‘The bigger, the better’ is a phrase all too often used, but when it comes to 3D printers, you don’t necessarily need to start big to think big. Bigger price and bigger size don’t always equal better 3D printing quality and higher speed. Here’s why.
Take a large 3D printer with a footprint of 1600mm x 800mm x 700mm. Unless you have a massive workspace, the size is far too large to sit on your desk, or if it does, then you’ll need to sit elsewhere. Then there’s the issue of print size and time. A large printer with a large print bed of 200mm x 200mm x 200mm can take hours if not days to print one object. And, if that’s the only 3D printer available, you’ll often have to wait in a queue of engineers before you can start your next project.
Not only that. If one print fails, then you’ll have to start again. Likewise, if you’re printing multiple parts and one fails, you’ll have to restart the whole process. Then there’s the price. The cost of a good quality large-scale 3D printer is likely to be over £5,000 and may be as high as £20,000: that’s a lot of money. Quite unsurprisingly, research has shown that UK companies see cost as one of the main barriers to adopting 3D printing.
Now think small, but how small? Well, small enough to fit comfortably on your desk, but big enough to print a model with a footprint of an A5 sheet of paper. A printer of this size will always be at your fingertips and become part of your design toolset. It will enable you to print and test ideas and tweak designs as you go.
A small 3D printer will not be able to handle a large print, but think about your last few models: would they fit onto an A5 sheet of paper? Probably. Of course, there are times when you will need to print big, and your model won’t fit on a small print platform. But even then, you can use software such as Windows 3D Builder to divide the model into several parts ready for printing. Divide and conquer.
Once all parts have printed successfully, they can then be reassembled and stuck together. The beauty of this technique is that if a print fails, then you can start printing that part again. As it’s just a section of the final print the overall printing time will be much reduced.
There’s another significant advantage of using a small printer. They’re generally cheaper but no less sophisticated. A good small dual extrusion system, for example, can be yours for just over £1,000. In other words, you can easily buy three or even four small 3D printers for the price of one large machine.
Having multiple, stackable small printers working at a print rather than one large machine has many direct advantages. Primarily, the speed and accuracy will improve. If a print fails on one of the printers, you can start that single print again while the other machines will continue at speed.
The train of thought is always ‘big is better’, but by using a stacked 3D print system, you’re going smaller to print bigger. Two, three or more printers will significantly enhance your 3D printing experience and abilities.
If you are thinking about a 3D printer, then think small to think big.
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’.