Frequently Asked Questions

3D Printing FAQ’s 

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 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 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.
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 take 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 good surface finish. Plastic extrusion or filament based systems offer great material choice but can be limited with 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 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.

MNL FAQ’s 

How Long Have MNL been providing a 3D Printing Service?

We were one of the early pioneers of using 3D printing for prototypes and development models, we had our first 3D printing machine installed in September 1996.

With more than 20 years experience of 3D printing, we have an enviable reputation in the marketplace especially for quality of parts and excellent customer service.

What 3D Printing Technologies do MNL Provide?

We provide the following 3D Printing Services:

 

  • SLA or Stereolithography; The original 3D printing service technology. The resin based one. The best offering for accuracy and surface finish. More extensive details and SLA related case studies follow me.
  • SLS or Selective Laser Sintering; The powder based one. A great blend of strength accuracy and surface finish. More extensive details and SLS related case studies this way please.
  • FDM or Fused Deposition  Modelling; The filament one. Lots of strength, and material choices. More extensive details and FDM related case studies click me.
  • Full Colour; The powder based inkjet one. Full colour aesthetic parts. More extensive details and Full Colour related case studies over here.
What Expertise do MNL Possess?

With over 48 years of 3D printing experience, operating in many different market sectors and producing many different model types, our experience is both deep and varied.

 

Our technology consultants are on hand to evaluate your requirements and advise the best 3D printing service technology to suit.

Their down-stream processes of finishing and painting, short-run polyurethane resin production, and other specialist finishing touches; add dramatic and often essential additional services to the product development and low volume manufacturing marketplace.

Do you have any examples of 3D printing projects?

There are over 100 different case studies on this site covering many market sectors, model types and using different technologies.

 

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.

What Size Machines do MNL Utilise?

MNL utilise the following machines and sizes:

 

SLA – Stereolithography

Standard Resolution machines – 2 off as follows

Build envelope 508 x 508 x 580mm

Layer thickness 0.1mm as standard. 0.15mm for turbo mode

Laser beam size 0.4mm (features smaller than this will not form properly or at all)

Standard Tolerances ±(0.1+0.075%) suited to most components that intend to be injection moulded.

Non-standard components with differing wall thicknesses or thick sections need to be assessed before an idea of tolerances can be given.

Hi Resolution Machines – 2 off as follows

Build envelope 250 x 250 x 250mm

Layer thickness 0.1mm

Laser beam size 0.25mm  (features smaller than this will not form properly or at all)

Standard Tolerances ±(0.05+0.075%) suited to most components that intend to be injection moulded.

Non-standard components with differing wall thicknesses or thick sections need to be assessed before an idea of tolerances can be given.

Ultra-High Resolution Machine

Build envelope 125 x 125 x 250mm

Layer thickness 0.05mm

Laser beam size 0.075mm (features smaller than this will not form properly or at all)

Standard Tolerances ±(0.05+0.05%) suited to most components that intend to be injection moulded.

Non-standard components with differing wall thicknesses or thick sections need to be assessed before an idea of tolerances can be given.

SLS – Selective Laser Sintering

Standard Resolution Machine

Build envelope 380 x 330x 457mm this gets seriously reduced when thermal borders and shrinkage are accounted for.

Practical envelope for Nylon:- 320 x 270 x 400mm

Practical envelope for GBAL:- 330 x 280 x 400mm

Practical envelope for CastForm PS:- 340 x 290 x 420mm

Layer thickness 0.1mm (0.15mm for CastForm PS)

Laser beam size 0.35mm (features smaller than this will not form properly or at all)

Standard Tolerances ±(0.15+0.15%) suited to most components that intend to be injection moulded.

Non-standard components with differing wall thicknesses or thick sections need to be assessed before an idea of tolerances can be given.

FDM – Fused Deposition Modelling

Fortus 450mc

Build Envelope 406 x 355 x 406mm

Layer thicknesses include:

0.127mm

0.178mm

0.254mm

0.330mm

Standard Tolerances Parts are produced within an accuracy of ± .127 mm or ± .0015 mm/mm whichever is greater).

Note: Accuracy is geometry dependent. Achievable accuracy specification derived from

statistical data at 95% dimensional yield.

Fortus 900mc

Build Envelope 914.4 x 609.6 x 914.4 mm

Layer thicknesses include:

0.178mm

0.254mm

0.330mm

0.508mm

Standard Tolerances Parts are produced within an accuracy of ± .089 mm or ± .0015 mm/mm whichever is greater).

Note: Accuracy is geometry dependent. Achievable accuracy specification derived from

statistical data at 95% dimensional yield.

What Materials do MNL Utilise?

Stereolithography – SLA

 

Watershed 11122XC – Data sheet

Selective Laser Sintering – SLS

Exeltec 1550 XS – Superior Finish Nylon – Data Sheet

Exceltec 2550 GBAL – Glass & Aluminium Filled Nylon – Data Sheet

Fused Deposition Modelling – FDM

Nylon 12 – Data Sheet

Ultem 1010 – Data Sheet

Ultem 9085 – Data Sheet

PPSF – Data Sheet

PC ISO – Data Sheet

PC ABS – Data Sheet

PC – Data Sheet

ABS Plus – Data Sheet

ABS M30 – Data Sheet

ABS ESD7 – Data Sheet

What Market Sectors Benefit From MNL's 3D Printing Service?

Aerospace – link

Architectural – link 

Automotive – Link

Food & drink – Link 

Art, fashion, TV & film – Link

Medical – Link 

MOD – Link 

Engineering – Link 

Sports and leisure – Link 

Packaging – Link 

Consumer goods – Link

Point of sale – Link

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