In recent years, 3D printing has gone beyond just being a prototyping tool for parts manufacturers. It is in the process of revolutionizing the industry by significantly reducing post-processing needs and even actually making production quality items. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard delve into some of the successes and challenges in using 3D printing in parts manufacturing. They differentiate between production ready and production quality parts and define what it takes for 3D printed parts to be considered production quality.
Listen to the podcast here:
Are 3D Printed Parts Production Quality?
This is the Ask Us Anything segment.
Almost anything production.
This episode’s question is about production.
The question is, “Can 3D printed parts be production quality?” We’ve been doing some homework on this and collected a podcast interview.
With Addaero Manufacturing, they do a lot of aerospace parts while they’re working towards certification. They’ve achieved it in some cases. You need to be certified for production quality in their particular industry. Many industries don’t have those kinds of requirements, but you do need to make sure that your production quality is matched to what you would get off of any injection molded part or other things like that. It needs to be apples to apples in your industry.
In a nutshell, to answer your question, absolutely 3D printed parts can be production quality, but not all of them maybe. It depends on your machine, your material, and what you’re doing. We are seeing many 3D printed parts and companies making 3D printed parts that are used in production. They’re not just a prototype.
I want to be careful here that any 3D printed part is not necessarily production quality. The material choice is a significant part of that and there are carbon materials coming out. There are metals, of course.
There’s aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, and then cobalt chrome, to name a few.
You need to know the properties of what you need that production part to be, what are its properties, and then find the right material for that. It goes a little bit further than that. There are infill choices and other technical things.
In metals, that’s not even an issue because they’re solid.
When you’re FFF printing in plastic, it is.
A good example would be our 3D printed necktie called the 3D twist tie. If you haven’t seen it, you can go to our website at HazzDesign.com. There is a YouTube video showing how we developed it and you can see a time-lapse video of it being made on one of our printers. This is something that we’ve designed and developed to be a production item and be something that’s made on an FFF 3D printer that you can buy. It’s not quite available out there yet, but it will be and we’ll let you know about that.
The reality is, you’ve got to test and make sure when you’re developing a product, designing is one thing but developing it, executing it, and printing it on a 3D printer, you’ve got to make sure it’s going to perform how you expect it to. With our tie, I’ve tested it for months. At a week-long trade show in Las Vegas, and it’s the longest trade show or business conference I’ve ever been to, I wore one of those ties in a different color every single day and experienced using it in practical applications.3D printed parts are not just production quality. In some cases their quality exceeds that of products of traditional manufacturing. Click To Tweet
I found one day that what I needed to do for that day was a little too abusive for what that tie was built to handle and it broke. That caused me to go back to the drawing board and re-engineer how it was not designed, as much as though how it was built. We print it at 100% infill. I know it’s one of those boring things you don’t want to know about, but the reality is it made a stronger part. The thing to me exceeds the requirements of wearing a tie. Having it interact with the seatbelt in your car or bumping into somebody, it’s not going to break that type of thing. It looks the exact same. It’s as beautiful as it was.
We discovered a happy accident doing that. We got rid of a lot of those little hairs that we were always removing and cleaning up. That was a happy accident for us because we’ve been struggling in trying to figure out what’s the deal with those stupid hairs.
How we could, in a practical sense, be producing that product on a regular basis and not have to build in 30 minutes of time for someone to take it off the build plate and clean it up. That’s what happened, 100% infill with our 3D printer happened to, for whatever reason, eliminate those little hair string anomalies that go on and prints. We take out the build plate, break off a few little support pieces that are made to break off easily, and it’s good to go.
We’re talking about production-ready and production quality, which are two different things. Production-ready is, to me, you need less post-processing. That’s one of the things where if you’re going to go, have something tooled and traditionally manufactured, you have to remove sprues, and do some of these things to get it all cleaned up and ready for production. If you remove all of that labor because you’ve just printed it out, then great, but the quality of its properties has to be the same.
That’s where you have to make a critical choice in how you make it 100% infill in Tom’s particular case here and the material you choose to make it of which can also give it strength and properties. You can also give it a little weight. There are products out there that have a little weight to them as well. The only other thing about it is that if you have something that has high tolerances or all of those things, you have to test it.
We’ve had a couple of people advise us that there’s a percentage of the difference between your computer model on the screen and your printed output based on what printer you’re using and you need to check that. If you have parts that need to fit into each other and all of that, you have to check your tolerances, double-check all of that, and possibly run it through testing like Addaero. They’ve got to run stuff through certification and have it tested that it is a similar quality to a cast in metal part, for instance.
If you’re interested in this subject, I recommend you read our 100th episode, which is where we interviewed Addaero Manufacturing. They point out that not only is it a production quality or production-capable but in many cases over traditional manufacturing, they’re making stronger parts with less weak points because they’re not having to join materials together. They’re making one part where in the past it might have been several pieces welded together. They don’t have to do that, so it’s stronger.
As always on this show, we say it all comes down to What the FFF?! What is it that you’re making? It determines whether or not it can be production quality or not. This is definitely why if you’re new to 3D printing, go out there and find a consultant, makerspace, and resource. Find someone who’s selling 3D printers or anyone out there like a 3D hub guy. Find somebody who has 3D hubs. Go out there and start talking to them about your part, what you want to do, and what you want to make. When you start talking about that, you’re going to find many resources that are at your fingertips. On top of that, we have a resource page if you know exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a service bureau or a material source, go to our website, HazzDesign.com and you can find our resource page, tips, and tools and hopefully, you can find something you need.
It has come to my attention that we must make the distinction that it’s free. We don’t charge you. It’s free for you to ask us anything. We don’t charge anything for our services. We’re going to go out and find an answer if we don’t have it because if you’re asking it, then there are a lot of other people out there asking it. That’s our goal here to answer these questions and spread the word about what 3D printing can do and how it can change your business.
We want to be a cooperative, helpful resource for anyone interested in 3D printing somehow in their business.
Thanks for reading.
- Addaero Manufacturing
- YouTube video – 3D Twist Tie
- 100th episode – past episode
- Twitter – Hazz Design
- @HazzDesign – Facebook
Listen | Download | View
Hear the episode of the WTFFF?! Podcast by using the player above OR click to download any episode.
Help Us Help You!
Have some feedback? Leave a comment below. We will read and respond.
- 3D Startpoint Facebook
- 3D Startpoint LinkedIn
- Hazz Design Twitter
- 3D Startpoint YouTube