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@Beth, Sorry I wasn't more specific. I meant to say that only this technician was qualified to operate this machinery (the others in the department did not operate this Z-Corp machine). He did many, many other things during the day and operation and maintenance of the Z-Corp machine was only a small part of his day (so a full-time technician was not needed). However, when we wanted to get parts, we had to go through him, so his presence at the office was needed.
In retrospect, it would have been better to train 2 or more on this machine to solve this issue. However, as I mentioned earlier, operating and maintaining the Z-Corp machine was more involved than using and maintaining the Objet printer (so we tended to use the Objet machine more when he was not at the office).
@Greg: So your company had a dedicated techician just to support the 3D printer maintenance? Is that all he or she did? That strikes me as a huge investment that companies need to consider when going down this path.
Yes Beth, well said. To build on your point, for the Z-Corp machine we had a dedicated technician who was specifically trained on operation and maintainence. For the Objet, operation and maintenance was simple enough where any of the engineers could perform these duties. When purchasing these systems, it's good to factor in how much human resource time each type of machine will require.
Not only does smaller and more affordable help design teams with in-house rapid proto-typing, it also helps small businesses, and inventors. I can't wait until I get one, already have several items to print.
I really like Origo's small for kids/everyone 3D printer. I followed the "Origo" link and shared it with several children. I'm guessing this will be on a wish list soon.
@Greg: Thanks for the real world perspective on use of these products and their various strengths. Your point about the cleaning and maintenance of these machines is important. I've talked to other users who mentioned the same thing. While computers and office printers need maintenance, I believe it's a big more extreme with these 3D printers, especially when you're using them as a tool to create functional parts to highly specified tolerances. As you point out, it definitely needs to be a factor in the evaluation process to see if A) your organization has what it takes to support a 3D printer so it can be used effectively, and B) which 3D printer is the best fit for the constraints of your engineering department.
Also wanted to mention Z-Corp's strengths too. We used this process and found it did a very good job of quickly making manufacturing and inspection fixtures for our new product assemblies (in addition to creating the actual components themselves). This process was better for simulating large, rigid parts such as die castings or machined plates.
Due to the dust creating nature of this process, we had to put this equipment in a separate room, away from other delicate machinery. However, the Z-Corp process was a good, cost-effective option when making larger rigid parts. I think their partnership with 3D will also work well and produce some good synergies.
I loved our Objet printer that we had at our company. I agree with A.Peeples, it was tough to beat Objet for the finely detailed and beautiful models that we would get out of it. Also, the material properties were a relatively good representation of typical flexural properties we would see in the final production part. One very important thing to note is the ease of cleaning and maintenance (which I think many people overlook when purchasing 3D printers). As long as the printheads were quickly cleaned after every job, it was very reliable. Also, washing the part down with water after is was removed from the machine was done with relative ease.
Yes, it was expensive and we tried to be prudent when making models...but it was a great machine and served our department very well. Glad to see Objet partnering with another complimentary player.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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