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Author Topic: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?  (Read 262 times)

carlmt

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New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« on: February 07, 2018, 10:52:17 PM »

We have now been using 3D printed fittings in our kits for nearly 2 years - and these have all been SLS nylon produced, in the main, by Shapeways and designed by us.  In that time, we must have spent upwards of 5000 on these parts both for the kits and the prototype development of the fittings. It is now getting to the stage - within the next 12 months or so - that we will be looking to invest in our own 3D printer, but it will have to be an SLS type as the filament and liquid resin types do not meet our needs.
 
Both the filament and liquid resin types require support structures designing into the fitting for them to successfully print and this will require us to redesign all our fittings.  Additionally, they cant 'batch' print multiple fittings at the same time so would take an inordinately long time to produce a kit's worth.
 
An SLS machine does not require the fitting to be printed with support structures as the SLS powder itself will support the part as it is printed.  Another advantage is that it can print multiple parts with ease - as many as it takes to fill the volume of the print box.  However, the biggest down side to SLS is the cost of the machine.  In the main, they start at over 25,000.  Clearly this is not justifiable for the likes of us - hence the success of the likes of Shapeways!  We thought there was light at the end of the tunnel for us when we discovered a US company called Formlabs.  They have announced that they are about to launch an SLS printer that will cost somewhere around 10,000.  Again, a not inconsiderable sum - but much cheaper than the usual.
 
However, today, I discovered a Polish company than can probably satisfy our needs.  It is called Sinterit and they have a system that would do everything we require, and more, for an outlay of around 6000.  I know that sounds like quite an investment, but that is what it would be to us........an investment.  As we found with our laser cutter, we just couldn't do what we do with Linkspan without it.  There is a lot more we need to look at with this printer but, as I said, there is light at the end of the tunnel and having our own SLS 3D printer would open up so many more opportunities for Linkspan.  It would speed up prototyping, speed up kit development and packing and allow us to offer 3D printed fittings as accessories at a cost effective price - which we just cannot do at the moment when we have to pay the prices dictated by the likes of Shapeways.
 
The machine is about half the size of a standard fridge, runs off single phase 240 volts and, other than gloves and a breathing mask (because of the very fine powder) has no health hazards.
 

 
Exciting times!!!!!  Will keep you posted on developments  :-))
 
Carl

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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2018, 11:05:26 PM »

This looks to be an opportunity for Linkspan to both develop and diversify in the future - hope it all works out for you. :-)

Regards,

Ray.
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carlmt

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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2018, 11:27:41 PM »

Cheers Ray  :-))
Needs a bit more investigation, but I think it is the way forward for us - both to expand and to keep the costs reasonable.
When the 3D fittings amount to between a quarter and a third of the total cost of a kit, this sort of investment could be well worthwhile.

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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2018, 02:13:57 PM »

Good Luck with whichever model you choose Carl, I am sure you will still continue producing your 1st class kits and fittings
Mick F
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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2018, 08:21:44 PM »

It's size means that you do not have to extend the workshop to install it and, a thought that struck me is that you can offer a limited printed service of your own perhaps to print model boat parts for other model makers, assuming the set up and processing of drawing files does not eat into your Linkspan or real life time.

But, if it is not too onerous, it might help defray the investment costs of buying the machine? Idle time is dead time as some say!

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carlmt

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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2018, 10:44:45 PM »

It's size means that you do not have to extend the workshop to install it and, a thought that struck me is that you can offer a limited printed service of your own perhaps to print model boat parts for other model makers, assuming the set up and processing of drawing files does not eat into your Linkspan or real life time.

But, if it is not too onerous, it might help defray the investment costs of buying the machine? Idle time is dead time as some say!

Absolutely Ian - This is something we are going to look in to.  It is no good having an expensive desk ornament!  The printing 'vat' within the machine is big enough that we could probably print 4 or 6 kit's worth of fittings in one go.  This would then leave enough time between times to produce other parts and fittings for general sale.  As you say, depending upon how much time I have spare from kit development we could also offer a bespoke design and print service.
We could also do something similar with our laser to be honest - and it has been, and is being, used for cutting parts for friends both in styrene and wood.  This could be expanded........

carlmt

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Re: New 3D printer for Linkspan Models?
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2018, 10:45:17 PM »

Good Luck with whichever model you choose Carl, I am sure you will still continue producing your 1st class kits and fittings
Mick F

Cheers Mick!!! We will try  :-)) :-)) {-) {-)
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