Order 3D-printed parts online from FACTUREE
FACTUREE – The Online Manufacturer provides you with the state-of-the-art procurement of 3D-printed parts made of plastics, (epoxy) resins, or even metals.
As an online manufacturer with a large network of manufacturing partners, we have access to an almost unlimited number of 3D printers and thus always have free capacities and secure supply chains for your projects - from prototype to large-batch production.
In addition to the broadest manufacturing spectrum on the market, you benefit from individual offers, short delivery times and competitive prices.
Let us convince you and request a free quote via our easy online inquiry.
- Short delivery times of 9-12 working days.
- Same-day quote in most cases.
- Quick response to questions.
- Free Europe-wide express shipping.
- Prototyping, small and large scale production.
- Turning, milling, surface treatments and more.
- Extensive selection of materials immediately available.
- Everything from one source.
How Online Manufacturing at FACTUREE works
- Easy upload of your 3D models and drawings
- Inquiries also possible by email
- Telephone customer service
- Same-day express-offer in most cases
- Two-stage technical feasibility check
- Flexible offer optimization regarding price or delivery time
- More than 500 manufacturing partners and 6000 CNC machines
- AI-backed selection of the best possible manufacturer
- FACTUREE is the sole contracting party
- Wide production range (incl. many finishes)
- Extensive selection of materials
- Data-driven quality management
- Delivery already possible after 9-12 working days
- Free Europe-wide express shipping
- 100% carbon-neutral shipping
Find out more about the advantages of Online Manufacturing and how you can benefit from it in our latest white paper
„The future of parts procurement“
- Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)
- Stereolithography (SLA)
- Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) / - Melting (SLM)
Specifications for 3D-printed parts:
- Min. dimensions: L: 3mm x W: 3mm x H: 3mm
- Max. dimensions: L: 1000mm x W: 1000mm x H: 1000mm
- Wall thickness: from 0.2mm
- Quantity: starting from 1 pcs.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is essentially a process in which a workpiece or a complete assembly is built up layer by layer from an original material. This process also gives rise to the term "additive manufacturing" for 3D printing. 3D printing is currently experiencing a real boom, especially in industrial manufacturing. By 2018, more than 18 billion dollars had already been spent in the 3D market worldwide - and the trend is rising sharply. In manufacturing, 3D printing has become a serious alternative to material-removing technologies such as turning and milling.
Even though the basic concept of 3D printing is always the same, there are still significant differences between the individual processes. In addition to the extrusion of materials, the curing of liquid polymers or the selective binding of material powder is also used in 3D printing.
The actual 3D printing is always based on digital designs (CAD). The digital data is processed similarly to "classic" CNC machines and sent to the 3D printer.
Which materials can be used for 3D printing?
The materials most frequently used in additive manufacturing at present are plastics, metals and ceramics. These materials can be used to cover virtually all requirements in the fields of prototyping, model or prototype construction. In addition, a large number of "special materials" are used for printing.
In the field of plastics, durable, strong thermoplastics are of particular interest for 3D printing. The plastics used include polyester, polycarbonates, polyamides and ABS. Particularly in industrial production, these plastics offer a high degree of reliability in 3D printing. At the same time, thermoplastics are very inexpensive to purchase and therefore economical to process. For printing, the plastics, which are offered as either granules or strands, are first liquefied and then extruded through nozzles. After the material has cooled and solidified, robust, detailed results are obtained. Especially in the technical field, plastics are in demand as the basis for 3D printing.
The resins primarily used in 3D printing are also essentially plastics, such as epoxy or acrylic resins. Particularly in prototyping or sample construction, synthetic resins are used in industrial environments. Even though the technical properties of resins lag behind those of "classic" plastics, resins offer a decisive advantage in 3D printing: resolution. 3D-prints with resins as a starting material can achieve a much finer resolution, so they are more detailed. For example, the most filigree structures can be created in 3D printing - something that is difficult or impossible with other materials.
Even though the basic process of producing metallic components using 3D printing has been known since the 1970s, it is only in recent years that more and more industrial manufacturers have begun to rely on 3D metal printing. The reason for this is the high cost of the manufacturing process, which in some cases has drastically exceeded the cost of alternative manufacturing processes. In the meantime, however, workpieces made of metal can be produced at profitable unit costs, so that 3D printing is also becoming increasingly widespread in metal processing. The process is used particularly in the automotive industry, aerospace and medical technology. Frequently used metals for 3D printing are aluminum, steel or titanium.
In addition to plastics and metals, numerous other materials are used for industrial 3D printing. Ceramics, for example, are still in the development phase of their suitability for use. Concrete or gypsum is also used, for example for experimental 3D printing in architecture. 3D printing can also lead to product innovations in the food industry, because pasta dough or chocolate can also be shaped using 3D printers. Another currently marginal application is the printing of living cells and biomaterial. This sector is currently undergoing a great deal of fundamental research by biotechnology players, and it is to be expected that 3D printing will almost revolutionize the medical sector in the coming years.
