There’s more than one way to build an idea. Today’s advanced 3D printing and advanced manufacturing processes boast fantastic design feats, which can make it difficult to determine the right manufacturing technology for your project. However, 3D printing isn’t a one-size-fits all technology. That’s why Objective3D Service Bureau (ANZ's largest additive manufacturing centre) offers all the major 3D printing processes in-house alongside our advanced conventional manufacturing solutions. To learn more about which technology is best for your manufacturing project, check out some of the pros and cons of each process and hear from our Stratasys partnered engineers on their favorite technologies below.
Cons: While PolyJet can be bonded together to form large parts, costs significantly increase as designs get larger. This is partly because of the time required to print designs that exceed a 5×5” cube.
Pros: A vat polymerization technology, SL shines in the prototype and pattern realm. Plastics used with SL provide easily sanded surfaces and are ideal for post-process finishing. SL is a favorite for large models and investment cast patterns for low volume projects. It is a staple in the aerospace industry for the casting of engine components. SL high definition processes build some of the finest feature details which ranks SL as a top go-to technology for detailed prototypes.
Cons: SL materials have low heat deflection temperatures and low tensile strength; they aren’t ideal for rugged testing or most end-use applications.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Pros: A material extrusion additive manufacturing process, FDM offers production materials such as ULTEM, ABS, ASA and biocompatible polycarbonate high performance thermoplastics. FDM parts have been certified for flight, heavily used in the transportation industry for prototype, pre-production and production applications as well as in hundreds of other industries both large and niche. FDM manufactures durable parts which have properties close to injection molding but with the added benefit of 3D printing complexity and design freedom.
Cons: FDM builds in thicker layers than PolyJet or SL, which makes it less ideal for finely detailed prototypes due to the visible layer lines. Smooth surfaces can be achieved through post-processing such as hand sanding and bead blasting, but FDM cannot match the feature details of PolyJet and SL.
Laser Sintering (LS)
Pros: LS builds in a self-supporting bed of plastic powder, making it the only 3D printing process that does not require supports attached to actual part features. This unique aspect of LS allows a level of complexity unimaginable in conventional manufacturing. No access features, undercuts and intertwining designs are an easy feat for this technology. Aside from its ability to build complex geometries, LS utilizes nylons that can be highly heat deflective, certified for aircraft, chemical resistant, biocompatible and very rugged.
Cons: LS builds in a chamber just below the natural melting point of its plastic. Large flat or box-like parts typically aren’t ideal for the technology due to warp.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
Pros: DMLS is a 3D printing technology that builds fully dense metal designs in titanium, aluminum, Inconel, stainless steel and cobalt chrome alloys. No access design features such as internal cavities and channels, attachment features and other intricate inclusions are built simultaneously in one part through DMLS. Metal parts built through DMLS can go through heat and HIP treatments to bring out optimum mechanical properties.
Cons: DMLS requires build supports for features below 45 degrees. Supports are built from the same metal as the final part. Support removal and finishing can be time consuming and require skilled professionals to remove.
Pros: Urethane casting is a traditional manufacturing technology that benefits from the advantages of 3D printing or CNC machining. 3D printed and machined master patterns are used to create silicone molds, or tools, which are cast with advanced formula polymer (AFP) urethanes. Urethane casting is frequently used as a low-volume production solution when limited quantities are required in a short amount of time Urethane casting simulates injection molding with smooth, textured, cast in color and assembled products. It is an invaluable resource to the medical large cart manufacturing industries thanks to its ROHS, ROHS2, REACH and SVHC compliant materials
Cons: Urethane casting is ideal for low volume production. Mold life is good for about 10-50 shots, 50-100 in certain applications. Urethane casting is valued for its ability to quickly manufacture production pieces and get products to market first while tooling for injection molding is created for larger production runs.
Pros: CNC machining with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing is a streamlined solution for projects requiring strict tolerances or specialty materials unavailable through other means. CNC machining is a conventional manufacturing method ideal for prototypes, large production models, master patterns and jigs and fixtures.
Cons: CNC machining can require involved programming; complex geometries may equate to multi-step programming and design orientation to realize a design. Therefore, CNC machining is best for simple designs when compared to 3D printing.
Tooling and Injection Molding
Pros: Injection molding is an excellent option for mass production runs with part quantities exceeding 500 – 1000. While the cost of the tool is typically high, the price is offset by the volume of parts which makes injection molding the perfect solution for mass production needs. Injection molding offers the widest range of materials.
Cons: Injection molding is a lengthy process with design constraints that might be less ideal for certain applications.
When determining the right technology for your project, talk with one of our dedicated project engineer Simon Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 03-9785 2333 (AUS) 09-801 0830 (NZ)
Content Source: Stratasys Direct Manufacturing Blog