Frequently Asked Questions
Below we have collected a series of FAQs we often get asked by those that are new to 3D printing as well as those who have used it before.
Please browse through the questions, or get in touch to ask one of your own.
The accuracy of 3D printers varies from different systems and different materials.
For example, when producing parts in Nylon, Addition’s large 3D printer is accurate to +/- 0.2mm. For this type of 3D printer, +/- 0.2mm is considered extremely accurate.
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The largest 3D prints are boats, buildings, vehicles and aerospace parts. There are 3D printed bridges and buildings which are publicly accessible and cars which have major 3D printed components or have entire chassis 3D printed.
Design for 3D printing is dependent on what job the 3D print has to do. With the range of things that 3D printers can make as well as the different types of systems available it is impossible to summarise exactly how to design everything for 3D printing.
Addition has designed hundreds of products and components for both traditional manufacturing processes in different materials as well as design for 3D printing in every process and material available. Get in touch with us to find out more.
The fastest 3D printing techniques can build parts in seconds, but these are experimental. More commonly found 3D printers can produce small parts in minutes and large parts in hours. Addition’s 3D printer can produce 500 individual parts during a 29-hour build for our Elemental Objects product range. That equates to one part every 3.5 minutes.
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The history of 3D printing goes back to the 1980’s when photocuring resins which turn from liquid to solid when exposed to very bright light were developed. In a process still in use today, a computer guided laser cures flat cross sections of the 3D shape as it goes until the complete 3D shape is formed. This process was called Stereolithography and was the first 3D printing technology to become available. When paired with advances in 3D computer aided design (CAD) stereolithography delivered advantages to product development teams who could speed up designing new products because it removed the need to make models by hand. Through the course of the next 40 years new variations on the principles of 3D printing evolved into new processes and systems offering a dizzying array of 3D printing techniques and thousands of different machines. Get in touch with us to find out more.
3D printers can make from one to thousands of components. Most 3D printers have a fixed size of space into which they add material so the number of components a 3D printer can make depends on how many of the parts fit in that space. For large parts, this may be only one or two, for small parts it could be thousands.
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The smallest 3D prints have features of less than 0.001mm in size.
If you can get a 3D file then it is likely that you may be able to build it with all sorts of different 3D printers and materials. If the aesthetic quality, material properties and cost of the print and post-processing procedures are right for you then 3D printing may well be the best solution for your needs.
Knowing what 3D printer and material to choose without printing the component first takes skill and experience in 3D printing. Addition has decades of experience in 3D printing and can help with this decision. Get in touch with us to find out more.
If you’re looking to buy a 3D printer, we always recommend starting with understanding what it is you want to make and how it will be used. This will give you an idea about what materials it needs to be made from and what its shape needs to be. Trying your designs on different 3D printers and materials can be a good place to start.
Knowing whether 3D printing is right for you without printing the component first takes experience in 3D printing. Addition has decades of experience in 3D printing and can help with this decision. Get in touch with us to find out more.
To make a 3D printer work you will need a 3D CAD file.
For best quality 3D printed components, the 3D CAD file should be designed not only for the way the component will be used but also for the material it will be made from as well as all aspects of the print process including pre-processing, printing and post-processing.
With decades of experience in design and 3D printing, Addition can help make 3D printing work for your business. Get in touch with us to find out more.
3D printing is a set of manufacturing processes which work by digitally controlling how material is placed to build objects. Get in touch with us to find out more.
Additive manufacture (AM) is a term which describes 3D printing in context with machining, a more established manufacturing technique. 3D printing adds material to a space until the model is finished. Machining takes material away from a block of material (subtractive) until the model is finished. Get in touch with us to find out more.
Binder jet 3D printing prints a liquid onto a powdered material. The liquid soaks into the powder where it has been printed allowing a secondary process like heating to melt the powder only where the liquid has been printed. Heating melts only the powder that contains the liquid, forming a layer and the process repeats to build up the 3D print. The advantage of this process is that the materials and hardware are low cost, fast and accurate. Plastics and metals can be produced this way.
Variations include HSS (high speed sintering) and MJF (multi jet fusion).
DLP 3D printing stands for digital light projection. To create a layer of material, the image of the layer is projected onto light-curing resin, the cured layer is then moved by the thickness of the layer, and the process repeats until the 3D print is complete. This process is very accurate and, in some cases can be very fast.
FDM 3D printing stands for fused deposition modelling. This process melts the material and pushes it through a nozzle onto a flat surface. Layers are built on top of each other until the part is finished. There are a lot of different materials available for FDM and parts have good mechanical properties.
Other variations include FFF (fused filament fabrication) and MEX (material extrusion).
Metal 3D printing uses SLS technology, binder jet technology, and FDM as well as some others. Several metals can be 3D printed. Most processes require extensive post-processing but the parts, in most cases are nearly as strong as cast equivalents. Metal 3D printed parts are used in rockets, airplanes, ships, oil and gas components, and cars amongst other things. The most recent metal systems can process more than one metal at a time and have multiple lasers for fast processing.
PolyJet 3D printing is a process that prints the material with printheads which are followed by a UV light to cure the material. This process can print full colour parts and can vary the material properties of a single part as it prints.
Post-processing in the context of 3D printers is everything that you need to do to finish the part when the 3D printer finishes building it. For some well designed parts, this can be as little as lifting the part off the 3D printer, for other parts this can be very labour intensive with the removal of supports, unused material, surface finishing, post machine etc. Every 3D print process requires a post-process of some kind.
Knowing what to expect from post-processing 3D prints takes experience in 3D printing. Addition has decades of experience in 3D printing and can offer advice on what to expect as well as design components with post-processing in mind. Get in touch with us to find out more.
SLA 3D printing was the first 3D print technology to be developed and uses a laser to selectively cure a resin that turns to a solid when it is exposed to a laser. SLA stands for stereolithography apparatus. SLA The advantage of SLA technology is extremely smooth finish and accuracy. As SLA is the oldest of the 3D print technologies, it has seen the greatest amount of development in materials.
SLS 3D printing stands for selective laser sintering. This process uses a laser to selectively melt thin layers of powdered material, building them up as it goes to form layers of the 3D print. There is a reasonable number of materials available for SLS printing and the key advantage of the technology is the level of complexity achievable with SLS surpasses most other production techniques.
Other variations on SLS include PBF (powder bed fusion) and SLM (selective laser melting).
There are a surprising number of materials that can be 3D printed. 3D printers can print in plastic, metal and composite materials too. 3D printers can print in single materials, multiple materials and different grades of the same material at the same time.
Knowing how to design and print in different materials takes experience in 3D printing. Addition has decades of experience in 3D printing and can help with this decision. Get in touch with us to find out more.