Industrial 3-D Printers: How to Find the Best One for You
Industrial 3-D printers take 3-D printing to the next level by providing commercial quality prototypes and end-user products. These heavy-duty machines come in several builds and sizes, and choosing one largely depends on your business’s unique needs and budget.WhiteClouds, a 3D Printing company, has some samples below of what Industrial 3D Printers can do.
WhiteClouds, a 3D Printing company, has some samples below of what Industrial 3D Printers can do.
To help you find the right machine for your business, here are 10 things to consider.
The first step to choosing a 3-D printer is finding one within your budget. Industrial 3-D printers cost anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000, which gives you a wide range to consider, depending on your budget.
Factors that affect pricing include printing materials, printer specs and size. When it comes to selecting a 3-D printer, price seems to be directly correlated with printing output and quality.
2. Printer type
Why do you need an industrial 3-D printer? Printers can be used for making prototypes or for full production, or both. If you only need to create prototypes, you can spend a lot less by finding a printer that specializes in producing mock-ups.
There are also 3-D printers that can handle both prototyping and production. These printers can either be programmed for the type of printing required or they can automatically detect the output purpose based on the printing material that’s installed. But these will likely cost you more.
Industrial 3-D printers use a variety of printing materials. Choose a machine that supports the type of material your prototype or end product needs.
The most common material used is thermoplastics. These are durable plastics that melt when heated and solidify when cooled. They can also be melted again and reused, which reduces waste and is a more economical option.
There are two types of thermoplastics:
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) — ABS is the most common material used by 3-D printing professionals because it is flexible, strong and tolerates high temperatures.
PLA (polylactic acid) — PLA produces thinner layers, forms sharper corners and comes in a range of colors. Environmentally conscious companies may prefer PLA because it is corn-based, making it a more biodegradable source of 3-D printing material.
Here is a quick breakdown of other popular materials used in industrial 3-D printing:
Resin — Best for creating smooth objects, precision printing and varnishing
Nylon — Best for custom colors. Its natural color is white, which can then can be colored to specifications
Wood — Uses a mix of recycled wood and polymer and is best for wood-looking finishes
Stainless steel — Mostly used in commercial 3-D printing. Most items that are printed contain a blend of stainless steel and bronze to create durable finished products
4. Printer specs
Industrial 3-D printers have a multitude of complicated technical specs. Here are four basic but important specs to pay attention to based on your business’s needs:
Extruders — Extruders contain the actual printing nozzles. If you need to print with multiple materials and in several different colors, choose a printer that has more than one extruder. Having more extruders also means faster printing times.
Speed — Lower-end industrial 3-D printers can print at a rate of 100 millimeters per second; higher-end printers can print up to 30 pounds or more of materials per hour. Mid-range printers offer a great mix of speed and cost for most businesses. Factors that also affect speed include the number of extruders, printing resolution and product details.
Resolutions — Like traditional printers, 3-D printers also allow you to select low- or high-resolution printing. Lower resolution means thicker layers, while higher resolution makes layers less visible. It’s imperative to check the minimum and maximum resolutions to see if they fit your requirements. Some manufacturers may also send or show you samples of various resolutions.
Print area — If you need to print larger items, you’ll need a larger print area. Industrial 3-D printers can print objects up to one cubic meter. The larger the build area, however, the more the printer will cost.
5. Printer design
Will your printer be stored in a warehouse or garage? Or will it be in a more professional setting, such as an office or shop? Not all industrial printers are built alike, so consider your facility and how the printer will fit visually and in terms of space. For instance, some printers are built with sleek designs and beautiful framing, perfect for offices and shops. Others have rougher features that are more suited for warehouses or garages.
Additionally, consider the printer’s dimensions and how it will fit into your designated area. You may be surprised at the size of industrial 3-D printers, especially if you are purchasing one online. Larger models require much more space and may even be designed to be built into walls. Make sure that the printer you choose is both practical and can be accommodated by your facility.
