NewTech PDX - 3D Printing

Monday, October 19, 2015

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Mercy Corps  45 SW Ankeny St, Portland, OR (mapIn the event center on the ground floor.

RapidMade is participating in a panel discussion about "the cool and amazing technologies being developed by Portland companies. You can arrive early (as early as 5:30) and network. You can leave a little late (as late as 8:30) and network some more. Then follow us over to the after-party!"

Entry to the meetup is $10 online, or $20 at the door.


6:00pm - Doors Open / Buffet / Drinks / Get to know your community  

7:00pm - Event Begins!

8:00pm - After-Party at the Thirsty Lion (71 SW 2nd Ave [at SW Ash Street])



AuthorRenee Eaton
 3D print by RapidMade for Decimate Mesh Art

3D print by RapidMade for Decimate Mesh Art

Since ISIS began destroying priceless artifacts in territory it controls, archaeologists and artists around the world have been scrambling to salvage and, or recreate the objects being annihilated.  Recently RapidMade worked on one of these projects:  Ryan Woodring's Decimate Mesh Art Exhibit.

Closer to the tragedy, in a bold and proactive counter offensive, 

Archaeologists at Oxford and Harvard have launched a high-tech offensive against Isis by creating a full digital record of threatened ancient sites and artefacts in the Middle East by Islamic State.

Using 3D cameras, the academics  who've partnered with Unesco, plan to collect millions of digital images that will enable them to capture and reconstruct any piece that is destroyed. Their plan involves positioning "hundreds of the internet-enabled 3D cameras around important sites where they will take full photographic records from several different angles before uploading them to an open-source database online.

Given the wide-scale destruction wrought on the area to date, the project team recognizes that it is literally "up against the gun" to save as many antiquities as it can.

For years, museums like the Smithsonian have been creating digital libraries of their collections to catalog, study and share.  But this effort is one of the first geared specifically to safeguard artifacts from defacement or destruction.






Here's a great white paper written by RapidMade Co-Founder and Advisor Mark Eaton:

Investing in 3-D printing technology can provide significant business advantages. Product development, customer value, manufacturing costs and product life cycle management can all be positively impacted by this technology. Determining where to make the investment requires careful consideration of the expected outcomes and thorough analysis of the business, processes or products that will be impacted by the investment.

For companies considering investing in 3-D printing, outsourcing to a reputable service bureau is a viable, cost-effective alternative that is less susceptible to changes in technology and materials than in-house ownership. The benefits derive from eliminating the initial capital cost of the equipment and the infrastructure setup cost to avoiding the operating costs of ownership and obsolescence issues relating to the rapid development of 3-D technology.

History of the 3-D Printing Market

The technology for 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has existed since the 1980s. Although the additive manufacturing market took approximately 20 years to reach $1 billion, five years later in 2012, it had reached $2 billion. By 2013, consensus estimates by Gartner and Wohlers indicate it had reached $2.5 billion. A significant portion of this revenue was derived from 3-D printer sales, but estimates by PwC and ZPryme indicate that by February 2014, 67 percent of manufacturers who responded were already testing or using 3-D printing.

Despite advances in speed, reliability and material availability, 3-D printing has to this point still been largely used for prototyping, testing and tooling. Although rapid prototyping remains important, the pivot to printing more fully functional finished products and components is the direction that analysts see the sector heading.

For example, GE plans to mass produce 25,000 LEAP engine nozzles using additive manufacturing and already has $22 billion in commitments, said Dr. Mark Cotteleer of Deloitte Services in October 2014. Medical, dental and automotive are other sectors that report increasing use of 3-D printing to create fully functional parts.

Yet, in a recent December 2014 Gartner worldwide study, 60 percent of respondents cited the high acquisition and startup costs as delaying their investment in 3-D printers. Of those surveyed, 37 percent had just one 3-D printer within their organizations, with 18 percent owning 10 or more.

The average number of printers per organization was 5.4. One interesting finding was that respondents felt overwhelmingly that using a 3-D printer as part of their supply chain generally reduces the cost of existing processes, especially research and product development costs. The study concluded that those companies who were using the technology for product development were seeing a 4 percent improvement in costs.

