This year we have been working with Stratasys to get started with SAF technology and their H350 printer. This week they shared a bit about us on LinkedIn! Take a look to see some more pics of our team!
SLS, SLA, or SAF? Comparing 3D printing methods
There are many different 3D printing processes that have been developed in the last decade, and hundreds of materials along with them, each with their own benefits. So why does 3D Composites focus on FDM and SAF?
The difference lies in the materials.
Material properties are the first determining factor for any manufacturing process, and it is the same for 3D printing. Our mainstay printing method has been our FDM process that uses a variety of production-grade thermoplastics to print parts suitable for specified industries like aerospace and medical. The main material component in SAF is PA12, a nylon polymer, and is commonly used in a wide range of applications because of its high mechanical strength and durability.
Selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA) are both methods of 3D printing that utilize lasers to bond or fuse material into a solid object. SLS uses a powder base material while SLA uses a liquid resin. Both the SLS and SLA methods share some similarities with our preferred process. Selective absorption fusion (SAF) combines the technology of powder bed fusion and certain binder jetting techniques to fuse powder together using infrared energy. Each of these three processes use bonding or fusion to create end-use parts, but we have found that SAF’s fusion technique is stronger, and the nylon polymer material has a wider set of capabilities than resin.
When you are ready to 3D print your parts, we can help make sure you are getting strong, high accuracy prints that are built to last. Connect with us today to get started!
Additive Manufacturing Outlook for the New Year
What 3D printing process is best for your industry? Whether you are designing a huge tooling mold or need to do a run of hundreds of fingernail sized parts, we can print it. It’s a new year and our team and 3D Composites wanted to share with you our thoughts on which of our additive manufacturing processes we can provide for you in 2023.
FDM is still on top for Aerospace
The 3D printing market is growing at an amazing rate, with new technologies and processes continually expanding what can be done for manufacturing. However, it takes time for these processes and materials to meet the test requirements that are necessary for aerospace industry certifications. The FDM printing process has maintained its position because of the high-grade thermoplastic materials options that can meet the requirements of common aerospace standards such as flammability, strength, and durability.
FDM is also a great source for concept modelling and tooling. If you know your project will be printed in FDM you can work from a highly accurate prototype for relatively low costs. Heat resistant materials like Ultem 1010 can withstand thermoforming and autoclaving, making low cost tooling for short production runs accessible to smaller development teams. FDM manufactured parts can also span a greater surface area than other additive manufacturing process because it can keep complex geometries on a small scale while also being able to withstand bonding of oversized builds. Last year 3DC printed over 20,000 FDM aerospace parts for our customers and 2023 will see even more.
High-volume Production & Prototyping with SAF
For us, end use parts don’t stop at aerospace, however. This year our reach has expanded to providing higher volume production runs that will benefit any industry. The selective absorption fusion (SAF) process allows for small part production at a higher rate than previously available to us, yielding repeat parts quickly while still leaving room for customized prototypes. The surface finish of SAF parts can be more aesthetically pleasing than FDM parts, and while Ultem 9085 is still the leader for fly-away parts and Ultem 1010 for high-tempurature tooling, SAF PA12’s mechanical properties give it the rigidity and thermal control for repeatable output. We have found that customers who print items such as medical accessories and industrial caps and fittings have made the switch to SAF because they can get consistent quality at a reduced rate.
We can help you begin
Even as the technology continues to develop, the future of 3D printing and additive manufacturing still offers comparatively sustainable practices and lower costs. Efficient processes and customized solutions can give you the most out of your design. Contact us for more information on what 3D printing processes would be best for your project.
The 3D Printing Role in Robotics Automation
Robotic Hands That Can Pick Up Anything
While 3D printed robotic arms have been successfully used to sort packages on a conveyor belt or bolt a screw in place on a car engine, there are instances when it cannot just pick up objects of different shapes in an assembly line. Some engineers at the University of Washington are finding ways and results are looking promising.
At the height of the pandemic, a team of University of Washington computer scientists and engineers were helping the government in manufacturing PPEs like face masks and face shields. Ford Automotive also helped, but personnel had to be brought in because the robotic arms being used just couldn’t pick up the face shields as easily and as cheaply as a steering wheel.
Robots do repetitive tasks over and over again. But you cannot turn them from manufacturing cars to manufacturing face shields just like that. So the team at the university decided to turn to a 3D printer to help solve this problem. They needed to have robotic hands or grippers pick up an item in order to be able to manipulate it, to scan it, to do other things with it.
The researchers used computer-aided design models of different objects ranging from household items to more complex shapes. They used software to identify the three best points on that object that a robotic hand, or gripper, could reach for and grab without knocking it over. It must be able to pick on the right three points to balance it just right. There is a set of instructions in the computer that could be fed into a 3D printer to make a plastic, three-fingered, hand-like gripper customized to the shape of the object being picked up.
Likewise, the team were also able to have the exact shape to pick up an object without any additional components to install, retool an entire robot by just using a cheap 3D printer to print off components, and rotate the objects 180 degrees.
The results are encouraging. The team believes that with more shapes to work with, they will gain more familiarity with the capabilities of the robotic hand. All they need to do now is to experiment with more objects of different shapes and, in the future, scale up the capabilities of robotic automation from doing 20 objects daily to 2 million.
Robotics Automation At Its Best
When its about robotics that 3D printing can address, contact 3D Composites and find out more how we can make your ideas come true.
3D Printing Into The New Millenium
The Milestones in the 2000s
Now we continue on with the remarkable history of 3D printing, as it leaves the 1990s, which years heralded the wide diversification of the technology. With so many developments, we are concentrating only on the most important breakthroughs.
The year 2000 saw the first 3D printed kidney; however, it took another 13 years to have one transplanted into a person. Since then, there have been more 3D printed kidneys now working perfectly while other 3D printed organs for transplant are developing rapidly.
In 2004, a self-replicating 3D printer was launched – a 3D printer printing another 3D printer. It’s called the RepRap Project, an open-source initiative that spreads the use of the FDM 3D desktop 3D printers. In 2005, the very first high-definition color 3D printer was introduced, called the Spectrum Z510 by ZCorp. In 2006, the first commercially available SLS printer was released, with on-demand manufacturing of industrial parts. CAD tools also became more available at this time, enabling anyone to develop 3D models on their computers.
In 2007, 3D Systems introduced the first 3D printing system under $10,000. It did not quite catch on as insiders, watchers, and users were looking forward to 3D printers under $5,000. Actually, 2007 was the year accessible 3D printing technology took root. Thanks to the RepRap phenomenon. In 2008, the first prosthetic leg was printed and it was sensational around the world. By 2009, new companies and competitors began to avail of the new technology as FDM patents fell into the public domain. The prices of 3D printers started to decline in the 2010s, making them available to the general public. Quality and ease of printing also increased.
Materials also evolved. A variety of plastics and filaments became widely available. Carbon fiber and glass fiber can be 3D printed. In 2012, alternative 3D printing processes were introduced at the entry level, like those using DLP technology, followed by stereolithography, with huge success. It was also in 2012 that many different mainstream media channels featured the technology. 2013 was a year of significant growth and consolidation. In 2019, the world’s largest functional 3D printed building was completed. 3D printing is now being used in developing healthcare applications, and many industries and sectors have adopted the technology into their daily workflow. By the 2020s came the more advanced additive manufacturing materials that are high performance materials offering improved thermal resistance, chemical resistance, or heat resistance for the most demanding applications.
Advancing Into The Future with 3D Printing
If you are looking into the advances of 3D printing technology, visit us at 3D Composites. We have been in business serving the community in the last three decades.