Industrial 3D printers FFF/FDM®

Key differences: industrial VS desktop 3D printers

There is no simple answer to this question as there is no official segmentation. Those segments are created mostly based on 3D printer cost, material portfolio or build type.

One of the most used differentiation is the one based on price. In FFF/FDM® 3D printers we can distinguish 2 segments:

  1. Desktop or commercial 3D printers – everything that cost less than 5 000 USD
  2. Industrial or professional 3D printer – everything that costs more than 5 000 USD. 

Unfortunately, 3D printers prices from the second segment may vary between 5 000 USD up to 300 000 USD.

Sidorowicz
This is the place where we must describe more in detail what features industrial 3D printer should have and why they can be expensive. Printer that cost more than 5 000 USD not always has to be industrial grade, sometimes they are only big.
Mateusz Sidorowicz, Marketing Director at 3DGence

9 features of industrial 3D printers

Industrial 3D printer can be a complementary machine that supports traditional manufacturing processes. Choosing a 3D printer that will suit your needs is not an easy task. Here are few features you should look for in those type of machines

1. It should print from high-performance and engineering materials

It means that printer should work with materials that are already used in the industry. Materials from those groups usually have exceptional mechanical properties and some unique features like chemical resistance or non-flammability. PAEK family, ULTEM® (PEI), PC or materials that are reinforced with carbon fiber, those are only a few materials that are parts of groups mentioned above.

Why not every 3D printer can print with those materials?

Most of the time high-performance materials need specific printing requirements to be printed correctly. ULTEM/PEI for example needs at least 170C in printing chamber to maintain desired mechanical resistance and dimensions. Other materials needs hardened drive gears, special build plates or dedicated nozzles.

That’s why this feature alone is a strong indicator that the 3D printer can be considered industrial. It means that it can use materials that are already used in the industry.

2. It should have large actively heated chamber​

Heated chamber not only allows us to print with high-performance materials. It also allows us to print materials like ABS in higher temperature. It is important as ABS printed in non-heated chamber is about 20-30% weaker than the same material printed in heated chamber.

The dimensions of the chamber are also very important. It will determine how big part or how many parts you can print at once. Maintaining high stable temperature in large printing chamber is one of the critical parameters for industrial 3D printer. Those chambers should have use mostly metal parts inside or components that are dedicated for those conditions.

PEEK 3D print

Big part 3D printed with ULTEM

ABS 3D print

3. Print speed

This feature relates to the overall performance of the printer. If you are comparing different 3D printers as print speed you should relate to the time that is needed to print the same model with similar parameters. This way allows you to check print quality and actual print speed. Sometimes values presented by various manufacturers are only theoretical.
High travel speed and fast print speed ensures overall lower printing costs.

Rapid prototyping is not the only application for additive manufacturing systems. Fast industrial 3D printers can also be used to produce end-parts by utilizing  many different design iterations.

4. It should have dual extruder system that uses dissolvable support materials

Engineering and high-performance materials are expensive and most of the time have high mechanical resistance. That’s why printing with support material that is the same as the model material is nothing you want. Cutting out the supports and then throwing them out generate costs that may be avoided when you are using dual extruder 3D printer with soluble supports. Nozzle system should move, so when the machine is changing the material there won’t be any risk of inactive nozzle to hit the printed model.

Consult your project with 3D printing experts

5. Maintenance time should be minimal

Costs are one of the key parameters when you are looking for a new 3D printer. Industrial 3D printers should have autocalibration procedures that minimizes time needed to set them up and run. Cloud base software for management is also a good feature that cut’s the time needed to send the file. It can also help with management when we have many 3D printers at our disposal.

Advanced 3D systems have toolless changes for critical components. You should be able to quickly change printing modules or nozzles.

6. Total cost of ownership (TCO)

Industrial 3D printer must cut costs, not generate them. You should check if manufacturer allows 3rd party materials and if this will void your warranty.

One of the best solutions on the market is hybrid material base. From one side 3D printer manufacturer has reasonably priced materials, when you are using them, manufacturer takes care of materials presets, print quality etc. On the other side you should have a chance to use 3rd party materials. When you will get experience in using certain 3D printing machine you can experiment with materials and material profiles..

We will help you to accelerate your production

Heated filament chamber in 3DGence INDUSTRY F421

3D printing module used in 3DGence INDUSTRY F421

3DGence INDUSTRY F421 equipped with large heated chamber

7. Safety first

Keep in mind that sometimes your 3D printer may reach 180°C inside the chamber and nozzle will melt the material at almost 500C. In this case your equipment should have air filtration system – there are materials that may be hazardous to operators during printing also the doors should lock automatically during print process

8. Small things matter

Some of the other useful features are camera that shows the print progress, cloud management system, wifi, heated material chamber, cleaning station (place where printer is changing nozzle and purging them), automatic empty spool change and more. Keep in mind that the more machine could do itself the better overall performance is.

9. Complete ecosystem

If you are working on a strict timeline and you do not have time for experiments you should be able to perform designated tasks without the risk of failure. In moments like this the ideal solution is to use 3D printer, software and materials made by one manufacturer. In this case you are sure that all the components works well together and you can expect ideal quality, accuracy and flawless prints.

What is the price of industrial 3D printer? All the features that I mentioned before are very important and should be installed in every professional/industrial 3D printer. That’s why there is a big gap between 3D printers with big building volume and industrial ones. If the price is below 20 000 USD (unless working area is very small) you should take closer look into the printer specification.
Mateusz Sidorowiczz, Marketing Director at 3DGence

What to do before buying industrial 3D printer?

Best practices

1. Contact manufacturer and ask for:

  1. Sample model – you should get information how fast it was printed and what was the cost of the print including consumables
  2. Total cost of ownership (costs of materials, energy, maintenance, consumables etc.)
  3. Support and service – if there is installation and training for operator, where is it manufacture and if spare parts are available

2. Double check the information

  1. If manufacturer claims it can print ULTEM/PEI and there is not at least 170°C in heated chamber you should ask for specific sample (it should be at least 100x100x10 mm)

3. Request for a 3D printed sample model

  1. Sometimes manufacturers have 3D printing service department where you can order commercial prints. That way you can be sure that parts you will produce on this additive manufacturing system are useful for you. Most of the time you can test many different 3D printing technologies and compare the results. 

How to choose a sample model?

Choosing a sample model is not an easy task. The model either should be something that you will print in your company or a complicated part that only the most advanced 3D printers can handle.
Below you can download our sample print that you may find useful:  

In this model you can find:

  1. Difficult to set up base of the model – the sample requires complex support structures, printer calibration, slicing software and printing strategy will be checked
  2. Surfaces on many angels – Support structures calibration will be checked
  3. Many thin walls – Slicer printing strategy will be checked
  4. Easily to compromise model integrity – Problems with extrusion train are going to be visible, sample part may break easily

What is the best industrial 3D printer?

3DGence INDUSTRY F421: market advantages

This 3D printer was created based on the industrial customers feedback. You will find there all the features that makes it industrial 3D printer. High-performance materials, interchangeable printing modules, cloud management system and many more. It offers best price to print volume ratio (360x380x420 mm) on the market with chamber heated up to 195 ºC.

ULTEM
Know more about industrial 3D printer
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