Industrial 3-D printers come with several display options. This includes a touch screen, buttons and colored LEDs. You can choose between small and large LCD displays, but larger displays often have more features, such as the ability to visually track printing progress. Depending on your preferences, a printer’s display can be the difference between an easy- or difficult-to-use printer.
7. Printer assembly
Do you have the time, tools, skills and human power to build your 3-D printer? Some 3-D printers are sold like Ikea furniture, making them a cheaper option than fully assembled machines. Keep in mind, though, that in addition to physically assembling the printer, you will need to calibrate and test the printer yourself.
Consider the type of accessories and peripherals your printer needs, such as support cartridges and attachable storage. Depending on how you store your printer, you may also want to look into mobility systems, such as carts, so you can move the printer around your facility.
Another accessory to look into is built-in or attachable cameras. These cameras allow you to closely monitor printings. The camera feed can be sent to you via computer or mobile phone.
9. Software and connectivity
Software and connectivity are critical components of industrial 3-D printers. To use an industrial 3-D printer, you’ll need to install software that tells the machine what to print as well as connect the printer to the computer.
Manufacturers typically package printers with their own software to open and print STL files, the standard file format for 3-D printing. (The printer’s software is separate from the 3-D modeling software, which is used to create the STL file.) However, most of this software is only compatible with select Windows and Mac operating systems. Check your operating system and version to ensure you won’t have any incompatibility issues.
Many machines connect directly to your computer using a USB or Ethernet connection. If a wired connection is inconvenient, some printers offer Wi-Fi connectivity. A wireless connection is especially helpful if there will be multiple users and computers connected to the printer.
A few industrial 3-D printers come with a USB or SD card slot, which eliminates the need to connect to a computer altogether. You can save the STL file straight from your modeling software directly onto the USB or SD card, and then plug it into the printer’s slot.
From assembly to setup, maintenance and technical support, anything can go wrong. Choose a printer backed with technical support by its manufacturer. Look for one with a good warranty program, so you don’t have to pay a fortune if something breaks or the equipment needs to be replaced.
Also look for real-time, one-on-one technical support, such as live chat or phone support, so there’s always someone there when you need help. Other useful resources include email support, video tutorials, training materials, webinars, online communities and FAQ sections on the manufacturer’s website.
Here is a full list of Industrial 3D Printers and a summary of what each company claims to offer.
Printer List: Dimension 1200es
Many printer technologies govern the realm of 3D printing but plastic printing is by far a favorite. The Dimension 1200es is an industrial 3D printer that utilizes plastic printing known as FDM, or fused deposition modeling. With the Dimension, you can print professional pieces in nine different colors.
The Dimension 1200es industrial 3D printer creates your finished parts and models through layers of heavy-duty plastic extrusion. The maximum build size of the Dimension 1200es is a bit larger than some of its sister FDM printers offer at 10 x 10 x 12 inches in size.
It prints with ABSplus, which is common for most FDM 3D printers. If you’re printing quality parts or prototypes, you can choose your resolution between 0.25 and 0.33 mm, which is slightly below average for most commercial 3D printers. There are nine colors to select from for ABSplus, and one cartridge as well as a support material cartridge are included.
At 326 pounds, it’s a good thing this high-end 3D printer comes with a cabinet and wheels. It’s not as large as other industrial 3D printers, in fact it’s on the smaller end. With a little help, you should be able to move this printer around your workspace or production area fairly easily.
Like many other Stratasys professional 3D printers, the Dimension 1200es is backed by technical support. On the company website, you can find webinar information, contact details and other helpful resources. You can also order a sample part to check the print quality yourself before ordering the printer.
The Dimension 1200es in only compatible with Windows XP or 7 and not with any Mac or Linux systems. It’s also Ethernet ready so you can connect with the rest of your office. The included CatalystEX software turns CAD STL files into the right printing format so you can use any CAD program during the design process.
If you’re looking for a large 3D printer for prototypes or finished products, the Dimension 1200es is an excellent choice. Variable layer thickness and a large print capacity make this option versatile and convenient to use.
