What is An Industrial 3D Printer?

Businesses need industrial 3D printers for their quality 3D printing results. However, the necessary high level of 3D printing quality ultimately requires a more expensive 3D printer. Therefore, industrial 3D printers have a higher price tag. Depending on the kind of specialized functionalities needed in the 3D printer, budgets for an industrial 3D printer is at least $5,000 – $10,000. However, depending on other characteristics such as print size and materials, it is not uncommon for an industrial 3D printer price to be over $1 million. For this article, we will focus on industrial 3D printers priced on a $5,000 – $10,000 budget since they are within reach of businesses of all sizes.

Industrial 3D Printer Features

An industrial 3D printer is designed to be a high-quality machine with mechanical as well as hardware and software features in place to ensure a high success rate and high print quality.

Some mechanical features that contribute to an industrial 3D printer being a high-quality machine include:

  1. A full metal frame for smooth movement during the 3D printing process
  2. A metal build plate for even heat distribution
  3. The design of an extruder system repeatedly tested and still be able to perform over the long run to show its reliability

Some fail-safe measures that help ensure a high success rate include:

  1. A design to be able to resume the status of print job in the case of a power outage
  2. Filament runout sensors that pause the print job when the lack of filament triggers the sensor

A feature that contributes to a high print quality includes a 32-bit ARM Cortex motion controller board for high position accuracy and smooth movement for the motion system during the printing process. A motion controller receives the instructions for creating a 3D printed part and segments the instructions into manageable steps. Each step will include a set of actions performed by the 3D printer. An industrial 3D printer will have a high performing controller, such the 32-bit motion controller on Raise3D printers to segment the instructions into smaller steps. By having smaller steps the 3D printer will be performing less action within each step. This allows industrial 3D printers to have more accuracy and smoother movement while being regulated by the 32-bit motion controller.

The high-quality design of an industrial 3D printer is important because the quality of the build of the machine will affect the 3D printing process, which will affect the quality of the final product.  For example, every 3D printer has a flat, heated surface, called a build plate where the printer layers the 3D printing material to create a 3D printed part. A high quality and well-designed build plate and printer bed will ensure a successful print.

It is important to understand that since the build plate is where parts are created, the design and structure of the build plate can affect the 3D printing process, and ultimately the final result of the 3D printed part. Therefore, an industrial 3D printer’s build plate will be designed to a higher standard.

For example, all Raise3D printers are designed with a metal build plate. The metal build plate is very flat and provides even heat distribution. The flatness and even heat distribution make the print model stick to the print bed well, with less of a chance of warping off the print bed. The even heat distribution ensures that all 3D printing materials, filaments, are not damaged during the printing process due to unequal heat distribution across the build plate.

For the industrial 3D printer’s design and features to be performed to a high standard, the printer needs to be built in a high-standard factory. For example, the Raise3d factory is ISO certified under ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

Industrial 3D Printers Have Dual Extruders

Most industrial 3D printers feature dual extruders because dual extruders expand the printer’s printing capabilities. First, it is important to understand that depending on there are two types of dual extruders available.  Industrial 3D printers can feature dual extruders which work in unison or independently of one another. Extruders that work independently of one another are known as Independent Dual Extruder System, IDEX. Depending on which kind of dual extruders are featured on the industrial 3D printer, leads to even more specialized functions.

In general, dual extruders enable the printer to process a wider range of 3D printing materials, also known as filaments. The ability to process a wider range of filaments allows the industrial printer to create more kinds of 3D printed parts. This includes 3D printed parts made up of two colors, parts made of two different filaments, and parts that require a support structure during printing.

Support structures are only created using a filament that can act as a print support material. Two examples of support material include HIPS which is commonly paired with ABS, and PVA which is commonly paired with PLA. PVA is a specialized filament that is a water-soluble 3D printing material. It is often used in support structures and for water-soluble 3D printed parts. However, PVA can only be processed if the 3D printer has dual-extruders. Industrial 3D printers, like those from Raise3D, are designed with dual extruders and can accommodate filaments with processing requirements, like PVA.

