Purpose, Precision & Price
As a 3D printing service bureau, we receive calls from clients with different ideas about what 3D printing is and what its capabilities are. Some just want a physical part to hold in their hands while others need the parts for end use. Our goal at ProImage 3D is to deliver the best part at the best price, but to do this effectively we ask a lot of questions like “What do you need it for?” “Is there any heat or pressure involved in the use of the part?” “What surface finish are you trying to achieve?” etc. and usually the answer is “Why do you ask? Aren’t all 3D prints the same?”
In short, no… they are not with differences ranging in quality, durability and material choices from plastic to metal. We ask questions because we know that there is no one 3D printer that does everything. Each printer has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, whether it is in the material choices, printing process or cost to produce. Our questions are designed to ascertain the purpose, precision and price point of the needed part(s). Why pay for a race horse type parts if you only need a plow horse type part to get the job done? Here are some of the questions we like to ask our customers…
Purpose: Is this part for prototyping form, fit and function only? Does it only need to look nice or perform in an end-use situation or both?
Precision: Does your part have moving parts? Are there any thin walls or features to consider? Do you have critical tolerances or measurements you need to hold?
Price: The cost of a 3D printed part is typically based on 3 factors:
1) Build material
2) Support material (In some printing processes this is the same as the build material)
3) Time to print and post process.
The geometry of the part along with the purpose, precision and price point help guide us in the best selection of materials and printing processes. As an example below… the same file was printed in both Polyjet (black) and FDM (white). The Polyjet print took 2 hours and 06 mins to print at 28um with a post processing time of 20 mins. The FDM part took 17 Hours and 10 mins to print at 200um with a post-processing time of 18 mins. Results: the black Polyjet part was more flexible to handle yet the white part is more durable. The black part printed 8x faster than the white part but material cost was 7x more expensive than the white part. So the part cost averages out to about the same with time and precision becoming the deciding factors. Do you need it fast or durable? I know… more questions.