas where the nozzle could be clogged. This could be due to several reasons, however now we are looking to see how we can fix the blocked nozzle.

Two tools that make a massive difference to unclogging a nozzle are as follows

  • wire brush
  • <0.4mm rods (easiest way to source this is to purchase acupuncture needles)

By manually heating the nozzle on your printer, you can then use the wire brush to gently scrape any excess material from the end of your nozzle without causing damage. Once this is clean, gently insert the 0.4mm needle up the nozzle, and this will dislodge the jammed material. By either using a length of filament/thin metal rod/the load function the printer can then extrude fresh filament to push the jam out of the nozzle. Let the printer extrude about 100mm of material to ensure that everything is back to normal functionality before continuing.

CFF Fiber Nozzle Replacement (and How to Correct a Nozzle Jam ... https://i1.wp.com/support.markforged.com/hc/en-us/article_attachments/202348455/P1210405.png?w=640&ssl=1

Build Platform

Lastly, the issues with your extruding could be down to the build platform being too close to the nozzle. This means that there would not be a large enough gap for the material to be extruded through the nozzle, causing it to clog.

The solution to this is simple, ensure that your nozzle is the correct height from the build platform (which is usually about 100 micron). There are different methods to set the nozzle height which will be printer specific, however in general you will need to use a shim (or a piece of paper as this is 100 microns thick) and use this as a feeler gauge. When you feel slight resistance from the nozzle and the build platform this means that it is set up correctly.

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Final note

There is no better time to own a 3D Printer, being able to continue to manufacture while the country is on lockdown is vital, and a desktop 3D printer is a viable solution.

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. To speak to a 3D Printing expert, call us on 01926 333 777 or check out our contact us section

There are countless ways to 3D print your parts. When most people picture 3D Printing they imagine a nozzle melting filament layer by layer. This is called FDM or FFF. This is not the only way though!

There is a resin type printing too, a technology that has become more accessible for desktop usage over the last few years. We’ll be comparing the two main resin printing technologies: SLA and DLP. We hope this works as a helpful guide for choosing which one is for you.


So What Are Resin Printers?

The resin printing process that has been with us since the invention of 3D printing, but only in recent years has it become accessible for anyone with tighter budgets. The process consists of curing photosensitive liquid resin to get a solid geometry.

Their main components are a vat or tank, a moving platform, the cover and, the most important one, the curing light system. Here is where an SLA and a DLP differentiate from each other: An SLA uses single moving laser light and a DLP a projector uses a digitally selected pattern. The process consists essentially of the following:

1. Pouring resin on the vat.

2. Adjusting the printing platform position.

3. Setting slicing data and start the process.

4. Light reaches the platform surface to selectively adhere the resin.

5. The same process repeats, stacking layer by layer until the object is finished.

6. Rinsing the object with alcohol to remove resin excess.

7. Exposing it to the sun or a UV lamp to completely cure.


Resin Printing Capabilities

Before comparing SLA and DLP technologies, it’s good to know resin’s printing place in the additive manufacturing market as a whole. Here are key traits to point out:



1. The best choice when precision and smoothness is what you need. It can get as thin as 0.025 mm in layer height and manages a range of 25 to 100 microns of XY resolution.

2. It requires fewer moving parts than other technologies. Basically, it needs just a mechanism for the printing plate to move along one axis only. For this simple movement, one step motor is enough.

3. Easy and direct slicing process.

4. It has many budget-friendly options compared to most technologies.

5. Weak to bridges and overhangs, being highly reliant on support use.

6. Not the best when you want to try different kinds of materials and colours. Furthermore, resins are not the choice for high levels of mechanical performance.

7. The best choice for mould building, jewellery, dental and medical applications and highly detailed figurines.

SLA vs DLP: Comparison

The difference between both is the light source used for the curing process. SLA (Stereolithography) uses a single point laser reflection that changes coordinates through a set of mirrors moved by galvos.

On the other hand, DLP (Digital Light Processing) consists of a light projected through a DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) that contains thousands of microscopic mirrors. Each mirror represents an “on or off” pixel on the final shape of a layer.

We’ll use the following criteria to make a comparison between both technologies:  

1. Printing speed

2. Resolution

3. Accuracy

4. Pricing


Printing Speed

The obvious difference. While an SLA laser must travel point by point, the DLP projector projects the entire image from the get-go. Anything that could take hours to complete on an SLA could take minutes on a DLP. It all comes to the XY dimensions, the wider and denser the layer (build volume), the broader the difference between printing times.

If time is of the essence, and you need high quantity production or to get big and dense objects fast, DLP seems to be the choice. On the other side, it is important to consider the possibility of downgrading resolution in order to get faster printing times on an SLA.  

Resolution

When comparing both technologies, you may think the obvious choice is an DLP. You might be right, but the answer is not as intuitive as it may seem. DLP projectors can reproduce pixels roughly equal in size to the laser spot produced on an SLA.

SLA vs DLP Pixel Size
Laser Vs Pixel Approach

The answer to this is the fact that a DLP resolution is limited to a static grid of squares (pixels), while an SLA laser moves freely and depends on how precise the galvos move the laser. If we reevaluate the DLP process, the main issue here is curved shapes build from rectangular steps. It could require an extra sanding process to achieve smoothness.

Furthermore, each pixel needs to adapt in scale to the printing area. Meaning that printing wider build volumes would need a higher resolution screen to adapt to the requirements. This would mean much higher costs.

Surface Finish test – SLA vs DLP

Accuracy

In reality, what affects printing quality, more than resolution, is accuracy. Accuracy refers to how much the result deviates from the intended position and it could be affected by many factors. Material qualities and post-processing are important, but what matters most is performance and calibration.

How do SLA and DLP differ on this? Both have a high performance compared to other technologies, but in the end, it is a matter of comparison between different models, not technologies. When it comes to calibration for DLP, you must make sure that the projected pixels are uniform in size. For SLA, you don’t get the uniformity issue but still needs calibration regularly.

Pricing

There are so many printers and brands on the market, made for many target audiences. If we are talking about DIY printers, there are countless options between £200 – £500.

But, if you are looking for a professional printer, it could get up to a few thousand pounds. For example, a Formlabs Form 3 SLA printer costs around £2,900. Now, if you are looking for something on an industrial level, prices can rise from £20,000.


Final Thoughts On SLA And DLP

Resin printing is growing each year as a technology, closing the gap between high quality and affordability. Even with LCD as a newer, strong, and budget-friendly technology (We’ll write about this in a future post), Both SLA and DLP definitely have their place as relevant options on today’s market.

If you would like to discuss High Resolution 3D Printing please call us on 01926 333 777 or email on info@solidprint3d.co.uk

You can also click here to get a Free Sample

Understanding Plastic Recycling

Plastics can be split into three main subsets Thermoplastics, Thermoset plastics and Elastomers. Thermoset plastics often require a curing process during which the polymers become cross-linked together and form an irreversible chemical bond.  As a result of the cross-linking process the polymers are unable to be re-melted or re-moulded. This makes them ideal for high temperature applications. However, as thermoset plastics cannot be re-melted they are unable to be recycled. Resin based 3D printers such as the SLA process use thermoset plastics.

