Pieter Vos July 11, 2014


5 Parameters That Decide the Success
of Your 3D Printing Project

Up to how many parts is 3D Printing the most cost-efficient manufacturing technique? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in the 3D Printing business and at the same time the most difficult one to answer. After all, series size is far from the only parameter that decides the success of your Additive Manufacturing project. With the 3D Print Barometer, Materialise developed a free tool that goes beyond replying, “It depends,” and provides tangible insights into the feasibility of 3D Printing your product.


When referring to 3D Printing as a manufacturing technique, people are often focused on quantity. “Costs increase as quantity increases”, seems to be the rule of thumb. A basic rule like this originates because 3D Printing’s advantages are interrelated and can probably be difficult to accurately assess. Here are the 5 most important parameters to help decide a part’s readiness for 3D Printing:

1. Part Size Most 3D printers work with a closed build platform. This makes it possible to print several parts simultaneously. The smaller your objects, the more you can combine in one single build, saving operating expenses, material and time. On the other hand, it limits the size of the parts that can be printed. Large objects can easily be split up into sections, but that might require extensive assembly afterward, which conflicts with producing fast parts, integrating the functionality and reducing the number of components, some of the 3D printing’s main advantages. In general, our guideline is that every part the size of a football surely has the potential to be produced in a cost-effective way using 3D Printing.

Spot parts for 3D Printing

Spot parts for 3D Printing

2. Part Complexity One of the biggest advantages of 3D Printing is the freedom of design. A product with a complex geometry will be harder – if not impossible – and more expensive to make with traditional production techniques. With the right approach to design and engineering, there simply is no other cost-effective technique to address design challenges, such as incorporating difficult undercuts and integrating functionality. In Additive Manufacturing, complexity is free.

3. Project Value The total commercial value of the device or equipment your parts fits in, is something to take into consideration. 3D Printing a component can add value to your product in terms of customization, functionality, time to market, etc., but that’s not necessarily the case. And if it’s not adding value, it’s probably just adding costs. For price-sensitive consumer goods, these costs will be much harder to justify than for high-end industrial solutions.

Pinovo’s handheld vacuum blaster, a great example of a 3D printed component for a high value solution

Pinovo’s handheld vacuum blaster, a great example of a 3D printed component for a high value solution

4. Series Size The quantity that makes 3D Printing a considerable production method is different in every single project. What’s clear is that there are no fixed costs, like molds, that influence your part’s price. The cost per part will always remain the same in 3D Printing, no matter what the total quantity might be. A balanced volume/price ratio highly depends on the other 4 parameters in this list. For example, although the price per part does not decrease for bigger quantities, a large series still can be relatively cost-effective because you might save on assembly: with 3D Printing you can print one piece what might otherwise consists of five.

5. Purpose What is the purpose of your object? Does it have a function, or does it only need to look good? Or both perhaps? Nowadays, everything is possible in terms of post-processing and finishing to enhance the surface quality of 3D-printed parts: painting, smoothing, dying, coating, metal plating, you name it. But as with everything in life, “the more you want, the more you pay” is also true in this case.

3D printed vacuum gripper by Intrion, saving weight and assembly costs thanks to integrated functionalit

3D printed vacuum gripper by Intrion, saving weight and assembly costs thanks to integrated functionalit

The comparison of these parameters and the weight of each one of them in the total project indicates how well 3D Printing suits your product. It’s key for every design engineer to know whether 3D Printing will do the trick or not.

If you want to test your part

have a look at www.3dprintbarometer.com
Have more questions about your 3D Printing Project? Check out our Factory for 3D Printing.
Do you want to spot parts that can benefit from AM in your facilities? Discover our 3DP SCAN©



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