Large-scale 3D printing sounds pretty straightforward. It’s 3D printing, just bigger, right? That’s the short version, but there are a few crucial aspects that differ from normal desktop 3D printing.
First of all, size does make a difference. The expanded capacities of large-scale 3D printers mean larger up-front costs, but they also let manufacturers expand their range of 3D printed objects. Everything from whole pieces of furniture to industrial-sized machine parts can now be 3D printed on demand.
The materials available for large-scale 3D printing are specifically intriguing. While thermoplastics like PLA and ABS are still possible, filaments with more strength, like metal or carbon polymers, allow large-scale 3D printing to hold up to industrial standards.
Large-scale 3D printing is quickly becoming an easy alternative to traditional manufacturing techniques, like injection molding. 3D printing allows for a much finer level of detail since you’re basically shaping it as you go along. It’s much easier and cheaper to correct any mistakes, as well, thanks to its low-volume batches.
Because of this, large-scale 3D printing has gained a reputation for a viable alternative manufacturing process. Let’s dive into the details of why this might be the perfect manufacturing process for your budding business or endeavor.
One note before we begin: In fact, large-scale 3D printing is a bit of a vague term. While it’s normally used to refer to a category beyond desktop 3D printing, it is sometimes used to describe especially large desktop machines. In this article, we’ll focus on its default meaning, leaving out printers like the LulzBot TAZ 6 and the Creality CR-10S.
Large-scale 3D printing requires special equipment to handle over-sized prints and other manufacturing details, but you can easily find what you need with a little help from our guide and the internet. Here are some handy steps to follow:
Large-scale 3D printing can be adapted to a huge variety of manufacturing processes. From a solo hobbyist transforming their hobby into a business to established brands making the switch in their assembly processes. No matter your reason for 3D printing on a large scale, there are a few things you should consider to make it go smoothly with few issues.
We can’t emphasize enough how much you need to watch out for fumes, which can be minimized through regular cleaning of your printer’s ventilation system as well as your work stations.
Also, make sure to regularly clear out the tubes that ferry the filament from the spool to the extruder of your large-scale 3D printer. You’ll be working with polymers of materials that melt less easily than standard 3D printing materials, and they tend to clump together and clog nozzles and pipes. Keep these clear by applying standard 3D printing cleaning methods after every use.
We recommend calibrating your large-scale 3D printer more than you technically have to. At this scale, measurements that are off can knock your work back much further than on a desktop 3D printer. Use a stiff measuring tape and a level to be sure.
As we’ve touched on, the best-performing filaments for large-scale 3D printing won’t necessarily produce your project’s targetted look. To take advantage of those filaments’ best features while sticking to your personal aesthetic preference, we recommend learning the basics of how to sand, paint, and varnish finished objects in metal or carbon. That way, you won’t limit your possibilities.
Large-scale 3D printing has a lot of advantages for manufacturing. Not convinced? We’ve got the details.
Large-scale 3D printing is not without its drawbacks. If you’re looking to start, here are the cons you need to consider.
You don’t have to go into large-scale 3D printing alone! If you’re not ready to invest in a large-scale 3D printer, you may consider getting a 3D printing service to take care of the printing and processing for you.
Here are a few places to go for on-demand large-scale 3D printing:
You can add great value to your manufacturing processes through large-scale 3D printing. It takes a willingness to invest and a commitment to detail, but it doesn’t require learning a completely different skill set to take your manufacturing to the next level. Use this guide as your starter kit, and you’ll be producing on a scale you’ve only dreamed of before now.
Check it out for yourself!
Feature image source: Russell Singer / Kickstarter
License: The text of "Large-Scale / Large-Format 3D Printing – Quick Starter Guide" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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