Simply because the industrial 3D printer has dual extruders does not mean that both extruders must be used for each print job. There are times when print jobs only require one nozzle to produce the 3D printed part.  However, a 3D printer operating with one extruder runs the risk of accidentally hitting the part with the extruder/nozzle that is not in use, causing issues or print failures. Industrial 3D printer manufacturers implement two common methods to prevent this problem.

The first method is to lift the non-printing nozzle higher to the model layer that is being printed. Nozzles stick out of extruders and can hit the part being printed when they are not in use. Under the design of the first method, an industrial 3D printer will enable nozzles not in use to lift into the extruder to not hit the printed part. For example, Raise3D’s Pro2 dual extruder 3D printer and the Pro2 Plus large format 3D printer lift nozzles to produce high-quality dual extruder prints. Both of these Raise3D printers have a 1.5 mm nozzle lifting distance, meaning the nozzles will lift 1.5 mm away from the printed part.

The second method requires an industrial 3D printer featuring an independent dual extruder system, IDEX. The IDEX printer will prevent print issues from the unused extruder by moving the unneeded extruder/nozzle away from the part being printed. For example, the E2 desktop 3D printer from Raise3D is an industrial 3D printer with IDEX. If the E2 was printing with only one extruder, the E2 will use its IDEX capability to separate the two extruders. Then it would push the unneeded extruder off to the side, away from the print job. By separating the two extruders, the E2 can continue printing without running the risk of damaging the print with the unneeded extruder.

Both methods are proficient at printing 3D printed parts designed for an industrial 3D printer with dual extruders. Regardless of the kind of dual extruders an industrial 3D printer features, it will produce a high-quality 3D printed part. However, depending on the production and manufacturing needs of a business, IDEX can offer additional features such as the E2’s Duplicate or Mirror Mode. Duplicate mode is when the E2 prints a part and a copy of the part at the same time. Mirror mode is when the E2 prints the part and the part’s inverse at the same time. Both Mirror Mode and Duplicate Mode use IDEX to print one part on each extruder. Both processes lead to faster and more efficient production. If faster production and manufacturing is important, IDEX may be a function to keep in mind when searching for an industrial 3D printer.

How the High-Quality Design of an Industrial 3D Printers Improves Printing Accuracy

The high design standard of industrial 3D printers leads to better accuracy during the actual 3D printing process. A high degree of accuracy is crucial in the printing process because it helps produce a better final product.

3D printing is a process where thin layers of material are built up to create a part. To build these layers, the 3D printer needs to be able to smoothly glide back and forth without malfunctioning or losing its position. Therefore the machine itself needs to be built to protect against these types of issues during the printing process. Industrial 3D printers are designed to a higher standard to have a smoother printing process and produce a high-quality 3D printed part.

For example, Raise3D printers are all built with a full metal frame which acts as a reliable motion system for smooth movement and precise positioning during the 3D printing process. The full metal frame on Raise3D’s printers is made of aluminum. Aluminum is both lightweight and durable to withstand the force of the 3D printer’s back and forth movement during the printing process. If a printer’s frame is not metal, it may not be strong enough to withstand the force from the printing process. If the frame can not handle this type of force, it can be damaged by the back and forth movement during the printing process. If the frame is damaged then the X, Y, and Z axes will be altered. The X, Y, and Z axes are used to measure the part’s design and size. If the X, Y, and Z axes are altered, they can not follow the design and size instructions for the part. Axes that can not match the instructions for a part’s design will lead to an inaccurate final 3D printed part. However, a full metal frame like that found on Raise3D printers is strong enough to withstand this type of force to lead to an accurate final 3D printed part. Raise3D’s full metal frame gives our printers a smoother movement. The beneficial combination of the metal frame’s accuracy and smoother movement results in a better 3D printed part. A better 3D printed part results in a better performing 3D printed part.

Industrial 3D Printers And 3D Printer Filaments

More than one 3D printing material, known as filaments, may be necessary to accommodate varying structural or functional requirements (some such requirements include flexibility, and strength). An industrial 3D printer will be designed to accommodate a wide variety of filaments to meet different kinds of project requirements.

One capability of an industrial 3D printer will be a higher nozzle and printer bed temperature. Higher nozzle and bed temperatures give the ability to print more materials and engineering plastics. Being able to accommodate more printing materials and engineering plastics will give the industrial 3D printer more uses, also known as applications.