How Figure 4 additive manufacturing can solve the ‘Triple Constraint’

Last month, 3D Systems released the second of its revolutionary Figure 4 additive manufacturing platforms – The Figure 4 Standalone 3D printer. Why revolutionary? Because the Figure 4 technology for the first time combines advanced, fast printing technology with the latest in materials science, software that understands 3D printing and low total cost of operations with six sigma repeatability.

In the past,  the ‘Iron Triangle’ or ‘Triple Constraint’; in other words, “Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.” has been the norm. The concept typically consists of one of the following patterns:

  • Produce something quickly and of high quality but it will be costly
  • Produce something at low cost and high quality, but it will take time
  • Produce something quickly and cheaply but it will not be of high quality.

Figure 4 additive manufacturing is an advanced development of an original patent filing by 3D Systems’ co-founder, Chuck Hull, more than 30 years ago. It uses non-contact membrane Digital Light Printing (DLP) to deliver astounding results for production of plastic parts. Namely, print speeds of up to 100mm per hour at six sigma repeatability. The statistical result is stated as Cpk > 2, where Cpk is the process capacity index. A result of 2 or higher is considered a “six sigma” quality process. To establish a Cpk value for the Figure 4 3D printing platform 30 test samples are required. These tests were run on 8 separate Figure 4 printers. The test parts were printed on each  printer and measured four times using micrometers ; the average was used for the statistical sample.

The production of a Cpk > 2 means that Figure 4 3D printing delivers the additive industry’s leading throughput and accuracy.

Figure 4 Standalone is the second of three plastic production platforms that will be available this year. The first was the fully-automated, fully-customisable Figure 4 Production platform with in-line post processing delivering a new paradigm in digital moulding for shop floors. Later this year the Figure 4 Modular will be released. This product delivers a control system that enables up to 24 plug-and-play auxiliary Figure 4 Print Modules to enable quick and easy scalability as part demand increases. The Figure 4 Standalone is a single printer that offers affordability and superior surface quality, ultra-fast for lower-volume production and fast prototyping for tens to hundreds of parts per month.

Figure 4 Standalone is a stand out

This 3D printer has a compact footprint, and a build volume of 124.8 x 70.2 x 196mm (4.9 x 2.8 x 7.7 in) and comes supplied with the 3D Sprint software for rapid file preparation and slicing, plus cloud connectivity for predictive and prompt service and support using 3D Systems’ 3D Connect capability.

The Figure 4 Standalone offers the same rapid print speeds and repeatability of all Figure 4 platforms, with an affordable initial investment of under $ 25,000. No annual ‘lease’ cost is involved. In fact, one can own outright several Figure 4 Standalone printers for what it would cost to lease a single competitive solution for 3 years. Manufacturers can print and use parts in the same day. Capable of digital texturing that rivals injection-moulded part quality, Figure 4 Standalone is compatible with a growing variety of robust materials.

The materials currently available include:

  • Figure 4 TOUGH-GRY 10, a high speed material for rapid design iterations providing up to 100 mm/hour build speed.
  • Figure 4 TOUGH-GRY 15, a strong, rigid material for production applications.
  • Figure 4 ELAST-BLK 10, an elastomeric, black material ideal for iteration and design verification of flexible parts.
  • Figure 4 JCAST-GRN 10, a castable green material optimised for investment casting of jewellery patterns.

Compared to Injection Moulding Figure 4 saves time and eliminates MOQ constraints

Figure 4 delivers the means to begin producing end-use parts immediately, even while tooling for mass production is being prepared thereby enabling you to get parts to market immediately. This is particularly useful for service parts that might typically be put on back order or in allowing design iterations to be tackled quickly and easily since there is no tooling. In this way Figure 4 complements other production methods; there is no delay in production.

With Figure 4 Standalone the cost per part remains a constant, regardless of how many parts are produced.

Figure 4 also delivers relief from Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs) that force manufacturers and service organisations to keep thousands of parts in inventory. Figure 4 Standalone enables the rapid production of just 1 or even hundreds of parts, saving you the typical MOQ penalty, back ordering and inventory carrying costs.

Compared with Urethane Casting Figure 4 offers tremendous advantages

Figure 4 Standalone can replace the urethane casting process entirely. Comparative, hands-on testing offers impressive results here as well. The chart below illustrates this for a dashboard air vent design:

Since urethane casting does not benefit from economies of scale, the part cost remains a constant. Figure 4 delivers lower part cost and significantly improved production times, with fewer man-hours and related costs.

The New Equation with Figure 4 Standalone

3D System’s Figure 4 means that manufacturers can rethink their value equations for production. By bringing this capability onto the manufacturing floor, production houses can rapidly respond to their customer’s needs, reduce costs for customers and revolutionise supply chain, resulting in the manufacture of plastic parts that are high quality, fast and low cost.

Figure 4 Standalone means today’s technology makes  those “cute” ‘You want it when?’ cartoons, that are in every engineering office, obsolete. Technology that produces high quality, affordable parts within hours,  eliminates tooling costs and changes, while allowing immediate response to changes on demand, is now real.

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