3-D printers change product design and development for small business

As many of you know I had one article a month or so ago and haven?t written anything since. With my current tempo, Theo does not pay me enough to pay for my extravagant lifestyle. When he drafted me, I knew that BSN* team is consisted out of members with everyday industry practice and I am just the same.

In real life I am running a company that makes precision scale truck models. We recently decided to go high tech with our operation to keep more development in house. In a business were the master prototype for one model can cost $10,000 – keeping the development in house mean amazing and definitely substantial financial savings in the development end of the production cycle.

One of the new tools I have recently had the joy to add to our shop is an amazing product from Stratasys, Inc. (NASDAQ  SSYS). Stratasys is a company that has for the last 20 years made three-dimensional Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers for product development.  There are a few different kinds of 3d part prototyping, Stereolithography is the most well-known mostly because of its technique, which uses lasers to cure or burn a liquid and turns it into a solid part, I mean who doesn?t like lasers. 3d printing is another technique using a resin powder and putting glue and dyes on the resin using an inkjet technology based printhead. Many will be familiar with this technique and not even know it as it is used by Figureprints to print World of Warcraft characters for their owners.

What a modern 3D printer can create - nothing short of amazingAll of these technologies are amazing in their execution of a creating a tangible item from whatever the creators design intent was.  We decided to go the FDM route for our own application, because of its more durable parts made from a strong ABS plastic and its low cost of ownership.  To imagine in your mind how FDM works think of taking a hot glue gun to draw shapes one on top of another creating multiple layers.  The only differences are the automation, precision and material used by a FDM printer.  Stratasys makes different product lines for the different types of users, the Fortus line and the Dimension line, Fortus has much larger build envelope 36in x 36in x 24in versus the Dimension?s 1200es? 10in x 10in x 12in and can build thinner layers, .005in for the fortus versus the dimension?s .01in. Some of the Stratasys printers even support using soluble supports to allow for internal moving parts inside printed parts, a common sample part sent to potential purchasers is an adjustable wrench printed in a single operation.

What does this all mean for you the end user.  With new 3d printer products, like the uPrint from Stratasys and the ZPrinter 310 from ZCorporation, small companies can afford to have rapid prototyping in the office environment. These new printers are both affordable ($15,000 and $19,000 respectively)and help speed and  improve the development process. Being able to use print up test parts in our office and see how the item works in our manufacturing process. The new age of product development is upon us and it is glorious.

With companies like General Motors, Chrysler, Nike, Hewlett Packard, John Deere, Honeywell, Pioneer, Google, Motorola, Black and Decker, Nissan, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Merck, Duracell, Tyco, Xerox, Cisco Systems, Mitsubishi, 3M, Honda, Bentley, Sony, Toyota, BMW, Bose, and Volkswagen Automotive group all using rapid prototyping machines for their development process it is bringing the cost down for small business. These incredible technologies are well worth researching for any firm designing in 3d and looking to decrease development time and cost.