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.
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