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  • Writer's pictureAntonio Montes de Oca Gomez

Pricing optimization for 3D printing

When a prototype begins to phase out into a final product, the first batch of parts is the most difficult to manufacture, the most expensive, and time-consuming. Additive manufacturing has helped a lot of our customers to overcome this transition by producing the initial batches. Our readers might think that producing hundreds or thousands of parts by 3D printing them would be expensive. However, in the hands of specialized personnel, those high expenses can be cut down significantly by strategically modifying the 3D model or the printing parameters.

Here is a list of tips to reduce the costs of printing:

  • Use a bigger nozzle.

This is a tricky one. Usually, 3D printers use a 0.4mm nozzle which for most prototype cases is sufficient. When increasing the nozzle width, the flow of hot plastic can increase due to experiencing lower resistance when being pushed by the motor extruder. There are several factors that can increase the maximum volumetric flow rate of plastic, making the print finish faster. When increasing the size of the extruder heat-block, more plastic can be extruded while still using a 0.4mm size nozzle. The company E3D manufactures these types of nozzles and are called Volcano and SuperVolcano. Also, the internal geometry of the nozzle can improve the efficiency of heat transfer to the center of the solid filament, increasing the maximum volumetric flow rate (this is still relatively new in the 3D printing community).

Bondtech CHT high flow nozzle

Standard - Volcano - Supervolcano heat-blocks and nozzle

  • Layer height.

One of the most common parameters to adjust when looking to print faster is to increase the layer height. This will make the external surface of the part look bumpier. This is recommended if the aesthetics of the surface isn’t a big factor for you. In the image below we compare the looks of a part with a 0.40 mm height versus a 0.20 mm height. Notice there is a 53% reduction in printing time for the 0.40 mm layer height.

0.40 mm layer height - 19 min 0.20 mm layer height - 36 min

  • Slightly increase the printing temperature.

Increasing the temperature will increase the heat transfer rate of the heat-block to the plastic, making the plastic transition faster to a liquid state. Therefore, a higher temperature will allow us to print with a faster speed (resulting in a higher maximum volumetric flow). However, if the increment in temperature is too high, it can severely affect the quality of the print.

  • Parallel printing (VAT photopolymerization).

This process can be used to print several small parts with high precision at once since many of the printers with this technology use a projector to solidify liquid resin. That is, instead of having an extruder that has to deposit individual lines of plastic, the projector prints the whole print bed layer at once.

  • Overhangs design.

By adding some chamfers or slopes to the 3D model, we can avoid the use of support material.

With chamfer and without chamfer, the support material is marked in green

  • Bridging.

Strategic placement of bridges can help us avoid the need for support material. Sometimes it may result in a better surface quality print. Check our last 3D printing blog for more information about this subject.

  • Sequential printing.

When planning the prints, we can use sequential printing to reduce travel moves and stringing between objects. Sequential printing is when we print multiple parts in the print bed, but the printer has to finish printing all of the first objects to continue with the second object, and so on. For this method to work, we have to add some clearance in the slicer in order to avoid collisions between the printed objects and the extruder. The clearance distance depends on your 3D printer extruder.

Sequential printing - clearance area is marked in red.

These are some of the techniques and strategies that we use in Soluciones Kenko to improve the pricing and quality of our 3D printing service. Whenever a customer wants to print several units of his or her product, we always look for ways to provide a better and more competitive service.

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