In this blog I hope to give you a better understanding of the differences between the hobby 3D printer and industrial level 3D printers and will highlight when you should consider upgrading your hobby level 3D printer to an industrial system. Whether you have a very basic understanding of additive manufacturing or have been utilizing the technology for many years, it may still be difficult to understand the differences between the cheap hobby level 3D printer and the large-scale industrial systems.
3D printing and additive manufacturing has infiltrated manufacturing and product development sectors of many industries and has changed the way designers design and build both components and assemblies. In its infancy, additive manufacturing was simply considered to be a rapid prototyping solution. Unfortunately, this misconception remains prominent within industry despite noting considerable technological advancements and a vast reduction in price.
Today additive manufacturing is proving its viability in many industries including medical, automotive, aerospace, general manufacturing, tooling, defense and food production to name a few. While holding to its roots of being a rapid prototyping solution, recent advancements in technology have resulted in the ability to produce end-use functional parts straight off the printer.
The first thing you want to consider is how often you plan to use the system. If you are simply looking to print a part or two every month and can accept a tolerance of +/- 0.3mm in the x and y direction, and advanced materials are not required, then a hobby level 3D printer could be sufficient for your application.
If you plan to utilize the system more than a few times a month and require a much higher level of geometric accuracy, then +/- 0.3mm then it would be advisable to consider upgrading to a more industrial ready 3d printer.
Often people find that the hobby level 3D printers are finicky and require lots of fine tuning and patience to get successful and accurate prints. This can be challenging to accommodate from a resource requirement and can quickly be mitigated by investing in a more robust system.
Industrial 3D printers such as the Stratasys F-series pride themselves on their industry leading reliability and repeatable accuracy. Stratasys is able to make these claims by incorporating innovative temperature mitigation systems into their machines. To further this, Stratasys has developed their 3D printers with the user in mind to ensure their systems are fully automated and leave little room for print failure. This helps increase part throughput and minimize printer downtime.
Build volume and build plate size is another key consideration when looking to upgrade your existing 3D printer to an industrial solution.
Most hobbyist and consumer grade 3D printers have a very small build plate which helps them to be more compact. This in turn can become very cumbersome, as you would need to segment models and reassemble them post print if they aren’t able to fit as one solid part. This will greatly increase your time from design to a finished part and could negatively impact the parts geometric accuracy.
In contrast to the smaller consumer level systems, Stratasys offers many printers of different build volumes. Take for example the Fortus 900 printer which has a build volume of 18 cubic feet. This could hold very large value and will likely save many wasted hours of the operator’s time for segmenting the model and assembling it post print.
Material offering is another key parameter to look for when trying to understand whether or not you should consider advancing to an industrial printing solution.
Due to simplified print heads and lower quality heat management systems, consumer level 3D printers often cannot print more specialized and advanced materials. Generally, most hobby level 3D printers print using PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU and sometimes PC.
In contrast, industrial 3D printing systems are also able to print in high end thermosets such as Ultem 9085(FAA compliant), Diran, Ultem 1010 (food safe), ABS M30I (food safe), Carbon fiber Nylons and Carbon Fiber ABS.
These advanced thermosets can help you get much better part quality and can also introduce new applications that are seemingly impossible with consumer level systems.
Currently at the consumer level there are only a few different technology options available. These mainly include Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Digital Light Projection (DLP) and Stereolithography (SLA).
These technologies all present good case studies for different applications however there are some print technologies that are still unattainable for consumers. Take for example PolyJet technology. This technology offers very advanced color mapping as well as incredible surface finish and the ability to print very small, fine detailed parts. Additionally, this technology offers many biosafe materials.
Depending on the application and part complexity, PolyJet would be the most optimal solution. Despite being able to mimic its ability using other technologies on a hobby level 3D printer, the end result will not nearly be comparable to PolyJet.
Time to Upgrade
Although hobby and consumer level systems have their place in the market, they are not at all equivalent to a professional level system. Advancements in available materials, increased build volumes, enhanced part accuracy and high levels of throughput help set industrial systems apart from consumer level systems.
Interested in speaking with one of our 3D printing Application Engineers about upgrading your hobby 3D printer? Contact us using the form below.