When someone sees a 3D printer for the first time, they’ll most likely ask: “What can you make with it?”
The cliché response is “Whatever you can imagine!” but, as most engineers know, a 3D printer isn’t a replicator and there are limits to the technology—physical and economical.
For the more practically minded, the question isn’t “What parts can I 3D print?” but rather “Can I 3D print this particular part?” The latter question is primarily about costs, production times and materials. The typical answer is the less-cliché but equally unhelpful:
“Well, it depends…”
If that seems frustratingly vague, then EOS North America and its Additive Minds engineering group have some good news, in the form of a new online analysis tool called Can I 3D Print This?
The tool is designed to make the viability of metal and polymer 3D printing more accessible to newcomers. Focused on using laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) for production, the tool is squarely aimed at industrial 3D printing, a.k.a., additive manufacturing (AM).
Users can input information about their current manufacturing method(s) along with a part design file and receive an automatically generated analysis that includes a cost estimation, predicted production time, and a recommended EOS system and material. Alongside these recommendations are comparisons with traditional production processes of cost-per-part (CPP), production time and material usage.
“Despite its proven advantages and widespread adoption, many companies still deem AM an emerging technology and are hesitant to augment their traditional manufacturing processes,” said senior Additive Minds consultant David Krzeminski in a company press release. “Our new Can I 3D Print This tool helps with initial decision-making by empowering potential users to explore and gather information about the promise of AM within their organization.”
The tool is powered by CASTOR, a 3D printing software that estimates cost and lead times for parts. In addition to EOS, the software’s developer boasts integrations with other major players in the 3D printing industry, such as Ultimaker and Stratasys.
Can I 3D Print This? is currently available only for North American users, though EOS says it’s exploring a global version. Users are limited to five parts, but large batch analyses of applications or assemblies are available in collaboration with the Additive Minds engineering team.