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EOS Eosint M 280
The EOS Eosint M 280 uses DMLS, direct metal laser sintering, to print metal into finished, ready-to-use 3D parts. Similar to most industrial 3D printers, the Eosint M 280 has a large build volume, numerous compatible materials and produces high-quality, efficient prints.
Many of the best professional 3D printers utilize additive manufacturing to turn CAD files into tangible objects. The EOS Eosint M 280 uses a slightly different method than many other professional 3D printers as it prints with metal instead of plastics or wax. A high-grade laser melts metal materials that turn into a powder. The melted metal is then extruded into layers until the model is finished. The maximum size you can build is 10 x 10 x 13, which is larger than average for most 3D printers. The Eosint also has a 23 feet per second scan speed, making production very efficient.
Unlike most 3D printers, the Eosint M 280 is a metal 3D printer. Lasers melt certain metals into your designs and products. Light metal alloys such as aluminum, titanium and heavier metals like steel or iron are compatible with the Eosint. Parts printed from metal are much more durable than those printed with plastic, as they are use-end parts, not prototypes.
This large-scale 3D printer is truly a large machine only suited to companies with dedicated space and resources. The Eosint M 280 is about 2,800 pounds and needs at least 16 x 12 x 10 feet of installation space. Reminiscent of computers from the mid-20th century, the Eosint M 280 has a control panel and is equipped with everything you’ll need to create metal pieces.
For large-scale 3D printing, you’ll need professional software to create meticulously accurate designs. The included software, EOS RP Tools, along with any CAD program can help you turn STL files into functioning parts and models. The company behind the Eosint, e-Manufacturing, provides customer support and is easy to contact via the online form. From the website, you can also search for service providers by country as well.
The EOS Eosint is one of the best industrial 3D printers for DMLS printing. With various premium metal materials, the Eosint M 280 can provide your company with strong, quality prints.
The ExOne S-Print is a resin industrial 3D printer that creates high-quality casts and molds. This means the S-Print doesn’t create finished parts, instead it creates casts for other materials including various metals like steel and iron. With the ExOne S-Print, you can generate incredibly precise molds so you can create superior use-end products.
High-end 3D printers like the S-Print produce accurate pieces. It has a 40 seconds per layer maximum speed while extruding resin into sand. It’s also a large printer as it can print parts at a maximum of 30 x 15 x 16 inches.
Many of the best commercial 3D printers print with various plastic filaments. The S-Print however, is a resin machine that uses specialty sand to cast molds and cores. Since the ExOne S-Print pours resin into sand, you won’t need additional support structures, which also means you won’t have to spend time removing them. Plastic 3D printers generally require parts with support structures and the cleaning process afterwards.
This large 3D printer is much more of an industrial machine than an ordinary household printer. At a little more than 7,700 pounds and 10 x 8 x 9 feet in size, this car-sized 3D printer will take up quite a bit of space in your office or production facility. It also has all the amenities you’ll need to print including a control panel, a job box, sand mixer and an unloading station.
ExOne provides local and international customer support. There are four offices serving the United States and many more across Europe and Asia. The website has contact information for each office and also has case studies, system brochures and more.
This professional 3D printer uses STL files from CAD software and turns them into finished molds. Also, with the S-Print you’ll have silica sand, a resin system, cleaner and more to help you maintain and keep your printer in business.
With the ExOne S-Print, your company can create highly sophisticated casts for further processing. On-board controls, the lack of a support system removal process and a fast build speed allow you to quickly and efficiently print quality models.
As part of the Stratasys production series, the Fortus 250mc is an industrial 3D printer for your commercial 3D-printing needs. The Fortus 250mc has three layer heights so you can customize your resolution, speed and quality of each print. You can also choose custom colors of ABSplus in addition to the nine provided colors from Stratasys.
Three different resolutions, or layer heights, allow you to choose the quality of your prints. The options range from 0.3 to 0.178 mm, which is better than average compared to the best professional 3D printers. Maximum print size is also larger than average too, as you can print objects up to 10 x 10 x 12 inches in size.
