A Brief Overview of 3D Printing
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of turning a digital file into a three-dimensional solid object. To make a digital file of an object it either needs to be designed using computer-aided design (CAD) software or scanned with a 3D scanner.
Whether the design is built with a CAD file or scanned up using a scanner, the next step is that it needs to be turned into a 3D model using a process called slicing. Slicing is the use of precise slicing software to “slice” the model into hundreds or thousands of layers that can be reconstituted by the 3D printer.
Once the model has been sliced, it can then be fed into the 3D printer. The 3D printer will then print the model layer by layer, building up each “slice” until it has printed the entire object.
The advent and widespread use of 3D printing has really changed how people approach industries like manufacturing now. No longer do they necessarily have to go through lengthy prototyping processes — instead, they can just have a designer put together a CAD file and have a prototype done in about a day, depending on the size of the object. 3D printing has also changed what kind of materials we prototype with. Now, manufacturers can make prototypes out of plastic, metal or even carbon nanotubes using specialty carbon fiber printers.
Best in Class 3D Solutions
Mechanical engineers, product designers, industrial engineers and other professionals in four states and D.C. have turned to Duncan Parnell to provide them with solutions to their 3D printing needs.
By partnering with top-of-the-line companies in MarkForged and 3D Systems, we offer one of, if not the, largest portfolios of 3D printing equipment in the industry, including scanners, professional and production-grade 3D printers.
In addition to offering a variety of 3D printers, we also offer plastic and metal prototyping services, enabling you to look over a finished version of your product so you can correct any design flaws in the early stages. These services will bring you closer to putting out a salable product that will make a favorable impression on not only your stakeholders but also your customers too.
So what kinds of 3D printer systems do we offer? Read on to find out more.
3D Systems 3D Printers
First founded in 1986, 3D Systems was the first 3D printer company in the world. Since that founding, they have striven to push the envelope of what people can do when it comes to 3D printing, bringing out technologies such as color 3D Printing with their ColorJet 3D printers and, more recently, options for direct metal printing.
Duncan Parnell offers three different models of 3D Systems printers. They are:
- The ColorJet 3D printer (CJP). ColorJet 3D printers are designed with full-color prototyping or building in mind. Each CJP can print using full cyan, magenta, yellow and key black (CMYK) printing capabilities, enabling you to produce photo-realistic color models. This lets you better evaluate the look, feel and style of product designs, without having to paint them up first. Since ColorJet 3D printers give designers the ability to produce full-color models of their designs, they have found their way into a multitude of industries and applications, including medical and educational modeling, industrial design and validation, architecture, geospatial modeling and, of course, arts and entertainment pieces.
- The Multi-Jet 3D printer (MJP). Designed to create precise plastic parts, the Multi-Jet 3D printer is ideal for applications like functional prototyping or rapid tooling. Not only is the MJP able to print using flexible or rigid plastics as the situation demands, but it can also be used to create composite materials or print with multiple types of plastic for truly complex pieces. Print definition is guaranteed with 3D Systems’ proprietary phase change process, which uses thermally-controlled materials that cool and hold their shape immediately, ensuring sharp edges, clean corners and excellent sidewall quality as necessary.
- The ProJet 3D printer. Each ProJet 3D printer provides the high precision and exceptional quality of a professional-grade printer in an affordable desktop package. The ProJet printer is perfect for producing precise prototypes of small industrial or mechanical components, intricate and exceptionally detailed sacrificial models of things like jewelry or dental wax and even simple things like figurines, scale models and décor pieces. The ProJet combines desktop ease-of-use with amazing quality for the price, providing 56-micron resolution and layers as small as 30 microns, enabling you to produce crisp details on things like feathered edges or grooves. This ability to deliver crisp results the first time means that you can better keep up with the production times of your clients — the ProJet can print most jewelry mock-ups in about two hours and a total of 10 dental wax-ups in under an hour.
MarkForged 3D Printers
Founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2013 by MIT aerospace engineer Greg Mark, MarkForged designed and built the first line of carbon fiber 3D printers, capable of embedding continuous fiber to create composite parts. This ability to print and create carbon fiber parts now means that engineers can create real carbon-reinforced working parts in a matter of days instead of weeks or months, further removing the barriers between design and the final product.
The use of carbon fiber 3D printers has paved the way for the use of non-plastic materials in 3D printing, especially materials that hadn’t previously been considered as possible for use in 3D printing, such as nylon, fiberglass and even Kevlar.