Thermoplastics do not need to undergo a curing process. Subsequently, this means the polymers are able to be re-melted and recycled. Thermoplastics are extensively used in FFF/FDM printers so in theory most prints can be recycled however this is not always the case. Different thermoplastics are easier to recycle than others. As a result not all recycling plants are able to recycle the same materials. The types of materials that can be processed by recycling plants can vary across the country and across the world.

Elastomers aren’t commonly used for 3D printing, however thermoplastic Elastomers such as TPE and TPU are used for creating flexible materials. However, like Thermoset plastics these aren’t able to be recycled as the elastic properties are similar to thermoset plastics.

Plastic Waste is a Global Issue

So Can 3D Printed Parts Be Recycled?

PLA, ABS, Nylon and Polycarbonate are all common types of FFF/FDM filament, all of which are thermoplastics.

Thermoplastics are not commonly accepted by most recycling centres. They are all classified as a Type7 plastics which means you’re not able to put them into a recycling bin.

PETG can be recycled by some recycling centres, however it isn’t commonly accepted. It has similar chemical properties to PETE (which is widely recycled), which makes it difficult to differentiate between them. If the plastics get mixed during the recycling process it can dangerously affect the temperature stability of the recycled PETE.

Whilst PLA isn’t widely recycled, PLA does have one unique property: It is plant based. It can be referred to as a bioplastic. Whilst it is biodegradable it does still take a very long time to decompose and is extremely dependent on the conditions.

How Can I Be More Sustainable?

Although most local recycling centres are unable to recycle your 3D printed parts there are a number of other ways to be more sustainable.

Firstly designing parts intelligently to avoid printing unnecessary material and support can be a great way to reduce waste material. Always ensure you check the first couple of layers of a print to ensure it is adhering to the bed. If the print isn’t adhering to the bed then the print will more than likely fail and cause more waste material. It is also important to ensure the printer is regularly maintained so that it prints more reliably and again leads to less waste.

One way is to invest in a filament extruder. This is where you can use your waste material and can re-melt the plastic down and extrude back into filament. This process isn’t ideal for everyone and is generally used by hobbyists. It can be a time-consuming process having to grind down the waste plastic into pellets to be re-melted. However, it can help to reduce waste and cut down on filament costs.

As recycling your own filament using a filament extruder can be expensive to set up and time-consuming another alternative to be more sustainable is to use recycled filaments that have already been processed. This cuts out a lot of the cost and hard work to do it yourself. Companies such as Filamentive recycle both post-consumer waste and post-industrial waste to produce their filaments. This means they are not only sustainable but also have great mechanical properties as well.

You can see the Filamentive Filaments here. If we can be of any help regarding your choice of filament or 3D printer, please get in touch: 01926 333 777 or info@solidprint3d.co.uk

3D printing processes aren’t quite as simple as throwing a 3D model into a printer and expecting the object to magically appear. That is to say, there is a required process called slicing sitting between the CAD model and the physical object. Thankfully there are software programs specifically made for this: The slicers.


What Is A Slicer And Why Do We Need It?

3D Printing, as with any skill, is a process learned through the mastery of a tool and experience.

A slicer tells the printer everything it needs to know to print an object in the best possible way. We call it a “Slicer” because of its main function: dividing the model into individual material layers throughout the z-axis or “slices”. The 3D Printer does not receive a geometric file (Commonly STL), but a gcode. A gcode is a detailed command list readable by a printer to optimize everything it needs during the process.

As you get more experienced with slicing, you’ll see there’s a set of other parameters that impact drastically the final result.

Preform Software
Formlabs Preform Software

Slicing Process

Any process must have an input and end with an output. For a slicer, the 3D model and the manufacturing requirements are the input and the gcode file is the output. The following are the typical steps for slicing a model.

  1. Setup printer settings: The slicer needs all the information regarding the printer’s limitations. If this isn’t correctly set from the beginning, the gcode will send commands impossible for the printer to handle. Additionally, there are more settings regarding the extruder type and the material specifications.
  2. Import model: Once the printer data is set, you need to import the model you’ll work with. All slicers read STL, but other files like OBJ, 3DF and AMF are becoming more accepted every year.
  3. Arrange model: A slicer interface allows control over the position of the part and its contact with the printer bed. There are also scaling and alignment options.
  4. Setup commands: Here’s the most important step for slicers. Every printing parameter is set. Further down in this post we’ll get deeper into it.
  5. Slice and preview layers: With everything set, the slicer is ready to calculate and cut the part into layers. Here you can preview the resulting elements and how they will be applied in real life. Most slicers calculate an estimation for printing time and material quantity to use.
  6. Export: After checking and making sure everything is ok, you can create and save your file. Every slicer has the option to generate a gcode. Depending on which software you use, there are alternative file options.
Cura Slicing Software
Ultimakers Cura Slicing Software

Main Interface Properties

There are 3 key interface sections: The graphics area, a slicing settings panel, and some general settings.

Graphic Area Elements

Slicers offer a 3D graphics area where you can visualize how the model transforms into a layered representation. Every slicer has its unique interface style, but there are common elements to consider:

  • Printing bed plane: It represents the shape and dimensions of the real bed. Here you can visualize a comparison between the object and the space provided by the printer. With this, you have a graphical representation for:
    • Coordinate systems.
    • Model orientation, scale and position relative to the bed.
    • How the model adheres to the bed.
    • If you are printing multiple objects, you can check how they’ll arrange.
  • Visualization and camera control: Through icon bars and mouse/keyboard controls.
  • Model positioning controls: Same as the previous point.
  • Layer preview: Once the parameters are ready, the interface lets you scroll through each layer. It allows you to check how the material would be distributed within. The following are the main types of distributions:
    • Shell: The external lines that define the shape of the object.
    • Outer wall: The material line that defines the surface of the shape.
    • Inner walls: The material lines that define the shell thickness.
    • Infill: Fixes density percentage inside the object. There are many possible patterns to distribute the material within the hollow space.
    • Supports: Structures made for overhangs. We need them to avoid layers collapsing during the printing process if their overhang. You can generate them automatically or manage manually for better control over the result.
  • Adhesion layers: Sometimes an object has poor contact area with the bed, considering it needs to stick well during the printing process. There are many more factors that could affect adhesion, like part height, bed surface rugosity, type of material and printing speed. Regardless of the case, slicers offer the following structures as a solution for this.
    • Raft: A thick plate between the part and the printing bed.
    • Brim: Extra lines of material around the first layer, allowing a wider contact area.
    • Skirt: A single line around the part. It allows testing material flow and bed leveling before starting with the part itself.

