Compared with traditional subtractive manufacturing (CNC machining), the slightly longer processing time of incremental manufacturing has always been a controversial point. However, in the view of Matrix, this is not absolute. From a long-term perspective, the use of additive manufacturing can usually save time when specialized prototyping is required or a large amount of processing time is consumed. In other cases, such as when using appropriate resources, subtractive manufacturing can be objectively faster.
Simply put, the most appropriate production technology is selected according to the actual operation scenario. Whether it is increasing wealth or reducing material manufacturing, the two should complement each other. Of course, 3D printing can also use several strategies to shorten the printing time of plastic parts. Today, we will discuss 3D printing prototyping strategies to save time, and how to operate and ultimately realize the production of parts through Eiger software and 3D printer equipment.
What increases printing time? (and how to avoid it)
To design parts that save time, we need to enumerate the factors that increase 3D printing time. Below, we’ll cover each of the key time-wasters and why they cost you printing time.
Large size printing
This is a typical contributor to increased printing time. Large size means more material consumption and printing time. Because the print head moves over a part being printed layer by layer significantly slower than infill, adding more surface area (and thus lengthening the print path) can significantly increase print time. This means smaller parts with more complex surface details may take longer to print than larger simple parts. Take gears and cylinders as examples, as shown below. The outer diameter of each part is the same, which means the cylinder requires more material. However, due to the increased surface area, gears increase printing time by nearly 30% compared to cylinders. Sometimes, having advanced features is what is required for a successful part; however, on other occasions, simpler parts can always be made in less time.
layout support material
Adding support material to your part affects its print time more than any other factor. Since our support material consists of long, slow tracks of printed lines, adding support material is tantamount to adding a large amount of printing area. While support materials are an essential element, there are things you can do to reduce the time costs associated with them.
1. Try reorienting the part: Often, changing the orientation of the part can drastically change the overall print time. A great example is a ski knee brace that a member of our team printed a few weeks ago. In one direction, the huge volume of the shell requires a lot of support structure, which will take 13 days to print. By printing the part upside down, this will shorten the print time by 11 days.
2. Limit the cantilever structure: If the part structure allows it, it can be printed more quickly without adding support materials. When turned on, our algorithm supports printing with Onyx materials vertically over 45 degrees (30 degrees for nylon materials). If you have more overhang areas that cannot be changed (requires support material), make sure your non-critical cantilevers do not exceed these values. This will effectively reduce the amount of support material used and save you printing time on other cantilevered structures. If you don’t have an overhang that requires support material, turn off the support and limit the angle of the Onyx to 55 degrees (45 degrees for nylon). The part will print great and save you a lot of time.
3. Consider the design of the printing surface: To manage which cantilever structures need support (and which do not), figure out the direction in which the part should be printed before designing it. This will allow you to design parts that are better shaped by 3D printing technology, rather than changing the part style to fit the printer. While it may not save time printing, it will save time designing the part.
4. Split the part: Sometimes the part is too complex to eliminate support structural changes. In this case, there is still an option. By splitting the part into two or more parts, you can more easily reduce the support structure. After the parts are printed, they can be glued together using Loctite 401 adhesive to obtain the final complete part.
This is a classic analysis point of FDM technology printing: layer resolution and printing time. Our default 100-micron layer resolution produces a high-quality surface finish. Increasing the layer height to 200 microns sacrifices a bit of surface quality, but at the same time cuts the print time in half. This is great for last-minute, plastic-only 3D printing projects (printing with fiber optics requires a fixed layer height of 100 or 125 microns), as your part can be printed in two parts in the original time. See the table below for time estimates for different story height settings for the previously analyzed gears.
3D printing design
There is an unhealthy trend in additive manufacturing: the overuse of 3D printers to print unnecessary parts. It’s easy to combine conventionally machined and 3D printed parts into one monolithic part, but it increases printing time. From a time-saving perspective, the solution is very simple: only the printed geometry can benefit from 3D printing technology. 3D Print Design: Don’t print shafts or other parts that are trivial to the machine as it will only add unnecessary workflow.
This is an indirect cause of increased printing time; however, it is equally important. Making sure your print plate is calibrated and zeroed before each print, and that you have enough material to print on, can drastically reduce print time. Failed printing wastes printing time and materials. Shortening printing time will greatly improve printing efficiency. Here are some ways to reduce failed printing:
What doesn’t help: Adding speed holes
Adding holes to your print may save material, but chances are they won’t save time. Holes (which we’ve already mentioned in general) increase part surface area and increase print time. Check out the comparison below. Because of the large hole, the hollow cylinder uses less material, but the printing time is extended by 10%.
Saving time on printed parts is a fickle art: it varies widely on a part-by-part basis and doesn’t always work the way you expect. However, if you follow the strategies above, you can shorten your printing time in most cases.