3Diligent at MD&M West 2019; Panel Discussion About Metal vs. Plastic 3D Printing

Next Tuesday, I will be heading to Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West to speak in a panel about the key differences and benefits of 3D printing in metal versus plastics.

Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West is billed as:

Where serious professionals find the technologies, education, and connections to stay ahead in the global medical manufacturing community. In addition to more than 1,900 cutting-edge suppliers showcasing the latest solutions in contract manufacturing, manufacturing equipment, automation, R&D, medical device components, materials, plastics, and more, MD&M West hosts the largest three-day medtech conference in North America.

Our panel discussion, entitled “The Key Differences & Benefits in Printing with Metal vs. Plastics” takes place on Tuesday, February 5 from 9:15 AM- 10:00 AM in hall 208B. The session is billed as follows:

As the use of 3D printers in manufacturing gets more mainstream, the question remains: what is the best material for your application? This panel will drill down into the different types of materials currently being used in AM — such as steel, aluminum, titanium, nitinol, carbon fiber, PLA, ABS, PVA — and explain the key differences and benefits in printing with them. Discussion topics include lightweighting, merging multiple parts into fewer components, reducing tooling costs, producing less waste, and greater design freedom.

We hope you’ll come join the conversation!

-Cullen

Koch Disruptive Technologies Invests $160M in Desktop Metal; Signals Impending Arrival of Mass Production Metal Additive

So the big news today is that Desktop Metal has secured more financing. Koch Disruptive Technologies led a round of 160 million USD, which brings total funding funding since 2015 to 438 million USD. The implications of this are various. Over the course of this blog post we will unpack them.

Desktop Metal Funding Will Support Production System Coming to Market

The first key implication is tactical. Desktop Metal, a company that has developed metal 3D Printing technologies, is now preparing to push its products into market in a meaningful way. The first product, it's Studio System, leverages an extrusion technology, similar to the plastic extrusion tech popularized by brands like MakerBot. The key difference is that the input material here is largely composed of metal. Once deposited onto the build tray in the desired shape, the metal is then fired in a furnace to remove any non metallic particles and sinter the remaining parts. This technology was introduced last year and its launch was partially marred by various patent battles between Desktop Metal's founder and the founder of Markforged, another metal 3D Printing OEM with extrusion 3D Printing technologies.

In our opinion, however, this round focuses less on the Studio System and more on the binder jetting system that will supposedly enter the market in 2020. The binder jetting system should operate at decidedly faster speeds in the extrusion ecosystem for large production runs. This process involves dispensing an adhesive into a bed of metal powder to construct shapes and then moving these "green parts" into a furnace for the final sintering step. In summation, we can all assume that the funding speaks to Desktop Metal's desire to fund both the manufacturing of its Production System and also its Studio System.

Interested in binder jetting and extrusion technologies? See the multitude of other 3D Printing options that could help your business.

Koch Investment Signals Bright Future for Metal Additive in Industrial Products

The second key take away from this announcement is its strategic implication for the entire metal 3D Printing market. The core expectation around Koch Disruptive Industries' investment is a rising faith in the legitimacy behind the Production System and binder jetting's ability to produce large-scale production runs in metal. Koch, a company in-the-know when it comes to industrial fabrication, has clearly come out to support this tech in a big way. This signals not only an important step in advancing adoption of metal additive beyond the well-established niche of medical and aerospace markets, but rather a broader penetration of more price-sensitive and volume-dependent industrial markets. In the same breath, it signals a shot across the bow to Hewlett-Packard who has made significant investments in promoting its own binder jetting technology. These two companies have been teasing their offerings repeatedly at trade shows over the last few years with HP offering parts built on their system today via select partners in a limited capacity. Strategically we recognize that metal 3D Printing for mass-market fabrication is seemingly an inevitability with both HP and Desktop Metal, not to mention the other players that have introduced production-grade metal binder jetting systems.

Desktop Metal Valuation Growth Implies Progress But Still a Good Bit of Work to Do

That brings us to the financial and market implications of this announcement. As we alluded to previously, there are a handful of binder jetting OEM's already in the market. Some of these operate from a service or design standpoint. Others sell machines. Clearly the impending entry of Desktop Metal's Production System will add another competitor to the market. It bears mentioning that Desktop Metal was late in shipment of its Studio System, and it may stand to reason that the Koch investment ties to their experience bringing industrial products to market. Additionally, the valuation's increase of 50% over the last fundraiser two years ago may not necessarily be the kind of valuation uptick that you might expect from a story like this. You can point to companies like Uber that watched far more meteoric rises in valuation. This makes sense given that Desktop Metal is still getting its footing with the Studio System and the Production System.

