3D Printing Myths and Misconceptions

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Industrial 3D printing has been around for a couple of decades now, and although many have embraced it, there are still quite a few holdouts. Having talked with a few holdouts, we’ve discovered some misconceptions about industrial 3D printing. In this post, we will explore and expel a few 3D printing myths that we’ve come across.

A little background about us, we are the industrial 3D printing and cast urethane arm of Prototek. Prototek is a premier on-demand digital manufacturer specializing in sheet metal fabrication, CNC machining, and more. At Midwest Prototyping, we have six industrial 3D printing technologies and over 40 materials in-house. These technologies create three-dimensional parts layer by layer; two of our technologies are powder-based, two are photopolymer resin-based, and two are nozzle printhead-based. Our materials have several mechanical properties ranging from structurally flexible to rigid (all have unique tensile strengths, moduli, elongation at break, and flexural strengths and moduli). If you have any questions about specific technologies or materials, our Solutions Managers will be happy to answer them. You can call them at this number 608-437-1400 or email them at solutions@midwestproto.com.

6 Industrial 3D Printing Myths and Misconceptions

3d Printing Myth 1 - 3D printers are not industrial-sized.

I used 3D printers in middle school and high school; although it was fun, I’m not sure they produced the quality end-use parts I would expect to sell my customers. They also only build one somewhat small part at a time, and it takes all day.

Well, thank you for bringing that up. There is quite a difference between desktop or hobby machines and industrial 3D printers. More technologies are available than the nozzle printhead-based machines most commonly found in middle schools and high schools, such as powder-based and resin-based machines. Build envelopes are much more prominent in industrial machines, allowing for multiple parts and more significant parts to be built. Depending on the technology and build, parts can take hours, and the quality of the parts is comparable to injection molded parts. We also offer engineering materials with several mechanical properties and desirable characteristics. For more information about our materials, visit our Material Pro page to compare and contrast materials via technology or desirable characteristics.

3D Printing Myth 2 - 3D printing is only for prototyping.

3D printing makes sense for prototyping because it’s cheaper than tooling for one prototype or a few concept models. It is relatively effortless to make design changes and reprint when needed. Still, it doesn’t seem like it would make sense to produce multiple parts.

While those are excellent reasons for prototyping, they are also excellent reasons to use 3D printing for end-use parts. There are a few perks for using industrial 3D printing to produce your end-use parts; as mentioned, there are no costs for tooling, even on redesigns. Repeatability on prints is easy to achieve even for serial runs down the road because we use the same file you send us. And you can easily customize parts for your specific customers, whether embossing logos or names, as long as your print file reflect these changes. Since we are an on-demand digital manufacturer, you can take advantage of that and only order parts as needed or forecasted, cutting down on your internal storage needs.

3D Printing Myth 3 - 3D printing cannot produce quality end-use parts.

3D printing is not for me; I’ve seen parts with noticeable layer lines, and some turn out stringy. My customers want to buy high-quality products.

Although builds can fail, and we can’t say they won’t, they will not pass our quality control. In the last several years, there have been significant advancements in the manufacturing quality of parts produced by 3D printing. Industrial 3D machines are creating parts comparable to injection molded parts. At Midwest Prototyping, we can manufacture parts with smooth surfaces, high detail/high resolution, and we use engineering quality materials with a myriad of mechanical properties and desirable characteristics.

3D Printing Myth 4 - 3D printed materials do not offer enough mechanical properties.

Can I get parts printed in a flexible material, or are they only rigid materials?

Our 3D printers can print a wide range of flexible and rigid materials, and the Material Jetting machines can print a combination of materials. Our flexible materials have a variety of uses, from foam replacements to dampeners, and you can use our rigid materials for electrical housings to glass lens replacements. The materials also have a myriad of other mechanical properties and desirable characteristics. Check out our Material Pro page for a comprehensive, searchable material database by technology and key features.

3D Printing Myth 5 - 3D printed parts cannot be finished to my needs.

I’ve seen some incredible 3D printed parts, but what if I need optically clear parts, soft-touch grips, or electroplating.

Of course, we can accomplish those things for you. We have a fantastic finishing department. Whether your project requires a custom paint color or automated vapor smoothing, we’ve got you covered! For a complete list of the finishing services we offer, check out our finishing and post-processing page.

3D Printing Myth 6 - 3D Printing is very expensive.

I’ve been curious about 3D printing off and on through the years, but it just seems so expensive.

In general, prices have come down since the inception of 3D printing. You can also find cost savings in the lack of tooling costs; all we need is a digital file. Storage costs for finished parts can be eliminated; on-demand manufacturing means you only need to print what you need or what your projections are. The material/orientation of build/finishing can also contribute to cost savings.

What problems are vexing you and your team? Can we help with material and technology solutions? We can also dispel any 3D printing myths or misconceptions you may have. If your project doesn’t make sense for industrial 3D printing, we will let you know. Additive manufacturing could be an excellent option for your team. Give us a call at (608) 437-1400 or send us an email at solutions@midwestproto.com.
We look forward to helping get your idea made.

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