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Making 3d printing work for you – must read!

Most of us have heard about 3d printing technology, but that doesn’t mean we know where to use it and how.

If you’re one of those people that have an interest in 3d printing but haven’t found out how to apply it… read on.

Understanding the technology

Without blowing your mind, I’m going to give you 3 common forms of 3d printing and briefly explain some pros and cons:

  • FDM

  • SLA

  • SLS

If you know the different types of printers, skip to the end to ask yourself the big questions before you engage in any type of 3d printing!

Understanding the technology

Fused Deposition Modelling

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) has it’s uses and is by far the most frequent method of 3d printing for hobbyists. It is essentially an automated glue-gun squirting liquid plastic in layers. It is usually the cheapest form of 3d printing, and the most accessible.  However the end result typically is a model with visible layer lines and sharper edges; an experienced 3dper is able to mitigate some of this in their post-processing.

On the plus side, it is CHEAP, and you can find many people with small desktop printers that will knock something up for you relatively quickly. Also you’ll have the ability to have plenty of wild colours… go ahead and knock yourself out!

FDB 3D Printing techology
FDB 3D Printing techology


Stereolithography SLA nis a whole different level. From here you can create beautiful objects that attract and hold an audience. Sharp lines are replaced by flowing edges, replicating some of the most beautiful man-made structures. Typically, you will find a vat of resin which a build platform dunks into from above, whereby a Class 1 laser will cure the photo sensitive polymer to form a hard plastic. Machines are more expensive (as are the resins) and the post-process is longer. The results however (for smaller objects) are incredible. Now we can appreciate why jewellers are using this tech for some of their stunning visual accompaniments!

Stereolitography SLA
Stereolitography SLA

Selective Laser Sintering

Selective Laser Sintering SLS operates in a similar fashion to SLA, however a laser sinters (binds) a powder together to form the object. From our experience you can generally build larger objects with SLS (something bigger than 15cm x 15cm x 15xm) than you can with SLA. That’s not to say you can’t build large objects with SLA – it’s just you’d need to print multiple parts and stick them together, and modelling them afterwards can get tricky. We prefer to use SLS or jetting (another type of 3d printer) for larger projects. And if you are using jetting you also get the added bonus of printing with multi-colour – which is great!

Selective Laser Sintering
Selective Laser Sintering technology

But what does it all mean Basil?

Picking the right method of printing for you is tricky. First you need to have a concrete idea about what you want created.

  • How big is the model going to be?

  • Does it require more than one colour?

  • How many models of the same unit am I going to make?

  • Do I have existing CAD files which can lower the cost of modelling?

  • Will I use this in conjunction with digital marketing (AR/VR)?

  • Who is my audience and how can I get this across to them?

Whatever you do - don't end up with a pile of this!

For instance, if you are looking at creating multiple large physical models of the same unit which needs to be in many colours as well thinking about using the data for digital marketing (CGI’s etc) then you should explore adding colour mappings into the CAD file and use a jetting printer. If, for the same scenario, you don’t need colour on your models then printing one unit as a pattern then molding further units could be a more realistic (and money saving) option. This method doesn’t work with more complex geometries.

Again, if you only need one unit but in colour with no digital marketing you could print via SLA or SLS then professional model making to a high standard. If the printing bureau you use is any good – they will tackle these questions and help you pick the method that fits your project, afterwall 3d printing is just another tool – but it can achieve fantastic results and really boost your campaign!

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