Various additive manufacturing processes
Since the invention of 3D printing, many manufacturers have worked on ways to make 3D printing more efficient, faster, and more economical. Depending on the material used and the desired end result, it is currently possible to choose between several printing processes. Some of the manufacturing processes can only be carried out in the industrial sector, as the acquisition costs for the 3D printers required are quite high. On the other hand, other processes have also found their way into private households (on a small scale). The most important manufacturing processes, their advantages and disadvantages as well as the materials used for printing are summarized below.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Fused Deposition Modeling is a 3D printing process in which molten plastic, in rare cases also liquefied metals, is applied layer by layer to a work platform. Layer by layer, the FDM creates a 3D print model. The basis for the FDM process is a digital 3D model which is broken down into a large number of individual layers (slices) by special CAD programs. These layers are then transferred to the working platform by the 3D printer.
The advantages of the Fused Deposition Modeling are above all in the economical, fast execution of the 3D printing. This enables short delivery times and economical printing. The printed components are also extremely dimensionally stable. A disadvantage is the low accuracy of the printed parts and the visibility of the individual print layers. With certain materials, especially ABS, thin parts can bend - the so-called "warp effect". Also in some cases, a technical peculiarity of FDM printing which can be seen as disadvantageous is that volumetric bodies are not printed solid but always with a filling structure.
All thermoplastics can be used as materials for FDM printing. ABS, polyamides, PEEK or PA6 are frequently used. Polycarbonates, PET or polypropylene are also used for FDM printing. FDM prints made of metals are still being tested. However, this has not yet been implemented on an industrial scale.
Stereolithography is the longest used 3D printing process to date. Stereolithography (SLA) was invented as early as 1983 - and is still used industrially in almost unchanged form. In stereolithography, light-curing properties of photopolymers are used to print components in 3D. The photopolymers, for example epoxy or synthetic resins, are in a liquid plastic bath. This consists of the basic monomers of the plastic. A laser is used to harden the plastics at the points specified by a CAD model. Once a layer has hardened, the working platform of the 3D printer lowers a few millimeters. A wiper distributes a new layer of liquid plastic and the laser is used again. Layer by layer, the desired object is built up.
For technical reasons, only photosensitive plastic resins (epoxy, acylate or elastomer) are used as the material for stereolithography. SLA is used for the production of filigree models, design models and prototypes, but also for the production of functional components or master models for molding. As a disadvantage, the brittleness of the objects created must be mentioned, which limits the areas of application. Since extensive reworking, such as curing the objects in a UV cabinet or manually removing support structures during SLA printing, cannot be avoided, the process is comparatively cost-intensive.
Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)
Solid components with high accuracy, high resolution and in the shortest possible time: Multi Jet Fusion is undoubtedly one of the most powerful 3D printing technologies available today. In this process, a heat-conducting liquid, the so-called "fusing agent", is applied to a layer of the material powder (usually polyamide 12). An infrared heat source is used directly afterwards. The fusing agent ensures that the area wetted by it is heated more than the rest of the material powder. This causes the material to melt together. In order to achieve sharp edges and precise contours, another active ingredient, the "detailing agent", is used. This agent is applied precisely around the areas on which the fusing agent is used. This results in a clear temperature difference - and the desired sharp edges and precise contours are created.
The advantages of the Multi Jet Fusion process lie in the almost 100 percent density of the printed components and the high printing speed. The printing speed at MJF is about 10 times higher than at other comparable processes. Due to the small droplets used in the Multi Jet Fusion for 3D printing, the resolution (1,200 dpi) exceeds any other additive manufacturing method. A disadvantage is the slightly rough surface of the printed objects and the limitation to only one material (PA 12). If colors other than gray or black are desired for the printed objects, there will be an extra cost for a coating.
The PolyJet method, also known as MultiJet Modeling, is one of the most widely used methods in rapid prototyping. For 3D printing, the PolyJet process uses a print head to apply a layered photopolymer distributed in tiny droplets to a building platform, where it is immediately cured by UV light. In PolyJet 3D printing, the finest layer thicknesses of only 16 - 32 µm are possible, which gives the models an extremely high level of detail accuracy. Smooth surfaces similar to those from injection molding are also produced. It is also no problem to combine several different materials for one workpiece with PolyJet printing. For example, solid and rubber-like materials can be combined or different materials can be mixed during 3D printing to create completely new workpiece properties. In addition to these advantages, it should also be mentioned that PolyJet 3D printing involves long printing times, which makes production quite cost-intensive. Supporting structures are also required in certain places for printing. As a result, the printed workpieces often have to be reworked manually, which also pushes up the price.
A wide variety of plastics such as ABS or polypropylene as well as mixed forms are used as materials.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
In selective laser sintering (SLS), a powder starting material - usually polyamide or elastomer - is applied to the entire surface of the 3D printer's work platform. The powder is then sintered by a laser beam according to the specified contour, i.e. heated to just below the melting point. This causes the material to bond along the desired contour. Once a layer is finished, the building platform is lowered by the thickness of the layer. A new powder layer is applied and the process begins anew. Layer by layer and from bottom to top, the desired object is created in the 3D printer. Since overhanging structures are stabilized in the powder bed, the attachment (and subsequent removal) of support structures is not necessary. The components produced are mechanically resilient, thermostable and lightweight. SLS can also be used to print interlocked and thus movable objects. The comparatively rough surface and the long pressure cycles can be mentioned as disadvantages of the SLS process. The achievable tolerances are also higher than with other processes such as stereolithography or the PolyJet process.
