Advances in performance, and the durability and range of materials used in additive manufacturing and stereolithography offerings, are enabling companies to produce highly durable prototypes and parts, while also cost-effectively churning out manufactured products in limited production runs.
New printer platforms equipped with expanded build areas, and which offer the ability to combine materials, are also opening doors to a whole new range of applications, including leveraging 3D printing to prototype things never thought possible, like entire cars.
Click on the photo below to view a wide range of 3D printers, from half-million-dollar rapid prototyping systems to $1,000 home units:
Brought into the line via its acquisition of Bits from Bytes, 3D Systems' 3DTouch is a sub-$4,000, fully-assembled 3D printer, which offers a touchscreen for ease of operation. (Source: 3D Systems)
Whatever you do, don't buy a 3D systems "Cube", if a shape isn't small and round with gentle slopes the results are woful. I get a lot of shrinkage and distortion with anything that has sharp corners and the integrated supports suck as do the overhangs.
I have a Solidoodle and have been making all sorts of things with it. Here is a short list of some of the things I've made with mine in the four months I've had it:
- Speaker and microscope mounting brackets.
- Pogo pin beds for electrical test fixtures.
- Electrical enclosures that snap onto 35mm DIN rails.
- Toy train cars for my daughter.
I even made a valentine for my geek loving wife!
It's not perfect and needs a certain amount of care/feeding, but every RP system I've used requires this to some degree.
Tolerances on it vary based on the feature shape and proximity to other features, but generally I can get +/- 0.005". These FDM systems tend to push parts toward maximum material conditions, with thicker features and smaller openings. This actually works in our favor, in that material removal during post-print cleanup is generally easier.
Solidoodle has a 6" x 6" x 6" printer for $499 to $599 assembled and tested. I've never seen one firsthand, but I'm seriously considering the $549 Pro model for some simple demonstrations in the classroom.
I have been a utilizer of RP since the early days. it is great to see offerings with bigger build envelopes, more and varied materials, and reduced (in some cases) machine costs. What I would have loved to have seen in the article is a spreadsheet listing all of the available machines, and their relevant features, i.e.: machine cost, build envelope, build material, build material cost/sq. cm., software required/included, type of build process (sintering, extrusion, paper layering, etc.), and time to build a sq. cm.
Amazing selection of 3D printers - just thought it would be worth adding the UP! 3D Printer as there weren't many mentioned in the lower price bracket. It's approximately $2,500 and you can find it here.
You are so right. I remember watching an old Flip Wilson show where he was pretending to talk to someone on what he calls a pocketbook phone. He handed Mohammad Ali the phone saying someone wanted to talk to him. When he took the phone Flip made a comment like, can you believe he thinks you can talk on a phone that's in your pocketbook? The audience just laughed. Don't remember when the show was originally taped but I'm guessing most the audience didn't have any idea that phones would have evolved to what they are today.
I often wonder what other things we find far fetch in the current day that one day will be a reality.
LOL, but seriously, fast forward a decade or two and you might not be far off. Okay, maybe you won't be printing your entire new car, but say your windshield wiper breaks or you need a new part for seatbelt. Instead of having to go back to the dealer or comb the aftermarket sites for an expensive replacement part, you will simply go online to some parts catalog in the sky, purchase a CAD model, download from the cloud to your PC/3D printer, and presto, part printed and repair done.
Virtual Reality (VR) headsets are getting ready to explode onto the market and it appears all the heavy tech companies are trying to out-develop one another with better features than their competition. Fledgling start-up Vrvana has joined the fray.
A Tokyo company, Miraisens Inc., has unveiled a device that allows users to move virtual 3D objects around and "feel" them via a vibration sensor. The device has many applications within the gaming, medical, and 3D-printing industries.
While every company might have their own solution for PLM, Aras Innovator 10 intends to make PLM easier for all company sizes through its customization. The program is also not resource intensive, which allows it to be appropriated for any use. Some have even linked it to the Raspberry Pi.
solidThinking updated its Inspire program with a multitude of features to expedite the conception and prototype process. The latest version lets users blend design with engineering and manufacturing constraints to produce the cheapest, most efficient design before production.
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