I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with people at industry events about the ability of our Rize One 3D printer to 3D print text and images on (or in) parts and they’ve initially said, “It’s nice to have, but I don’t really need that capability,” and then they go on to describe how they like the strong parts, fast, clean support removal, or some other aspect of our technology that would benefit them.
That is, until I show them a Rize part with an image or part number on it. It typically takes just a second for the light bulb to go off and their wheels begin spinning. It usually sounds something like, “Oh, wow, I can use it for… and for …., that’s a real issue for us right now that this capability would immediately solve,” as they turn the part over and over in their hands.
Take Healthcare, for example. If you’re among the more innovative healthcare providers or healthcare educators who have adopted 3D printing for pre-surgical planning, patient and clinician communication, medical tooling and more, you know that keeping track of the many versions of an anatomical model or which model goes with which patient, can be difficult. And as a result, mistakes can be made. The ability to 3D print text and images in and on models or custom functional medical tools, enables you to identify parts by patient case number and/or version, and even print instructions for use or position directly onto the models. Perhaps you want to show various stages of scoliosis using several different spine models, for example; printing the degree of curvature directly onto the models ensures proper model tracking and communication between clinicians, patients and their families.
Consider the military. Regardless of whether soldiers or other 3D printer operators are printing in the field or in a centrally-located facility, it’s essential that mission-critical 3D printed parts include the operator’s identification on or inside the part fir quality control and tracking purposes. In-field replacement tools can also include 3D printed directions on the part to reduce errors and increase safety.
The broadest need for 3D printing text and images onto parts is probably among manufacturers across industry segments. 3D printing part and version numbers on prototypes becomes extremely important when you remember that each engineer or designer has multiple iterations per design and multiple designs per year. Otherwise, it becomes very difficult and sometimes impossible to distinguish between the piles of parts for each design sitting on top of an engineer’s desk.
And consider the importance of 3D printing text and images for visual design and FEA studies, as well as for sales and marketing use; a part without the same detailed text and images as the real product is far less effective for communicating design intent, thereby delaying approvals and resulting in costly errors. And, potential customers will appreciate their logos on parts you produce for them. This capability is also useful for simple strength bar testing to inform testers about the orientation in which the part was built.
Even tooling, fixtures and jigs for production benefit from the ability to 3D print text onto the parts. For example, “This end up” or “Insert this way” with an arrow lets an operator know exactly how to mount and use the part, avoiding dangerous or expensive mistakes.
End-use parts are a perfect application for this capability, such as QR and bar codes on consumer products and sales/marketing giveaways and of course customization and personalization.
I’ve only just scratched the surface here. There are many more uses for 3D printing text and images on parts provided by our voxel-level APD 3D printing process that are more than just nice-to-have.