Slicing Settings Panel

Here is where you really control what the printer will do, through specific settings and commands. This marks the difference between the beginner and an experienced user. Depending on which slicer you use, this could either be an easy task with suggested default settings, basic and approachable settings or a highly complex set of manual options. Every software has its own criteria, but the following are key concepts:

  • Layer height: The most important setting. Defines how thick each layer is and whether the object will be strong or weak, print faster or slower. This is also fundamental for resolution quality. It should be clear that almost all other settings will depend on layer height.
  • Line width: It refers to the horizontal thickness of each extruded line.
  • Shell thickness: Higher thickness allows a stronger and better surface finish at the expense of using more material.
  • Top and Bottom thickness: Quantity of solid layers for the top and bottom sides of your model.
  • Infill settings: Defines the inner material density percentage and how is patterned. Each pattern is a strategy for adding material depending on design intent like material saving, weight, stiffness and printing efficiency.
  • Extruder temperature: Defines how the plastic flowing through the nozzle will behave. Depending on which material you use, there will be a temperature range to work with. Conveniently, the product you bought should have a technical sheet for thermic properties.
  • Print speed: How fast the model will print. Yes, you get a quicker result, but you’ll lose quality and the process will be more prone to error.
  • Cooling settings: Affects how the cooling fan will work during the process. Setting decisions are based mainly on material properties.
  • Support settings: Criteria vary from software to software. Regardless, all slicers will generate automatic supports where needed. Major manual settings are minimum overhang angle and some other settings for specifying areas you want to protect from scaring.
  • Adhesion structure settings: Here you define how you want to apply rafts, brims and skirts.

File And General Settings

They are primary options for managing imports and exports, view settings, toggle printer settings, help tab, extensions, undo and redo options. It varies from software to software but it’s important to learn it.


Major Slicers

The following are some slicer programs you should try. In most cases, it is better to stick with the slicer software made for your printer:

If you have any questions about how slicers work, or what might be the best slicer for you, please get in touch with the Solid Print3D team on 01926 333 777 or info@solidprint3d.co.uk

For most manufacturing companies and organisations in the industrial world, having 3D printed jigs is becoming increasingly important . This guide will help explain why this is so – and why your firm should consider investing in a 3D Continuous Carbon Fibre printer.

Essentially, for the growing numbers of manufacturers who have invested in 3D printers, they are appreciating that these printers are capable of delivering jigs that will:

  • Boost productivity
  • Lower costs
  • Deliver essential manufacturing aids.

The main point is that a 3D printer is able to increase the manufacturing process with jigs and fixtures by delivering quality items quickly – and usually this can be done in-house with minimal leadtime.


What is a 3D Printed Jig?

For those who may not appreciate it, a jig is a custom-made tool that is held in place to control another device’s motion or for parts being used in the manufacturing process.

Essentially, a jig enables a manufacturer to boost the construction or assembly of a particular product by allowing for increased interchangeability.

This means that jigs are used in just about every mass production system around the world and until 3D printing technology arrived, many small and medium-sized companies were unable to create custom-made jigs in-house.


Why 3D Printed Jigs?

Because most firms would prefer to avoid the expense of producing traditionally manufactured jigs for adding to their building and assembly lines, a 3D printer offers a convenient and cost-effective solution.

With the growing popularity of additive manufacturing, these productivity enhancing jigs, as well as grips and fixtures can be produced by a 3D printer at the fraction of the traditional cost.

Markforged-3D-Printing-Guide
Get your Markforged Brochure here

A typical 3D Printed Carbon Fibre part costs around 10-20% of its machined metal counterpart.

This makes a 3D carbon fibre printer a cost-effective investment to help speed up the manufacturer’s development times and help reduce overheads such as labour costs.

The other benefit for using 3D printers for creating jigs means the design can be updated easily for the parts to be printed and the assembly line to keep working.

3D printed jigs also deliver:

  • Better weight reduction, particularly when using high-strength plastics and carbon fibre
  • Ergonomic superiority when using customised items
  • Reduce manufacturing process complexity.

3D Printer Manufacturers Available

Since the world of manufacturing is so broad, it should come as no surprise that is a wide range of 3D printer manufacturers available, and indeed different types of machine to create various jigs. This can be divided by strength requirements, build volume and strength/ stiffness.

The bottom line is that a 3D printer will help boost a firm’s competitive advantage because the company is then able to:

  • Make their products faster
  • Produce parts more cheaply
  • Produce products more efficiently.

And that’s by simply integrating a 3D printer into their everyday manufacturing workflow.

One of the market leaders for 3D Printers is Markforged who highlight that their products can also:

  • Reduce manufacturing downtime by utilising on-demand 3D production
  • 3D printers can create parts up to 50 times quicker than using traditional manufacturing methods
  • Firms can save up to 90% on traditional manufacturing costs on a per part basis.

Click here to get your free Unbreakable Carbon Fibre Sample


Materials used in 3D Printing

Depending on the purpose of the jig, among the most popular materials to use is carbon fibre. This offers the highest strength-to-weight ratio of available materials.

This is also highlighted by Markforged who say that carbon fibre is stronger than aluminium. It’s also 20x stronger than nylon and PLA -with a much higher yield strength.

It’s for this reason that the automotive and aerospace industries are big users of carbon fibre.

The potential for using continuous carbon fibre means it’s strong enough as a material to replace aluminium – yet half the weight. It will also deliver minimal deflection and better stiffness.

Markforged Onyx Spools
Markforged Carbon Fibre here

Production Line Solutions

Another benefit for using 3D printers is that they deliver freedom and convenience to manufacturers.

Once 3D printing is identified as a potential design solution, then the manufacturer will enter a new world of  production line solutions.

That’s because tool configuration can be completed in-house whereas it would need a lengthy CNC machining process, usually with an outside supplier. This is no longer necessary.

And since a 3D printer will deliver intricate and precise designs, the manufacturer will appreciate that their jigs will be able to complete their functions accurately and completely.

As all manufacturers will understand, the accuracy involved in machining tools is a crucial part to ensure that their production line works efficiently.

Another big benefit to using 3D printers for creating jigs is the lead time that many manufacturers find to be a sensitive issue.

By altering the digital design of a prototype, the work can be done quickly and incrementally. In other words, this means a manufacturer is able to ensure that the final jig is manufactured to high precision when added to the product assembly line. In addition, this can be done in hours rather than weeks. There are big savings to be enjoyed in both money and time when firms invest in quality 3D print technology.


Markforged printers are worth a closer look

There’s no doubt that by using 3D printers integrated into every part of a firm’s manufacturing process, money and time will be saved. For instance, even from early prototypes to the end-use parts as well as manufacturing tools, Markforged printers should make your shortlist.

As previously mentioned, carbon fibre 3D printers gave manufacturers the opportunity to replace machined aluminium jigs with carbon fibre options.

This means the parts are stronger and the firm will save time and money when using a 3D printer.