Duncan Parnell offers two different kinds of MarkForged carbon fiber printers to suit all of your 3D carbon fiber printing needs:
- The Mark Two 3D carbon fiber printer. Each Mark Two carbon fiber 3D printer is designed to combine the flexibility of 3D printing with the built-in strength of carbon fiber. Mark Two carbon fiber printers can print in a variety of materials, including fiberglass, Kevlar and, of course, basic carbon fiber. This means that the Mark Two can print stronger-than-plastic fast and without costing a fortune. The MarkForged carbon fiber printers can print items up to 320mm x 132mm x 154mm at resolutions as high as 100 microns, meaning that you get crisp, clean parts, especially when it matters. The ability to print stronger-than-plastic parts means that Mark Two carbon fiber 3D printer has found its way into a number of applications, including tooling, end-use parts production, structural parts production and functional prototyping.
- The Mark X carbon fiber 3D printer. Designed for large-scale reinforced 3D printing, the Mark X uses the same portfolio of high-strength materials as the Mark Two, as well as some others such as nylon. The Mark X is used to print prototypes and production parts of things like prosthetics or robotics parts. Much like its smaller cousin, the Mark Two, the Mark X can also be used for end-use and precision parts design, as well as the industrial tooling of things like jigs and fixtures. The Mark X can print as large as 330mm X 250mm X 200mm, with a build resolution of 50 microns.
Fast Turn Around Prototyping and Productivity Gains
How does the quick turn-around of 3D prototyping help produce gains in productivity?
3D prototyping allows you to do a number of things that using existing screenshots and prototyping processes lack. The rapid onset of 3D printing processes means that you’re no longer limited to showing customers a CAD file, an engineering drawing or a best-guess design of what your prototype looks like — now you can plug that CAD file into a 3D printer and deliver to them a prototype that’s exactly as you imagined.
The ability to rapid-build a prototype using a 3D printer means that you can also find design flaws or problems early, validating design details and saving money on QA processes. This ability to rapidly fix flaws or problems can be a boon to your stakeholders, too — by showing them that you can quickly identify or fix problems as they arise, you can boost not only their confidence in your products but also that of your customers down the line.
Other benefits of rapid-prototyping when it comes to production include:
- Realization of design concepts. As stated above, rapid prototyping using a 3D printer means that designers can realize their concepts beyond just looking at them as a CAD file or engineering drawing. Being able to hold a real, physical product in their hands means that they can get an understanding of how the design actually looks and works. Not only does this enable them to provide a proof-of-product to an end client, as well, but it also means that they can carry forward their own ideas, as well as the client’s and implement them prior to finalizing the design, which provides for a more realistic and natural design process overall.
- Customization of design. Perhaps one of the most promising benefits of using a 3D printer system for rapid prototyping is the fact that you can develop customized products for individual requirements or customers. Since it requires no special tools or processes to make design changes to the product, manufacturers can offer their customers a connected experience, bonding them with the product they purchase. Being able to bring customer input on board when it comes to product design also helps ensure customer loyalty and an increase in sales because customers are buying products that they may have had a hand in designing, at least in part or in whole.
- Time savings and elimination of cost. Possibly the biggest benefit that people experience when they switch over to using a 3D printer for prototyping is that they save time and cut costs. This is because they no longer need to develop specialized processes, patterns or molds for prototyping, so that costs can be eliminated. So too can the costs associated with waste materials — unlike conventional CNC machining processes, the additive manufacturing process used by 3D printers only produce as much material as is needed. The use of a 3D printer can cut down on operational time, as well. Instead of having to use different machines to make prototypes out of different materials, the same 3D printer and CAD software can be used to prototype out of a host of different materials, saving set up time, tooling time and also money on operational costs.
Accelerate Manufacturing With Substantial Operational Savings
The advent of 3D printing technologies has changed the face of the manufacturing industry. While only 0.01 percent of all manufacturing output is 3D printed as of 2017, there are forecasts for the market of 3D printing technologies to grow to $30 billion by 2022.
This market growth will give rise to new competitors and spur market innovation as prototypes become less risky and less expensive to fabricate. However, these are just two of the potential implications of the significant impact this emerging technology will have on how manufacturers do business.
Some of the many ways that 3D printing can help accelerate manufacturing while at the same time producing substantial operational savings include:
- Material cost savings. 3D printing is additive, meaning that manufacturers only have to use the minimum amount of material needed to fabricate a part. In contrast, traditional CNC manufacturing processes mean that approximately 60 to 70 percent of the material used in parts fabrication ends up as scrap, depending on the complexity of the part needed. With a 3D printer, there’s no scrap to reclaim or melt down, meaning that manufacturers can significantly reduce the amount of capital tied up in raw materials or scrap reclamation.
