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October 4, 2017

Richard Hoy

How long does it take to 3D print an object in our bureau?

Laser Lines business development manager Richard Hoy explains how Laser Lines puts the ‘rapid’ into rapid prototyping.

You would be surprised how quickly we can turn a job around. It depends on its scale, but we have had clients accepting a quote one day and receiving a printed part the next.

With one of Britain’s largest on-site ranges of 3D printers, Laser Lines’ Banbury bureau is trusted by clients nationwide to fulfil their production needs. Its orders cover everything from low volume production parts to jig fixtures and cutting guides, often at up to 60% below the price of traditional manufacturing processes.

Turn-around is typically three to five days, but it can be far less. There have been times when we have built smaller parts for local companies and they have been able to collect them the same day.

Every job is bespoke

Customers who want to use a mixture of materials know that the job could take longer, as it might involve machine swaps and tip changes. If they just want to use a single material, though, you can pretty much set up one machine and leave it running.

The speed of the job is determined more by its complexity and resolution than the choice of material. Using FDM to build large parts at a coarse resolution, which is ideal for jigs and fixtures or functional parts where looks don’t usually matter, won’t take long at all.

On the other hand, architectural models full of detail may require a finer layer resolution approaching 0.178mm. Even relatively small parts at this scale could take a couple of days to complete. It is certainly worth the additional print time. Fine feature detail and surface finish will look better in a higher resolution.

Sharing the workload

Laser Lines’ bureau printers vary in size and capacity, but the average build envelope is 350mm by 450mm on the X and Y axes. If we are sent a part that is larger than that, and the customer agrees, we break it down in CAD and produce it in several different parts, which we then glue back together.

It is sometimes more cost effective to do this than to try and find a supplier to build it all in one piece, and there’s a time benefit, too. When you break up a part, you usually reduce the Z-height, which cuts the build time further. Plus, we can print the parts simultaneously by distributing them across several machines.

Laser Lines’ bureau has 18 machines in total, of which three are PolyJet and Nine are Stratasys Fortus machines. One of these uses carbon fibre filled Nylon 12 material, for lightweight, rigid parts that remain true to their original form, and are less likely to break.

Help is on hand

A lot of our clients are very knowledgeable about 3D printing, but we are always here to offer help and advice when it’s needed.

One common issue is the use of support structures. If a customer is moving from a traditional manufacturing process to rapid production the design may need to be altered slightly to alleviate unnecessary support material. Reducing support material speeds up the print time and reduces the part cost. We can reduce time and cost further, perhaps by switching to a sparse internal fill style, or changing an angle slightly so that we can do away with a support structure entirely.

The run up to Christmas is usually a very busy time for Laser Lines, so I am making sure we have the resources we need for the busy months ahead. It is prime trade show season, including the TCT show, at the end of September and that always raises people’s interest.

But I’m not worried that we won’t be able to satisfy our customers’ demands. We have all the capacity we need, and printers don’t need breaks and don’t go home. Outside of hours, the bureau is a true lights-off operation, with jobs continuing through the night, ready for dispatch the next day.

To see how much you could save by outsourcing your 3D printing requirements to Laser Lines’ bureau, get an online quote now using our automated tool, email or call 01295 672599.

Category: 3D Printing
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