Engineering Remotely: Maintaining Productivity With Formlabs 3D Printers During Lockdown

As people across the UK adapt to a new way of working during, businesses are looking for ways to maintain productivity and drive innovation while keeping employee safety at the forefront. 

This is where desktop 3D printing fits in. With the right home setup, workflow and additive manufacturing technology you can maintain productivity and adapt quickly while working remotely. 

To learn more we spoke with GoPrint3D customer and Innovation Development Manager at Manchester PrintCity, Mark Chester, to hear how he’s been adjusting to this new reality with his Formlabs Form 3 stereolithography (SLA) Printer.

PrintCity is a 3D additive and digital manufacturing hub based in Manchester – home to a unique mix of manufacturing experts, designers, engineers, and students from the MSc in Industrial Digitalisation at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Describe how you’re working from home during this period and the technologies and tools you’re currently using to do so?

“At Manchester Print City we have 10 Formlabs printers and a range of other additive manufacturing technologies to use for our design work, with access to a wide range of prototyping materials. My current 3D printing setup at home includes a combination of a Ultimaker S5 fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer, and a Formlabs Form 3 stereolithography (SLA) desktop machine with a Finish Kit and Form Cure post-curing station. 

“This enables me to be able to quickly prototype designs using PLA, or Formlabs Draft Resin, before producing a higher quality prototype to send out to customers. Right now we’re conducting all our meetings on Zoom to allow one to one design sessions with clients, providing real-time feedback on their projects.”

Through Fusion 360 we can also share designs remotely through an internet browser, allowing the customer to inspect a 3D model without having to download the software themselves. Furthermore, to comply with regulations all prototypes are now disinfected and sent via post instead of waiting for clients to come across to the facility for collection.”

Why is it so critical for you to continue 3D printing during this challenging time?

“It’s imperative for our customers that we continue working during this period. The pandemic provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate their operations, processes, and products. Many of our clients are currently either developing new products which they can release during or after the pandemic, or exploring new methods of manufacturing through 3D printing due to issues with supply chains. We want to help support our clients throughout the pandemic and enable them to come out the other side stronger.”

“Having a 3D printer at home is hugely beneficial to my work as a greater amount of feedback can be gained from a physical 3D model than it can virtually. I tend to find myself 2D printing less and moving into 3D as my clients start to adopt a more digital mindset. Without it, many of my current projects would need to be put on hold as there’s only so far I can go in CAD.”

Formlabs printed parts.

What are your biggest learnings from 3D printing from home over the past month?

“One of the biggest takeaways from working from home is just how easy it can be. The Form 3 took hardly any setup time to continue printing again, meaning many of my projects could continue as scheduled without disruptions. With many of my clients, I’m finding working from home more productive as there are fewer distractions and I can get feedback quickly. However, it can be difficult to stick to normal working times without traveling in and out of work, so I would advise planning your day or week to ensure that you’re not working around the clock.” 

Some people working from home may be limited by resources, how are you managing to engineer from home sustainably?

“Running out of materials is something which is quite concerning, however, it has made me more selective as a designer around what prototypes I choose to print. At PrintCity, having access to multiple Form 3 machines means I can easily print designs whenever I need, which is a luxury that I don’t have at home. Knowing the tolerances and design guidelines definitely helps to ensure you only have to print once or twice. In addition, selecting the correct printing strategy in conjunction with the geometry I am printing helps me increase efficiency.”

Request A Formlabs Sample Part

Want to learn more about maintaining productivity using your Formlabs 3D printer remotely? Get in touch with our additive manufacturing specialists for more advice on engineering from home. You can also Request A Formlabs Sample Part to evaluate the quality of the Form 3 Desktop Printer firsthand.