In the lead up to the 3D Print Show in London this October, we speak to Mark Tyrtania, Sales Director of Laser Lines Ltd, a leading supplier of 3D printers who will be exhibiting at a show that will look at how 3D printing could change the world, the same way as the Internet did.
3D Focus: What messages will you be putting out during the 3D Print Show?
Mark Tyrtania: Our main message will be one of accuracy, repeatability and ease of use of our equipment. At the 3D Printshow, we will be looking to expand people’s knowledge of the possible applications of 3D printing technology.
3D Focus: Is the 3D printing business growing or is it becoming more challenging and competitive?
Mark Tyrtania: The 3D printing market is very much growing despite economic pressures. As market awareness grows, new applications and uses are being discovered. New product offerings are entering the market all the time, not all of them good, which will inevitably put additional commercial pressures on any company.
Mark Tyrtania: The MOJO is a very exciting new machine platform for us. With the price point at just over £6000, we are sure the MOJO is going to be a great success. We have already received many inquiries. The MOJO does not target any specific areas as 3D printing is already in use in many market sectors. The potential MOJO does open up is the affordability of a reliable, accurate and easy to use system supplied from a reputable source.
3D Focus: What are the advantages of the ABSPlus material?
Mark Tyrtania: The main advantage of the ABSplus modelling material and the Stratasys FDM technology is that we utilise real world thermoplastic material that are commonly in use today. The ABSplus is a strong and tough material allowing parts to be handled without fear of breaking.
3D Focus: What are the typical prices for replenishment ABSPlus?
Mark Tyrtania: The cost of material varies a little across the 3D printer range depending on the exact model. As an example, the MOJO print engines will cost £285 for either model or support material, making it one of the most affordable systems available to run.
3D Focus: How is ABSPlus material used to build an object?
Mark Tyrtania: The 3D printers that Laser Lines support use ABSplus amongst other engineering grade thermoplastic materials. The parts are printed using the Fused Deposition Modelling process by STRATASYS. There are a few easy steps to follow; the original 3D CAD file is first sliced in the Z direction like a loaf of bread. The 3D printer has an extrusion head or heated tip, where a filament of modelling material is heated. The 3D printer then draws the profile of the part, with a fine bead of extruded material, layer by layer until complete, a bit like icing a cake! Once all the layers are completed the part is ready to remove from the printer straight away.
3D Focus: How can a Dimension 3D printer create a prototype for just £5?
Mark Tyrtania: The Fused Deposition Modelling process is unique in the fact that it only uses material that is directly used to build a part, and no material is wasted in creating a part. This makes the models very affordable and the 3D printers efficient to run. If a part only needs £5 worth of material to be created, then that is all the 3D printer uses!
3D Focus: The Elite printer highlights the ‘detail’ field – what does that mean?
Mark Tyrtania: The Dimension ELITE 3D printer has two layer options, 0.254mm and 0.178mmrespectively. If you have a part with fine details you may select the finer layer option. This will allow thinner wall sections and finer build details to be successfully produced. The new MOJO only has one layer option and that is the fine 0.178mm layer.
3D Focus: What is SST Station technology and why is it needed?
Mark Tyrtania: The term SST stands for Soluble Support Technology. This is where the support structure that is built alongside the model to allow over-hangs etc to be created, can be simply washed away in a clean-station. This process means that model finishing is hands free and allows finer detail models to be built than would otherwise be possible, as manual finishing can run the risk of breaking finer features.
3D Focus: Are Laser Lines concerned about the increasing affordability of 3D printing and the affect it could have on the rapid prototyping industry?
Mark Tyrtania: I am not unduly worried about the increasing affordability of 3D printers as the potential global market for this type of technology is huge and any exposure particularly in education has to be good. What is a concern to me is the level of expectation. To clarify that statement a little further, many of the new entry level products entering the market are based on 20 year old STRATASYS patents that have now expired. 3D printing technology has developed a lot over the 20 year period and I wouldn’t want any potential user put off by a bad experience. You cannot supply a £1500 system with the same level of functionality or reliability as a £15k system.
3D Focus: Do you think consumer 3D printers will adopt the same business model as regular printers? (ie – low cost printers but high cost printing materials?)
Mark Tyrtania: I don’t have a crystal ball but the entry level products are being reduced in cost all the time, so it is very likely that this trend will continue. I don’t think we should be making cost comparisons with 3D printing, an industry 20 years old with regular printing that has been around for a few thousands of years. The 3D printing market is not mature in any way; it still has a long way to go before being as common as the traditional printed word!
3D Focus: There is an established language for regular printing (PPI, paper size, pages per minute etc). What are the common standardised parameters for 3D printing?
Mark Tyrtania: The starting point for any 3D printing is 3D CAD. Once you have created your 3D CAD model of the part you wish to print you simply save and export that file in .STL format. STL is a universally recognised file format that allows any 3D printer to process your model and print a part. Due to the diverse nature and functionality of all the 3D printers available there aren’t really any other standards, although the industry is working towards standardising some of the language and definitions used.
3D Focus: Is research being done to reduce the amount of post processing required? (removing residue)
Mark Tyrtania: Product development has always been a major focus for the Stratasys range of 3D printers. Ease of use and no special facilities are major selling points of our systems and we are always looking at ways to speed up the process and make it more accessible. New soluble support materials are constantly being developed to speed up post processing time; only 6 months ago a new soluble support material was released for our Polycarbonate material to accompany what was already achievable with our ABS family of materials.
3D Focus: What other materials are in the pipeline? (metal?, copper, glass?)
Mark Tyrtania: We already supply the SLM Solutions range of Selective Laser Melting systems for use with metals. The range of metals includes Aluminium, Tool Steel, Titanium, Cobalt Chrome and Inconel’s. Once again exciting new applications are always being investigated.
3D Focus: Is there such thing as higher definition 3D printing? For example, what would be the equivalent of more dots per inch? (more/thinner layers?)
Mark Tyrtania: There are already technologies available that print in very thin layers to produce fine details. It’s a question of ‘one size does not fit all’ – your 3D printer choice will very much depend on what you want to do with the parts it produces. As the end use of parts can vary greatly it is something a user must give their full consideration.
3D Focus: Surely most objects have many different materials within them – will a 3D printer ever be able to print, for example, an electric toothbrush? I understand Objet Connex multi-material 3D printers are getting close to this?
Mark Tyrtania: Never say never. The Connex ‘multi material’ systems available from Objet do indeed open up the possibilities of both hard and soft material elements within one printed part. It isn’t in fact a different material, just one material with different hardness characteristics. The present speed, material properties and cost of the systems prevent it from being a viable production method but who knows what the future holds.
3D Focus: Do you think 3D printing will benefit third world economies?
Mark Tyrtania: Only when education in the use of 3D CAD is wide spread. At present I think many third world countries have more pressing needs for their population than model building. However there is some very interesting research being done into ‘3D printing’ buildings. If this ever got off the ground it could be very beneficial to developing nations.
About Laser Lines
Laser Lines was originally founded in 1975 and remains one of the leading suppliers of lasers and accessories, 3D printers, rapid prototyping machines and vacuum casting systems. Their experienced Support Team offer training, installation, maintenance and repair services for all their products. They also have a sub-contract facility for 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing requirements. For more information visit the Laser Lines website.
You can visit the Laser Lines stand at the 3D Print Show in London October 19th – 21st. Check out the stunning 3D Print Show website here.
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