In Summation

There are a number of key takeaways from this announcement. The biggest being that production metal 3D Printing for the industry - not just aerospace and medical - is rapidly becoming a reality. While the true impact of this investment will not be felt until 2020 or beyond, we are nonetheless seeing the gradual maturation of the metal 3D Printing industry.

The Secrets to Designing for Metal 3D Printing Revealed

3Diligent Among Experts Featured in Design for Metal 3D Printing Article

A short while ago, our CEO Cullen Hilkene was interviewed by Ann Thryft of Design News about a topic seemingly on every designer’s mind these days: Metal 3D Printing.

In particular, the intention of the article was to speak with experts across the digital manufacturing industry with expertise in metal additive about how designers need to think differently about the process.  With a clearer understanding of design rules, designers stand not only to have more successful builds, but also can take fuller advantage of the broader design possibilities of metal additive to deliver entirely new and better designs.

The article provides 1) General Design Guidelines, 2) Specific Rules of Thumb, and 3) a List of Differences between metal and polymer AM design.  3Diligent is featured alongside industry leaders such as GE Additive and 3D Systems in the article.

We are pleased to report that the 22-page article was just published, and you can read it here.

 

Design for Metal 3D Printing Guidelines

Below, we’ve recreated the 10 Rules of Thumb, which drew significantly from 3Diligent’s design for additive manufacturing experience:

Design Rules of Thumb for Metal AM Design

These Top 10 design rules are aimed at powder bed fusion processes for AM— primarily direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) or selective laser sintering (SLS), which are the most commonly used metal
AM technologies.

1. Avoid supports: post-processing hassles.

“When considering laser powder bed 3D printing with metals, the most important thing design engineers need to be aware of is supports. The most dollars lost in 3D printing with metals occurs because of iterative design: too many iterations are needed just to get the supports to work or to get
rid of them completely. In the laser powder bed, the part cools unevenly. So residual stresses are
built into the metal as it hardens, which makes it ‘potato chip’ while it is being built and when you
take the part out.”

“To cope with this, there are some things engineers need to do that drive design. The frst is
designing supports to hold the part down to the metal plate so it doesn’t potato chip. The other
reason for supports is to conduct heat away from the top layers of the part.”

“But now, you have to cut out those supports with a tool when the part is done. This really becomes
a problem when your part has internal passages; you have to get a tool in there to cut them out,
since it’s not like plastic, where they just break away or can be dissolved in water. And you need
enough room to remove them. This is real design-for-manufacturing. You must either design the part
to not need internal supports or design it so you can get a tool in there if needed.” —PADT’s Miller

2. Avoid supports: the 45-degree rule and overhangs.

“Consider the process mentally as you’re designing. With powder bed, thermal stresses are created
by the build, so you may need to use supports. As a general rule, you want to design to avoid
supports. To do that, typically you want to orient the part in the build chamber to avoid overhangs of
more than 45 degrees. Generally speaking, angles more vertical than 45 degrees are self-supporting,
but angles under 45 degrees will need supports. Because these supports are made of the same
metal material as the part, removing them can be time consuming and costly.” —3Diligent’s Hilkene

3. Avoid thin-walled features.

“As a general rule, you don’t want walls less than 500 microns thick and we recommend a minimum
of 1mm. That’s not the thinnest achievable with 3D printing—we’ve done 150 micron thick walls—but
they’re not tall. A 40 to 1 ratio for walls is also a good rule: keep to a 40mm height for a wall
thickness of 1mm. Operate at a ratio bigger than that and you’re putting that feature at risk.” —
3Diligent’s Hilkene

“Design engineers need to know what wall thicknesses work with a manufacturing process. For
example, with additive manufacturing, if it’s a big block of metal, you’ll get a lot of shrinkage. And the
transition from thin to thick can cause shrinkage problems. There are certain minimums for diferent
additive metals processes, for certain manufacturers of 3D printers for each of those processes, and
even for diferent models within a manufacturer. For each manufacturer of laser powder bed 3D
printers, the specifc laser and its settings often determine wall thickness. There are similar issues for
other metal 3D printing technologies.” —PADT’s Miller