Types of Technology and Materials

Despite the widely held mistaken belief that 3-D printers can "print anything," commercial manufacturers and product developers are still faced with the reality that there are many types of 3-D printing processes. Each process has speed, part tolerance and quality-related factors to consider.

Similarly, each 3-D printer is designed to work with a select set of materials. Most commercially available 3-D printers (often called professional or production printers) are designed to work with either plastic or metal. However in the case of plastic, the material or polymer will vary depending on the 3-D printing process, as will the mechanical, aesthetic and functional properties of the finished part.

UV-cured polymers behave differently to laser-sintered nylons. In the case of metals, parts printed on a laser-sintered machine will have different properties to those produced on an electron-beam or laser-melt style printer. Complexity further increases when the user has to consider ceramic, biomaterials and/or materials needing regulatory approval, which may require not only specialized materials, but printers with unique attributes.

Most materials, often termed feedstock, are pre-processed to create the liquid or powder that is ultimately reformed as a printed part. The cost of materials is a significant factor in the adoption of 3-D printing. Depending on the material type, prices can range from $35 to $600 per kilogram; specialty materials that have unique applications can be much higher.

In many cases, companies that supply 3-D printers try to control the material supply using, for example, prefilled cartridges or other means. Of late, this practice is beginging to change as new 3-D printer manufacturers enter the market, alternate material suppliers emerge and machine owners determine how to override printer settings. In fact, the study conducted by Roland Berger showed that experienced 3-D printer owners had effectively created their own supply chain, and this was driving down material costs.

Traditional Manufacturing Comparisons

Three-dimensional printing is still in the early adoption phase when it comes to the production of finished components and products. Speed of printing has yet to match the rates of typical mass production techniques. Companies such as GE, Siemens and Autodesk envisage 3-D printing being used in conjunction with or alongside traditional manufacturing techniques.

The rate at which 3-D printing will supplant traditional manufacturing techniques, such as CNC machining, injection molding or casting, is openly debated and will largely depend on advances in technology, materials and software.

But according to a recent Siemens report by Sandra Zistl, "Even though analysts at WohlersAssociates expect the rapid prototyping market to grow to more than $5 billion by 2020, 'Money will be made with manufacturing, not with prototypes,' forecasts Tim Caffrey, a consultant at Wohlers." This assessment is shared by Bernhard Langefeld, a machine construction expert at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and one of the authors of the study titled "Additive Manufacturing – A Game Changer for the Industry?"

What is also often a source of debate is the degree to which commercial manufacturers and product developers should own or outsource 3-D printing technology. Here we have to turn to traditional methods for evaluating capital investment and make-buy decisions. At the same time, we have to consider the risks of obsolescene, premature adoption of new technology, and the true cost of ownership.

In order to asses the capital investment or make-buy decision, we first must understand the expected financial and commercial returns from the decision, and to do that, we have to carefully consider the benefits of 3-D printing technology and where to apply it.

The capital cost of acquiring a professional or production 3-D printer varies tremendously. UV polymer printers vary from the mid-$30,000 range to $200,000 for the more complex machines. Metal-laser sintering machines will cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million-plus. It is also important to realize that just like traditional manufacturing, there will be additional costs for cleaning systems, dust collection, chamber gas-delivery and recovery systems, and for more sophisticated printers, complex material handling systems will be needed. Similarly, space and building requirements have to be considered, as do machine layout, material flow and cell design.

Three-dimensional printing is able to create a part directly from a digital file. However, this creates additional considerations because the ability to create an effective part is a function of the quality of the file; for example, is it an accurate representation of the desired finished part? Software that can manipulate the file to change the structure of the part or that can adapt the file to more effectively print the product is also available.

For each printer type, there is often a need for different types of software. The costs of this software must also be conisdered as part of the capital investment. Workflow software is also required when managing multiple files and parts if the production of these parts is to be efficient.

3-D Printing Applications

As this white paper indicates, there are many potential applications and markets for 3-D printing technology. In general, these can be 

characterized into four primary categories; marketing and promotion, product development and design; production elements such as tooling, fixtures, products and components; and business services.

