When it comes to 3D printing, you need to think about economies of scale. As our white paper explains, it isn’t just your output-to-cost ratio that matters, but also the physical scale of the printer and size of production. The size of 3D printer you need to prototype, produce small bespoke runs or test ideas will largely depend on your space and budget constraints. If keeping footprint and cost down are what’s keeping you awake at night, then a small 3D printer is for you.
As little as five years ago the 3D printer market was in its infancy, despite the technology having been around for decades. The printers were big while technology and materials available were limited. The entire industry seemed a strict geek-only area of interest, with a slight flutter of fascination from the general public.
Today 3D printing has evolved, and the technologies and materials haven’t just moved on, they’ve leapt forward. Now it makes sense to own a 3D printer. You don’t need to be an engineer or someone who likes a good tinker with the hardware; today you can buy a fully formed and usable tool.
Today’s small 3D printers like the CEL’s RoboxDual make sense. Like a standard 2D printer they can sit as part of the office or workshop furniture, ready to be used. Need to test an idea then click print and off it goes; in a short time, you’ll have the 3D realisation of that model you’ve designed in your hand.
A small 3D printer takes up little room, and the materials are cheap; a reel of printable filament can cost less than it takes to fill up most 2D printers with ink. There’s also a vast variety of materials enabling you to produce high-quality rapid prototypes without the need to outsource.
If you design a saleable product, then a 3D printer will enable you to produce small bespoke runs of that product. All without having to send the designs off and spend thousands on commissioning the tooling. If you’re using a 3D printer as part of your workflow, you can test ideas as you go. Big improvements can also be made to other processes, for example, by creating custom jigs and fixtures to hold a workpiece or form a shape. Make a change to a design, print, test and rework until that design is right. The initial investment in the hardware can be expensive, but over a short period of time businesses will save on outsourcing prototyping.
The beauty of downsizing is that it also reduces printing time. A large print can take hours if not days. But if you split it into smaller prints, across multiple machines, and reassemble them at the end, the process can be much faster. You’ll also reduce risk as even if one print fails, you won’t have to scrap the whole model and restart from scratch.
The printers may be small but the advantages that come from the fluid design process is a major benefit for such a small footprint. As your uses of a 3D printer build, you can add another through a stackable system. The larger your demands for output the more printers can be added.
Using multiple 3D printers on a network or standalone workstation is an easy way to integrate the machines into your workflow. The issue of space is addressed in a stackable system: all printers stack neatly one on top of the next to provide maximum printing area for minimal footprint.
So, when it comes to 3D printing and economies of scale, don’t think big when it comes to the physical size of an individual printer. Start with one small printer and then stack the next when budgets allow or workflow demands. A stackable 3D printing system is designed to grow and evolve with your business, and that’s why size matters when it comes to the scale of your aspirations.
To learn more on how small, stackable 3D printers and how they can make 3D printing faster and more accurate, download our white paper, ‘Stackable: the key to faster and more accurate 3D printing’.