Being one of the 3D printing companies in the industry, you have probably heard the nagging question whether 3D printing will finally replace mass production in the near future. As much as manufacturers and users can debate about this, 3D printing and mass production can co-exist and work together and individually. They can complement or substitute each other under certain circumstances and produce sound profit nonetheless.
If you are wondering where 3D printing excels over mass production, then rapid prototyping is your answer. With plenty of issues surrounding additive manufacturing 3D printing, including industrial 3D printer price, you can easily get low-cost single elements with substandard quality (FDM print) or exceptional surface quality (e.g. stereolithography, commonly used in jewelry making or dentistry). It is also possible to produce elements with mechanical and chemical resistant compositions obtained by CNC machining – sintered technologies of polyamide (selective laser sintering, SLS) or metal (SLM) powders. In hindsight, parts made with SLS technology are reliable when it comes to producing high-quality surfaces. This also comes with many features that allow efficient and effective post-processing, as needed in the project.
Quality comes with a price, which is why the last aforementioned technologies have higher manufacturing time and more expensive unit parts. On a good note, they are considerably excellent and more advanced than FDM technology. Suffice to say, 3D printing companies can benefit from either SLS and SLM machines or from CNC machining.
Some projects require elements around 100-150, and this is where SLS technology contributes its advantages as per efficient time and cost allocation are concerned. It is worth considering that with this technology, production is much faster and cheaper. All modifications applied are also fairly simple and non-invasive. Additionally, the elements produced can be as uniform or unique, depending on the required results per project, order, or device. Another significant benefit of using SLS 3D printing instead of conventional machines is the amount of materials you can save. Traditional printing results in a large volume of wasted material. In SLS 3D printing, you can apply the principle of overlapping successive layers by merging them to solidify materials or to sinter powders.
Moreover, SLS technology has the ability to build geometry without any support. The SLS process itself is used as the support unsintered powder, which is found in the working chamber. Once the process is done, you can reuse as much as 70% of the unused powder and sieve or mix them with new plastic powder.
Another distinguishable aspect is a 3D SLS printer’s ability to obtain complete freedom when it comes to printing geometries. This means that it is possible to produce elements that are otherwise difficult to achieve on traditional machines and produce them in one-part elements rather than in several parts. Doing so results in zero time spent on assembling parts after they have been printed off. There is no need to deal with movable or hidden elements that need to be pieced together.
Some engineers argue that 3D printers for manufacturing have low strength and limited number of available materials. Despite the debates, these arguments can be refuted with proof that SLS and SLM technologies produce parts and components with 80% strength and 100% stringent standards. Unverified theses tend to brainwash engineers and 3D printing companies with the false belief that SLS commercial 3D printers are only useful during the prototyping stage. However, changing the narrative in your mind can bear you great results and benefits. By exploring what selective laser sintering can offer, you can utilize your large bed 3D printer to its full potential and produce high-quality objects with your industrial 3D printer. Implementing large scale 3D printers for manufacturing is not only cost-efficient relative to CNC machines or injection lines, but it also essentially provides a simpler mechanism for efficient operation.