uh… as soon as all the OTHER messes are cleaned outta my garage….
Posted by happycrow on April 20, 2010
We have one of these at work – not an HP but another 3D printer from a different manufacturer. They are pretty useful but there are some drawbacks:
You need to have the right software to teach the instrument what to print (it ain’t cheap)
Just like companies charge an arm and a leg for ink in the ink jet cartridges, the plastic in the cartridges costs way more than what it really would be on the open market. [This point and the other point to high total cost of ownership – you get the razor, but you have to pay through the nose for the blades]
The plastic that makes really cool 3D prototypes is not appropriate for actual testing – it’s a physical object for looking at only, not necessarily for proving the strength/durability of the design. We’re working on making the plastic functional for our 3D printer at work so you can make actual functional prototypes (printable electronics, circuits, sensors, antenna) with high durability so the printer is not just a prototype machine, but is an actual production machine, but no supplier out there today really has control over the plastic they put into their printers – so functionality of your prototypes is way off in the future.
Additive / layer-by-layer manufacturing like this will eventually become a great new manufacturing tool for producing real goods, not just prototypes, but developing the material to put in the cartridges is still a long way off.
That’s a pity. Even for the sort of things I’d like to make (really simple stuff, not circuitboards), some basic structural strength is good.
Wait another 5 years and I think things will be better, but right now your strength is limited to whatever you can get with polyolefins (like polyethylene) and ABS plastic.
I should clarify that really the weakness in the existing point is at the print lines during the layer-by-layer build-up of the part. Because the lines from the 3D printer are just barely sintered together, that’s where the part breaks. If you can get them to merge better like you get with a fully injection molded part – then you’ve got some impressive durability and mechanical strength.
Albeit at a markedly higher energy cost…
Not always. Make something out of a thermoplastic olefin (rubber reinforced polypropylene) and you’ve got something with the durability of an automotive bumper – won’t take much more heat to sinter it either. Problem is optimizing the grade of TPO so it doesn’t deform as the system bleeds of the heat as the printer head builds up your prototype layer by layer.
Once they start optimizing more materials for 3D printing, rather than just taking what’s off the shelf and force feeding it into the unit, then you’ll be able to make on demand unique production with no added energy cost for unit operation.
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