3 Things You Should be 3D Printing

| The Essentium Team

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When it comes to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), the common conception is that it’s great for prototyping or highly customized one-off parts but not viable for real production. We want to change that perception. Here are three examples of what you can economically produce via FFF using our industrial High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Printing Platform.

1. SOFT TOOLING/ALUMINUM TOOLING

Already planning on aluminum tooling for a project? For soft tooling like aluminum, 3D printing can be a great alternative. That’s because materials like Essentium PA nylon are strong enough to work as soft tools capable of achieving upwards of 100 shots per tool. Compared to aluminum tooling, we’ve found 3D printing a soft tool increases turnaround by up to 75 percent.

2. FIXTURES – MOUNTING, GUIDING, LOCATING AND MORE 

Sure, 3D printed fixtures aren’t new. But many shops have admitted to us they’re slower to adopt 3D printed jigs and fixtures because it would mean setting aside their most valuable resource: time. A customized line of fixtures for a product can speed up assembly or QC, but it’s hard to justify the extra day or week delay we might take to design and print these kinds of assets. Historically, that delay can mainly be blamed on the sluggishness of the 3D printer. The good news? Our High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D Platform achieves speeds 10x that of other extrusion printers. Not only can you reduce the turnaround on a fixture, which in turn will really speed up time on production, you can print a far larger volume of fixtures simultaneously. We’ve seen folks squeeze up to 120 parts on a bed!

3. PLASTIC GOODS WITH VOLUMES UNDER 5,000

We know, we know: kind of cheating, right? Just saying “anything plastic – but not too much of it!” seems like a bit of a cop-out. Hang on, hear us out. We mean it: plastic goods. Seriously. As in, plastic products you’re going to sell straight to consumers or install in cars. Our reinforced materials – PLA XTR, TPU 80A, the list goes on – aren’t just printed faster at a higher extrusion force and with much hotter temperatures; these materials printed on the HSE result in stronger parts than similar materials printed on other FFF machines. How much stronger? Strong enough that a part printed on the HSE can compete with the same part and material injection molded (maybe with some variation in post-processing). So go wild.

Before printers like the HSE, 3D printing soft tooling would typically yield half the output; fixtures might take twice as long to get production-floor ready; and plastic goods were highly expensive to make on a 3D printer unless geometric complications made it impossible to produce via conventional methods. Today, we’re seeing those barriers being broken down thanks to faster print speeds, stronger materials, and better accuracy. Combined, these advantages put 3D printing more on level with injection molding.

SO, WHAT WILL YOU 3D PRINT?

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