With more than 40 additive manufacturing systems to choose from, from 3D printers to sophisticated SLA/SLS, and FDM systems, how do you narrow that down to a reasonable number without reading every brochure on every system? The Make Parts Fast selector tool was created to help you narrow your choices. Once you’ve selected two or three machines, you may wish to consult the manufacturer on whether your choice will meet your application needs.
Before I go over a few details about how to use the selection tool, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
No system will have every convenience that you need. Some machine processes require more processing on the back end, some on the front end; some require support structures, some don’t. Depending on your personal preference, such factors can be just part of the process or a major inconvenience.
Price is only one factor in your choice, and it is not the most important factor. Initial purchase price often does not take into account the cost of ongoing use, purchase of materials, training, waste, and so on. Price is not necessarily an indicator of quality or value; that all depends on your needs.
The application will, of course, be a key factor–whether you are building a part for concept examination, to test for function, or as an end-use product.
Then you will need to consider material. If you’re examining a product for concept, you may not need a rugged material. Several good quality, low cost systems will suit concept needs. Of course, if you are examining a part for use in the aerospace industry, you may want it made of a sintered metal, which, once it passes its tests, can then go right into production.
Build size will narrow your choice. Nearly every one of the systems currently available has a different size tray for building parts. A common build size is just under 12 in. by 12 in. by 8 in. This size not only suits larger parts, it suits multiple parts easily.
Depending on the application, features like part accuracy will further narrow your choice. Accuracy is a highly subjective parameter; it depends on the part geometry, the material, the end use of the part, and so on. To help you determine a system’s potential accuracy, we have listed the layer thicknesses. But keep in mind that these numbers are dependant on other listed parameters. All the vendors will suggest that you run a trial part before making your final choice.
Finish is another subjective category. It is best to try a part on a system to determine if it will have the finish you need.
Throughput, or build speed, depends on the material you are using for your part, the geometry of the part, and the fineness of detail. In general, the finer the detail, the longer it will take to build your part. Most systems, however, have sufficient material capacity to operate over a weekend; and those that don’t are very clear about that feature.
We spoke with each manufacturer about these selection criteria. Information on machine size, weight, laser parameters, and so on are available in nearly all brochures; so once you’ve narrowed your choice, that information is easy to find.
Now, onto the selector. Use of this tool is free, and you can select for a couple of items to try it out. After you’ve input a few parameters, though, you will be asked for some basic information and asked to create a password. This step helps ensure that your searches are private and specific to you.
The selector is found on the Make Parts Fast home page, at the right of the menu bar.
When you click on it, this screen will appear. You can enter in a couple of parameters and receive information.
When you’ve made about three requests for information, this register/login window appears. You will create a sign-in name (your email address) and a password. Simply fill it in, and continue with your search. You can re-login at any time to look for another machine. Remember, searching is free.
Based on your parameters, the machines that most closely match them appears. Often, you will have a choice of several machines. Click on the More Details column for more data.
And that’s it. You have easily narrowed your selection.
Have fun creating!