April 7, 2020
3D printers have widened the scope of what is able to be manufactured; from high-detail one-off 3D designs to small-production products, they have made it much easier to streamline the prototyping and manufacturing process for hobbyists and industrial designers alike. While 3D printers excel with the highly customized 3D models, they still fill the ever-present niche of a small-scale manufacturing device capable of producing consistent parts, that can even be iterated on the production line, for a fraction of the cost of injection molding; batch printing. With some careful tuning and considerations, every printer can be capable of batch printing and producing the same parts over and over with consistent results. Let’s get started!
Before you even get started, it’s important to consider if batch printing is the right choice for you and your 3D models.
All that said, most of the big 3D printer manufacturers rely on batch printing in some form if they have 3D printed parts on their machines; Lulzbot calls their printer farm “The Cluster” and utilizes a form of Octopi to keep everything in line.
Before you start batch printing, here’s a good checklist of things you can do to help your chances of success.
Once you feel ready and prepared, start slicing and run a batch print that you can be nearby to keep an eye on in case anything isn’t working as expected. I would encourage you to wait until you have had a couple of successful batch prints with your 3D printer before batch printing unattended.
If you don’t have a printer that you can trust to batch print or are looking to find a new printer altogether, take note of any printers that have a large bed.
The Craftbot XL is a great single-extrusion solution for batch printing with its huge build plate and print height, giving you a lot of freedom to batch print or print larger objects down the road. Dual extruder 3D printers that have both nozzles mounted to the same head like the Raise Pro2, Ultimaker S3 or S5, and the Lulzbot TAZ PRO can’t use both nozzles at the same time, so they are effectively single-extrusion 3D printers for batch printing, however, due to their large build plates and robust construction, printing a lot of parts at once is a common use case for these machines.
The Craftbot Flow IDEX and IDEX XL, Raise E2, BCN3D Sigmax and Epsilon all feature IDEX toolheads, which means “Independent Dual EXtrustion.” Each of these printers has two nozzles, but they ride on different carriages, effectively putting two printers in the same chassis. Since each of these is on the same X-axis crossbeam, you are limited to printing in exact duplicates or mirror mode, however you are still able to use these two nozzles for separate dual extrusion printing with two colors, two materials, or one material and a support material.
If you’re in an industry or business that relies on 3D printing to create some part of a finished product, being able to maximize efficiency and uptime becomes a pressing issue, and hopefully with this quick tip you are one point closer to achieving the best your farm can be. Are you batch printing already and feel like I didn’t mention something that you find important to your production? I’d love to hear about it in the comments down below and educate both myself and other users. For those of you about to start your first batch print, best of luck!
Happy batch printing!
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