A common request from many users of 3D printers is “When will 3D printing be faster?” But the need for speed may not always refer to print time. Noted Jon Cobb, Executive Vice President, Marketing at Stratasys in a recent interview, “the real point may be how do I get to use my part faster?”
3D printing speed involves several factors, two of which are—how can the material deposition/curing process be made faster, and how can you speed up the post processing functions, including removing support material and polishing or other finishing operations?
To actually print a part faster will likely require a few modifications in the mechanical components that make up a 3D printer, such as actuators and motors. Depending on the printer, better quality mechanical components will be needed, especially as more speed introduces phenomena such as resonance that must be addressed for a smooth, well-made part.
Aside from that, there are ways to tweak the entire 3D printing process so that you gain the use of your part more quickly. Continued Cobb, one way is through the program software where you program the part build and any supports. Check the quantity and quality of support structures for the printed part—are they too many, too dense, and so on? Noted Cobb, one customer saw a 30% increase in speed by using sparse supports. “The machine did not go any faster, but the whole process was faster because of less material laid down and consumed.”
For some parts, you could print support structures differently to save time, or you could alter the print size of the structures to print faster. Using a larger bead of filament, for example, can deliver improvements in speed. But Cobb also noted that higher productivity is not just about speed, it’s also about efficiency—making the machines more efficient.
Another opportunity involves the post process. What if you were able to clean a part in five minutes as opposed to an hour?
Keep your eyes on this part of the 3D printing process. Vendors are focusing on ways to shave time from post processing.