Whether you own 3D printers, consult for clients, or are developing products for yourself, choosing the correct print method is an incredibly important facet of product development. To help illustrate this, let’s use two of Purple Porcupine’s print processes, FDM and PolyJet, as an example to create a road map to success.
We’ve found that there is usually one question that helps illuminate the correct path forward, when choosing between FDM and PolyJet: Are you looking for a functional model, a marketing sample, or both? While there are many other purposes of using a 3D printer, this question is a great jumping off point, when trying to understand what your needs are.
Depending on the answer to this question and the geometry of your part, we can start to evaluate which printing process will be your best option. Keep in mind, there are always exceptions to the rules, but let’s break this down.
This is a straight-forward question: Do you need your part to work (function) as the final product is intended? If this is your answer, you should know what your requirements of “function” will be. Things like how much stress it will need to endure, necessary chemical resistance, flexibility or rigidity concerns, and so on and so forth. FDM is typically the best option for this need.
Our Stratasys FDM systems provide a variety of materials that meet most requirements. Because they use a thermoplastic filament, you will be closer to achieving the material properties of an injection molded part than you would with a competing technology.
The exceptions to this rule and reasons for moving towards PolyJet would really only be when you need very tight tolerances or having two components that require a smooth interaction between opposing surfaces. A couple examples would be a bottle cap threading onto a new and unique bottle or a piston that you would like to minimize friction when in demonstration.
A marketing sample shows an awe-inspiring model to help secure funding and give your product the ability to take flight. This is an important aspect of product development for large corporations, small businesses, and individuals alike. Aesthetics can mean everything.
When thinking about aesthetics, our J750 full-color printer is the first thing that comes to mind. It can provide a detailed color layout, with texture mapped surfaces, and logos, all in one print. Not only does this remove most of the labor cost from your project, but it can allow you to manufacture your prototype fast enough to meet your next day AM meeting without burning the midnight oil. Other advantages include the ability to print over molded parts at a range of shore values in one print. This is a huge advantage for anybody with limited resources and time.
Of course, there is always the possibility that part of your presentation of the marketing sample will be to demonstrate function, as well as aesthetics. If you find yourself in this situation, having two models is a good way to prepare for this, one FDM and the other PolyJet. It’s a good way to showcase both attributes, but this begs the question: Do you want one model to demonstrate both?
This is the knee-jerk response… “I want it all!” And when there is a will, there is a way; however, you need to be prepared to do the work yourself or pay someone to do it for you.
First you want to determine what is required to function and what is required to be aesthetically pleasing. Once you have a good understanding of what these will be, you can break out your part into subcomponents with the plan to print using FDM and PolyJet. FDM for stress load, PolyJet for presentation, and assemble the components accordingly. There is always an option for sanding and painting either print process if dissecting a part in CAD is not appealing to you. It just may not be the best approach for budgetary concerns.
I hope this has helped to shine a light as to how you can better tackle your 3D print projects and evaluate your method of approach for prototyping with your teammates, your customers and your vendors.
At the end of the day, Purple Porcupine is here to help you accomplish your goals and we are happy to answer any additional questions you may have. Please reach out to us by email at [email protected] or by phone at 949.474.9222. We hope to hear from you soon!
Meet Mike Stone
As a Sales Engineer for Purple Porcupine, our prototyping service bureau, Mike helps guide people through the process of bringing their ideas to life. He focuses on the customer’s objectives, while remaining within their timeline and budget. What Mike enjoys most about Purple is working with fun and intelligent colleagues and clients. If you haven’t had the chance to meet Mike yet, stop by the office or connect with him on LinkedIn.