Designed for large-scale 3D printing, the Fortus prints with ABSplus, which is strong and durable for long-lasting parts. There are nine colors including black, blue, nectarine, olive green and you can even request custom colors for special projects. One filament cartridge and one support cartridge come with the Fortus 250mc as well. Once those run out, you can order more filament and recycle your old cartridges through the Stratasys recycle program.
This 409-pound, high-quality 3D printer has many of the design features best for production-grade 3D printing. A control screen, large build envelope, compact design and an optional cabinet make the Fortus 250mc easy to use in most office settings.
Stratasys is no stranger when it comes to help and support for commercial 3D printers. On the website, you can find webinars, training, case studies and the usual technical support contact details.
The standard connection method is an Ethernet cable. Stratasys’ Insight software allows you to customize your CAD files for printing on the Fortus 250mc.
With three resolutions and highly accurate parts, the Fortus 250mc is well equipped to create quality production pieces. You can even choose custom ABSplus colors and from three layer heights for your creations.
MakerBot Replicator Z18
The MakerBot Replicator Z18 is a consumer 3D printer, industrial 3D printerhybrid. Its price is closer to that of consumer machines, but its feature set is closer to professional quality. The Replicator also has a built-in camera and is Wi-Fi compatible.
With a print capacity for models up to 12 x 12 x 18 inches, the MakerBot Replicator Z18 is truly a large-scale 3D printer. This print size surpasses many other commercial 3D printers by a long shot. However, the print resolution is only an average of 0.1 mm and is much less than other industrial 3D printers.
The Replicator Z18 is an FDM (fused deposition modeling) professional 3D printer. MakerBot provides various spool sizes and 28 colors including full color, translucent and specialty pinks, blues, greens and more.
The sleek design of the MakerBot Replicator Z18 has everything you’d expect in an industrial 3D printer, and then a little more. An on-board camera is built in to the Z18 and takes photos of all your finished models, automatically. This 90-pound printer also has an easy-to-replace extruder, LCD screen and an optional stand.
The help and support section of MakerBot’s website has user guides, a knowledge base and contact information for technical support. A high-quality 3D printer also wouldn’t be complete without a warranty and the Replicator Z18 has a full one-year warranty to cover all the moving parts.
The MakerBot Replicator Z18 is one of the most connected 3D printers. You’ll be able to connect and print via Wi-Fi, USB, flash drive or Ethernet cable. Your smartphone is also compatible with the Replicator Z18 as well. Mac, Windows 7 and 8 and Linux operating systems will also all work.
If you’re looking for a small investment instead of a large one, the MakerBot Replicator Z18 is a great choice. With high-quality features and a sleek design, the Z18 builds large models quickly and efficiently. Although you don’t get the precision you would with another industrial 3D printer, the Z18 can still produce quality prototypes and finished models.
Industrial 3D printers are generally large machines, but the Objet Eden260V is a mid-size, compact 3D printer. Although it takes up more room than your typical bookcase, the Eden260V can produce bigger, more detailed prints than its competitors. It can also print 18 colors and multiple materials.
Like the best commercial 3D printers, the Objet Eden260V can print large objects with impressive resolution. The print tray can support objects up to 10 x 10 x 8 inches, including support structures. A 0.016 mm resolution is much more accurate than the standard 0.1 mm of many comparable printers.
Since the Objet Eden260V is a PolyJet printer, there are extra options to choose from when selecting materials. This high-end 3D printer can print with 18 different colors and material types ranging from transparent, opaque, polypropylene, rubber and more. As a PolyJet printer, the Eden260V can print with multiple colors and multiple materials at the same time on the same print.
Although it might seem like a large 3D printer, the Objet Eden260V is actually a mid-size model. This compact industrial 3D printer weighs a little over 900 pounds though so it’s not small by any means. A clear blue viewing enclosure protects the printer and the rest of it is a stylish shade of gray so it can fit in well in your office or workshop.
