3D Printer Technologies – Part 2

Continued from part 1

#2 – Polyjet 3D Printers are very similar to your office variety ink jet printers, in that they have a bank of print heads that lay down a pattern of photo-polymer resin, and a gel like support material, with a UV light on the print carriage that cures each layer on every pass.

Small parts being printed on the Objet Polyjet 3D Printer

Small parts being printed on the Objet Polyjet 3D Printer

They build a model in horizontal layers that are 6-12 ten thousandths of an inch (.0006″-.0012″) thick. The resolution on the X-Y plane on some of the machines is as high as 600 dots per inch (dpi). Due to the high resolution of the print heads and layer thickness, the surface quality, and dimensional accuracy are superb.

Blasting off the support material with a waterjet

Blasting off the support material with a waterjet

After the model is printed, the gel support material is blasted away with a water jet and then they are dipped in a solution to remove any residue. These are my models of choice, when I intend to make very accurate molds for casting, as they require a minimal amount of sanding before I can clear coat them to achieve a smooth, glossy surface.

Polyjet 3D Printed Models

Polyjet 3D Printed Models

On the Eden class machines like the one that I have access to, there are several materials available, with Durus Grey being the usual resin of choice, as it is a fairly hard and tough acrylic like material. With a 19.6″x 15.7″x 7.9″ build envelope (x-y-z axis respectfully), it has the capability to produce rather large parts, or multiple smaller parts in a single build.

Objet machines in the Connex family have the capability to print several different resins, and can create 14 different materials in the same print. They can also create up to 51 digital materials that have properties ranging from rubber like, to rigid in the same model, so there is no need to glue different parts together to simulate an injection molded multishot product.


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3D Printer Technologies – Part 1

There are numerous 3D Printing technologies available, also known as Additive Rapid Prototyping Systems, with new ones coming online on a regular basis. As of this writing, five of them represent the majority of printers on the market today, and they are:

A few questions to ask yourself when researching 3D Printer technologies are:

  • What is the intended use for the model to be printed, decorative? funtional? conceptual?
  • What kind of suface quality does your model need?
  • How durable will your model need to be?
  • Which of these variables do you need to analyze, Form? Fit? Feel? Function?
  • What is your budget related to the printing?

In this article I will discuss the various pros and cons of the different technologies listed above.

#1 – FDM is a technology that consists of a nozzle that heats a commodity, or engineering grade plastic such as Polycarbonate, ABS, Ultem, Polysulfone, as well as many custom blends, to a less viscous state, and extrudes that material in horizontal layers that build a 3D Model. The layers are 5-13 thousandths of an inch (.005″ – .013″) thick. The resolution in the X-Y plane is .001″, with pretty good dimensional accuracy. Another nozzle extrudes a material that supports overhangs and undercuts, that is either a break away or a dissolvable material that is removed after the model has been printed.

Stratasys FDM Model showing layers

Stratasys FDM Model showing layers

The Stratasys company developed this technology in the late 80s, and commercialized it in 1990. Models made on these machines are very durable, for functional testing, as well as being useful for production parts, also known as Direct Manufacturing. The surface quality is a little coarse, with noticeable stepping in the layers, but with excellent overall dimensional stability.

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