4. Stair-stepping has post-processing consequences.

“Engineers must be aware of the fact that because AM with metals is a layered manufacturing
process, the main consequence is stair-stepping. How does this impact design? Engineers must be
aware of the typically rough surface that results, and they must specify the desired surface fnish.
Can you and your customer live with that roughness? If not, you must specify the surface fnish you
can live with. That means knowing the machine’s parameters and how to tweak part parameters if
you’re the operator. Design engineers aren’t taught in school about manufacturing issues, so they
often don’t know this.”—PADT’s Miller

5. Beware additive’s orthotropic planes.

“The other main consequence [of stair-stepping] is that the microstructure is unusual compared to
other metal manufacturing processes. In the X-Y plane, the crystal may be quite large, but it’s also
really thin. In the Z plane, of course, the metal crystallography is diferent and the material properties
are diferent from those in the X-Y plane. In other metal manufacturing processes, the properties are
isotropic in all planes. But with additive metal, they are orthotropic.”
“Stair-stepping is the most visible aspect of the diferences between diferent printer manufacturers’
product lines. It constrains some of the geometry, since the minimum feature size in the Z direction is
layer height. You can’t make features smaller than that height, and the feature has to be positioned at
the beginning of that layer.” —PADT’s Miller

6. Orientation matters.

“Orientation matters: the design engineer should specify part orientation relative to build direction.
Stair-stepping, supports, and not making features thinner than layer thickness—these constraints are
all dependent on part orientation in the machine. For example, if you build a cylinder-shaped object
standing upright in the powder bed, no supports are needed and you won’t get much stair-stepping.
But if you build it on its side, you will need supports and stair-stepping will be more pronounced.
When you design machined metal parts, thinking about setup steps is critical, since you want to
minimize them, and it’s the same for additive.” —PADT’s Miller
“Which direction the part is made in—oriented in either the X-Y plane or in the Z axis—afects the
area of the cross-section and therefore how much material shrink occurs in a given layer. Design
engineers should try to have gradual changes in the cross-section to avoid drastic changes in
material shrink.” —Protolabs’ Utley

7. Design at the system level, not the part level.

“A trap we see lots of people fall into is thinking about part-for-part replacement of the current
product: today I’m stamping a part and tomorrow I’m going to print it. But from a productivity
perspective, it’s important to fnd the opportunity at the product level and not look for only a piecepart
replacement. In the GE Catalyst engine, GE Aviation reduced 855 parts to 12 printed assemblies
using 3D printing and the redesign it made possible. The innovation was not a piece-part
replacement, but in thinking about this product diferently from the beginning—by looking at the
system, at parts consolidation, at soft costs, at optimizing the business case.” —GE Additive’s
Schuppe

8. Combine subassemblies.

“You can combine subassemblies that don’t need to be separate into a single assembly. You can
also make new features like captured features, where elements of a design are built inside or
interlocked with other features. When doing this, you’ll just need to be mindful of how you’ll remove
powder and whether it can be printed without supports.” —3Diligent’s Hilkene

9. Design for post-processing removal of excess material.

“Since 3D printing is good for small quantities, some customers want to give us a design they’re
already machining and see if we can print it more afordably. But you only occasionally see a cost
advantage in doing that, because the parts were designed with a diferent process in mind—
especially if you’ve already invested in tooling to support that process. To unlock the potential of
additive, you should really design with the process [of 3D printing] in mind. One thing it can do is
remove excess material where it’s not contributing meaningfully to the part’s performance. This is
commonly done in applications like aerospace and high-end cars. There is a class of software
referred to as topological optimization or generative design that is focused on this area.” —
3Diligent’s Hilkene

10. Design for post-processing removal of loose powder.

“Loose powder in internal chambers will need to be removed, so you may want to design with
drainage holes for it to escape. You also need to consider clearances between features for removing
lightly sintered powder. For example, there may be lightly sintered powder near a wall feature that’s
even harder to get out of crevices than loose powder.”
—3Diligent’s Hilkene

 

 

Molding and Casting 101: Intro to Urethane and Silicone Casting

3Diligent CEO Cullen Hilkene and Director of Sales Anna Villano sat down for a quick discussion about Molding and Casting in Polyurethane and Silicone.  Among the topics discussed in our Molding and Casting 101: Intro to Urethane and Silicone Casting vlog are What is Casting, What Kind of Material Properties Are Achievable, Why Use Casting, What Quantities Are Appropriate, and What Are Drawbacks of Casting.  Watch the videos below or read the transcripts.  And when you’re done, learn more about 3Diligent’s Urethane Casting and Silicone Casting services.

