We make use of 3D printed parts in our own machines. Why? We discovered that we are able to manufacture many components at a cheaper price compared to alternative manufacturing processes (e.g. CNC milling), without having to compromise on quality.

In the following, we will discuss some advantages and disadvantages between the manufacturing methods and illustrate the procedure by way of example:

3d printed finger protection

Machine component “finger protection” (Left: 3D printed <- -> Right: milled)

Both parts can barely be distinguished externally. While the difference in the manufacturing process is naturally visible, the appearance has no effect on the function. The component can be found in one of our machines, the AM.ALL.ROUND.

Now to some parameters that are relevant for us:

Weight

The milled part weighs 70.62g. The 3D printed part weighs 19.90g.

Explanation: In 3D printing we were able to construct the part with a hollow body. We were thus able to achieve a weight reduction of over 71% and to minimize our material usage.

Material usage and manufacturing costs

The two employed materials are POM (milling) and ABS (3D printing). Both materials are equally suitable, which should be ensured in advance! We calculated the cost per unit for a series of 8 pieces for 3D printing and 50 pieces for milling.

Cost comparison

We can thus save 15.50€ per part. The overall production costs are reduced by 72%.

Repair and storage costs

We keep spare parts for our machines for at least 10 years. With 3D printing, storage costs can be eliminated entirely, because we can always reprint parts in a quantity of 1 at a low price. We minimize our own costs and are thus able to offer much cheaper repairs for our customers.

3d printed work protection

Machine component “finger protection” (Left: 3D-printed Right: milled)

Why is 3D printing advantageous in this case?

  1. Processing steps and resetting of the machine: If this part is milled, then it is necessary to reposition the raw material over and over again due to the different inclinations. This is time consuming and therefore costly.
  2. Factor labour time: The 3D printer operates without supervision by an employee once it has been programmed. Thus, only the expenses for setup and quality management need to be taken into account. For a series of 8 pieces this amounts to 15 min.
  3. Machine costs: Depending on the model, a FDM 3D printer costs between 2,000€ and 30,000€. We print this part on the beri-boy, which costs 9,950€. Depending on the model, a CNC milling machine costs between 100,000€ and 200,000€. The machine costs are therefore lower for 3D printing, despite the larger expenditure of time.
The size of the series is only of limited relevance.

Even for larger series, 3D printing is cheaper overall. The only drawback for larger series is the expenditure of time. In terms of speed, 3D printing is significantly slower (8 pieces in 20 hours vs. 8 pieces in approx. 3 hrs.).

3d printed work protection

Machine component “finger protection“ in the machine

Conclusion

Check your machines for parts, for which 3D printing presents a meaningful solution. As demonstrated above, 3D printing offers decisive advantages in terms of cost & flexibility, which should be exploited. Check carefully, whether an application is meaningful for a specific task.

Do you have components with difficult geometries or components that must be extremely lightweight, but may, for example, be hollow?

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