3D printing living hinges

It’s been a little while since our last update after our move to a new premises in the Tauriko Industrial Estate (Tauranga), so many things happening but let’s start with a polypropylene like material available now via our recently purchased multi-jet machine (Object 30pro)


The below video shows a “living hing” example print on our machine in a simulated polypropylene material called RGD450 (Properties linked here), it’s a very useful addition to our material line-up as polypropylene is not an easy material to print with or simulate generally speaking.  We could get a similar finish from our SLA prints but not with the required properties for a living hing (Like found on many consumer products, for example flip top bottle caps).

Please feel welcome to inquire about this service.

If the below video is not displaying please use this link:  https://youtu.be/0tH4Cx7gxYQ



Did you know….

Did you know that we have commercially available SLA printing in-house?  It’s worth mentioning as I have noticed one prominent 3D printing company in New Zealand stating on their web site they have “the only commercially available SLA machines”…  this is not true, we are SLA printing almost everyday right here in Tauranga NZ with a range of materials, offered for very competitive rates.  Below are a few examples:



New SLA services and materials

For sometime we have been offering an SLA printing service with white material, we have now added to our in-house capabilities with new SLA materials including Clear, Black, Gray,  Robust  semi-flexible and Cast-able resin for the investment casting industry.  (yeah, so just a few additions!)  Also these materials we have in-stock and ready to go.

SLA printing is great for pre-tooling prototypes or where a high level of detail is required.

Below are a few examples we printed lately:

SLA 3D prine fine detailLarge SLA print

SLA clear printSLA clear 3d prints

SLA 3d printed production partsSLA castable reasin 3d printed



Turning plastic into metal

Recently we have got more involved with producing plastic parts that will be used for investment casting in various metal from Aluminium to Titanium.  You may ask why do this when metal parts can be 3D printed directly?  The answer is somewhat layered,  Metal 3D printing is just the best thing for some applications but not others and investment casting or sand casting from patterns offers another useful option.  Namely cost advantages for larger parts but also material choice.

Below is an example of an automotive inlet manifold we printed that was investment cast in aluminium, the cost is around half that of 3D printing in metal a part of this size:

PLA 3D print for investment castingInvestment cast from 3D print

To help better understand the process and work with our casting partners better, we cast parts in-house to refine our printing technique for cast parts, below is a print and investment cast we made in-house:

3D print for investment castingInvestment coated 3D printburnout investment castingMetal part made via 3D print and investment casting

If you are interested to have parts cast or you have a casting business we would like to hear from you.

Think big, print big

What happens when customers ask us to make parts that are bigger than our printers are? We do it anyway.
There are some advantages in breaking up big parts into smaller pieces and joining them together, you may be surprised to know the main advantages are often speed and cost.

Take the below example of this 1/3rd scale International truck:
Large 3D printed 3rd scale truck

This part was about 200 hours of printing, if printed in one piece that is a long lead time! breaking it up onto 3 printers for example and running them 20 hours per day the print time is only about 3 1/2 days.  Also if one print has an issue it is not a big deal, but if after 190 hours a big single print has an issue that is a big problem.  Breaking the print up also means segments can be printed in the most advantageous orientations giving better quality and reducing print time further.

By the way this is a fully working truck made for Complete Site Works, pretty cool!

Large 3D printed 3rd scale truck along side big daddy

Hope you found this post interesting.

Andrew Palmer
Director, Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd

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
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd

Robust rubber like parts now available

3d printed rubber part

Today we are going to look a a rubber like material we are offering for production of end-use parts and prototypes.  It’s is a type of Flexibel PolyEster (FPE) , the great advantage of this material is it’s robustness when compared to materials available from multi-jet printers where the tear strength is not great.  It is a real engineering material with good resistance to heat & water while you don’t find these properties in the multi-jet materials (Yet).

See below video for a demonstration of the material:

We had to overcome a number of issues to produce parts with this type of geometry, the main one being these materials tend to stick to everything very well, so removing support material was a big issue. We have overcome this by using a special support material in our twin nozzle printers,  we print these materials in our industrial heated chamber machines that results in a nice flat part.

Andrew Palmer
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd

This is the machine of the future

Not because of what it is but how it was made!

3D printed machine 9 web

Recently we custom designed and constructed two semi automatic machines destined for production lines in China,  yes that’s right we are exporting machines to China from NZ!

The machines we recently built have virtually no machined components (excluding those that are “off the shelf”  like motors and pneumatic valves for example).  Instead 3D printed plastic and metal parts combined with laser cut frame components have been utilized.

In a past career I was Engineering Manager in a large corporate with a team of tool makers and maintenance engineers to get things done.  We designed and made semi-automated assembly lines for high volume manufacturing,  so being in a position to know the difference in manufacturing methods I have to say I’m so impressed with way way these machine come together and I estimate the time and cost would be half of what it was with traditional manufacturing.

Why the difference?

The standard method to make custom components is to machine individual parts and assemble them together, this works fine, however machining in a cost effective way means making one part out of many parts (compound parts). Compared this to 3D printing where complex components can be made efficiently in a single piece.  Let’s take a few examples below:

3D printed detail Loader assembly

In the picture above, this little folk has a special profile on the end for the application, it would be OK to machine this but not and easy job,  this part was printed in Titanium giving us exactly what was needed at a lower cost than machining.

3D printed Loader assembly

In another example above can be seen a component that was made in one piece on one of our printers, it has multiple mount holes and a bracket on the back for mounting a micro-switch.  If this was CNC machined it would have been made by combining a number of flat components to save machining time and materials.

Think about this… for machined components the drawing is more complex as more components need to be made and there is extra design time that goes into the way it will be made.  Now when it comes to assembling the parts it is more time consuming.  Compare this to the 3D printed one piece component that takes less time to think about, less time to draw, make and assemble.

Honestly it was a pleasure to put this machine together, things just lined up fitted and worked.

Next time you design what about designing parts for 3D printing?
We can help with 3D printed componentry, design advise for parts intended for printing and even complete turnkey solutions.


Andrew Palmer
Palmer Design & Manufacturing Ltd