 

Intro to Molding and Casting

 

Cullen: Hey everybody it’s Cullen with 3Diligent along with Anna Villano, our Director of Sales.  Today we are coming to you to talk about a topic, our different production processes…we have a wide range of them at 3Diligent and wanted to have a quick informal chat about some of the programs that we worked on utilizing urethane casting, some of its advantages, some off its drawbacks, one of the key processes we use to support our customers from prototype to production. So with that as a baseline, Anna, you wanna give everybody an idea of what urethane casting is?

 

What is Molding and Casting?

Anna: So basically urethane casting is taking your product, your image, creating a silicone mold, and then producing multiple castings off of that one mold.

 

Cullen: Got it. So commonly what we’ll be doing is printing a master pattern part, creating a silicone mold around it, taking that part out, and that creates basically negative space that you can fill in with polyurethane casting materials.

 

Anna: Now another note is that we are not only talking about hard rigid plastic.  You can use cast urethanes and do rubber. So you can cast in different shore durometers where you can go with a soft rubber or a very hard stiff rubber.

 

Cullen: Yeah, that’s spot on. Frankly a very close cousin of urethane casting is silicone casting.  Where commonly we will print molds and then in turn cast silicone within those molds in a very similar process.  So as Anna alludes to there is a wide range of material options and material characteristics that can be delivered to you through the process and it’s one we commonly leverage when it’s the right one to give you the best value and meet the needs of your program.

 

 

What Are Urethane Casting Material Properties?

 

Anna: It somewhat simulates injection molding properties but it’s a two part material. It gets you what you need.

Cullen: When we talk about cast urethanes having properties similar to injection molding, there are fire retardant materials, materials with high heat resistance, medical materials, a full gamut of urethane options available to you to address just about any issue save for a few things on the far ends of the spectrum, in terms of thermoplastics.

Anna: Absolutely. It will get you to that next step before going into injection molding.

Why Use Molding and Casting?

 

 

Cullen: We talked about some of the pros and advantages of this technology, one of them being that there is such a good range of polyurethane options, materials that can simulate injection molded materials.  But why simulate instead of going to straight to injection molding? Why do people use urethane casting?

 

Anna: Well there are a number of reasons.  Sometimes designers want to test out their designs in plastic to see how the product works at first.  So they can put their assemblies together and see how the product works. Sometimes their injection mold tooling won’t be ready in time but they need to be out in the market. So they’ll come to us, they’ll ask us for urethane cast parts, we’ll get them the parts, they’ll assemble their tools and they’ll use them for the time being until the injection molds are ready and the true plastics are off the tools.

 

Cullen: So that’s a great use case for where urethane castings can come into play.  If you are looking to get a few products into market as you’re waiting for tooling, if you want to gauge interest in market, that’s another option, and if you have low overall volumes on an annual basis, it can be an appropriate technology to utilize, so that’s exactly what we do.

 

 

What Quantities Are Best for Molding and Casting?

 

Cullen: Now when we talk about quantities and the fact is these are relatively smaller quantities what kind of a range are we talking about?

 

Anna: You can typically get around 100 parts per mold, and that depends on the geometry and the complexity of the part

 

Cullen: Yeah exactly. So as we talk about inputs to driving cost here, typically you’re printing out a pattern and creating a silicone mold of that pattern and then going through the manual process of pouring the urethane into the mold and waiting for that to cure.  All of that takes a bit of time and obviously it requires a bit of manual effort and with that expense. So as a result, tends to be the sweet spot for urethane casting starts around 5 units and goes up to a few hundred units. Typically when you get into the thousands it makes sense to transition to injection molding, although based on the particular needs you have for a program, that can vary.   

 

What Are Drawbacks to Molding and Casting?

 

Cullen: Now the last thing we might want to mention, are there any drawbacks to the technology when we’re talking about pulling in urethane?

 

Anna: The materials will last for a while but they are not generally going to be for long term use.  [They’re typically best] if you’re trying to get something out there. If you’re going to need them for several years, they should be okay though.