As already mentioned, the main material used for SLS is polyamide. Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) or polyether ketones (PEK) are also used less frequently in selective laser sintering. If PA12 (nylon) is used for SLS, it can be enriched with additives to achieve specific material properties. Supplementary material is, for example, aluminum or carbon fiber.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
Selective laser melting (SLM) is one of the most versatile 3D printing processes and a cost-effective alternative to welding, milling or casting. In selective laser melting, metal in powder form is applied to a building platform and then melted along the desired contour using a laser beam. SLM also works in layers, which means that the building platform is lowered after a layer is created, fresh powder is applied and then remelted. Required support structures are automatically installed parallel to the actual printing.
The advantage of the SLM is clearly its freedom of design. Since the components are built up layer by layer in the desired form, even extremely complex geometries and moving parts can be generated from materials that are difficult to machine. Selective laser melting is at the same time extremely economical due to minimal amounts of waste. The materials used are aluminum, stainless steel, titanium or cobalt-chromium alloys. Depending on the manufacturer or manufacturing company, selective laser melting is also referred to as DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering), LMF (Laser Metal Fusion) or Additive Layer Manufacturing. However, the different terms all refer to the same process.
In addition to the methods commonly used in industry, there are other 3D printing possibilities. One example is 3D printing, in which gypsum-like powder is bonded layer by layer using a binder. Or Digital Light Processing (DLP), which roughly resembles stereolithography. However, a projector or LCD display is used instead of a laser to cure the base material. Electron beam melting (EBM) is also used in places for 3D printing. EBM always requires a conductive material in powder form. The material is "bombarded" with energy from electrons in the 3D printer and thus melted.
Which 3D printing process is ultimately the most economical, fastest and optimal for the respective application cannot be answered in general. Each process has its own specific advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, for each 3D print, it is necessary to weigh up which process should be selected as being most suitable.
Areas of application for 3D printing
In the industrial sector, 3D printing is used for structural parts, such as mechanical components, handles or holders or the manufacture of housing parts. Tools, such as fixtures or casting molds, can also be produced using 3D printers. Especially in lightweight construction - for example in the aerospace industry - additive manufacturing processes have become widespread. In general, it can be said that 3D printing is always advantageous when small runs of batch size 1 or more are to be produced and conventional, material-removing manufacture is either not economical or technically feasible.
The benefits of 3D printing
As already mentioned, 3D printing offers great advantages over mechanical processing, especially in the production of custom pieces or prototypes. One of the most important factors that have made 3D printing on an industrial scale such a popular process is the short production time of the components. It is irrelevant whether workpieces with a complex or simple structure are to be produced. The time saving is made possible above all by the fact that intermediate steps - as are needed with conventional manufacturing processes - are completely omitted. For 3D printing, for example, only a corresponding CAD model and, of course, the actual 3D printer are required, whereas classic processes require the production of tools or molds or NC programs prior to actual production.
By reducing production times, unit costs are significantly reduced, which can represent a significant competitive advantage.
Another advantage of 3D printing is that it minimizes the risk of expensive additional costs when changes have to be made to the component. In contrast to injection molding or mechanical processing, no new or adapted molds or tools are required for changes to the geometry - it is sufficient to implement the changes to the CAD model. Depending on the process, 3D printing can still resolve design constraints. Whilst product developers have not been able to turn every design idea into reality with conventional manufacturing methods, virtually everything is possible with 3D printing. Cavities, holes with changing directions, large overhangs or undercuts - 3D printing enables a completely new approach to product development. Finally, 3D printing is also a comparatively sustainable manufacturing process. In most cases, excess material can be reused, and waste is virtually non-existent.
Translated, rapid prototyping initially means a process "for the rapid production of samples" from digital, three-dimensional CAD data. Since the introduction of the first 3D printers almost 40 years ago, rapid prototyping has established itself across all industries - because the production time for a prototype rarely takes more than a few days thanks to 3D printing. The resulting cost advantage is also used to print several prototypes during the development process of a new object - and thus to detect and eliminate design defects directly on the "real" object.
In which industries is 3D printing used?
The applications for 3D printing are as diverse as the industries that use the ability to print objects. Particularly when customised products with the most complicated structures and geometries are required, 3D printing fully exploits its advantages over conventional manufacturing processes. For example, in medical technology, where printed objects are used as implants or assemblies for hearing aids. 3D printing is also in demand in the aerospace industry. The main focus here is on the lightweight construction of individual components, which can be implemented extremely well using 3D printing. In tool and mold making, measuring fixtures or injection molds are printed in a short time, and in prototyping, ideas and visions can be turned into reality in a very short time. More and more printed objects are also being used in research and education. The spectrum of applications ranges from medical anatomy models to experimental components for experiments.