Explore the trade-offs between having one large and many small printers.
- [Woman] If you're just getting into 3D printing, you might be tempted to get the biggest printer you can afford. Sometimes this is the right choice but not always. Printer costs raises rapidly with the size of the printer, so it might make more sense to think about how much printable platform area you need. - [Man] If you need to print really big things, which in this context is things that have at least dimension larger than a foot or so, then you need one of the bigger printers. Note that printing edge to edge on a printer's platform can present challenges that smaller printers can ignore. If you plan on routinely printing parts that barely fit the printer, you may want to consider a larger one. Alternatively, you can print your parts in pieces and attach them together, though this is a more manual process. Nearly all printable materials can be glued or welded by one process or another with the strength comparable to the bond between the layers of the print. A model of a water molecule was made from many small pieces then glued together. If most of the parts of the model you're prototyping are big, you're probably better off with a big printer. If most of your parts are small though, and you're looking at filament based or liquid resin printers, you might be better off buying a lot of smaller printers rather than one big one. There are several reasons for this. As a general rule, the printer cost rises quickly with the size. It may be easier to buy more than four printers with a 150 by 150 millimeter platform before you can buy just one with a 300 by 300 millimeter platform of comparable quality. Quite large filament printers exist with dimensions more in the order of a meter rather than millimeters. Resin printers typically run smaller than filament ones, but there are also some larger models, though they tend to be very pricey. - [Woman] For most printers if a print fails, then you have to start over. Some printers have features to detect that filaments have run out and pause the print or to resume after a power failure. Though if prints go wrong for reasons other than that, you'll need to start over. Even when those functions work, the pause often results in a visible flaw in the print which can also be a strength issue. 3D printing is slow, so this might set you back a day or more if your print's big. If you have dozens of parts on a print bed for a print run and one falls off or has a problem, the whole big bed of prints is likely ruined. But if every part is running on its own printer, then you just lose the one part. If you have many interchangeable printers and a nuzzle clogs or a printer fails for some other reason, you aren't dead in the water. Breaking up a job across several printers usually means it'll finish faster, though the factors that contribute to print time vary with different technologies. Some powder and resin printers, for example, have a relatively fixed layer time. So it may make sense to pack the build volume as tightly as possible. Filament printers on the other hand, are limited mostly by the speed they can lay down plastic within a layer. Smaller jobs are usually more optimal on these machines as long as they are not so small that the plastic doesn't have time to cool between layers. From a printer design point of view, it's easier to keep a printer with a smaller build volume rigid and accurate, thus prints from a smaller printer may be higher quality than the same prints from a very large printer, or may be able to run at a higher speed while maintaining quality. Though filament printing is, in many ways, one of the easiest technologies to scale up, the physics of the process benefit from lightweight mechanisms that can change directions rapidly. Good design, of course, can mitigate this for a larger printer but increases cost, and a trade off still has to be made between quality and speed. Finally, sometimes its good to have some variety in your print farm. A good compromise is often to have one large printer for parts that need it and several smaller ones for prints that don't. You may also find that most of your printing can be done with filament, but certain pieces require the detail that only a resin printer can provide. In this movie, we looked at trade offs between having one big printer and a bunch of small ones. You should consider your needs and allocate your resources in a way that meets them at the lowest cost and best performance.
- Analyzing your current products
- Printing with additive materials like filament
- Reducing part count
- Reducing tooling
- Molds and casting
- Evaluating the costs of additive manufacturing
- Medical and dental use cases