When considering an investment in 3-D printing, determining the application or intended purpose requires the investors to make a careful assessment of their existing business, process or product. Secondly, it requires a clear understanding of the expected outcomes from the investment; reduction in product development time, increased customization, lower supply chain costs, improved quality, new commercial opportunities and added customer value are some of the examples often cited for investment.

For example, the United States Postal Service estimates turning postal processing centers into 3-D printing hubs could generate $646 million in commercial packaging revenue. However, reaching such a conclusion requires analysis and investigation of multiple factors as well as a thorough understanding of available technology, materials and software. In these cases, businesses are turning to existing 3-D printing companies such as Stratasys, RapidMade and Baker 3D Solutions to help them navigate the decision process.

3-D Printing Total Cost of Ownership

Having identified the need for investment in 3-D printing, the business leader is most often faced with the make-buy decision (or in-house vs. outsource). A number of factors must be considered.

Traditional factors such as the protection of intellectual property and the critical nature of the product or component remain important. Of additional importance is the degree to which the 3-D printing technology itself is evolving. In 2009, the FDM patents expired, which led to the launch of many low-cost desktop copies. Similarly, in 2014, the SLS sintering patents expired, and this is expected to impact the cost of these printer types. Three-dimensional printer speeds are expected to increase fourfold over the next five years with companies such as Siemens stating that material feed rates will improve from 10 cm3/hr to 80 cm3/hr.

While many 3-D printing manufacturers market and advertise the simplicity of these machines, the reality is that print builds fail and need to be reprinted. Similar to traditional manufacturing processes, there are usually post-processes required to finish the product. There are waste streams that have to be managed; support material often has to be removed, and production has to be planned to ensure the printers run efficiently. Labor operating costs are similar to modern CNC machines, although these can be automated if volumes dictate.

For a typical commercial manufacturer or product developer who is producing products constructed of multiple materials and components, multiple 3-D printer types will be required. It is not uncommon to require multiples of the same machine because print rates sometimes result in daylong builds. The Gartner survey from December 2014 found that, for those owning 3-D printers, the average number of machines owned was 5.4. For a simple product development, for example, it is not uncommon to need three different types of 3-D printers.

This total cost of ownership analysis and the recommendation to buy versus make is very similar to the analysis that would been done for a traditional machine tool. What is the labor cost to operate; what are the waste factors; what are the utilization rates; what are the utility and space considerations; what are the maintenance costs, etc. Factors that will also need to be considered are the material limitations of each 3-D printer type, the software and the pre-processing that is required along with the associated costs.

In most cases, there will be fixed engineering and operating support costs that will have to be applied over the planned usage hours. Consumable costs will include materials as well as print heads, UV lamps, lasers, build plates, support material, part-cleaning solutions, chamber gas, etc.

For many situations, the option to buy from a "service bureau" will be more cost-effective than owning the technology. As with traditional manufacturing, a service bureau can specialize by using one type of 3-D printer or by better leveraging costs over aggregated production volumes.

As a cautionary note, it is important to select a reputable service bureau. Not all 3-D printers are built to the same quality and their ability to maintain build tolerance or part strength will vary. So it is important to understand how the part will be printed.

As with traditional manufacturing, service bureaus can be differentiated by those that have engineering expertise, a quality management system, a maintenance program and certified technicians compared to those that do not. Just like traditional manufacturing, there are print tolerance limitations that have to be considered in the design, and a service bureau with embedded engineering capabilities will be able to address these issues.

Consider also the importance of ensuring that the material supply chain is robust. Whether the decision is made to print In-house or through a service bureau, control of the material supply chain, both from a traceability and a material compliance viewpoint, is a consideration.

For mission critical or complex materials, organizations such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory can provide independent certification of the material. In general, because these are essentially created materials, their properties will approximate but not always replicate traditional materials. Having access to knowledgeable resources will help avoid common pitfalls.