To help, Markforged produce a range of composite 3D printers, including their industrial series which consists of:

  • X3: The stiffness and strength of carbon fibre meets the versatility of using tough nylon
  • X5: For those load-bearing applications that need strength, the created jigs will not only make the grade but they can be created more cheaply and quickly than machining metal
  • X7: For supremely stiff and strong but very lightweight parts, this carbon fibre printer delivers those jigs demanding performance.

Markforged also produce a desktop series, including the Onyx One, the Onyx Pro and the Mark Two  which are also worth considering as excellent carbon fibre printers.

If you would like more help and advice when it comes to sourcing quality 3D continuous carbon fibre printers, then you need to speak with the experts at Solid Print3D on 01926 333777.

In the last decade, the use of 3D printing in many fields has rapidly increased, and Earth-based sectors such as the automotive and aeronautic industries have taken advantage of the many benefits the technology has to offer.

However, one sector that has pushed 3D printing to its limits has been the space industry. From base building on Mars to printing artificial hearts in zero gravity, 3D printing technology is at the forefront of human exploration of the final frontier.


Cutting Weight

Launching objects to space is a slow and expensive endeavour. Despite modern companies such as SpaceX using state-of-the-art reusable rocket technology to bring costs down, it still costs thousands of pounds per kilogram to get payloads into space. Annually, 3,000kg of equipment is sent to the International Space Station (ISS) per year, with over 13 tonnes of backup equipment stored onboard for redundancy. Considering that NASA estimates that only 5% of these spare parts will actually be used, this is clearly inefficient.

Not only is this expense significant, but it is also impractical for more distant missions; a 6 – 9-month journey to Mars would require a lot more equipment and redundancy, and would not be able to carry the same amount of spare components or receive annual supplies from the Earth.

However, if you had the ability to make and recycle the tools you needed during the flight, you could greatly reduce the amount of spare equipment you would need to bring with you, leaving more room for necessary supplies such as food. This is where 3D printing comes in.


In Situ Component Manufacture

In 2014, the first-ever tool to be manufactured from an uplinked file in space (a socket wrench) was printed in ABS using the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) process. After testing the part back on Earth, it was found to have negligible differences to an equivalent printed on land, demonstrating the effectiveness of the method.

Since then “Made In Space”, the company behind this historical first, have made further advancements and launched another 3D printer to the ISS; the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), which has been in use since 2016. The AMF provides the capability to print in multiple different materials, including ABS and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), and has allowed many organisations to test their 3D printed designs in space.

Nasa Refabricator
Nasa Refabrictor before being launched into space

Since then, another project called “ReFabricator” arrived at the ISS. This project aims to recycle plastic printing material while avoiding the damaging shear caused by grinding pellets. This has moved us one step closer to being able to use waste plastic as a material for critical applications both on Earth and in Space.


3D Printing Space Metal

In addition to these polymer-focused 3D printing techniques, metal 3D printing has been looked at intently. Many critical components in space are made of metals such as aluminium and titanium. On Earth, one of the most common methods used is Selective Laser Melting or SLM. Here, a laser is utilized to melt selected areas of metal powder to build up components additively.

However, these types of machine are not suitable for use in space in their current form. SLM requires a lot of power to run and uses powders which are flammable, hazardous to breathe in and difficult to control in microgravity.

To overcome these issues, NASA is currently investigating several cutting-edge methods:

  • Use of ultrasonic waves to connect adjacent layers of metal foil.
  • Wire and arc-based methods to join layers of metal wire in a manner similar to welding
  • Bound metal deposition methods that make use of filament or metal particle pastes bound within polymer.

Researchers at the German Federal Institute have also looked into using a specific type of “binder jetting technology”, where gravity is replaced by powerful jets of air to keep the metal powder in place.

Simulation of Archinaut One in operation

Space Structures

As well as printing inside a space vehicle, 3D printing also has many exciting applications outside in the vacuum of space. Made In Space, Northrup Grumman and Oceaneering Space Systems are collaborating on NASA’s ‘Archinaut’ project, which is looking to use additive manufacturing technology to build large structures in space.

Archinaut One
Archinaut One

Following successful ground-based testing, the first orbital test to be launched to space will be Archinaut One. This will use 3D printing methods to build a solar array in orbit. If this is successful, the result could be lighter (and therefore cheaper) satellite payloads that can build components for themselves once in orbit.


Homes on Other Planets

In addition to manufacturing in orbit, organizations such as NASA and the ESA are also looking into building structures on the surface of Mars and the Moon using 3D printers. Instead of carrying heavy building materials out of the Earth’s gravity well, scientists have studied using a key material that already exists on these bodies; regolith.

Sample of Lunar Regolith from Apollo 17 Mission (Source: NASA/Wikimedia)

Regolith is the soft layer of dust, soil and rubble that covers rocky planets and moons. It is the result of millions of years of asteroid impacts and high energy radiation breaking up the surface rock. Scientists propose that buildings could be made with this material.

This won’t be easy. One of the issues with using regolith for 3D printing is that it is a difficult substance to work with. On Earth, perpetual motion has weathered sand over thousands of years until its grains have become smoothed out and rounded. Comparatively Regolith has had very little weathering occur due to a lack of atmospheric motion. This means the grains of regolith are very sharp and result in a highly abrasive substance. This can quickly wear out nozzles, clog up moving parts and cause a lot of damage to any printers that try to print with it.

However, despite the difficulties of working with lunar regolith, and the general hazards of printing in microgravity, extreme cold and under ionizing radiation, scientists at NASA’s Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Lab (GMRO) strongly believe it is a viable method. To develop the printers, engineers use a substance called Black Point 1, a waste by-product of asphalt production that shares many similar properties with regolith.


Summary

3D printing is allowing significant advancement in capability outside the Earth’s atmosphere. The space industry is developing cutting edge solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing additive manufacturing.

To learn more about some of the cutting-edge solutions available now on back here on Earth, click here.

While designing a structural member, haven’t you thought to yourself that your design looks like a brick and maybe there’s a way to cut out something to make it lightweight while remaining stiff and strong? It has been a common headache for engineers to find the best way to reduce material on a structural member without making it fail. Let me tell you there’s a method that might blow your mind: Topology Optimization.

So, let’s start with what exactly is Topology Optimization and how it has been applied as a design method before getting into 3D printing as a reliable alternative to traditional manufacturing methods.


What is Topology Optimization

One of many mathematical methods that allow the generation of the most efficient placement of material possible for a given part under required load conditions. The fundamental characteristic that makes topology optimization different from other methods, such as shape optimization and size optimization, is that it won’t change anything on the model outside of the original design volume boundary. So, taking the term “topology” into account it basically means “position”, referring to where material should be removed within a given space.

But for a more illustrative way to put it, haven’t you seen some organically shaped CAD designs for mechanical parts or large-scale structures that give an impression of tree branches or a viscous substance? They look kind of aesthetic, but paradoxically it wasn’t created by a plastic artist but by a programmed algorithm.