 

Cullen: Urethanes are commonly used for longer term applications, as the characteristics they can have are quite extensive.  But because you are working with a two-part process and experiencing the ongoing interlinking of the polymer chain, what ends up happening over time is that you can see the overall properties deteriorate, which is true for many polymers but thermoplastics may not see that as much. So that’s one thing to be aware of, we’re living in the world of polyurethanes.  So you can get a good range of materials, but for higher quantities and certain material properties, it may not be a fit.

 

Molding and Casting 101: Intro to Molding and Casting Wrapup

 

 

Cullen: So any other closing thoughts before we wrap it up on urethane casting or casting more broadly?

 

Anna: No I think we covered it all pretty well.

 

Cullen: I think we did.  So pay us a visit at 3Diligent.com, submit an RFQ through the platform.  If Urethane Casting is right for you or you want to get pricing for it, just specify that in the process field and we’ll look forward to getting you a quote and some fantastic parts soon.  So thanks a bunch and we’ll talk to you soon!

 

Anna: Bye!

In Chicago for IMTS? Join Our CEO Atop the City for a Cocktail to Close Your Day!

About IMTS

Next week is the annual International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.  Arguably the biggest event on the biannual trade show circuit for those on the lookout to buy big pieces of manufacturing equipment, every two years engineers, buyers, and operators descend on McCormick Place near the shores of Lake Michigan to take in the latest in manufacturing.

About Cocktails/Coffee with Cullen

At 3Diligent, we think booth conversations are good, but a comfortable chat with a drink and a view is better!  To that end, our CEO Cullen Hilkene will be capping each day by meeting at a couple of Chicago’s greatest high-altitude venues with 3Diligent customers, fabrication partners, and other interested parties for coffee or a cocktail.  So if you and/or your team is interested in learning more about 3Diligent or catching up about past and future programs with Cullen (and doing so with a drink in hand a view of the Chicago skyline in front of you), schedule 30 minutes on his calendar as a perfect way to cap your day.

 

Where and When?

He’ll be hosting meetings from 5-7:30pm, so grab a time slot before they are gone.   (UPDATE: All Monday times have been booked – please request Tuesday-Thursday)

 

Locations and time options are as follows:

 

Monday and Tuesday:

Metropolitan Club – 233 South Wacker Drive, 67th Floor, Chicago, IL 60606

5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30: 7:00

Image result for metropolitan club chicago

Wednesday and Thursday:

Mid-America Club – 200 East Randolph Drive, 80th Floor, Chicago, IL 60601

5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30: 7:00

Image result for mid america club chicago

 

How Do I secure a Time Slot?

Just email your full name, the full names of any colleagues that would be joining you, and three 30-minute slots that would work to imtsmeetings@3diligent.com.  We’ll be back in touch to confirm a time!

 

Looking forward to seeing you in Chicago!

 

-The 3Diligent Team

 

P.S. Evening meetings don’t work for you, but would love to meet?  Cullen may be opening a limited number of slots for coffee before the show starts, so let us know if that’s the case!

P.P.S. Please note that dress code for the clubs is business casual.

  

 

 

The disruptive impact of a 3D Printed Replacement Part on the F-35 and Beyond…

I read an article earlier this morning about some Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB-31) in Carderock, Maryland that had managed to fabricate a 3D printed replacement part that saved them $70,000 relative to going back to the original equipment manufacturer. It is a remarkable story and one that really illustrates the disruptive impact of 3D Printed replacement parts on manufacturing as we know it.

 

So to briefly recap the story, part of the Marines landing gear door for their F-35 was damaged. To replace the door would cost $70,000. Instead, the Marines 3D Printed a custom part to replace the damaged portion, to the tune of around 9 cents of PETG filament.

 

Now there are a few things to comment on with regards to this story, and we’ll unpack them here.

 

How Far 3D Printing Has Come in the Last Few Years

 

The first comment is to briefly pay some quick respects to how remarkably far 3D Printing has come in the last few years.  That these soldiers were able to custom design a part that could address this issue and then print a sufficiently durable part on demand with a desktop printer using is pretty remarkable.  Desktop machines were in their nascency five years ago, struggling to deliver a reliable print in PLA – arguably the most friendly material to process out there.  Now they are viably processing some more durable materials like PETG.

 

How Much You Can Save With 3D Printed Replacement Part

 

The second thing is to unpack the jaw-dropping savings these Marines have achieved with their 3D Printed replacement part. The Marines highlight that these parts cost them just 9 cents to make.  Now this number bears a bit of reconciling before we can take it at face value.

