Formation Design Group recently developed a large format fused deposition, 3D printer that also features an integrated laser cutter. Although we typically develop products for client companies, the new rapid prototyping system was an internal project driven by our own use cases and prototyping needs.
After years of outsourcing rapid prototype components, Formation purchased a commercial stereo-lithography system for creating highly accurate prototypes. Although useful, SLA parts have limitations and tend to have higher raw material costs when compared to most common 3D printers or fused deposition based prototyping equipment. After considering a range of commercially available 3D printers to supplement our SLA machine, none was an ideal fit for our needs. Consequently, we decided to develop our own!
Because of its large build envelope of 330mm by 330mm by 230mm, material flexibility and integrated laser cutter, our new system has proven immediately useful. Since its creation, our initial system has been running and producing high quality prototype components nearly nonstop. The development of the system was led by Formation Mechanical Engineer Francis Garing who carried out mechanical design, software development, systems integration, testing and optimization for the printer. Based on the success of the initial design, we are now creating an even larger system with a build envelope measuring 600mm by 600mm by 1220mm.
The ability to quickly and inexpensively generate large rapid prototype components supports our “hands-on” development philosophy and encourages casual experimentation. Industrial Designer Ben Bailey had this to say, “Even though we’ve always had multi-axis CNC capabilities and a substantial prototype lab, with the creation of our first 3D printer there was an instant, positive effect on our work flow. Being able to quickly realize prototypes and test ideas on a whim and without worrying about cost has had a very positive effect on my creativity and how I work.”