Additive manufacturing, (AM) or 3D printing has been a popular method of creating prototypes since the 1980s and is quickly becoming the fastest, most affordable way to create custom consumer goods. There are several different methods of 3D printing, but the most widely used is a process known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). FDM printers use a thermoplastic filament, (feedstock), which is heated to its melting point and then extruded, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object. The physical object is created/designed using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Tap or Click here to view a video of 3D printing
This 3D printing method offers many advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques (for example CNC machining). Understanding the advantages of 3D printing allows designers to make better decisions when selecting a manufacturing process and enables them to deliver an optimal product. The working prototype gas sample vial shown here is a good example of what can be achieved using 3D printing.
How we can help
ChromSolutions can help you develop the skills that will enable you to get the most from the use of a 3D printer, from practical advice on which printer to purchase through to training on how to use a 3D printer and the associated software.
A prototype can be produced using readily available inexpensive materials. The final object can then be printed in a material, chosen to meet the requirements of the intended use of the product. We can advise on the selection of the printing material as needed. There are also printers available now that can print an item using various metals. Granted the printers that can do this are more expensive but it illustrates that the 3D printer is developing rapidly with a high degree of flexibility. This flexibility is difficult to match with more traditional product design/prototyping methods.
If owning and running your own 3D printer is not for you but you still want to explore the advantages of 3D printing/prototyping, we can offer a consultancy/support service to help design what you require. This can be produced as a single item or multiple items. By working with our partners once the item is finished we can produce as many copies as needed.
The workflow for 3D printed prototypes:
Creating a 3D printed item, testing it and making alterations can be done relatively quickly, in a matter of hours in some cases.
A typical workflow would be:
- Develop from scratch via Computer Aided Design software, (CAD).
- Recreate objects from measurements of existing object.
- Purchase a designed product.
- Recreate objects from scanning original object.
- Prototype: Produce a working copy/object. Print and evaluate.
- Refine prototype: Via an iterative process to finished product.
- Create final 3D object printer file: This will enable a 3D printer to reproduce the prototype.
There are several websites that offer finished products/prototypes that you can customize via a CAD system. This can save a massive amount of time. Some of these finished products/prototypes will be free of charge; some will need to be purchased from the designer.
We offer 2 main printing routes, depending on the number of printed objects required:
- For custom/one-off designs the prototype to finished product is developed and manufactured in-house. This gives the advantage of faster response and an easier to alter product, should requirements change.
- For multiple printed objects, we would use the exact same development route then use an external 3D printing company to make the items required. So, the product is developed/prototyped in-house but manufactured externally. External printing companies are set up to reproduce any given design. They can offer a wide variety of materials giving access to different properties, strength, durability, chemical resistance, colour etc.
Examples of 3D printed items for the laboratory
These photographs show some simple examples of what can be achieved for the laboratory/analysis environment:
Most 3D printing materials are available in a variety of colours. Also incorporation of various features can be achieved. These features include:
- Numbering systems for things like vial racks.
- Company logos.
- E-mail addresses, phone numbers.
- Function labels.
- Specific holes or panels on project boxes, to enable adjustment or enable access. NB: Project boxes can be made in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colours.
For more information on 3D printing, 3D printing and design services or 3D printing training courses from ChromSolutions, please contact us using the details below:
Contact details for ChromSolutions:
Telephone: +44(0) 1442 402399