 

First, there’s some question of whether machine time is considered in this figure.  While these soldiers were using a desktop printer, the machine they would use would need to have a few capabilities beyond your bargain basement machine to process PETG material effectively.  So figure there’s at least a few thousand dollars worth of machine investment here.  If you’ve got a 3-year life on the machine, that’s still a few bucks a day to own the device.  So unless this part is tiny enough that it’s printed in a few minutes, it’s not likely included in the figure.  But even if we are to assume a daylong print, that’s still just a few extra dollars of cost…still impressive!

 

Second, the big cost that certainly isn’t included in the 9 cent figure is the time, energy, and knowledge of the Marines that made the part. Obviously, these are paid, professional soldiers and their reputation for the engineering expertise and creativity to come up with fixes in the field is world-renowned. If you were to come to 3Diligent or any other private sector service provider, that sort of know-how is something that we have to charge for to run a business.  And on top of that is whatever expenses were tied up in the setup and post-processing of this 3D Printed replacement part to get it ready for action.

 

Still, even if we are to assume that 9 cents is just the cost of material and we add in the above assumptions to cover the other major input costs, it’s still a significant price difference between the OEM spare part and the 3D Printed replacement part. Let’s assume that this 3D Printed replacement part was 1/1000th of the total mass of the part, that would just bring the cost of material up to $900. And assuming that these marines were dedicated to developing this part over the course of a whole 40-hour work week, even if we estimate their time at a hundred bucks an hour you’re still only looking at an incremental $4,000 of cost. So basically we’re looking at a $5,000 part instead of a $70,000 OEM replacement. That’s still around $65,000 in savings.  Just looking at these numbers, it’s no wonder that 3D Printed replacement parts are getting attention and gaining traction.

 

How Disruptive 3D Printing Can Be to the Existing Manufacturing Paradigm

 

Another thing that needs to be considered here is what this does to the entire manufacturing paradigm. Because when you can suddenly address a problem for less than 1/10th the cost, something has to give.  While we might like to think that this is just a case of an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) price gouging Uncle Sam for our tax dollars, I don’t think that’s the reality when you really dig into it.  And the impact is nothing short of disruptive to the status quo. So let’s speak to the OEM pricing model…

 

Due to regulations and oversight, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) of that part is subjected to rigorous FAA certification before it is deemed flight ready.  The OEM of that door most certainly went through an extensive R&D cycle to develop the door design and then engaged in fabrication of various prototypes to determine the right design.  They then built custom tools or molds for the mass production of those parts and actually went about fabricating them.  From there, they went through a rigorous qualification process internally and a certification process with the FAA to deem the parts were airworthy. All of that took a lot of time from highly paid engineers and the tooling costs were likely in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The costs were likely significant enough that I’d venture to guess the first parts delivered were delivered at very slim margins, bordering on break even.  Rather than collect their profit up front, the OEM likely was banking on future production runs or spare part orders to bring profitability to the program. In other words, the $70,000 part price was arrived at not because it’s a “cost-plus” price of the item but because that’s what the price needs to be when accounting for low margins on the original parts to get the program to a reasonable level of profitability.

 

Now this isn’t really to say “boo hoo” for the OEM. Aerospace has been in the 3D Printing game the longest, so the strong likelihood is that the OEM  has experimented extensively with 3D Printing and was well aware of the potential risks that utilizing such a revenue model might have for their business.  At the very least, they were more equipped to anticipate the impact of 3D Printed replacement parts blowing up the $70K order they were expecting than a lot of small and medium businesses would be. But that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that the rise of functional 3D Printing for replacement parts is going to have a fundamental impact on the way companies need to consider how to charge for their parts – both production and spares. That will only become more pronounced as Marines like the ones that develop this 9-cent fix and other talented engineers like them start filling the ranks of the private sector.

 

Once the design thinking unique to 3D Printing is pervasive across the broader market, there is no telling how far the old standards for getting production and aftermarket parts fabricated and paid for will change.

3Diligent CEO to Speak at 3D Metal Printing Experience

Tomorrow I’m headed to Pittsburgh to join 3D Metal Printing magazine at its 3D Metal Printing Experience and Tech Tour.

On Wednesday, August 8 at 9:45 a.m., I’ll be giving a keynote address on Metal 3D Printing. During this session, I’ll cover trends with regards to metal 3D printers, my perspective on how they are being utilized today, and a high-level overview of the most common metal-printing processes, with commentary on process tradeoffs.

