The fact that most companies have had 3D printers or an additive manufacturing center in-house for years now is not surprising. Stratasys systems are more than capable to do whatever we throw at them. For the purposes of comparing a week's worth of productivity with and without 3D printer training, I decided to explore one of our current client's workflows. This client owns two of Stratasys' newest FDM systems, the Fortus 450mc and an F370mc.
Clients 3D Printer Background
Their current project spans about a week (Wednesday to Tuesday of the following week). Because of the short turnaround time, sending multiple iterations and getting quick approval from the designers is critical. To analyze the client's efficiency, we need to look at factors such as application and volume. In this case, the client is considering an end-use 3D printed part, which may be a low volume or pilot production. The ultimate goal is to get one of these components to work as a 3D printed model.
This project contains multiple parts and assemblies both in STL and SOLIDWORKS native CAD files. It also consists of a tedious process of exporting each CAD file into an STL, including the assembly which can be made up of multiple STLs. Correctly exporting STLs requires dialing in the settings from the CAD system and making sure all files are watertight. To determine the best course of action, let’s look at the workflow from pre-training to post-training.
A Week Without 3D Printer Training
Without taking SOLIDWORKS or Stratasys training, the client might not have all the information necessary to work as efficiently as possible. For example, if the operator or designer is newer to working with Fortus machines, he/she may not know how to navigate, operate or maximize the benefits of his/her system.
For instance, without knowing best practices for navigating the machine user interface, locating key FDM modeler components, using FDM modeler maintenance tools or positioning queued builds, the company can experience a print error, inaccurate parts or slower production. If the client would have taken our Stratasys Fortus Machine Training, they could have avoided timely mistakes and costly reprints by knowing when to change liquefier tips, calibrate the FDM modeler or replace consumable FDM modeler components.
A Week With 3D Printer Training
Designing in GrabCAD Print
Simply going through files and the logistics of what to print first and last can be a “shoot from the hip” scenario. This because you need to open every file independently and process each one to get an estimate or even a rough idea of print time and cost. Without training, you may think the only way to prioritize print order is by opening each file independently and processing each one to get a print time and cost estimate. Today, with the help of GrabCAD Print, we can open all the files at once and assign different trays and send off to different printer using the same platform, icing on the cake, it allows you to import native CAD files like a SOLIDWORKS Assembly files, pulling all its components with it.
Printing on the Fortus 450mc & F370
With all parts in the file now inside a project I can pick and choose, estimate and assign materials for each tray I have in mind. This will give me time to plan out my print to finish when I’m in the shop and leave the extended print to over the weekend.
For this case, I’m selecting the large quadcopter frames to be printed in in Nylon 12 CF and the other to be done in ASA. Since I have the Fortus 450mc available and the F370 I can queue up both machines to print overnight. Now we have the full view of the project and we can put a number to what seemed to be a difficult task to just an overnight build on two machines.
Working with TriMech RP Services
Now there is one component that we are printing in ASA but the end use will be a rubber component, we do not yet have a rubber or TPU material on the Stratasys FDM lineup but there is on the PolyJet line of Stratasys, luckily TriMech has an print service program that can help with prototype, design and assembly of prototypes in many different systems. So I talked with the Rapid Prototyping team, Rich Annino and Will Lewellyn to be exact, and should have access to their Objet500/ Connex3 that can run rubber shore values and some color options.
If you haven't had time to take our Stratasys Connex Machine Training, no worries. Many of our clients outsource to our RP Services team for one-off technology needs or projects they don't have in-house resources to complete.
Conclusion of 3D Printing With and Without Training
Thanks to the Connex3 and J750/735 capabilities we can prototype this model in multiple shore values, Shore A 40,50,85 and 95. This allows options for the team to test different hardness and fitments to the entire assembly and was ordered and received within 2-3 days. Now we are left with an assembly that needs to be printed and put together, requiring multiple parts and color distinctions.
We will import directly as an assembly into GrabCAD Print. It imports and converts all necessary files and pulls the parent and child assemblies and sub-assemblies it requires.
For this section I prepared two trays, one for the blue colored components and another for the black colored components. Using the F370 for this job would be ideal for a couple reasons, the F370 can do way quicker change overs than the Fortus 450mc, and it was already running ASA Black. After a 3 hour print I ran a material swap wizard and within 5 minutes I had already started the second tray meant to print the blue colored parts.
This goes to show, that if you have FDM machines and you are not up-to-date with TriMech training, you could be extending your lead-time and possibly decreasing your prototyping capabilities. The quicker you iterate the better of a design you will yield and with the help of training, you can streamline your workflow.
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