- Give rise to the manufacturing-as-a-service (MaaS) industry. Much like how the software-as-a-service industry produces software on demand for certain clients, manufacturing-as-a-service would mean that companies build up the infrastructure to lease out 3D printing equipment to multiple clients on an as-needed basis. This means that clients no longer need to purchase expensive 3D printers that they may not use often enough to justify the investment. Instead, companies could quickly get started with top-of-the-line technology, upgrading as needed and reducing innovation downtime.
Technology That Provides Reliability and Quality
As 3D printing technologies make their way more and more into the mainstream manufacturing industry, they provide customers with the ability to get quality products on a reliable basis. Customers today are and always have been about purchasing high-quality products — they would rather pay more for something top-notch than receive something substandard at a fraction of the cost.
3D printing allows you to accommodate that desire for a quality product at a lower cost to you. A computer-controlled 3D printer allows you to generate an exact replica of product or the product prototype, enabling you to iron out design flaws as they come so that you can ensure that design quality is second-to-none.
3D printing has become a more and more viable way of delivering important products to the industries that need them, and more and more industries have looked to 3D printing to solve their problems, including the automotive and aerospace industries. Even now, products such as prosthetics, dental braces and aircraft or satellite parts are being produced via 3D printing, as it’s one of the few ways to deliver top-notch quality in industries where it counts.
Once you begin to use 3D printing to deliver quality product to your audience, you will find that using 3D printing over standard CNC machining will help boost the reliability and efficiency of your manufacturing processes.
Since CNC machines and other forms of assembly-line production require specialty parts, any faults in production will take days to fix and result in many angry customers. While 3D printers can still suffer from parts malfunctions and the need for replacement parts, as the price of printers drops, it becomes easier and easier to replace faulty parts. The improvement of technology that is spurred on by that same drop in price may mean that you end up with a printer that breaks down hardly ever, if at all, leaving you to focus on more important things, like your customers.
Value of 3D Printing for Your Industry
So what is the value of 3D printing for your industry? One of the biggest values of 3D printing is the philosophy that it has come to espouse — the philosophy that less gets you more.
Instead of having to use five different CNC machines to prototype with five different materials, you might have one 3D printed that you just switch printer heads on. Less equipment means savings on space, operations and maintenance costs. But it also means an increase in manufacturing speed, too, because there are fewer interruptions that could halt a 3D printer’s production process.
Less equipment means minimal manpower — if you only have one or two 3D printers, you might need only two teams of 5 people each to manage them. Compare this to the five CNC machines from earlier: even if each only has a five-man team, that’s still 25 people compared to 10.
All of these reduced costs, in turn, reduce other costs, like overhead. Less equipment means you need less space, which means you pay less in rent. Fewer machines means that you incur less in service and maintenance charges. Fewer people means that you have to pay less in administrative costs and also lowers your overall cost of labor.
On the whole, a 3D printer just costs less: less space, less maintenance and service, fewer people working less time to bring products from concept to execution. As more and more industries get on the 3D printing train, not only will the market share of 3D printing grow but so too will those companies — they’ll be able to pass along their increase in savings to the people that matter most: their stakeholders, employees and customers.
Trust Duncan Parnell for All Your 3D Printing Needs
Duncan Parnell has been a trusted supplier to those in manufacturing and construction fields since 1946. Whether you’re an architect, engineer, surveyor or designer, Duncan Parnell carries equipment to meet your needs, including some of the best brands in the industry, such as AutoDesk 3D design software, Trimble surveying and mapping equipment and 3D Systems and MarkForged 3D printers.
With our rich history in printing and electronic/mechanical graphics reproduction, we continue to add solutions to better serve the industries that we’ve been a part of for 71 years. Whether it’s custom signage, graphics or a full 3D printing project, Duncan Parnell strives to provide the services required to make your next project a success.
For companies in the manufacturing industry, Duncan Parnell offers a wide variety of professional, production and desktop 3D printers to accommodate a wide variety of projects. We also offer 3D scanners and scanning software, as well as prototyping services for when you want to make sure that that project or piece of machinery comes out just right — exactly as you’d imagined it when you looked at the CAD file.>
If you are interested in any of our many services, from software to graphics reproduction to a 3D printer purchase or related service, ask for a quote. Our dedicated team will be more than happy to work with you to look for or design the service solution that suits your needs.