The two-day event will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh — Green Tree, bringing together 3D metal printing professionals from across the country. The conference allows attendees to hear insightful information on new trends and developments in 3D metal printing technology as well as on equipment and their production processes.

If you are in the Pittsburgh area and plan to attend, I hope to see you at my keynote! Or, reach out to schedule a meeting during the show.

Announcing 3Diligent Now Quoting Capability

3Diligent customers, we are excited to announce today the soft launch of 3Diligent Now, our rapid quoting service!

The Background

Since 3Diligent was founded, we have utilized the power of our software and extensive qualified network to provide  customers with one-stop access to a range of digital manufacturing technologies.  However, we were dependent on our fabrication partners for our quotes, and that adds time to the process.  Through analysis of thousands of project opportunities and close relationships with our fabrication partners, we are now able to offer bids on the spot, saving our customers valuable time.

How does it work?

Upon receipt of a request for quote (RFQ), the 3Diligent team will assess the request.  If it fits the criteria of programs we can quote instantly, we will do so.

Which projects are eligible for 3Diligent Now quotes?

Most 3D Printing projects can be instantly quoted.  Notable exceptions are very large programs and projects with significant finishing or tolerance requirements that will require a significant amount of post-process finishing.

What do you need to do?

3Diligent customers will use the same RFQ process to get 3Diligent Now quotes.  If your program does not have specific finishing or tolerance requirements, simply skip the second page of the RFQ process and go to the summary screen.

A Disclaimer About 3Diligent Now Quotes

While we have tested our pricing algorithm to be very reliable, a small percentage of the time we may not be able to place an accepted bid for the quoted price.  In such an event, we will revert to you within six hours that we need to adjust the specifics of the bid.  If you would like to cancel an accepted order in such an event, you will be fully refunded the cost of the transaction.

We’re excited to share this new offering with you and look forward to your feedback!

3Diligent’s 3D Printed Gun Pledge

 

As you may have heard, the US government recently reached settlement on a lawsuit related to 3D Printed guns.  The outcome of the settlement is it becomes legal to post 3D Printable files for the fabrication of firearms online starting August 1.

At 3Diligent, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that CAD-based digital manufacturing technologies such as 3D Printing (sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing) are used appropriately.  That is why we have a live engineer review every file that comes across our web portal before we quote or fulfill a job.

Historically, we have focused on ensuring that the design files we are sent for fabrication do not infringe upon existing copyrights.  However, this news means that our responsibility has grown.

We believe strongly in the importance of traceable firearms as a means of deterring criminal and terrorist activity.  We are disappointed at what this settlement potentially means to the safety and security of law-abiding citizens who choose either not to arm themselves or are willing to procure legal firearms through traditional, appropriately regulated channels.

Regardless of what is becoming legally permissible, it is 3Diligent’s official position that we will not support the printing of any 3D Printed gun parts designed in an effort to circumvent the Undetectable Firearms Act.  To do so would not be aligned to 3Diligent’s mission, vision, and values as an organization.

We call on other 3D Printing and digital manufacturing service providers to join us in making this commitment.  We also call on our elected officials to pass appropriate legislation to close this loophole before August 1.

Lastly, we encourage ongoing discussion of this topic.  The digital manufacturing revolution is dependent on ensuring the safe and appropriate use of digital manufacturing technologies, and we welcome the opportunity to participate in the conversation.

 

A Few Words on Layer Thickness and Your 3D Prints

One thing that is unique to 3D Printing relative to other fabrication processes is the importance of layer thickness.  Since you’re building a part up “additively,” thicker layers makes for a faster build.  But if the 3D Printing software is cutting the design file into thicker slices, then you may also lose some degree of resolution in the print.  Whether or not that’s the case, the aesthetics of different layer thicknesses can be something you want to consider when getting a part 3D Printed.

In this video, I dive deeper into the topic of layer height and show you a handful of parts printed at different layer heights.  This may help provide you a sense of what the end result would look like if you were to submit an RFQ at www.3Diligent.com and specify a given layer height for the extrusion printing process.  I also review the post-process options that can be added to address the layer aesthetics, including sanding and acetone vapor smoothing.

 

After this four-minute video, you will be ready to make an educated decision on the layer thickness of your next additive manufacturing project. And if you have further questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below!