We are living through a phase in which 3D printing is starting to com of age and, from a novelty or prototyping process, it is now evolving into new trends and applications. At Aleph Objects one of these is mass produced 3D printed parts.
The Loveland, Colorado, based open source, reprap 3D printer manufacturer announced it has 3D printed the one millionth part used in the production of its award-winning LulzBot line of desktop 3D printers. The LulzBot TAZ and LulzBot Mini were just ranked the No. 1 and No. 4 best desktop 3D printers in the world, according to Aniwaa’s meta review of 980 different desktop 3D printers.
“LulzBot desktop 3D printers are workhorse machines that we, and our customers in over 85 countries around the world, rely on every day,” Aleph Objects, Inc. Vice President of Marketing Harris Kenny said. “We are proud to see the growing number of universities, laboratories, facilities, and businesses investing in clusters of LulzBot 3D printers to scale up educating, training, prototyping, and manufacturing.”
Each LulzBot 3D printer contains over thirty (30) printed parts. The one millionth part, a large herringbone gear licensed under the GNU GPLv3, was printed by the company’s Cluster of 140 LulzBot 3D printers. This factory, which embodies the RepRap Project’s concept of self replicating 3D printers, operates more than 100 hours per week and is essential to the company’s production process. This method of production was originally pioneered in desktop 3D printing by the RepRap Project.
According to Aleph Objects, it took over 2 1/2 years to print the first 500,000 parts. The company now prints at a rate of 500,000 parts per year. This increased efficiency was made possible by upgrading to new models of LulzBot 3D printers, adding more machines, expanding operating hours, and adopting new technology to make operating and monitoring the machines more efficient.
To celebrate, the Aleph Objects published a Cluster case study, detailing how the Cluster works. The one millionth part will remain on display at Aleph Objects headquarters, and can also be seen during the public company tour that takes place every Friday at 2 p.m. Mountain time (holidays excluded).
Anyone interested in printing their own version of this model can download the file in BLEND format and STL format. This accomplishment – which very likely makes Aleph Objects the only company to have 3D printed one million parts to date and a world record holder for the most parts 3D printed – is the latest in the over five year history of LulzBot desktop 3D printers. The full History of LulzBot Printers (HOLP) can be found online in PDF format.
Now it is time to look to the future. Lulzbot is not the only company, and RepRap clusters are not the only machines, that are getting faster at 3D printing. Large scale SLA 3D printers are already manufacturing serial products in the order of several thousands. So are large metal 3D printers. As serial 3D printing takes hold it will become less important that parts are 3D printed and more important what applications these parts will be able to offer that was never possible before. For Aleph Objects this was gradually creating a serial manufacturing capable factory with a minimal initial investment. And making money doing it. There are millions more of money making applications for serial 3D printed parts, just waiting to be discovered.