Arup model showing same strength & load capacity for all 3 models

Before going into more detail, let’s see some real applications in real life:


Applications

Topology optimization has been mainly used in the following areas:

  • Civil Engineering /Architecture: For both structural members and for the whole structure of buildings, bridges, roofs.
  • Mechanical Engineering: For machine parts, both static and moving, dealing with a significant strain magnitude. Supports, chassis, suspension parts, brackets are some examples.
  • Aerospace industry: One of the main concerns regarding this industry is reducing weight to an optimal proportion, topology optimization is a highly valuable tool for this matter.

It is also employed for:

  • Material Science
  • Biomechanics
  • Prototyping
  • Pump and valve systems
  • Artistic Sculpturing

The GE Engine Bracket Challenge

One of the most representative cases, if not the most, is a challenge made by General Electric for designers to reduce in the most optimal way a titanium bracket for a jet engine. Engineers took the CAD model of the part and made a finite element method simulation (FEM) to calculate stress distribution for given loads and fixtures, then they applied topology optimization.

The results where astonishing, they managed to reduce the part weight from 4lbs to 1.6lbs (About 60% of its original mass) while maintaining a safety factor of 2 and 31-million-dollar savings through energy efficiency. Finally, they used a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer to manufacture the bracket.

Redesigned GE Engine Bracket
the Redesigned GE Engine Bracket

Through CAD software and FEM

Today the most important method to iterate optimized models is through a FEM simulation process found on CAD software. Some of the most known are:

  • Autodesk Fusion 360
  • Ansys
  • Dassault Systemes Abaqus and SolidWorks
  • Altair Solidthinking Inspire
  • Creo PTC

So regardless of the software, the process tends to be like this:


Preparation for Optimization

Modeling of a basic design concept: Starting from a basic idea and easy to calculate design for a specific requirement. This implies the geometrical volume that will define the boundaries for the topology optimization and the chosen material.

Start the FEM study: Once the basic concept is ready, you start the simulation process. It’s better to start your process with a simple static analysis, but you could apply to more advanced and complex studies such as fatigue, dynamic, vibration, thermal, fluid and many more.

Implement external conditions: Here you must define how loads, fixtures, gravity would interact with the design on its theoretical context.

Create a mesh: For a FEM to work discretely you need to transform your solid into a polygonal mesh body. Commonly being an STL encoding the choice.

Initial results: From here you can run the study calculation to test the initial design and further compare it to the optimized version. Basically, you get distributions for stress, displacement, and factor of safety. If this study fails, the optimized models will certainly fail.

Setup topology optimization: The importance of this step is that you get many options that allow you to get control over how the software calculates optimization. Based on your design intentions and manufacturing choices, you can set specific constraints adapted to your needs. Depending on which software you use, the set of options you get will be different. To put some common examples, you can set the mass fraction you want to reduce, apply symmetries and define areas you want to keep out of the optimization.


After Optimization

Run Optimization: Finally, you get to the part where all the process is done. Given that it’s a complex calculation, it might take some time to complete. Once you get the result, you’ll see those distinctive organic shapes with a reduced mass within your design space. Now you may ask, what do I do with this?

Redesign: Here is where the manufacturing process of choice is the focus of your design aim. Ask yourself, can I really replicate those shapes with the process I chose? So, here is where the thing gets tricky. Thankfully there are many methods to adapt the model for manufacturability, it depends on the limitations of each specific process. You can automatically smoothen your result or you can make manual modifications on your original model using the optimized geometry as guidance, there are many possible methods.

Evaluation: Once you get your new design you can test it with a new FEM study. Normally you’ll see that even with the mass reduced, the model remains stiff. It’s important to consider that the security factor for the new design will drop in relation to the original one, make sure the new factor isn’t below your objective. From here you can decide to further optimize it or leave it as is.

Topology OOOOOOOOptimisation Study
Topology Study

3D Printing as the Manufacturing Choice for TO

Once your design process is done, manufacture is the obvious next step. As seen during the development, topological optimization does not care about manufacturing limitations. So, since topology optimization existence as a mathematical method, it has only served as an ideal reference for designing decisions. That’s where 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has its place as an ideal match for topology optimization. The following are the main reasons:

3D printing has an advantage over other traditional processes on reproducing complex organic shapes. Traditional manufacturing processes like milling, lathing, cast molding and even CNC laser cutters have many more limitations in terms of geometries.

3D printing is a strong choice for fast prototyping. Traditional methods tend to be time-consuming, needing extra steps for tool selection and costly in terms of low volume production.

Luckily CAD software helps to adapt optimization results to manufacturing needs, but it means that you need to sacrifice some optimization in order to achieve manufacturability. For 3D printing neither you must go through extra steps nor lose topological efficiency.

For machining methods, you need to remove material and lose it in the process even if optimized. On the other hand, 3D printing is additive, and you get to really save material.

There are some methods that allow adapting topology optimization to infill density intended for the part. This allows for a higher precision design. We will cover this in a future post.

To learn more about Topology optimisation and how you can utilise it with 3D Printing please contact us on info@solidprint3d.co.uk | 01926 333 777

This post provides all the basic information you need regarding the commonly used formats for your 3D printing process. If you are a beginner, this is a must-read. Besides those who are getting started into this world, you should take a peek into this if you’re a CAD software user wanting to export your files for printing or if you are an experienced 3D printing user willing to explore different alternatives to your commonly used formats.

So, the following are the 3D printing formats we chose as a must-know for you:


STL and OBJ: The Standard Rulers


STL

Definitely the most used file format and is now over 20 years old! Standing for “Stereolithography”, “Standard Triangle Language” or “Standard Tessellation Language”, always pops up almost immediately when 3D printing is mentioned. It has been there since the dawn of this technology. Consisting of coordinate points on a 3D space. By connecting the points you get triangles that define the surface for the model. The more triangles used the better the resolution but with a much heavier file as a result.

Pros:

  • Its standard opensource use (Sometimes referred to as “neutral”). Grants easy exchangeability between software systems and 3D applications such as CAD, engineering, slicing, 3D printing, animation and prototyping.
  • Straightforward, simple and compact for sharing, downloading and opening.
  • Being around since the first 3D printer creation, so there are several years of knowledge and tools for troubleshooting.

Cons:

  • It does not support textures, colors, materials or any kind of metadata. For 3D printing, it would basically mean that it’s impossible to print objects with more than one color or material using an STL file.
  • By not having metadata, it tends to be common scaling and unit issues during the printing process.
  • Often prone to annoying surface errors during the encoding process.
  • With the 3D printing industry moving forward, it may not be enough using an STL surface to define smoother and smoother finishes that recent improvements now allow with much better efficiency. STL may become obsolete on a near future
STL File Example
An Example of an STL File with the triangulated mesh clearly shown

OBJ

Also known as Wavefront Object. This format is a wide use standard mesh format you see all around the 3D community. Just as with STL, it consists of geometric surface data but with much more complex characteristics. Being able to encode smoother surfaces by using wider possibilities of polygons. Meaning that the OBJ format is able to create quadrilaterals or hexagons, for example, instead of just triangles. Even it can store continuous freeform spline data and, complementing it with an MTL and a PNG file, you could store color and texture data.

