3D Printing Realities

A discussion of the strength of 3D printed parts, some of the disadvantages, and how to mitigate them.

by Bryce Dunn

When I discuss 3D printing it’s usually very positive. It is an amazing technology, and it allows the little guy to do things that previously cost large companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in mold making. However there are disadvantages and they are not talked about enough. These disadvantages include time, the steep learning curve, and strength of the printed parts.

Printing takes a long time and there isn’t much you can do about that. The highest resolution prints are done with a fine nozzle size (0.1-0.3mm) and layer height (0.06-0.12 millimeters per second) as well as fairly low rates of speed on the XY movement of the nozzle (15-35mm/s). You can sacrifice resolution to speed up the process by increasing the values of any one of these variables or all of them. A good middle ground that many professional printers use is a 0.4mm nozzle, 0.2-0.24mm layer height, and speeds from 40-60mm/s. More expensive machines that have higher quality bearings can increase these speeds even further without sacrificing much accuracy, just like modern CNC machines.

The learning curve is just something you have to make it through, just like when you buy your first lathe or milling machine. There are hundreds of YouTube tutorials on how to fix and service your printer as well as more advanced topics like material selection and slicer settings. The number one thing you will need is …

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