Top 7 Ways to Save with Efficient 3D Printing

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Every customer wants to save time and money on their parts, and Stratasys Direct has a myriad of resources and tools to help you gain efficiencies with 3D printing.  Understandably, part size and geometry affect pricing and lead times, but there are additional details you should look at before ordering.

Consider the following factors that may impact price and lead times on a 3D printing quote:

Materials

Material choice and the amount of material used is a primary factor in pricing and lead times. Some materials cost more due to their mechanical, physical, or chemical properties. Materials are associated with technologies that differ in build process and speed. Some technologies print in thicker layers than others, allowing for quicker builds.

The most cost-effective materials for small parts are simple photopolymers, but if an application is larger or more robust functionality is needed, a different material or 3D printing technology will be required. By utilizing our Material Wizard, you can avoid confusion and filter through the required characteristics to find your ideal material.

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3D Printing Technology

As mentioned above, technology plays a significant role in the cost and speed of builds. Some processes, like PolyJet, can build very quickly; when the part is finished, it’s removed from the printer and requires very little post-processing work other than removing support material. Laser Sintering (LS) is a powder-based technology that requires a post-build cooling period, time for removal of powder and some finishing if the part needs to be cosmetic or achieve certain tolerances. By determining the best technology for your application, you can optimize your build time while maintaining part requirements. If speed is your ultimate aim, however, it’s best to consider materials and technology together. For instance, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) builds ASA material faster than ULTEM® 9085, even at the same resolution.

Orientation and Supports

It’s important to consider support structures with each 3D printing process, as these factors affect final results and post-processing needs. The amount of support material used to manufacture your design impacts the price. Designs with self-supporting angles (usually around 45 degrees or more) use less support material and can help reduce both material expenses as well as build time.

Part orientation also plays a crucial role on the amount of supports needed. Reorientation can dramatically reduce the amount of material needed for the supports, therefore reducing costs. Determining optimal orientation is a balance between cost and the integrity of a part; for example, building on the XY plane to save cost could result in the loss of mechanical integrity or feature definition depending on your part design.

Layer Height

Layer height is dependent on each technology’s abilities. If your application requires a cosmetic part, thinner layers would be ideal to avoid the ridges inherent in 3D printing. Thinner layers, however, can lead to higher prices because of the increased build time that results from the need to deposit more layers of material.

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Wall Thickness

Each technology and its corresponding materials have unique minimum wall thickness requirements. You also have to balance the desire for thin walls with the performance required of the part. Thinner walls may lower build time, but walls that are too thin could mean flimsy features, warp or undesired fragility. The key is finding the balance between the wall and layer thicknesses necessary to get desired detail and performance, without adding unnecessary build time to your parts. Our design guidelines get into the nitty-gritty of this balance for each technology we offer.

ID-Light or Sparse-Fill

Some applications need to be light weight – a perfect challenge for 3D printing. We offer ID-Light, or sparse-fill options, for parts built in Stereolithography (SL) or FDM. This custom build style prints lattice-like structures inside enclosed parts, using less material and building much faster. This build style can be a neat short-cut to a cheaper, faster part. The trade-off, however, is a reduction in mechanical strength when compared to a solid part.

Labor

Depending on your project requirements, 3D printing process and material, some parts may need substantial post-processing and finishing.  Parts requiring finishing operations like coatings, smooth surfaces or painting are always going to add cost and take more time to complete. Customer’s should analyze project needs and determine the cost benefit of finishing. Sometimes only a section of part may require smoothing or painting and specifying that for your project can help you manage project resources and delivery.

 

These seven tips can help you save time and money on any project. Stratasys Direct has decades of experience and experts at the helm to help you optimize your part at the best possible price. Get started and learn more about our services here.

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