FDM 3D printing – Real life cost and material advantages

Out of the main 3D printing methods FDM (Fused deposition modeling) is sometimes seen as the printing technology for the hobbyist.  (Endless prints of plastic rabbits and vases flooding the web don’t help this image!) The reality is however that all the different types of 3D printing have advantages and disadvantages and there is no perfect method yet.

FDM printing does offer some real cost advantages in many applications, also no other printing method can come close for material variety, with new materials literally coming out every other day. However not all printers can use these materials, for example low cost printers that don’t have heated chambers cannot print with polycarbonate and even ABS is a challenge for large parts. We are using heated chamber printers that allow us to use a large, useful variety of materials for the benefit of our customers.

Today I will share with you two different print jobs that we have recently completed, in the first example we have a batch of 100 components for an automated production line, the parts shown below are “shuttles” that will hold a product while automated operations are taking place on a moving conveyor:

3D printed PET suttles jigs for automated production

Based on two of the lowest cost SLS printing providers, these parts would have been between $230-250 each, We provided these parts for $28 each!

So why did we provide these at such a low cost, why did we not just give a 20% discount for example?  The reason is that while there is talk of digital manufacturing the reality is most production is still limited due to pricing. The above application would probably not exist if we were to charge $28,000 for this batch of parts, but at $2,800 they are cheaper than any other method of manufacture, with no tooling cost or setup fee.  So we are really focusing our business at creating useful 3D prints that make economic sense.  We  worked closely with the customer to achieve these large cost benefits by optimizing the Design for FDM.

In our next example we provided Hayes International with a number of long-run roofing profiles according to their specifications. The bright colors you see are not available with SLS or SLA printing. there are many colors and textures available off the shelf and it is great to see a company like Hayes using 3D printing to provide their customers with physical examples before production tooling is needed. This is another example of an application where FDM shines.

3D printed long run roofing profiles

Special thanks to our customers for permission to share these pictures

Andrew Palmer
Director
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd