3D Printing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a service in which we produce three dimensional solid objects from 3D CAD data.
An additive technology, this contrasts with traditional manufacturing techniques, such as milling, which involve removing materials to create a part.

How does 3D Printing work?

In general, 3D printing works by cutting a 3D CAD model of the part to be printed into many slices. The 3D printing machine will take a layer of data at a time and manufacture that slice or layer. Different technologies exist, however they all produce one layer at a time, simultaneously bonding it to the preceding layer.

 

The process continues right through the extents of the part until all digital slices have been “printed” into the physical form.

What are the advantages of using 3D Printing?

With 3D Printing on professional machines taking only a few hours, here are just some of the advantages these processes have to offer:

 

  • Reduce time to market: By using a 3d printing service, Models and prototypes of components can be produced in hours. Concepts can be tangible objects around a table instead of images on a screen. Product development cycles can be vastly reduced due to the speed of 3D printing, compared to other traditional methods.
  • Save money and reduce risk: 3D printing prototypes before costly injection mould tooling can lead to eradicating design errors which can lead to expensive tool mods or delays to product release. Many studies have shown that it pays to use a 3d printing service.
  • Get valuable Market Research: 3D printing market research models yield valuable market perceptions about your product often months before production batches are ready. The market research that is gathered by using a professional 3d printing service, either gives you added confidence about your product or enables feedback to influence design changes before production tooling is finalised.
  • Excellent communication tool: 3D Printed parts provide a perfect tangible product that offers no alternative to the design intent. it simply is-what-it-is, something that drawings, images or video cannot beat.
  • Assembly trials: 3D print multiple components from an assembly and test the assembly procedure. Production lines can be streamlined and design improvements made from feedback from assembly line trials.
  • Improve your packaging: with 3D printed parts available at the packaging design stage, greater design flare and/or improvements lead to better design presence in retails situations.
  • Greater design freedom: with 3D printing services used as a low-volume manufacturing method, design constraints traditionally associated with mass production can be eradicated.
  • Customise your parts: with 3D printing services used as a low-volume manufacturing method, niche markets utilise 3D printing for bespoke components including jewellery, dental, medical, art etc.
  • Engage your imagination: 3D printing can make virtually any geometry you can imagine, the possibilities are endless …
What are the advantages of using a UK 3D Printing service provider?

As we are based in the UK, we can provide you with fast turnaround times, clear communication and the ability to quickly answer any questions you may have with no need to wait. We also offer a quality finished product and the ability to easily understand your requirements. We have been a 3d printing service provider since 1996.

What is the simple three tier costing system?

The popularity of our 3-tier costing system has led to the purchase of an additional SLA machine, the 3rd in as many years.

The philosophy of the tiered costing system is thus:

Premium – We organise these so that customers can utilise an entire machine solely for their project. This means that parts are built in the shortest amount of time possible. In some cases multiple machines may be used to spread the load, reducing lead time once again.

Standard – Builds are organised so that several jobs are built at once with a good balance of efficiency and speed.

Budget   Builds are organised by MNL so that machines are stacked out for maximum efficiency. Whilst these are longer builds, 30% off standard pricing in exchange for a few extra days is often strongly utilised.

How fast can I have a 3D Print?

As we are a 3D printing service based in the UK, we pride ourself on fast turnaround times. Depending on the size of the “print” or build, it takes from as little as a few hours. As you will appreciate, our large 3D printing service can take several days.

 

We also offer a three-tier costing system with turnaround times to suit different budgets and timeframes.

Are all 3D printers the same?

The simple answer is no.

 

New 3D printers hit the news frequently. There are many different types especially at the lower, hobbyist end of the market. They are all layer-based technologies but that is where the similarity ends.

Resin-based systems are often the most accurate, with a good surface finish. Plastic extrusion or filament-based systems offer great material choice but can be limited with a surface finish. Powder-based systems offer a compromise of surface finish and accuracy.

Apart from the technology differences, 3D printers vary greatly in the size of the build envelopes available. Some are limited to very small areas (many less than 100mm cube) others offer systems above 500mm in all axes, whilst other bespoke systems venture into several metres in available size.

Build speeds are another crucial factor in 3D printers and are often one of the major deciding factors when buying professional systems.

Other factors that also influence the “points to note” about 3D printers are Accuracy, surface finish and material choice.

With such a variety of 3D printers available, it is for this reason that we have technology consultants on hand to help you in getting the best out of 3D printing, whether you require a one-off product or a large 3D printing service.

Which 3D printing technologies do MNL provide?

We provide all major 3D printing technologies. As each available 3D printing technology has various pros and cons; Our in-house technology consultants will draw upon 40 plus years’ experience in the 3D printing and engineering world to select the most appropriate technology for your application.

 

Our technology consultants will give an unbiased opinion on the best process to use to match your application, as a long-standing 3d printing service provider we offer advice dependent upon the following:

  • Function
  • Material
  • Speed of process
  • Budget
  • Size of part
  • Quantity
What do I need to supply to get a quote/3D Print?

Ideally, we need 3D CAD for each part that you need to be quoted. We can supply estimates based upon sketches or photos of existing parts. If you are supplying photos we would also need overall dimensions.

 

For the ideal CAD, format see here.

If CAD data does not exist, don’t worry we can cost to create it from your sketches, or we can arrange partners to laser scan existing parts.

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