Stratasys has a great customer support system for many of its best industrial 3D printers, including the Objet Eden260V. It has 3D printer training, recycling information, technical support contact information and more on the customer support section of the Stratasys website.
In order to connect to and even use the Objet Eden260V, you’ll need a Windows 7 operating computer. Windows 8 and iOS systems are not compatible with the printer or the software. The included Objet Studio software slices your CAD files and automatically includes build supports for each of your prints.
The Objet Eden260V is a great option if you need precision parts in a variety of colors and materials. As an added bonus, it’ll take up less room than a copy machine in your office.
ProJet 3500 HD Max
The ProJet 3500 HD Max industrial 3D printer is just one of the options in the ProJet series. As a multi-jet printer, the ProJet deposits layers of melted plastic to form your prototype. Specific settings for high definition and high speed are quality features of the 3D Systems’ printer.
The best commercial 3D printers have the highest quality and accuracy settings. The ProJet 3500 HD Max is unique in that it has four printing modes: high definition, high speed, ultra high definition and xtreme high definition. You can print models between 0.025 and 0.05 mm accuracy, which is very high compared to other professional 3D printers. Model size is on the large side compared to its 3D printer competitors, and the maximum size the ProJet 3500 HD Max can print is 12 x 8 x 8 inches.
There are seven colors available with the 3500 HD Max and all are VisiJet plastic, which is extremely durable. You can choose from conservative colors, such as black, crystal, navy, white and gray. Each color has a different density, strength and heat distortion temperature. If you want the best material for you, you can find a helpful chart with the details of each on the website.
The ProJet 3500 is the definition of large-scale 3D printing. The 3500 HD Max machine is 60 inches tall and weighs 711 pounds. Other ProJet printers in the 3500 series include the 3510, 3510 HD and the 3510 HDPlus. Although the design is the same for each printer, the 3500 HD Max is the only printer with all four quality and speed modes.
3D Systems provides phone numbers and email addresses for technical support. On the website, you can find helpful videos, webinars, software updates and more. The ProJet also has a five-year printer head warranty.
The ProJet 3500 is one of the few commercial 3D printers that you can control with your smartphone or tablet. You’ll also need to have a Windows XP, Vista or 7 operating system as IOS and Windows 8 systems are not compatible.
As one of the best professional 3D printers, the ProJet 3500 HD Max surpasses many of its competitors when it comes to printing modes and accuracy. If you need large, precise plastic parts, it is a great option.
The Solidscape Max2 is one of the best industrial 3D printers for medical research, dental, jewelry and manufacturing sectors. This wax 3D printer doesn’t actually print use-end parts, it will print a wax pattern that you can use to cast in a different material to create a part.
The main feature of this large-scale 3D printer is the highly precise accuracy. Since it creates molds for other materials, the casts that the Solidscape Max2 creates are extremely intricate and accurate so as to not pass along defects to the finished product. You can customize the thickness with this machine between 0.02 and 0.05 mm, which is excellent for this type of 3D printer. With the Solidscape Max2, you can print casts up to 6 x 6 x 4 inches, which is a bit on the small side for industrial printers.
Since the wax material the Solidscape Max2 uses is so durable, you can print detailed prints. Some of the materials you can cast with this industrial 3D printer include metal, bronze, brass, silver and aluminum.
For a professional 3D printer, the Solidscape Max2 is smaller than many of its competitors. Its design is only 22 x 18 x 16 inches and it weighs 75 pounds. Overall, this automatically calibrated machine is simple to use and even includes a touchscreen for easy navigation and control over your prints.
Stratasys provides customer support for this Solidscape printer. You can call or you can email technical support representatives from the customer service tab on its website. Although there are no model-specific FAQs, you can still find software help, material help and case studies.
Included with the professional 3D printer price, you’ll also receive the Solidscape 3D software to generate model supports, see the animated CAD file and see problems before you print. The software and the printer are only compatible with Windows operating systems.
If you’re looking to create intricate metal or ceramic designs without 3D printing them, the Solidscape Max2 is a great solution. By casting precise models and patterns, you’ll end up with accurate use-end products.