RapidMade is thrilled to have played a supporting role in Ryan Woodring's powerful art installation, Decimate Mesh.  Ryan uses 3D printing to recreate the artifacts recently destroyed by terrorists in the Middle East...

“Please joins us for the opening reception of Ryan Woodring’s latest works Decimate Mesh.

His latest work comes in response to the recent onslaught of videos released by terrorist groups depicting the destruction of sculptures and artifacts from Hatrean and Assyrian civilizations. This series examines the theme of reconstruction, a recurring concept in Woodring’s practice. Utilizing his background in the visual effects industry, Woodring reconstructs these artifacts both digitally and physically using only the pixels supplied in the videos. The accuracy of the reconstruction is dependent on the amount of screen time the object was given as well as the stability of the footage (i.e. camera shake, obstruction of the view of the object, etc.) Through this process of reconstruction Woodring explores digital dissemination as a complicated mechanism of both destruction and introduction—sensationalism and education—via 3D printed objects, manipulated videos, and fabric work.

Join us at the 1st Thursday opening August 6th, 2015. 219 NW Couch Street, Portland Oregon  6-9pm”

Now, you can get custom parts 3D printed with the same strength and flexibility as polypropylene.

RapidMade is proud to offer the most advanced 3D printed plastics on the market. This video highlights one of our two polypropylene-like resins with very similar mechanical properties to polypropylene, DurusWhite. This material is rigid, yet as seen in this video, also has a high degree of flexibility.

Durus and Endur polypropylene-like resins are great for prototyping parts that are designed as end use polypropylene plastics as well as making short runs of parts that need the mechanical properties of polypropylene. For instance, zip tie and living hinge features are ideal for Durus and Endur due to the high degree of flexibility.

Find more information on this material and other offerings on our Polyjet systems or order this material on our Quick Quote form today!

Injection molds shouldn't take months to get...

  • Production Quotes in 1 - 3 Business Days. Tooling and Samples in 5 Weeks or Less.
  • Design, Engineer, Prototype and Manufacture All in One Place.
  • Full Expedited Production Orders in 4 Weeks or Less.
  • Get the Best Price and Quality Plastic Parts With RapidMade.

RapidMade Advantages Include:

  • Design and production for embedded stock and custom components including: Circuit boards, lights, mechanical components, clear windows and magnifiers, locks, springs, fasteners, and much more.
  • Extensive experience prototyping and testing precise mechanical assemblies.
  • In house assembly for complicated projects.
  • One stop design, prototyping and manufacture limits exposure to risk between suppliers.
  • Streamlined development brings your product to market faster.
  • Iterative testing with customer approval every step of the way ensures you get the product you envisioned.
  • Hundreds of available mold finishes and textures.
  • Wide range of standard plastics options including ABS, Polycarbonate, Nylon, Polyethylene, Polypropylene and composites. Custom plastics available on request.
  • Over 70 years of engineering and manufacturing experience will exceed your expectations.

While the hype around 3D printing may be a bit overblown, there are genuine reasons for businesses to take notice.  Early adopters have had great success, and not just in rapid prototyping and reverse engineering.  Additive manufacturing now allows mass customization and provides these benefits:

  • Accelerate your speed-to-market
  • Meet the needs of more customers
  • Create novel products not possible until now.
  • Find unique production solutions for quantities as low as 1 - 1,000
  • Lower your costs - while being more environmentally responsible
  • Simplify - and localize - your supply chains
  • Create unique marketing tools
  • Capture increased market share

Learn more.

CAD files have a myriad of formats and corresponding file extensions (example: filename.extension.) With all those formats out there, what is best for you to use?

CAD files for 3D printing generally fall into two categories: parametric files (equation driven files that are fully defined - i.e. a circle is actually a circle) and mesh files (made of points and triangles - i.e. a circle is thousands of tiny triangles.)

Parasolids tend to be the best files to use because your 3D printing service provider should have the expertise to make sure your final export will have no errors. Mesh files tend to work  too, but many times require a great deal of fixing.

Mesh files can fit into two categories, files with surface color (renderings) and those without.