Pros:

  • Looking at the growing capabilities of 3D printing technology, for getting better resolutions and multicolor possibilities the OBJ seems to be the choice when the STL file is just not enough for the task at hand.
  • Being an opensource standard. Only behind the STL file, it’s fit for sharing and for importing and exporting options available for a huge variety of software systems.

Cons:

  • Even with its popular use, it falls far behind the STL when compatibility is the matter. It is a common issue to get the surprising realization that your software is unable to read or generate an OBJ file when you were expecting it.
  • Having separate files for texture definition tends to be a messy experience.
  • It may be overly complex for many applications. So, if you are working with a basic 3D printer, with resolution limitations and which only outputs monochromatic results, you better simplify your life and just settle with STL.

Gcode and X3G: From the Slicer to the Printer


Gcode

The most adopted language used for command codification on computer-aided manufacture. It’s commonly used for tool machines such as CNC mills, laser cutters and, of course, 3D printers. The Gcode is based on a list of instructions where codes labeled with a “G” or an “M” tell the printer, how, when, what to do step by step. Once a model is uploaded into the slicer software and processed, you get the Gcode you’ll need to print. Some examples for commands are:

  • G1: Linear movement
  • M104: Extruder heating command
  • G92: Set position

X3G

A proprietary file format used by Makerbot. Being one of the early brands to lockdown their materials and software is important to know that Makerbot printers do not read direct Gcode. To generate an X3G you can do it through the Makerbot Print software or through the open-source GPX tool on other slicers.


AMF vs 3MF: The STL Successor


AMF

Standing for “Additive Manufacturing File”, this format is popularly known as “STL 2.0” because of its tessellated triangular arranged surface. Designed specifically as an improvement for the STL shortcomings and obsolescence, the AMF format can encode curved triangles to solve the issue of needing too many triangles to achieve smoothness on curved surfaces. This format is based on an XML language that enables color, texture and metadata storage on a human-readable code and easy to configure and adapt to any particular case.

AMF Curved_triangle
trinagle showing curvature information

Pros:

  • Highly defined curves without sacrificing simplicity.
  • Stores all the texture, material, color and metadata information without needing additional files as OBJ does.
  • With its stored metadata information, it can precisely scale and unit values to guarantee the printed object expected dimensions. This is a huge improvement from the STL file since it can’t store any kind of additional data besides geometrical shapes, leading to scale issues during the printing process.
  • Enables storing many objects on the same file and their arrangement on the printer bed.
  • Enables easy control over which features and settings may be used on a particular print.

Cons:

  • Its lack of adoptability. The development for the AMF as a format was, although great from a technological point of view, lacking from a strategy for placing itself as the required successor for the STL file.

3MF

Most certainly the main standard file that will define the future for 3D printers. Created by Microsoft, 3MF stands for “3D Manufacture Language”. Just as AMF, it was created with the clear objective of defining the perfect standard as 3D printing technologies are developing their capabilities into something beyond what traditional formats can handle. Most importantly Microsoft established the 3MF Consortium with major 3D software companies such as Autodesk, 3D Systems, Stratasys, Dassault Systemes, Ultimaker, Siemens, Simplify3D, HP and many more to ensure compatibility and adoption as a strong standard and, most likely, being the STL successor.

Pros:

  • Improves in a comparable manner as the AMF the shortcomings the STL has for this era focusing mainly on completely avoiding common geometry errors, such as overlap triangles.
  • Its space-saving feature allows you to arrange copies of the same model for a single print and saving time and extra steps as a result.
  • Parallel features to the AMF, such as the XML human-readable language, multicolor encoding and huge variety of metadata are in this format.

Cons:

  • It hasn’t yet achieved the same level of widespread influence the STL has on the community at the present day.
  • There are concerns about how much of an open-source format it is going to be in the future, considering existing criticism on Microsoft for unfair business practices.

Other 3D Printing Formats

Finally, we won’t end this post without taking into consideration that you can print from basically any 3D file, even if they’re not made specifically for printing. The following are some of the most relevant:

VRML/X3D: VRML and its successor X3D are important standard opensource formats for representing 3D interactive vector graphics. Mainly used for renders, sceneries, animation and gaming. By not being made for manufacture, it could be inconsistent when read for 3D printing.

FBX: Is a proprietary file format owned by Autodesk. Used mainly for interoperability between Autodesk software programs. In the same way, as with VRML and X3D, its intended use is for rendering effects.

PLY: Designed to store geometrical data generated by 3D scans. Besides its geometrical elements, it’s able to store many more elements like color, texture maps and transparency.

STEP and IGES: The main CAD standards intended for engineering applications. Instead of polygons, these formats use complex NURBS representations for precision. It may not be the best idea to use STEP or IGES while even the best 3D printers require much simpler data.

If you want to discuss the best file format for your CAD software and 3 dPrinter combination, please get in touch: info@solidprint3d.co.uk | 01926 333 777

So you want to print strong parts?

This blog is going to look at how best to orientate your print, what materials to use and understand what continuous fibre 3D printing is.

Firstly understanding the application that the part is being used in is vital. Knowing what type of stress the part is going to be subject to is essential whether that’s tension, compression or shearing forces.

Due to the nature of FDM/FFF printing (where parts are built layer upon layer to build up the overall shape) parts have what’s referred to as anisotropic properties. This is where parts are stronger in the XY directions and weaker in the Z direction due to the bonding between the layers. This is because the orientation the part is printed is crucial if you want to design a strong print. For example, if the part is in tension, then you want to ensure that the part is being pulled in the XY directions rather than the Z, to avoid delamination and fracture. Tensile strength in XY directions is up to 4-5 times stronger than in the Z direction.


Anisotropic stength in 3D printed parts

What materials should I be using?

Again the application that your part is going to be used in is very important as it will affect the material selection. There are numerous different types of 3D printing materials available each with their own advantages and used for specific applications. Two materials that are commonly used when designing strong parts are Nylon and Polycarbonate. Nylon is a very durable material with excellent chemical resistance, however it isn’t stiff and has virtually no heat resistance. Polycarbonate is strong with good heat resistance but is only moderately durable and chemically resistant.

One way to improve material properties is to impregnate a standard polymer with particles of a secondary material and this is referred to a filled thermoplastic. A common type of filled thermoplastic is chopped carbon fiber reinforced nylon. This takes the excellent chemical resistance and durability of Nylon and considerably improves the strength, heat resistance and stiffness of the material by adding the carbon particles.

