Sometimes, small just isn’t going to cut it. And for all their capability and excellent performance, desktop 3D printers are limited by their size. Even the biggest desktop 3D printers can only manufacture something the size of a football. The way around that is to print large models in parts, but that increases design and manufacturing complexity.
The permanent solution is a large-format 3D printer, something small-scale and large batch manufacturers have started investing in. For manufacturers and designers who use vacuum and thermoforming, large-format 3D printing has proven particularly useful because it allows for the fast and effective creation of high quality patterns and master tooling.
The most popular large-format 3D printers on the market are made by 3D Platform. They incldue the 3DP Worktable, Workbench Classic, Workbench Pro and Workbench Xtreme.
3D Printing Thermoform Dies
Manufacturing large thermoform dies on a small desktop printer is possible, but you’ve got to navigate around the frustrating issue of aligning parts and ensuring seams are adequate. With a 3D Platform printer, you can print these patterns as one piece which makes the setup of a thermoformer much easier, not to mention CAD design. You can manufacture a series of customised patterns in one go, with a minimum 1000 x 1000 x 500 mm build volume on 3DP printers.
The master shown in the image above is 2 foot x 2 foot (0.61m x 0.61m). It was printed as one part from Polymaker PC-MAX filament. It cost $1,700 to produce, versus the $2,500 with a machined pattern. Crucially, manufacturing times are slashed with 3D printing. Here’s a close up of the master:
As you can see, 3D printing has perfectly captured the detail drawn in CAD. This master is ready for thermoforming with no post-processing. Parts printed on a 3DP printer are ready to go fresh from the print bed.
Because 3D Platform printers have an open filament system, you’re not limited to specific materials or types. You can make masters with PLA, PETG, HIPS, PVA, ABS and a wide range of other plastics. Higher-end 3DP printers are also available with the HFE900 extruder, which can produce parts at 16x the speed of industry standard extruders.
You can find the full range of 3D Platform printers here. You can find more interesting manufacturing case studies like this one here. Research and development is here.
3D Printer: 3DP Workbench Pro
This information was first published on the 3D Platform website.