Commercial 3D Printer Quality

I got my hands on some demo parts made on a production FDM printer using ULTEM 9085.  Strangely the nozzle diameter, layer height and filament width are the same as my $350 DIY REPRAP Mendel system which uses .016 inch nozzle, .010 layer height, .020 filament width (my settings are actually in millimeters .41mm, .25mm, .50mm).  The ULTEM is a polyetherimide mixed with a little polycarbonate so it holds up to high temp ~300C heat deflection temp and is rugged stuff.  The machine uses a heated chamber, humidity controlled filament containers, a frequent nozzle replacement schedule, proprietary software and mass produced parts make for a pretty consistent part.  The commercial machine ~$150k produces nice parts, but still not flawless.  A couple of pics show the usual FDM limitations.

duct03sm slight bridging of holes,

duct07sm still a few steam blow-outs,

duct08sm high contour top/bottom edge roughness,

ductsm more of the same- with support contact in the same areas,

duct05sm support material contact artifacts,

duct11sm infill to perimeter gaps as is usual due to the filament width rasters at curve intersections,

duct02sm and ooze at z move or start/stop blob at perimeter start create a ridge.

All in all, nice parts with no real defects and really consistent, but the process produces similar manufacturing induced features as the lower priced relatives.  Although I would not leave my machine running overnight unattended as the commercial machine does typically.  My machine also cannot use a plastic as high temp or as strong as this either.  But I am still happy with my own printer.


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