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Orchid Blog

Bringing Life to Your Functional Prototypes through 3D Printing

Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I recently had the privilege of presenting on the buzzing topic of 3D printing or additive manufacturing at this year’s MD&M West show in Anaheim. There is a lot of excitement and curiosity with this ever expanding technology and how it can help reduce costs in the product development cycle.

A rising number of people are asking if 3D printing can help them reduce their cost, but this technology can be overwhelming, especially if you are just beginning. With all of the material choices, support constraints, part orientation, offsets and more, it can be confusing as to where to start. Orchid has been listening to our customers and has been using this technology for a number of years.

3D printing has saved money and time for our customers in the product development phase. For example, we’ve worked with customers on a variety of complex shape implants. Printing 3D replicas of human bone anatomy and the implants, we were able to help the customer get to a final geometry faster and with fewer iterations. This technology is very helpful in catching mistakes earlier in a project and lowering the risk of re-design during production. The cost implications of this technology can be lower when you directly compare to a typical shop rate to make the same part. However, we caution that this technology may not always be the cheapest option at the time, but has the potential of helping a customer getting to a design frozen state faster.

3D printing in most cases can overcome the restrictions that traditional machining limits us to. Whether a difficult feature to machine makes it to the production line or not, 3D printing gives the user an opportunity to evaluate the feature in real-time and decide if the feature is needed or not. It is nearly impossible for someone to decide if a feature is useful just using the 3D computer model, but we’ve seen this time and time again. How many incredible design innovations have been passed by when it could have had the potential of making a customer’s part stand out from the crowd?

If you are new to this technology, we encourage you to partner with someone who is reputable and has had a good track record. It is rapidly changing technology and we always welcome this discussion on how this technology can help your product or idea.

By: Justin Conway
Product Development Engineer
Orchid Design