Please keep in mind that many mesh files (particularly STLs) never have any units attached to them, so if printing a file as a mesh, please tell your provider whether or not it was designed in milimeters, centimeters or inches.

The list below breaks down categories of file type and lists them in the order of preference to make the printing process as seemless as possible for the customer and service provider. 

Engineering and Design (parametric, boundary representation files)

  1. SolidWorks (.SLDPRT, .SLDASM, .SLDDRW)
  2. Inventor (.IPT, .IAM)
  3. Parasolid (.X_B, .X_T)
  4. STEP (.STP, .STEP)
  5. IGES (.IGS, .IGES)
  6. Rhino (.3DM)
  7. AutoCAD (.DXF, .DWG 2010 or earlier preferred)

Color 3D Printing (mesh files with color and/or texture information)

  1. ZPR
  2. OBJ (must include MTL file and texture maps)
  3. FBX
  4. 3DS
  5. PLY
  6. 3DM
  7. WRL

Standard 3D Printing (mesh files)

  1. STL
  2. OBJ
  3. PLY
  4. 3D DXF or 3D DXF (2010 or earlier preferred)
  5. 3DM
  6. SKP (SketchUp*)

*While we can and do work with SketchUp files, extra engineering fees may apply to convert them into usable geometry. 

AuthorMicah Chaban
 RapidMade has saved the Oregon Department of Corrections hundreds of thousands of dollars in door retrofits.

RapidMade has saved the Oregon Department of Corrections hundreds of thousands of dollars in door retrofits.

  • Stop paying outrageous markups to OEMs for current and discontinued parts.

  • Create your own digital parts library and order parts on demand for less.

  • Re-engineer your parts to last longer and perform better.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) often sell spare parts at markups as high as 10 to 15 times what it costs. Worse yet, they often have incentives for planned obsolescence before the end of the machine's life, so they can force you to buy a new one

At RapidMade, we can give you control of your inventory by reverse engineering OEM parts into a digital library from which you can order parts on demand with lead times as little as two days and quantities as few as a single part.

Our team of dedicated engineers can redesign your critical parts to improve performance by eliminating flaws in the original design, using new materials and modern manufacturing techniques. 

Our 60 years of experience has already been applied in other industries to improve the performance of thousands of parts.  Contact us today to get started or click here to learn more.


Richard D'Aveni has a warning for traditional manufacturers: ignore the digitization of manufacturing and get left behind.  In a recent Harvard Business Review article, D'Aveni, Professor at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, drew parallels between the current debate about traditional versus additive manufacturing with another in the '80s on digital versus analog technology for phones - we all know how that one turned out for Motorola and Sony.

Instead D'Aveni suggests that leadership recognize the need to change and coax along subordinates using a four-step process:

1. Gather knowledge from the outside. Assume key stakeholders are likely to embrace the status quo.  So seek out additive manufacturing experts to learn how 3D printing can be used in your industry.  Make sure to include your subordinates in the discussion to gain their buy in.

2. Move one baby step at time.  As with any significant change, break down the initiative into manageable pilot projects that allow the organization to manage implementation.

3. Focus and prioritize.   Select opportunities that are both "promising and feasible."

4. Keep an eye on the long run.  Ensure your efforts support your firm's long-term goals.

Working with knowledgeable experts is a great way to quickly access all the benefits of additive manufacturing.  3D printing is a fast, cost effective way to design, prototype, market and launch you product. Many businesses, however, find they need multiple 3D printers and materials to meet all their creative needs. If you use a 3D printer for less than 120 hours per month, or you need to print different materials, the cost of ownership can be prohibitive: purchasing and maintaining multiple 3D printers and software; hiring, managing and paying technicians; buying and storing materials, and worrying about machine technology obsolescence. 

Our Print In The Cloud service is designed to overcome these challenges. For a small monthly fee, you can have immediate access to a range of 3D printers including industrial-grade FDM, professional prototyping and full-color machines. Plans start at 20 hours per month rising to 100 hours per month for our more experienced users. You have full access to the machines without the cost of maintenance, operation and obsolescence.

Start today, skip to the Service Pricing form to take advantage of 3D printing in the cloud.