Additive manufacturing or 3D printing – pretty new technology? Not really. Cubik Managing Director Paul Mullen has been using this “new technology” since the 1990’s during product development. In recent years the cost point for the equipment has reduced to levels where its really possible to have a 3D printer at home, but is this type of equipment really suitable for commercial use?
Over the past 5 years or so, a large number of hobbyist or semi-professional machines have come onto the market, mostly based on the FDM process. Fused Deposition Modelling is a process where a filament of material (usually PLA) is extruded onto a plate in layers to build up the shape of the model being produced. This technology is great, its low cost to run and to own and often can result in great quality output but the final product often has limited use beyond the product development.
Creality Ender 3 available online for less than £200!
Cubik Innovation purchased a Tiertime UPBOX printer about 5 years ago which uses this technology and it has worked hard ever since, often being used to produce internal components, “looks like” models, production test fixtures and so on. The downside is strength and accuracy. We have often used this printer to produce parts on ABS so that we get the impression of an injection moulded enclosure but because of the manufacturing process, any print always ends up with striations, so is not great from an aesthetic viewpoint.
In our latest investment round, we have increased our 3D capability by adding in 2 machines – Stratasys Objet which uses a “polyjet” process and a Markforged Mark 2 which is a Continuous Filament Fabrication (CFF) process. These 2 additions offer a wealth of options for both prototyping and production due to their radically differing printing approaches.
The Polyjet machine gives very high accuracy, very repeatable, real-world parts which can be used in low volume manufacture straight from the printer. The Mark2 on the other hand offers the ability to produce carbon fibre or glass fibre reinforced parts which are great for use where traditionally you may design a metal, fabricated part. Parts using this technology are unbelievably strong and very suitable for use in prototype applications.
To find out more about our capability, please drop us a line – Contact-us.
Markforged Mark 2