Limits of desktop 3D printers in business

We have already explored the pos­si­bil­i­ties and appli­ca­tions in a pre­vi­ous blog posts on our site. How­ev­er, this post focus­es on enter­prise FDM print­ers, espe­cial­ly in offices. We want to show you where the lim­i­ta­tions of desk­top 3D print­ers are and for which appli­ca­tions they per­fect­ly fit.

Limits of desktop 3D printers during prototyping

The appli­ca­tion of addi­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nolo­gies allows the ver­ti­cal inte­gra­tion of sup­ply chain struc­tures. Sud­den­ly you do not need sup­pli­ers for pro­to­types with large com­mu­ni­ca­tion­al over­head due to ser­vice providers. It is also pos­si­ble to quick­ly go through sev­er­al pro­to­type cycles in a short time and with­out immense costs with­in your busi­ness.

Still, one of the lim­i­ta­tions of desk­top 3D print­ers is that they most­ly use plas­tic (with resin as alter­na­tive). For this rea­son, depend­ing on the final prod­uct, only a con­cep­tu­al work on the design is pos­si­ble. There­fore, a ser­vice provider with large indus­tri­al 3D print­ing machines is nec­es­sary that can pro­duce met­al and ceram­ic prints such as Shape­ways with a wide vari­ety of mate­ri­als.

This rea­son in com­bi­na­tion with qual­i­ty prob­lems illus­trates the lim­i­ta­tions of the desk­top 3D print­er. A small batch-size of prod­ucts with desk­top 3D print­ers for test­ing in mar­ket­ing is not pos­si­ble due to the large dif­fer­ence in qual­i­ty (at least for most prod­ucts).

Quality limits of desktop 3D printers

This is a fast-devel­op­ing fac­tor because of which this top­ic also heav­i­ly depends on the 3D print­er in use. Depend­ing on the mod­el and price range most print­ers can­not print mul­ti-col­or objects. This results in mono­chrome prod­ucts and pro­to­types which reduce the pos­si­bil­i­ties of test­ing. 3D print­ers with­out a dual print­head also have qual­i­ta­tive weak­ness­es due to unclean sur­faces around the sup­port mate­r­i­al. With­out a dual print­head (two extrud­er noz­zles) the sin­gle noz­zle is prob­lem­at­ic for sup­port struc­tures lead­ing to lim­i­ta­tions in archi­tec­ture.

One of the last lim­i­ta­tions of desk­top 3D print­ers is the print vol­ume and accu­ra­cy when print­ing. The detail also depends on the 3D print­er — for exam­ple, Form­labs 3D print­ers can pro­duce very fine print objects with a high degree of com­plex­i­ty. In return, their devices use the SLS process and require a lot of rework­ing and clean­ing plus the machines only have a rel­a­tive­ly small print vol­ume.

The print vol­ume is usu­al­ly rel­a­tive­ly small even with FDM print­ers, but they also have dif­fer­ent sizes and forms. On our site we have a sort­ed list with fil­tersand a list for dif­fer­ent print­ing vol­umes. Small 3D print­ers offer print vol­umes of about 15x15x15 cm, with large devices also print­ing up to 50 cm in height like the Maker­bot Repli­ca­tor Z18 (here you can also find medi­um-sized 3D print­ers).

Conclusion on the limitations of desktop 3D printers

As you can see, it depends on the spe­cif­ic appli­ca­tion area for 3D print­ers. You have to be very clear about which device you want to buy and for what pur­pose. Nev­er­the­less, no one can dis­re­gard the immense ben­e­fits of ver­ti­cal inte­gra­tion for the test cycles dur­ing the pro­to­typ­ing phase and con­cep­tu­al work on the design.

For ques­tions or com­ments on the sub­ject, feel free to write us in the com­ment sec­tion below or via our con­tact form.

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