The costs of 3D printing?

The cost for a single part depends on size, weight, space taken out of the print machine’s build chamber, and the time required in post processing. There are also various post processing procedures for extra surface treatments which are priced according to the amount of parts.

Planning and optimising

Each design file sent to us is checked before printing. If needed we’ll fix/optimise the design to achieve better results. Depending on the case this fixing/optimising task is usually done free of charge. In some cases multiple fixes are required to reach printable 3D model. This happens often with scale models which usually have many details and components that require optimisation to match the print machine’s requirements. We use different tools and softwares designed for 3D modeling and optimisation.

After optimisation the parts are digitally placed (“nesting”) and oriented into the print machine’s build chamber. One production run can include various parts and components so the nesting process needs careful planning. Specific orientations for parts are possible but we always aim to run full production runs.

After printing the parts go through the regular post process procedures. Extra print material is removed and recycled, and the parts surface quality is improved with glass bead blasting. Resin and metal parts require support structures for printing. These supports are removed in post processing. There are also different coating options available for parts requiring specific qualities.

Materials

The volume of a part determines how much raw material goes into production. This is why the optimisation process is important especially with larger parts: with proper optimisation the volume can be reduced without losing mechanical properties resulting in cheaper price.

With powder-based SLS (Selective Laser Sintering for plastics) technique the efficient stacking of parts inside the build chamber reduces costs significantly. The more parts are nested and printed in a single run, the cheaper the costs per part. (read more about design guidelines for plastic parts)

With UV-curable resins (3SP) the aim is to fill the build platform area to reach cost-effective runs. Parts cannot be stacked on top of each other without connecting the support structures between parts. Stacking increases post process workload which increases the costs. Again the importance of optimisation comes into play. Designing parts that require less supports results in less time in post processing.

Support structures are also needed in the powder-based SLM (Selective Laser Melting for metals) technique. The less supports required, the quicker the post processing. Also evaluating the parts mass and trimming down the extra weight can lead to more cost-effective result and faster production time. (read more about design guidelines for metal parts)

Nesting the parts for production

A production run should have parts with varying geometries so that the build chamber/platform space can be filled efficiently. Another option is to have a run with a single part that stacks really well. Regarding cost-effectiveness avoiding runs with only one or few parts is advisable.

To put in simple terms: the bigger the part, the more space it takes resulting in higher costs. Smaller parts can be printed inside a large hollow object if they can be removed after printing. We help our customers to reach cost-effective designs and production runs without compromising quality or end-use purposes.

Surface treatments: dyeing, polishing, painting works and coating

There are various options for extra post processing. Paint works and coating are manual processes and usually applied only with special applications such as high-end scale models. Dyeing and polishing are more automated processes and can be done more cost-effectively.

Example metal & plastic products with pricing

Materflow designs and produces 3D printed metal and plastic parts for industrial use. We also help our customers develop and implement 3D printing into their design and engineering processes. Contact for more info:

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