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February 17, 2012 AT 10:50 am

An answer to your question! #9 “What kind of materials, tolerances, and costs are associated with 3D printing?”

Steve asks:

3D Printing – I have a small part that I am considering having 3D Printed. The item is cylindrical 1.0″ high X 1.6″ diameter. It will have a 1″ diameter counter-bore to a depth of 0.75″. Once installed it will not be exposed to sunlight however it will be exposed to humidity. Temperature of installation location will not exceed 100 deg F. The part will be used to hold a potentiometer. Q: (1) generically what materials are readily available to 3D print such a part? (2) what tolerance can such a part be printed to? (3) Are there 3D printing shops that can do 1 to 5 pieces economically?

Sounds like a pretty cut-and-dry design that shouldn’t be too hard or costly to have printed. To start, 3D printers are capable of printing a variety of materials that are deposited layer by layer until your design is fully reproduced. The materials and process dictate the resolution, and as you see from the lists below, there is a pretty big difference between materials.

There was actually a pretty good and detailed explanation of 3D printing tech over on Shapeways website. There is also a great resources list on Ponoko where they have the “Best 3D Printing Blogs of 2011” and “Best 3D Printing Articles of 2010”.

Shapeways:
Cost/Materials:
– PA 2200 – $1.40/cm^3
– Acrylic-based photopolymer – $2.99/cm^3
– Stainless Steel – $8.00/cm^3
– The rest of their pricing is here

As for resolution:
– PA 2200 prints at 0.2mm res. with 0.7mm min. wall thickness.
– Acrylic-based photopolymer prints at 0.2mm res. with 1mm min. wall thickness
– Stainless prints at 1.0mm res. with 3mm min. wall thickness
– The rest of their specs are here

Ponoko:
Cost/Materials:
– UV Curable Resin – $3.39/cm^3
– Nylon / Polyamide – $1.70/cm^3
– Stainless Steel – $10.53/cm^3
– The rest of their materials are here

As for resolution:
– UV Curable Resin prints at 0.2mm res. and 1.0mm min. wall thickness.
– Nylon / Polyamide prints at 0.5mm res. and 1.0mm min. wall thickness.
– Stainless prints at 1.0mm res. and 3.0mm min. wall thickness.

These are just two of a bunch of companies that would be happy to assist with your design. You might even try talking with some folks over at RepRap and seeing if someone would help out and print something out of PLA or ABS!

I hope this has helped to answer your question and good luck with your design!

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you! Exactly the type of information that I was looking for! The ball is now in my court to familiarize myself with the available materials and the resources you identified.

    Steve

  2. Additional to this great information, I would suggest that if you can, print a single piece and then cast the rest yourself in a plastic resin. Casting materials are relatively inexpensive and it’s pretty easy to learn how to do it.

    http://smooth-on.com has lots of products that would work well.

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