3D printing is only starting to make inroads into the business of manufacturing printable products. However, it has changed processing enabled manufacturers to do things that have never been done before. In what ways has 3D printing changed processing? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard highlight some of the capabilities and limitations of 3D printing technology in product design and prototyping. Tune in and gain an inside look at what 3D printing can do and cannot do (yet) in processing.
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How Has 3D Printing Changed Processing?
This is the Ask Us Anything segment.
This Anything is a processing question, which is interesting. They’ve asked us how 3D printing changed our prototype process.
If you’re a new reader, maybe you don’t realize I’ll cover it again. We are product designers and developers. I’m an industrial designer and Tracy is a textile designer. We work together and we develop products, mostly for retail, although sometimes commercial products as well. We’ve been prototyping products for many years.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of the products we prototype are huge so we don’t 3D print them. Maybe we 3D print a little detail of them like a knob or something like that.
When we do furniture, we don’t do a lot on that because of build volume so there are some now getting there. We’ve used more traditional CNC machining of solid plastic for a prototype part for that.A 3D model is very deceptive. You really have to check the product out to have a sense of its quality. Click To Tweet
It hasn’t changed our process in terms of the large items, but the smaller items or the functionally technically challenging items definitely have changed that. It’s enabled us to do so much more than we were doing before.
We could do a lot more iterations of something small. For instance, we have a project where we were designing some new casters or wheels for luggage. We do print these luggage wheels here on our 3D printers. We put them on the luggage and test them.
You’ve probably seen them in our Instagram feed. They’re fun looking.
They have been there, but we put them on luggage and we don’t do it to look at it. We travel with this luggage. We did it on a couple of trips on the airlines, wheeling on normal ground conditions and in and out of hotels and things trying them out.
I expected them to be broken by baggage handlers throwing them onto the bed or something and they didn’t. I’m so thrilled that they didn’t.
I wondered how well they would hold up because we printed it with PLA. How tough is PLA? It turns out it’s pretty tough.
Especially at 100% infill, which these were.
We did do that on the luggage wheels because we wanted to make sure it was as strong as it can be.
It has changed our process. It’s enabled us to do many iterations in a shorter period of time for our clients. It’s enabled us to do a lot more experimentation than we could do otherwise. The number one thing is, it’s such a trap that a lot of young designers fall into. People and inventors come to us all the time and ask us, “Make us a 3D model so we can make a prototype or whatever it is.” If you don’t check it out yourself, if you don’t feel it in your hand and touch it, it’s deceptive. A 3D model is deceptive.
It’s a rookie error that a lot of people make, “I can see it on the computer. It looks good to me. I’m not going to get surprised by it.” Those types of people learn the hard way. They do get surprised. They can’t evaluate the actual scale of the item and no matter what you think, when you’re looking at a computer screen, you’re either looking at it larger than it would be in reality or smaller than it would be. It’s not the same. You will make mistakes.3D printing is gradually moving from being a prototype too to really creating printable products. Click To Tweet
We never go to tooling without making a full prototype ever and we’ve never done that. Here’s another problem that we have to raise so you’re aware of how it is. We make two different models. A model that goes to the 3D printer is not the model that we go to tooling with because you can make mistakes. You have to print things in a way that is optimal for the printer, not necessarily optimal for tooling. They’re not the same model necessarily and anyone who thinks that they’re going to have a 3D printed prototype for their invention and be able to use that same design files for making a tool or for injection molding, for instance, are likely making big mistakes.
You have to know what you’re doing. There are lots of people that can help you do that if you don’t have the skills yourself but there’s a difference. You can make the object look the same on the outside for evaluating the aesthetics of it and even the user interface. If you’re making something that’s a grip you’re going to hold in your hand. You can feel it and make sure that it’s the right shape and size but how that part would be manufactured in a large volume production situation. It has to become a different part. A lot of times it has to be split into two parts or more and how are they going to fit together.
You can also make errors in 3D printing. You can do things that you can 3D print but you cannot do injection mold. You can make undercuts and other problems that would be complex molding issues or impossibilities. To assume that your 3D print model is good enough for tooling, it needs to be evaluated.
There are different processes and they have different requirements so it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with 3D printing those things. It’s absolutely something everybody should do if they have the opportunity. If you don’t use somebody else to print that for you, it’s still valuable. It’s a new tool in the process. It has to be used correctly and properly.
We use it early in the design and development process. We don’t use it as a mold check or anything like that. We go and have someone make the CNC or the mold. The molding company itself make their prototype version for it to make sure that it’s going to be moldable.
Another thing I enjoy doing is designing some products that are intended to only be 3D printed and introducing those for an end-user on the 3D printer. To me, that’s some of the exciting things about 3D printing. We started and continue to use it as a prototype tool, but we’re moving more towards creating 3D printable products.
It’s only about 10% of what we do for our clients. It’s never been a part of what we do. We manage it but we never do it. We use it as a more heightened design and development process.
It’s valuable at that.
That’s how it’s changed our process. We’d love to hear how it changed yours.
There are no ends to the stories, I’m sure, that are out there in the different things people are experiencing. Please come to our website at HazzDesign.com and share those with us.
We’d love to hear the good stories and the bad stories and also the things that went terribly wrong as well. If we can help future people that will learn from your mistakes or mistakes that were made by outsources that you used. We’d love to hear that so we can help them.
It helps you solve some problems if you have some that need solving.
You can find us anywhere on social media @HazzDesign. Thanks again for reading and asking us questions.
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