The concept of mass production is certainly not a new one, but its significance in modern manufacturing is undeniable. From the early days of the Industrial Revolution, mass production has been the backbone of manufacturing processes, allowing for the rapid creation of large quantities of identical products. However, as technology has advanced, there has been a shift away from traditional mass production methods, towards more advanced techniques such as 3D printing.
Mass Production with Additive Manufacturing
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has become increasingly popular in recent years. This technique uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to create a digital model of a product, which is then printed in layers using various materials, such as plastics, metals, or ceramics. While 3D printing such as SLA (stereolithography) or FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) was initially used for rapid prototyping and small-scale manufacturing, recent advances in technology have made it possible to mass-produce certain products using 3D printing.
SLS and FDM
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) are two 3D printing technologies that are of the early adopters suited towards production. However, in modern terms these methods have some limitations of the types of products that can be manufactured at scale but also in a time efficient quality focused approach. Newer technologies, such as SAF (selective absorption fusion) and P3 (Programable Photopolymerization), have emerged as a very promising option for mass production.
SAF and P3
SAF is a powder bed fusion 3d printing manufacturing method, printing in materials such as PA11 or PA12 nylon powder. Due to its layer-by-layer printing technology, SAF is particularly suited towards mass production as the Stratasys H350 can print countless amounts of parts in a selected build volume of 12.40 x 8.18 x 11.53 in using SAF technology. Printing the full build volume will take approximately 12 hours, enabling the user to fit as many parts as possible in this area with packing density capabilities seen up to 45%!
Powder bed fusion technology has proven its reliability, broadening its production abilities by printing difficult geometries not suitable in other forms of 3D printing or even other forms of mass production such as injection molding or casting urethane.
One of the key benefits of SAF is how it allows for the creation and high-volume production of complex, customizable parts that would be difficult or impossible to produce using traditional mass production methods. This has shown to be particularly beneficial in industries such as automotive or robotics, where complex, lightweight parts are essential for optimal performance. By using SAF technology to mass-produce these parts, manufacturers can optimize time and cost associated with producing them using traditional methods.
P3 has taken resin printing to a new level in advanced manufacturing, with much faster turnaround times than traditional resin printing (SLA or DLP). This process has been seen to be very beneficial in bridge production or high production environments.
P3 Origin One technology can be used in high production as a high-speed 3D printer designed for large-scale production of small parts with high accuracy and detail. Along with its ability to change materials, yielding parts in elastomeric like to stiff, high impact resistant resins. The P3 Origin One uses a custom-built 4K light engine to project an entire layer of the print in one flash, exposing the next full layer to UV, significantly reducing print times compared to traditional SLA and DLP printers. With the ability to print parts with complex geometries and high accuracy, the P3 Origin One is a promising tool for manufacturers looking to adopt 3D printing for mass production.
Unlocking Productivity with DfAM
Many experienced engineers will likely reiterate the term DfAM (design for additive manufacturing) which ultimately involves designing a product with the specific capabilities and constraints of the AM process in mind. Upon executing a successful DfAM, supporting and orienting parts for optimal print speed and geometric resolution, the main goal of the P3 process is fill the build with as many parts as possible and continuously print until the desired amount has been printed.
However, it is important to note that 3D printing is not always a viable option for mass production. For example, while SAF technology is well-suited to producing complex, customizable parts, it may not be the most cost efficient option for producing smaller quantities of simple, identical parts that can be produced on a printer with a more eye-catching price point, like the Origin One.
A key similarity seen in both P3 and SAF technology is its layer-by-layer curing process. These can be seen as the only types of technology that have build times influenced by only the height of their print rather than other types of technologies that have increased build times with thicker lateral features. In other words, this is where the speed of P3 and SAF has been enabled.
In conclusion, the shift towards mass production using 3D printing technology is a promising development that has the potential to revolutionize the manufacturing industry. While there are still limitations to what can be achieved using 3D printing, SAF and P3 technology are making it possible to mass-produce increasingly complex and customizable products. As this technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more and more manufacturers adopting 3D printing for mass production, with significant benefits in terms of time and cost savings, as well as increased customization and flexibility.
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