Do you know the possible reason why industrial 3D printing has gained popularity among manufacturers? Well, most computerised processes of manufacturing and prototyping are accurate. However, 3D printing is one process that leads to least wastage of raw materials, making it a cost-effective process of manufacturing. In fact, you can even reuse some of the residue here.
What more would a manufacturer want? Getting to create a product that has the perfect design, the perfect quality and the least cost of manufacturing. It’s not the least because of the cost of the printer – no, 3D printers can be expensive and so can be the materials. It’s the minimal wastage that reduces the cost of manufacturing.
What are the Various Industrial 3D Printing Solutions You Can Avail?
For any business, the solution is to either manufacture the product themselves or get it done from outside. These options even apply to manufacturing brands – you could buy your own factory or outsource it from another one.
Get Your Own 3D Printing Machine and Materials
Using a 3D printer isn’t very difficult, but you do need some knowledge on 3D printing before you start. For starters, you need to know what technology will be most suitable for the product you wish to manufacture. Your production volume, on the other hand, will determine how many 3D printers you require.
Different technologies are suitable for different materials and products. For example, metal 3D printing needs you to use DMLS, SLS, SLM, EBM, RPD, lost wax casting or binder jetting. On the other hand, FDM is a better technology for using plastic filaments while SLA and DLP work best with resin 3D printing.
Avail 3D Printing Services
If you’re just starting or barely need some manufacturing components through 3D printing, then acquiring 3D printing services might be a better option for you. You do save on costs of the factory, electricity, labour, printers and materials. The only thing you need to deal with here will be timely delivery.
Various 3D Printing Materials for Different Types of Printers
For 3D orienting products, you use either plastic, metal or a combination of both as raw materials. If you’re willing to use other materials like wood, sand, carbon or ceramic, you can do so by mixing them with plastic. Let’s take a look at some of these materials you get:
3d Printing Powder
Usually, if you want to use pure metals, you use them in powder form. Some of the metals and alloys that are commonly used in metal 3D printing are gold, copper, silver, bronze, brass, aluminium, titanium, tool steel, stainless steel, cobalt-chromium alloys and nickel-based alloys.
The 3D printer you use for metal printing extrudes the powdered metal or alloy and fuses it into a solid surface with a binding agent. In most cases, this binding agent is a UV light. The finishing varies on the technology that you use. For example, a DMLS printer gives the most accurate detailing. RPD, on the other hand provides a rough finishing to the object.
3D Printing Plastic Filament
These are the most common and one of the cheapest 3D printing materials you’ll find in the market. They’re usually 1.75-2.85 mm thick. Some of the most commonly used plastics include PLA, HIPS, ABS, nylon, PETG, polycarbonate, TPE and TPU. Not only are that, a lot of filaments also a combination of plastic with another substance. Some of them include:
3D Printing Carbon: Here, carbon fibre is fused with either PLA, nylon, polycarbonate, PETG or ABS plastic to form the carbon filament. The combination will give you the strength, colour and look & feel of carbon, making it lighter due to the fusion of plastic.
Wood Filament: To be precise, this filament is 30% wood and 70% PLA. It has the look and feel of wood, only it is glossier and smoother. The presence of plastic also makes it lighter and resistant to water.
Metal Filament: This is a lot different from metal 3D printing, not just because you’re using filament instead of powder form, but also because the material is a fusion of plastic with a metal or alloy. They’ll give the look and feel of a metal, but will be lighter, cheaper, glossier and smoother.
Usually, FDM is the most common technology used for industrial 3D printing with filaments.
3D Printing Polymer Resin
So far, we were working with materials in solid form. Now, we come to resins, which are basically liquid polymers fused with monomers. When they solidify, they turn into hard plastic. SLA 3D printing is the most common technology used for the same.
Here are some various types of resins you’ll find:
Polyester Resins: These are heat, chemical and flame resistant resins with excellent flexibility. They’re used in laminates, construction, fishing rods, coatings, decorative items, bottles, skis and ship parts.
Silicone Resins: They have excellent oxidative, thermal and water-repellent properties. Being both hard and flexible, they’re used for making rubber, laminates and deformers.
3D Printing Ceramic Resin: They’re UV curable resins which have high tolerance to heat. This makes the substance food safe, freeze safe and microwave-friendly, also suitable for automotive & aerospace engineering.
Acrylic Resins: Being a combination of thermoplastic and acrylic acid with few other components, they’re resistant to UV and impact. You’ll find their usage in tiles, coatings, adhesives, decorative panels and signs.
How Much Do These 3D Printing Materials Cost?
Plastics are the cheapest 3D printing materials followed by resins, alloys and metals. Specialized materials are generally costly.
A basic 3D printing plastic filament starts with $10 per kg. When fused with materials like wood, metals, alloys, carbon or glow-in-the-dark compounds, their cost can shoot up to $600 per kg, depending on the exact composition.
Coming to resins, the average starting price for a basic one is $40 per litre. Speciality compounds with high qualities can go up to $300 per litre.
Alloys and metals are the costliest of the lot, where alloys are actually cheaper. It actually depends on what metals you’re looking for. A nickel-based alloy can be cheaper than steel. However, steel will be cheaper than pure iron. Gold powder will be more expensive than probably any other alloy.
The prices of these metals and alloys vary greatly due to the number of variants they have and the origin you can get them from. It may start from around $30-40 per kg and can go up to $400-$800 per kg.
Top 5 3D Printing Companies in the World Right Now
There are many companies today that manufacture good quality 3D printers. These companies also sell 3D printing materials and services, hence catering to all kinds of manufacturers and users. Industrial 3D printing has been growing with time and the market is said to reach $33 million by 2024.
Let’s take a look at the top 5 brands in the global market:
3D Systems Corporation
Found by the inventor of SLA 3D printing, the company provides 3D printers, printing materials, services and design tools. This is a 30-year old company that generates $645 million in a year for guiding 3D designers.
At Stratasys, 3D printing technologies like FDM, polyjet and WDM are most popular. They are known to cater to the aerospace, automotive and education industries since 1988. They have more than 600 patents in additive manufacturing.
You know them better as a hardware & software brand, but they’ve made their way into 3D printing too. Companies like Johnson & Johnson and BMW are getting their 3D printing solutions from here. You can check out their Jet Fusion 3D printer to know more.
Established since 1999, the company specializes in SLA, SLS and DMLS printing and rapid prototyping. They’re well-known for 3D printing carbon and cobalt-chrome materials. For 2 consecutive years, the Frost & Sullivan in Talent Leadership Management has awarded them for manufacturing leadership.
This Belgium-based company has been providing 3D printing services for 25 years now. They’ve partnered with a lot of giants including HP and have been making more than $100 million a year catering to automotive, healthcare, aerospace, consumer goods and art & design industries.
Have You Found Your Industrial 3D Printing Solution?
On today’s date, industrial 3D printing solutions are not just needed for product manufacturers, but service providers too. From prototypes and display models to machine components and industrial tools, anything can be made with a 3D printer. All you need is the right company providing you with the right service or product to help you out.
If you are an architect, you can avail 3D printing services from outside for your display models. On the other hand, if you’re a manufacturer of car components, you’ll need your own 3D printers and printing materials (mostly metal powder in this case).
Approaching the right company will help you better with understanding the technology, printer and materials you need for bringing your designs to reality. After all, you want the best quality product made at the most reasonable cost, isn’t it?