Professional 3D Printers
Professional 3D Printers
The prices of printers in the professional market start at € 10,000, – and exceed up to € 1,000,000, -. Manufacturers protect both purchase and material price and may also vary by provider or region. The 3D printers are therefore better offset than the printers for the prosumer. We discuss, among other things, the application and industry, but also the price of the material and the machine for the different technologies and their printers.
SLA and FDM Systems
The two biggest players in the professional 3D print market are 3D Systems (SLA), and Stratasys (FDM). In the following sections of this section you can read how both companies developed their own technology at the end of the 1980s. Meanwhile there are more parties are already active. Following a failed collaboration with HP, Stratasys completed a merge with 3D printer manufacturer Objet at the end of December. Together, they are currently the largest market share with an estimated market value of $ 3 billion. 3D Systems is also actively acquiring new technologies with a total of 31 acquisitions until November 2012, of which 24 in the last two years. Various players are active in the metal printing market.
FDM is mainly used for functional testing of prototypes in different sectors. Tool manufacturers such as Black & Decker, Motorola manufacturer Motorola, as well as 3M use FDM to test new designs. The latest generation of Mars Rover is currently tested with seventy-printed components, even though they are replaced in the final model. The technology is also used to manufacture finished products. There are some Unmanned Aerial Vehicles flying around with FDM parts. In addition, both the controversial Wiki Weapon, and the exo-skeleton for the 2-year-old girl Emma, are manufactured using FDM.
FULL COLOR 3D PRINTING
Z Corp sells its ZPrinters in various formats.
The best-selling printer in the range is the ZPrinter 650 with a build volume of 254mm x 381mm x 203mm. The printer is sold with an integrated powder removal cab. The purchase price of the machine is € 45000, -. In the most detailed position, the machine can print with a film thickness of 90 microns. However, detail is not the main quality of the printer. Color, speed and relatively low material costs – € 0.20 per cc – are typical of the ZPrinter.
Both technologies are used exclusively for the physical representation of prototypes. Directly from the printer, the models are quite fragile, and deteriorate over time. However, various coatings provide protection and can counteract aging. The full color capability makes the technologies suitable for their own segment of applications. For example, engineers work with the technology to communicate with a customer or marketing department. Architects also adopt the technology.
The printers are suitable for Nylon powder, and glass filled Nylon powder. This latter enhances the impact resistance and structural properties of the printed model. Material costs are between € 40 per kilogram and – when supplied by the manufacturer – € 110 per kilogram. 3D Systems offers its Sinterstation Pro 230 – with a building volume of 550mm x 550mm x 750mm and a minimum thickness of 80 microns – for 750,000 euros. Recently, Huazhong University announced a printer with a building volume of 1200 at 1200mm.
The technology finds this broad application both in prototyping and in finished products. EADS Innovation Works in England manufactured the Airbike from printed components and applies the technology for manufacturing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. For consumers, jewelry is available with this technology. For example, Dutch Suuz offers customizable rings and bracelets in various colors.
Due to the unique form capabilities of 3D printing, and the ability to produce in low volumes, 3D printing is a special technology. Combined with the specific strength and rigidity of metal, technology is such an attractive alternative to CNC milling, pouring or sparkling. Thus, the technique is currently being applied in; the aerospace for gas turbines; automotive for suspensions and the medical sector for, for example, implants or tools.
Machine manufacturers are now printing end products, and there are special printers in the jewelry manufacturing market.
3D-PRINTEN IN METAL
The two most commonly used technologies – Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and associated printers – are extensively compared in this presentation. The biggest difference between the two is the energy source, where DMLS uses a laser (light) and EBM of electrons for curing. With DMLS, the light is focused using optical lenses, and diffused with mirrors. There are currently more materials available for DMLS. The electrons are focused with the first magnets and deflected with a second set of magnets. EBM offers advantages in less complexity, efficiency and construction speed.
The Arcam A1 – for small parts, such as medical implants – and the A2 for larger parts such as the aerospace industry – are currently the two available Arcam printers.
Concept Laser offers the M1 & M3 printers under the name Laser Cusing. Special to these printers is that they do not heat the building room, but completely heat the metal through the laser. This ensures better mechanical properties of the final product, similar to alternatives such as CNC milling. The printers of Concept Laser can also engrave. Renishaw offers – after acquisition of MTT Technologies – 3D printers under the name Selective Laser Melting, similar to DMLS.
The EOSINT M270 – for details see this comparison – is currently the most popular printer on the market. The machine costs € 430,000, – and includes full installation and associated equipment € 650,000, -. A major advantage of the machine is that the machine quickly switches between different building tasks, and that it is possible to print on existing models. The disadvantage is that – using a laser – the construction speed is limited, and that residual voltage remains in the material. Post-processing is therefore required, and further increases the construction speed. The variable cost of use – gas, building materials and finishing – is higher for DMLS than for EBM.EOS has recently marketed the M280 with a more powerful laser – which reduces residual stress – and a larger building volume. EOS offers – in collaboration with Cookson Precious Metals – a 3D printer specifically for the jewelry and watch industry, the Precious M080. The printer is specifically designed for printing in gold (18k) and has a building volume of 80 x 80 x 100mm.
3D Systems offers systems called Selective Laser Melting. Due to limitations in the field of medical regulation in the US, SLM system decline has unfortunately remained limited compared with Arcam and EOS.