3D printing farms bridge the gap between prototyping and production. Check out some of the world's coolest 3D printing farms, which showcase the production capability of additive manufacturing.
Chances are, you’ve already heard of 3D printing farms: The term simply refers to a collection of 3D printers intended for speedy production.
Ever since 3D printing came out in the 80s, it’s always been criticized for being a slow and expensive manufacturing process. Well, that’s not the case anymore thanks to 3D printing farms. Say, for example, you want to produce 1,000 parts on a 3D printer and each part takes one hour to be made. On a single 3D printer, the production of those 1,000 parts would take 1,000 hours.
However, with a 3D printing farm consisting of 1,000 3D printers, the same production run would take only one hour to be done, in theory. This decreases both lead time and costs. And that’s the whole point of a 3D printing farm: On-demand, efficient manufacturing. 3D printing farms are bridging the gap between prototyping and production. There are no tooling costs involved, meaning products are brought to market at a much faster rate.
Another aspect of 3D printing farms that’s worth mentioning is the ability to produce personalized goods. Because only a digital blueprint of the part is needed to produce it, 3D printing farms are able to manufacture a lot of personalized items. It’s what the future holds and we’re very excited for it!
Alongside the benefits 3D printing farms bring, there are still a few downsides.
First of all, there’s the cost. It’s definitely not cheap to set up a farm containing hundreds of 3D printers. Apart from the cost, regular maintenance is also a necessity. Naturally, that also costs money.
Most of the big 3D printing farms use custom software for farm management. The software is used for displaying the operating state of the farm, as well as for notifying the staff when printers need human help.
Now that you know a bit more about 3D printing farms and the whole concept, it’s finally time to take a look at some of the world’s most impressive ones.
One of the most famous names in the 3D printing world must be Josef Prusa. In 2009, Josef Prusa founded Prusa Reseach and started making what’s now known as the best FDM 3D printer for consumers, the Prusa i3.
As most of you probably know, all Prusa’s FDM 3D printers have 3D printed parts. For example, the casing for the LCD display is 3D printed. As Josef likes to say himself, “Our 3D printers produce our 3D printers.”
Within the company’s headquarters, there’s a giant 3D printing farm. Prusa’s 3D printing farm now counts above 500 3D printers used for the production of parts for Prusa’s manufacturing line. Most of the printers in the farm are the3D printers.
Sure, a 3D printing farm this big needs a solution for maintenance. So all the printers in are connected to a custom software which manages the farm. The software notifies the workers if a problem occurs on a certain printer, when the filament runs out, or when it’s harvest time!
Everyone who has had a chance to visit Prusa’s HQ always highlights the 3D printing farm. It truly is something special!
In case you’d like to see how it all began with the farm, check out a video tour of Prusa’s 3D printing farm!
Before we tell you an interesting story of how Slant3D became a thing, let’s quickly say what it is. Of course, Slant3D is a 3D printing farm, but there’s more to it. Slant3D’s farm is able to produce more than 10,000 parts per week. The farm operates as a 24-7 production centre for everyone who needs it: Startups, large corportions, or even individuals.
Apart from the farm, the Slant3D company also offers 3D modeling services and even sells its own 3D printer. So it’s a big company doing many things, but the farm is still the business’ main focus.
Slant3D is one of the world’s biggest FDM 3D printing farms considering the production volume. It’s meant to provide the ability for everyone to turn their idea into a product at a great quality and reasonable cost.
A Curious History of Slant3D
But how did it begin? Well, before he founded Slant3D, Gabriel Bentz worked at a design company with a high focus on robotics. After the company finsihed a big project they had been working on, Gabriel came home for the weekend and quickly got bored. Suddenly, he started messing around and ended up creating a small robotic arm using a couple of servo motors he found alongside 3D printed parts.
The weekend passed by and on Monday, Bentz brought his creation to work. His colleagues liked it and they all decided to try and fund the thing on Kickstarter. The campaign succedded, which meant they needed to produce the product.
From day one the idea was to use 3D printers, but it quickly became obvious that it would take forever by using only a few machines.
So, the guys started adding up 3D printers to speed the production of their product. Later in the year, they’ve ended up with a 3D printing farm and that’s when Bentz decided to address the farm as a separate company. And, as they say, the rest is history…
Up to this point, we’ve only showcased 3D printing farms run by big companies. Well, now we’ll take a look at a smaller 3D printing farm that is no less impressive.
Out of Darts, run by Luke Goodman, is a company which specializes in upgrades for Nerf blasters. Amongst selling motors, springs, and similar upgrades for Nerf guns, there are also 3D printed parts available such as 3D printed triggers for the blasters.
In order to produce the parts, Luke set up a 3D printing farm of 22 Prusa i3 MK3 3D printers. As he said himself, he has chosen to work with Prusa’s 3D printers because they’re reliable and work in some sort of an ecosystem since Prusa also developed the filament and the slicer software.
Despite the fact this 3D printing farm has less than a 100 printers, it’s still a living proof of just how great the potential of 3D printing farms is. This way, Luke from Out of Darts has the ability to quickly prototype and produce the end products at the same time!
Formlabs, the leading company in SLA 3D printing, has a 3D printing farm which is used as a production centre for the sample parts for potential customers. Multiple Formlabs Form 2 3D printers produce sample parts from different resins every day.
The sample parts are sent to potential customers so that they can see and feel the parts made on a printer they even might end up buying.
It’s not a big farm, but surely is enough to meet the demand for a range of different sample parts. In case you’d like to get your very own Formlabs sample part, feel free to request one.
TrainLab is a toy company which makes train tracks. With the rise of additive manufacturing, TrainLab recognized the potential and invested in a 3D printing farm containing several Lulzbot TAZ 3D printers.
TrainLab is using its 3D printing farm for a continuos production run of tracks, adapters and other toy train accessories. Although we don’t know the exact number of printers in TrainLab’s farm, we think there are around 20 or so. All the printers are connected to a PC for monitoring purposes using AstroPrint software.
This here is a yet another brilliant example of how a 3D printing farm is capable of producing market ready products in a desired volume!
Feature image source: Ultimaker
License: The text of "3D Printing Farm – 5 Great Showcases" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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