I love the 3D printing industry, but it is often a challenge
to sort through the hype, wild claims, and reality of technologies growing and
evolving over the past 30 years. Recently, one of the most prolific buzzwords
has been “manufacturing ready” – but what does that even mean?
3D printing has three decades of use as a prototyping
technology. But for roughly 20 of those 30 years, early adopters - primarily in
the transportation industry – have asked more of certain 3D printing technologies
with the goal of meeting demands of manufacturing.
That “manufacturing ready” buzz is being driven by two
separate factors. The first is investment. Many companies enter the space with
significant backing to either deliver a new technology or a new version of an
existing technology to cater to the manufacturing industry. The other is
maturity. Stratasys has been hard at work refining our technologies for manufacturing
users. We’ve developed the most repeatable, dependable, additive process in the
industry with our Fortus 900mc Aircraft
Interiors Solution (AIS), and can back that up with public data via
America Makes and the National Institute of Aviation Research.
But how does it compare to all the other industry
“manufacturing ready” claims? Over the
past month, 3Dprint.com has published a five-part series, “Variability
of Additive Manufacturing Processes,” by Todd Grimm, answering that exact
question. The series compares six
technologies, including our Fortus 900mc AIS representing FDM - along with MJF,
SLA, SLS, CLIP, and an off-brand FFF process - shining the spotlight on
repeatability. Mechanical properties, geometric accuracy and precision are all
evaluated statistically, unlike past studies that steer toward one result or
another. The testing was performed independently and based on a robust and
On the mechanical properties side, FDM, MJF, and SLA all
perform quite well - with Coefficients of Variability (CoV) across tensile
strength and tensile modulus in the 1-4% range.
SLS, CLIP, and off-brand FFF didn’t fare as well. In particular, the off-brand FFF z-axis
tensile modulus had a staggering 54% CoV, meaning properties are essentially
uncharacterizable. Compared to the 1.8%
CoV for Stratasys FDM on the same property, we can clearly see that all
material extrusion processes are not created equal.
On the dimensional side, a large number of measurements were
made to characterize positive and negative features, both small and large.
Unfortunately, CLIP couldn’t be included in this part of the study due to its
small build volume. The off-brand FFF check parts also needed to be heated
post-build to reduce warping that otherwise made some measurements impossible. Exploring
the data, we see different technologies performed well on different feature
sets. Interestingly, SLS and off-brand FFF provide very good feature accuracy,
yet wide standard deviations show that while accurate, the technologies were
not precise. SLA, on the other hand, shows very high precision with consistent
results, despite those features being comparatively inaccurate. Grimm summed it
up this way: “MJF proved to be both inaccurate and imprecise. Meanwhile, FDM
had the best combination of accuracy and precision.”
3D printing has come a long way. And while each technology
continues to strive for “manufacturing readiness,” there are clear differences
between newcomers and the quiet diligence as Stratasys continues to improve our
products year over year with close collaboration of our customers. This is hard
work, and it takes time, but we take pride in the conclusion that “this
study shows that for variance in mechanical properties and geometric
dimensions, FDM is the front-runner for manufacturing readiness.”
It’s not just hype
anymore. Ready to get “Manufacturing Ready” and take the next step?
Explore and download the
complete “Variability of Additive Manufacturing Processes” white paper commissioned
by Stratasys HERE.