Picture this... Your client presentation is in two weeks. You are still working on your SOLIDWORKS parts, and the slideshow your boss requested is still far from being finished. Meanwhile, your manager knocks on your door and says, “The clients would really love to see some physical prototypes this time.” You break into a cold sweat, because you’re not quite sure how to approach this one-off print. So you try to Google "RP Services," but over 95 well established providers pop up with varying degrees of experience and equipment to back it up. How can you choose which rapid prototyping partner is best for your company?
With TriMech's newly expanded RP Services, we now act as a one-stop shop for our current and future clients, providing complete engineering solutions. Here's how (and why) we expanded our rapid prototyping offerings.
Why TriMech Expanded Our RP Services Lineup
We're passionate about providing clients with a complete engineering solution that extends beyond the CAD and 3D printing products we sell. While certain software or hardware may be the ideal solution for the majority of your output, we know businesses encounter one-off projects and overflow work that require different technology and additional engineering assistance from time-to-time. To fill those gaps, TriMech has new and improved RP Service offerings.
What Rapid Prototyping Solutions TriMech Offers
We are proud of the Stratasys 3D printing products we sell, but recognize that some projects require other needs. To accommodate a wider range of requirements we see within our clientele, we expanded our service to other, new technologies we don’t currently sell as well.
Here is a high-level description of the rapid prototyping technologies available:*
FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling):
One of the most well-know 3D printing technologies, Stratasys FDM technology is a method of extruding thermoplastics. When printed with quality machines, FDM can be very accurate, cost effective and make functional parts like jigs and fixtures or other end-use items. Some of the high-performance materials like Ultem and Carbon Fiber infused Nylon can even be used to replace metal in certain applications. Other materials include PLA, ASA, ABS varieties, PC, PC-ABS, PC-ISO, Nylon 12, Certified grades of Ultem for Aerospace. This process can accommodate several prototyping needs inexpensively.
PolyJet (UV-Cured Ink Jetting):
Stratasy PolyJet technology consists of polyacrylate resins that can be blended together in an inkjet printer head to get a “Digital Material” with rigid, flexible, clear, full color and high-resolution properties, all in the same build. PolyJet is ideal for presentation pieces that are almost paint ready because of the high resolution. With multi-material capability, they can simulate rubber over-mold or clear parts for LEDs. This material can also be used in some prototype molding for RTV core and cavity molds or a rapid injection molding tool. While most thermoset resins may not hold up as well as thermoplastics under stress or impact, these parts can be quite durable depending on geometry.
SLA (Stereolithographic Apparatus):
Sometimes known as the grandfather of 3D printing, SLA is still a dominant power when it comes to high-resolution thermoset resin prints. With resolutions up to 4000dpi2 in comparable rigid properties to PolyJet and larger build volumes up to 25”x 29” x 22”, SLA makes large batches easy to produce. Plus, materials for investment casting and molding are still some of the best clear parts in 3D printing. If you need a glass-like bottle, prototype lens or see-through shell, this technology may be a good fit.
SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)
SLS is powdered plastic bed that is recoated and sintered by laser layer-by-layer. There are more unique varieties of Polyamides (Nylon) options, such as strong Glass-Filled, TPA PEBA which is flexible and PA 2200 which is non-alcoholic food contact safe. The process creates a tough part with a sand-like finish, can have colors added to the white varieties and has great abrasion resistance. Since the process does not need support structures like most, build spaces can be filled more easily and cost-effectively. SLS is a prime candidate for thin walled, flexible, water tight parts.
MJF (Multi Jet Fusion HP)
MJF is HP’s entrance into the field with a bonded and sintered hybrid process. It produces an SLS-like part in PA12 Nylon, but at a faster print speed and slightly higher resolution at 80um vs 100-150. Right now, this option is limited to Grey PA12, and dying black is usually a common post process to even out the finish. The parts are strong and attractive after post processing, with costs comparable to SLS depending on build.
DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering)
DMLS currently offers Aluminum ALSI10MG, Steels in MS1 Maraging, GP1/M270 and 316L, Nickel alloy IN718 and Titanium Ti64. Its print accuracy ranges from 20 micron to 100um, and most are 99.8% to 100% dense, yielding better than wrought properties. Since DMLS is almost always a hot button of discussion these days, and well deserved, it is important to understand this precept for now with metal printing; unless you are in medical devices or aerospace with unique one-off parts, if you can machine it, don’t print it! Metal printing is awesome, but costs will usually exceed a machinable part. This technology should mainly be used when a project needs to be:
- One part instead of several
- Has geometry that would be very challenging or impossible by traditional multi-axis means
- Low to one-off volume with very intricate or specialized purposes.
We also offer traditional 3 and 4 axis CNC machining in small batches. This is available in plastics and metals, although we are currently targeting stainless steels, low-carbon steels, aluminum and brass parts in quantities of 1-1000 maximum at this time.
Rapid Injection Molding and Tooling
Rapid injection molding and tooling are a high point of interest since the initial stages of prototype injection tooling are expensive and time consuming. While we can assist with getting early stage aluminum and final steel tools for production runs, much of the value can be had by creating 3D printed or rapid tools for quick turnaround trial runs. This saves money by enabling change early on. We can also supply Urethane casting, where a tool is cut to make a mold and then formed into a rigid or soft material to represent an end product. This also can be achieved with traditional CNC tooling or 3D printing if the project warrants it.
Finishing options can also be had in surface treatments, painting, plating, graphics etc. Reach out to our RP Services Team at 3DPrint_Services@TriMech.com to ask what finishing options are available for your parts.
*Please keep in mind most of these commercial technologies are dimensionally accurate within +/-.003”-.010” depending on the technology. 3D printed parts require post-processing in varying degrees, which can affect price beyond just material costs and manual labor.
Want to learn more about what services we offer? Download our Beginner's Guide to TriMech RP Services by clicking the link below.