The Mojo professional 3D printer from Statasys is a small, prototyping 3D printer for quick modeling. With the Mojo, you can print projects in a variety of colors in a short period of time. It also comes with filament cartridges with built-in print heads and a recycling program.
The Mojo isn’t a large-scale 3D printer as it can only print 5 x 5 x 5 inch creations. However, layer height or resolution is comparable to many FDM, fused deposition modeling, printers and it spits out layers that are 0.178 mm.
Similar to other high-quality 3D printers, the Mojo is a FDM printer that uses ABSplus to print your models. ABSplus sold by Stratasys comes in nine colors including white, blue, red and gray. Stratasys also has a recycling program so you don’t have to throw out used cartridges. Every time you replace the material, you also replace the print head, which is an extremely convenient feature. Since print heads wear out over time and frequently clog, this process makes maintaining the Mojo stress-free.
The Mojo is one of the smallest industrial 3D printers. At just 60 pounds you might be able to lift this one without help. The printer itself is only 25 x 18 x 21 inches so it can easily fit in any office. The Mojo is the perfect desktop industrial 3D printer for quick prototype prints in small or large office spaces.
Stratasys manufactures some of the best professional 3D printers and fully supports them as well. On the Stratasys website, you can find customer support contact information, webinars, case studies and recycling information.
Software and materials come with the Mojo so you can start printing right away. Also, a WaveWash machine is included to remove any support material from your models. The Mojo is only compatible with Windows XP or 7 operating systems and will not work with Mac systems.
For small projects and rapid prototyping, the Mojo industrial 3D printer is a great option for your production team. Its small size, range of colors and included support removal machine make the Mojo convenient to use for any project.
The uPrint SE is a fused deposition modeling, or FDM industrial 3D printer, which is a type of 3D printing that places layers of material to create an object. With the uPrint SE, you can print various parts, tools and other trial products before you begin full-scale production.
Printing features and print quality are important aspects to consider when purchasing a commercial 3D printer. Commercial and professional printers have better features and are higher quality than consumer-grade 3D printers. The uPrint SE can print .254 mm layers, which is slightly below average for an industrial 3D printer as 0.1 is the most common layer height. The uPrint SE is also compatible with Windows XP and Windows 7, and is Ethernet compatible. Since the uPrint SE is well built and fully enclosed, prints are more accurate than with other 3D printers.
Professional 3D printers print with a variety of materials to achieve higher quality parts than hobbyist printers. The uPrint SE uses ABSplus, which is a type of heavy-duty 3D printing plastic that creates sturdy prototypes. ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is a thermoplastic material that is used to make common items such as Legos, instruments and auto parts. ABSplus is stronger and more durable than regular 3D printing ABS.
This large 3D printer can only print medium-sized objects compared to its competitors. Although the printer itself is 25 x 26 x 31 inches and more than 168 pounds, it can only print items that are 8 x 6 x 6 inches in size. An LCD screen and a fully enclosed print space make the printer easier to use and keep you safe from hot parts. The uPrint SE Plus is a sister machine to the SE that has all the same specifications, but can print in a more colors than the ivory-printing SE. With the SE Plus, you can print prototypes in white, blue, yellow, red and more.
Along with this high-end 3D printer, you’ll also get high-end customer support. Stratasys provides you with a complete support system for all aspects of your printer. On the website you’ll be able to contact technical support, find software support and submit a support ticket. Stratasys also has a recycle program for used cartridges and a training section so you can find training classes in your area.
No high-quality 3D printer would be complete without high-quality accessories and systems. This prototyping machine also comes with a sample supply of ABSplus, software and a WaveWash machine, which cleans and dissolves the support material on your ABSplus prints.
With the uPrint SE or SE Plus, you can print precise prototypes for your business or production line. It is fully enclosed so prints are more accurate compared to other 3D printers. This FDM printer also makes prototyping easier as ABSplus filament is easy to print with, and easy to clean up.