What Makes an Industrial 3D Printer?

These days, products often appear similar on spec sheets. It can be difficult to understand what the subtle differences really are and how they will impact your intended use case. The key to all of this is design intent.

 

It’s not enough to re-purpose a commercial concept or rapid prototyping printer as a production grade machine. While the specifications can appear similar, production use has it’s own demands on the machine, materials, and the people using it to make parts on demand. When these things are accounted for in the design, tested and refined, the resulting product ends up production ready, manufacturing process friendly, cost effective and efficient.

 

Our partner 3NTR has many years of experience designing industrial automation and manufacturing machinery. Along the way, it became apparent that 3D printing was in their future. What they also found, along with Plural, was a very strong demand for true industrial grade 3D printers designed for additive manufacturing, and a partnership was born.

Printbed filled with parts

In design terms, this means high performance mechanical design and software come first. Users are interested in cycle times, consistency of production, precision, material and finished part removal. It also means building for the future with common sense options an

d the flexibility needed to use the wide variety of materials available today as well as future materials. Well designed industrial grade 3D printers also feature easy replacement of consumables, sensible sub-systems that can be serviced quickly, and straightforward, lean calibration and other maintenance tasks.

The ideal industrial 3D printer is designed for a long service life, and can be maintained and or upgraded in-house. Long term manufacturer support, access to spare parts, upgrades, firmware, and accessories is a must due to the cost of process

change and machine replacement.

 

Industrial machinery also performs best when the sales, service and support related to the machines is rooted in manufacturing culture, process and best practices. New processes can be challenging and success often requires everyone involved understand the many requirements and optimize the process solution to meet them consistently and efficiently. Where innovation is required, the right expertise available as consulting combined with machines designed for industrial use leads to productive collaboration with your team to find new and competitive process solutions quickly.

 

 

Industrial 3D Printer Checklist

  • Dimensional accuracy and repeatability well matched to your tolerance requirements
  • Open material capable (Why is that critical?)
  • Wide range of materials available for printing: flexible materials, thermoplastics, support materials
  • Designed to be robust, 24/7 operation
  • Flexibility: Useful for Rapid Prototyping as well as Production Parts On Demand
  • Easy to service, upgrade, calibrate and maintain
  • Software written to take full advantage of all machine capabilities and options
  • Vendor with manufacturing focus and expertise for high value sales, service, consulting, integration and support

Additive manufacturing often involves pre-processing and or post processing parts. Plural approaches this as an integrator able to provide you with an industrial grade 3D printer as a complete manufacturing solution designed to produce your parts and meet requirements. Examples of these processes include: milling, plating and coating, support material removal, multiple materials, and over printing.

 

Contact Plural in the Americas, 3NTR in the EU, to learn more about industrial grade 3D printing solutions designed for additive manufacturing.

 

 

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Follow us there to get our take on various additive manufacturing topics, and what we’re seeing in the industry.