Markforged’s very own Onyx filament is a type of filled thermoplastic which is a mixture of Nylon and chopped carbon fibre which boasts not only high strength but excellent heat resistance, surface finish and chemical resistance. If even more strength, rigidity and durability is required then the Onyx filament can also be reinforced with a range of continuous fibres including carbon, fibreglass, HSHT fibreglass and Kevlar. If the Onyx filament is reinforced with layers of continuous fibre it can considerably improve the strength, withstanding stresses equivalent to Aluminium.


Stress-Strain material comparison graphs

Nylon property comparison

So how does continuous fibre 3D printing work?

Typically most 3D printed components aren’t solid. Instead various infill patterns are used to save material, cost and print time. When printing using continuous fibre reinforcement standard conventional infills are replaced with the fibres which significantly improves the mechanical properties of the part. The additional strength that these fibres add are dependent on the amount, orientation and type of fibre used. With the Markforged printers these parameters can all be controlled using their own slicing software called Eiger. This also gives you extra control regarding how to lay the fibres becuase we want to ensure that the reinforced strength is applied in the correct areas.


Eiger continuous fibre infill

Free Sample

If you would like to would like to receive a free sample or find out more about the Markforged printing process please feel free to contact us on 01926 333 777.


If you are looking to investigate how additive manufacturing will work for you, then you have come to the right place. You might be asking yourself the following questions:


How and where does 3D printing add monetary value to my business?

What is the required investment and when will I see a return?

What is the best 3D printer and materials for my business and our applications?

Will the 3D printed parts meet specification, perform reliably and improve the existing design?

What training is required and what are the ongoing costs?

Can I trust what this person is telling me?

At Solid Print3D we are design engineers first and foremost. We work with the best in-class 3D printing brands & printers that are suitable for a variety of market sectors; we aren’t trying to make 1 technology fit all workflows. Our Engineers have worked inside engineering businesses and seen the challenges firsthand and have created an efficient process for quickly addressing the above questions so you can decide if additive manufacturing works for you.


The Process

Our process is supported by concrete data that we gather with your engineers so it can be worked back to its inception. We make this data and the workings available to you so you can check them yourself.

1. Data Collection – “Walk the Line” or Remote Collection


As with any engineering problem we must understand why things are the way they are and go back to first principles. We also want you to understand our solution. How do we achieve this?

Waking the line, finding opportunities for Additive Manufacturing

We conduct a “Walk the line” where we take the time to understand your current manufacturing process and therefore know where additive works and where it does not and we can explain why!

In current times (Corona Virus outbreak) data collection can be done remotely, if you are already experienced in additive manufacturing and you know where the best applications are. You can provide us with detail on the current method of manufacture so that we may analyse if 3D printing is suitable for the manufacturing process.

2. Financial Analysis – Return on Investment Study (ROI) and 3D Printer Recommendation


We insert your data into our in-house tools that generate a return on investment document. The ROI will show how quickly a machine will pay for itself, by 3D printing your parts compared to your current manufacturing process. the ROI tool will also show any savings in lead times among other benefits such as enabling you to reallocate human resource elsewhere.

At Solid print3D we do a lot of work tailoring the ROI to suit your bespoke applications. We use our technical teams knowledge along with samples to determine & prove which 3D printers are going to work best to save you time & money.

Our team will also detail which 3D printer is best for producing your parts, based on an automated scoring system using the parts unique requirements. In addition, we illustrate how many 3D printers you would need to meet the year on year demand for the parts we have looked at.

NOTE: This process is always tailored and overseen by trained Additive Engineers. Everyone’s applications are different.

3. Functional Testing3D Printed Samples


Occasionally the first two steps can be skipped, if you are already sure that you are looking to take your first steps into additive and have budget set aside. Additive is the manufacturing technology of the future after all. However, you will still need to evaluate whether 3D printed parts work for the application you have in mind.

We work closely with Solid Solutions

There is a lot to take into consideration when designing for additive, such as material properties, layer direction, fibre orientation and surface finish. After your application is understood we make recommendations so your sample part is optimized for additive manufacture.

Markforged 3D Printing

Once we have 3D printed your bespoke part it will be sent to you for evaluation and physical testing. We can also support you in providing relevant case studies and technical information.

4. Presentation, Q&A and Decision Making

Once we have shown the 3D printer makes sense financially, can produce parts fit for application and provided relevant technical/health and safety info, there is no room for guesswork.

Step 4 of this process will enable decision makers to make an informed decision and ensure a good working relationship between you and Solid Print3D into the future. This groundwork ensures that a first move, or further expansion into additive is going to add real value to the bottom line of your business.

Do You Want To Investigate Further?

We run events to educate people about 3D printing and are always happy to chat over the phone. If you would like to investigate whether additive manufacturing will work for you, get in contact and kick-start the process.

sales@solidprint3d.co.uk or 01926 333 777

The 3D scanner market has exploded in recent years. Users in various industries from healthcare and manufacturing to construction and automotive are all increasingly investing in 3D scanning technology. Within this guide to 3D scanners for engineers we hope to give some clarity on when scanners can help save time and money.

3D scanning an object

So what actually is a 3D Scanner?

Essentially, 3D scanners are devices that capture details of a physical object – including dimensions, texture and colour. Scanning is quick and easy, and produces a digital 3D model. While 3D scanners can vary in size from large-scale 3D measuring machines, it’s arguably the handheld 3D scanners that are seeing the biggest growth in this market.

Handheld 3D scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points. In recent years, innovations in entry-level 3D scanners have seen these devices become increasingly accurate and precise but also very accessible both in terms of cost and ease of use. So rather than calling on a service provider to perform 3D scanning, companies can now do their 3D scanning in-house. This helps shorten product development and manufacturing timescales, providing a competitive edge.

What can I use a 3D scanner for?

3D scanners are largely used for reverse engineering, which, simply put, is a design process in reverse. Starting with an existing product, engineers work backwards through the design process to arrive at the design specification. There are many reasons to reverse engineer products. An obvious one being the replacement of legacy components that have long since gone out of production. Other reasons include replacement of existing failing parts, improvement of defective parts, analysing competitor products and quality inspection. 

3D scanning is increasing accessibility of the technology, 3D scanning is now also being used in other contexts. For example, by capturing a digital rendering of a part or product it can be used in animation or virtual reality.

Easy to scan complex parts

How do I choose the correct scanner?

But with so much choice, deciding whats best for your business isnt always easy-and thats where we can help. You need a high-quality device but one that won’t break the bank and doesn’t require a steep learning curve to get to grips with. Step in Peel 3D with its range of handheld 3D scanners that are powered by 3D scanning expertise of Creaform, a unit of AMETEK. Its devices use a white LED light to capture objects in 3D with structured light technology.

Peel 1 is the original Peel 3D product. This compact handheld 3D scanner, with a scanning area of 380 x 380 mm, allows you to capture high-quality 3D scans of small or large objects while keeping your project on a budget.

