3D Printing Has Hit Its Stride

It’s been a couple of years now since KiwiMill added 3D printing to the model shop.

Through experimentation on various projects, we have established a protocol for the use of 3D printing on our custom models.

Most often, 3D printing is used in our shop to create smaller, intricate parts for our models. Our machine prints extremely accurate pieces in a very quick time frame, once the 3D images are drawn up in CAD. The resulting parts are finely detailed and come with a smooth, easy to cover, finish.

When it comes to larger, complex parts, 3D printing is used if it remains cost-effective to do so. The resin used in the machine is expensive, and a large printed part may not be worth the cost savings in labor. Of course, if timing is critical – a rush order with premium pricing – the printer may be used regardless of the size of the part.

There is no model at KiwiMill that is 100% printed. Depending on the geometry (shape) of the part, the finished piece may be too delicate , and easy to break off. Many of our models are for trade show use and need to withstand a certain amount of handling. This requires a mixture of mediums: metal, ABS, or tooling board to maintain durability.

All 3D printed parts must be drawn up in CAD first, and then cleaned, finished and attached to the final model after they are printed. A model part doesn’t just grow itself without a model maker’s input throughout the process.

We feel that 3D printing has added a useful tool to our toolbox here at KiwiMill. It took some experimentation to figure out what parts should be 3D printed and which ones would be better off CNC milled or hand-built. But now that we have the process down, 3D printing has become quite an asset.


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