The next in the range is the Peel 2. The primary difference between this scanner and its predecessor is that as well as higher measurement resolution for capturing geometry data. The Peel 2 also captures the texture (colours) of the object being scanned. This is ideal for more demanding projects such as mechanical parts and assemblies, metal castings, and textured and coloured objects.

The next generation product, Peel 2 CAD, is an integrated hardware and software solution specifically focused on reverse engineering. Following the scanning of the physical object, Peel 2 CAD will help users process the resulting 3D scan files and export them directly into their chosen CAD software in an array of output formats, including .iges, .step and .dxf. 

Peel 3D scanner

How do 3D scanners work?

Scanning an object is as easy as:

  1. Scan the object
  2. Finalise mesh
  3. Extract entities and surfaces
  4. Export to CAD software

With an impressive accuracy of up to 0.100 mm and volumetric accuracy 0.300 mm/m, Peel 2 CAD features all the tools required to process geometric entities, surfaces, cross sections, etc.

Scan to CAD has never been this fast or this easy! This guide to 3D scanners for engineers shows not just how easy scanners are, but sets up the next step, production! Creating these parts is easy, by using one of our recommended printers. Check out our blog page for more information on how you can take your models to print with ease.

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. Speak with a 3D Printing & Scanning expert, call us on 01926 333 777 or check out our contact us section.

During the current Corona crisis we have seen a jump in companies requiring their injection moulded plastic parts as soon as possible- without the delays and added costs. This is where we can help solve this issue, with a 3D printed solution as we discussed in a previous article. The usual lead times for getting parts from these locations may be just about bearable with respect to the cost. However, what happens when you cannot get any parts at all? The solution may be simply 3D printed parts to replace your injection mould plastic enclosure, prototypes, and production parts.

However, will self-isolation stop you from using a desktop 3D printer? Absolutely not! For instance it can be moved from the office to at home. Check out the blog section of our site for more on this! 

Mantracourt contacted us with the requirement of a prototype part, we thought it would work well as a case study to prove our point! The manufacturing method usually used for this part would be injection moulding. Therefore we decided to use the SLA (stereolithography) process of the Formlabs Form3 3D printer to create the parts.

To print the part we need to convert the CAD into readable data on the printer. This is achieved by using Preform. Preform is the free slicing software used by Formlabs printers to convert the data in the STL into readable “slices”. If you would like to try it for yourself, you can download it from here.


How to easily 3D print the plastic enclosure

Printing at 50-micron layer height, using 228ml of Grey Pro resin, 1 day and 7 hours later… the printer creates something that looks like this!

3D printed injection mould parts
3D printed injection mould parts

In order to achieve the injection mould finish, we need to remove the support material.

The tools that I used were:

  • Scalpel
  • Flush face cutters
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Sandpaper 120 grit and 400 grit
  • (PPE)

finishing the 3D printed injection mould

From this it’s a case of using the flush face cutters and the scalpel to cut the contact points between the supports and the parts. By using needle nose pliers it easy to pull off large pieces of supports in one go.

With the supports removed, give them a hand wash with some water and then start with the 400 grit on any rougher areas. Using light pressure in circular motions helps get these areas ready to use the 120 grit sandpaper on it. Another wash with water to remove any excess and we have our finished part.


The resulting 3D printed Injection mould style plastic enclosure

As a result of finishing the part, it now has a smooth, high quality surface finish. Primer and paint could now be used, however we shall leave the part as is. The part now looks like the original 3D printed Injection mould plastic enclosure, and fits the customers needs.

The finished 3D printed injection mould , snap fit together

The extremely thin area shown in the images below, which would be back lit by an LED. Alternatively, the photogenic and not at all fake backdrop to our office in Leamington Spa can be used. Come check out the view and our printers if you don’t believe us!

Therefore, if you are interested in finding out what this 3D printed Injection mould plastic enclosure is used for, head over to Mantracourt in the link below

https://www.mantracourt.com/

During these tough times we would love to help your business find ways to save money. To speak to a 3D Printing expert, call us on 01926 333 777 or check out our contact us section

1 – 3D Printing is now ready for Production Parts

3D Printing is changing manufacturing. From End Use Parts to Low Volume Jigs & Fixtures, you can now print in Continuous Carbon Fibre. This is stronger than Aluminium, incredibly light and cheaper to manufacture. In many cases Carbon Fibre parts typically cost 10%-20% of their machined counterparts.

2 – The Price is Tumbling

With £3,000 Desktop printers now able to do what £50,000 printers were doing 5 years ago the technology is open to everyone and it’s increasingly unusual to see an SME without a 3D printer these days.

3 – Material Science is Changing Everything

Many 3D printers are now open source. You can utilise 1,000’s of different materials for a variety of applications. From Antibacterial, FDA approved, Flame Retardant & Electrostatic materials to more traditional ABS, Nylon & PLA. The choice is huge!

4 – 3D Printing is becoming Faster

With the improvement in material science, 3D printing materials are able to be heated & cooled faster. this has led to some manufacturers offering 2 x “Turbo mode” on their printers. To aid this, adaptive layer heights also play a part in printing quickly in large prismatic areas while layers are automatically refined around small details.

5 – It’s Better for the Environment

Yes, 3D Printing uses plastic, but typically there is minimal to Zero waste. There are no transport costs for moving mass material or parts from one side of the world to the other and typically 3D Printed parts are printed in the manufacturing or final location.
Due to the wide variety of 3D printing solutions available we know it can be incredibly difficult to determine which 3D Printer is the perfect fit for you and your business. We have written an article on our website to help with this:
Why not request a free sample part today?
The fight against the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (Corvid-19) continues as the global death toll reached 3,110 and the number of confirmed cases exceeded 92,000 this week.
This is leading to export from China significantly slowing down, lead times increasing, projects being cancelled and an ever increasing negative impact on UK Businesses.

The Solution could be to 3D Print your Parts In-House!


3D Printing in Carbon Fibre is cheaper than traditional metal manufacturing and the parts are available immediately. What’s more the parts are as strong as Aluminium, lighter weight and useful for the following:
  • End Use Parts
  • Tooling
  • Jigs & Fixtures
  • Clamps
  • End Effectors
  • Functional Prototypes

Are you having trouble getting your low volume tooling from China & Asia?


Our Markforged 3D Printers make it possible to 3D print parts as strong as Aluminium in-house:

Markforged Mark 2



Markforged X7


Whether you need parts as strong as metal, flame retardant parts or tough & durable parts Markforged is your go to Industrial 3D Printer.
Why not request a free unbreakable sample today to prove the strength of the parts.

Now that February’s regional knowledge transfer events have come to a close we thought we would share a few pictures with you…

We had over 150 attendees across the 3 days and we’d like to thank those businesses who attended. We hope you learnt something that will impact your business.

The events covered:

Not to worry If you missed these ones, we are hosting some more events in May which you can register for now.