Over the past five years, Mosaic has been approached by an increasing number of companies looking to adopt 3D printing as a manufacturing tool. The benefits of product personalization, flexible production, faster times to market, and a more resilient supply chain are driving increased investments in additive manufacturing on the factory floor.
Beyond this, there’s a growing segment in the market for scaled 3D printing in more traditional applications. These groups have found an incredibly valuable use case for professional 3D printers, and require the output of between 5-20 machines. To date, they’ve been forced to scale their output with the incredibly inefficient approach of putting multiple 3D printers on a shelf.
3D printing's scale problem
Previously, when trying to scale throughput with an inherently manual process leads to a number of issues, including things like:
3D printers are typically printing parts for 50% (or less) on a weekly basis. This low uptime leads to low throughput per machine, increasing cost and investment requirement Operators are required to remove prints, clean print beds, swap out materials, and restart the print. Running this process hundreds of times per month leads to significant waste. Coordinating the print jobs of multiple people, for multiple projects becomes incredibly time intensive and a significant organizational challenge. The professional 3D printers of today are operating without closed loop feedback systems, and in process quality checks which lead to a poor and unreliable output.
Low Printer Uptime
High Labour Time/Print
Manual Project Management
3D printers are typically printing parts for 50% (or less) on a weekly basis. This low uptime leads to low throughput per machine, increasing cost and investment requirement
Operators are required to remove prints, clean print beds, swap out materials, and restart the print. Running this process hundreds of times per month leads to significant waste.
Coordinating the print jobs of multiple people, for multiple projects becomes incredibly time intensive and a significant organizational challenge.
The professional 3D printers of today are operating without closed loop feedback systems, and in process quality checks which lead to a poor and unreliable output.
Array was built to solve these issues, ensuring high machine uptime, low labour time per print, and an automated project management workflow for large organizations and a large number of users.
Array vs. Status Quo
Array completely revolutionizes the cost and scalability of 3D printing, as illustrated with the key metrics below. These metrics are available through our Cost per part and Throughput calculator, which you can find on the Array page here.
The numbers below are based on an example scenario, with 100 prints per month in ABS material at an average print time of 8 hours per print.
What you can see is that Array's total cost per 100CCs (cubic centimeters) of material is between 63% and 78% lower than competing approaches. Array gives significantly more throughput per dollar, and requires a lower up front investment to hit these throughput targets.
If you're interested in a custom report based on your metrics, head over to the calculator linked above.
Redefine 3D printing
The back of Array, featuring Material Pod loading and Storage Cart removal + replacement.
The value of a 3D printer is directly correlated to the capabilities of the printers output. While in discussions with our customer panel, it became apparent that the printing of high temperature materials, and pushing the boundaries on both part quality and properties for other materials was incredibly important. In parallel to Array, our team developed the Element HT printer - which allows the printing of PEEK and Ultem parts, as well as increased quality on ABS and Nylon parts. These abilities are accomplished through the implementation of a heated chamber, and meant to give you the ultimate flexibility in what you can print.
Mosaic has pioneered the field of multi-material FDM 3D printing, allowing operators to create parts in up to 8 different colors or materials. This type of functionality is incredibly helpful when it comes to printing branded parts, parts with serialization, or geometries requiring soluble support material. Mosaic’s Palette X technology, described in detail below, enables automated material management to ensure you can swap materials in your Array in a fully automated way.
This combination of automated workflows, high temperature printing and multi-material printing allows you to completely revamp your workflow and the output of your 3D printing setup.
Array in Industry
Early adopters of Array are already reaping the benefits of scaled 3D printing across a number of industries: Manufacturing, Education, and 3D printing service bureaus. Check out their stories below:
Objex Unlimited: 3D Printing Service Bureau
Array’s greatest strengths are high throughput, low Total Cost per Part, fast ROI and high profitability. With conventional 3D printers, fast printer turnaround speeds and the requirement of user input to move beds around translates directly into increased labour hours. For 3DP Bureaus, every minute of downtime counts.
Array’s high throughput and automation puts it ahead of the competition - keeping it printing for 2.5x longer than other solutions.The added benefit of Canvas Teams software integration also simplifies the process of sending jobs to new machines and provides clients with an easy-to-use application for design and submitting their print jobs.
Array specific benefits for 3D printing service bureaus:
- Increased throughput
- Decreased cost per part
- Increased printer uptime/efficiency
- Fast ROI and High profitability
Athletic Knit: Manufacturing
A wide selection of available print materials means Mosaic’s Array system is capable of working in any number of industrial applications. From CF Nylon fixtures, to PEEK piping and Aircraft grade PEKK components, Array and the accompanying Mosaic Materials will make sure your prototypes are cost-effective and the final product highly functional. The highlighted scalability also allows manufacturers to meet growing demands in the market while also exploring new workflow revolutionizing applications, like Athletic Knit did.
Array specific benefits for manufacturers:
- Flexibility in parts due to multiple colors and materials
- Increased throughput, printer uptime
- Central project management with Canvas Teams
Watch the Athletic Knit case study here
McMaster University: Education
When it comes to meeting the needs of hundreds of students each semester, Array and Canvas Teams are the textbook definition of convenience. With Makerspaces and University ‘Print Shops’ usually run by a sole administrator- oftentimes a student or faculty themselves - being able to quickly queue up student jobs from anywhere on campus means that administrators are not wasting valuable research time programming machines directly.
Array’s autonomous operation and unparalleled ability to run during off-hours means that more and more students can print their assignments and projects prior to the due date, without having to extend lab hours. The pairing of this automation with Array’s parallel printing approach makes it ideal for serving growing class sizes in an efficient and cost effective manner.
Array specific benefits for Education:
- Central project management (software)
- Equipment efficiency and uptime
- Throughput and fast turnaround times on large volumes of parts
Below is an in-depth look at some of the technical components and aspects of Array. If you're interested in learning more, you can contact us here (LINK TO FORM), or scroll to the contact form at the bottom of this post.
An automated approach
There are three aspects of the 3D printing workflow that need to be automated, each one of them has a portion of Array dedicated to taking care of that aspect for you.
Clearing the build plate - Array Robotic System
The Array Robotic System removes the build plate with the finished print from the printers inside Array, and places the finished print in the storage cart. This system then grabs a fresh build plate from the storage cart, and places it on the printer. This process ensures that the printer is able to print part after part, with no intervention by the operator.
The Array Robotic System has two main components - the gantry system, and the end effector system.
The Array Robotics System works similarly to a 3D printer gantry. However, for added reliability there are a number of sensors and homing points that create a closed loop on the motor system.
The end effector system is what goes up to the printer, grabs, and retracts the print bed out of the printer.
The Array Robotic System is what ensures Array’s printers can restart prints at 2AM on a Tuesday, or over the weekend. This ability to restart your prints without being present allows your machines to be 2-3x more productive than a standard 3D printer. This means lower costs per part, and higher throughput - unlocking 3D printing at scale for the first time.
The Array Robotic System is well lit and has an on board camera to help you keep an eye on all parts of the system from a distance. The end effector is also equipped with features to open and close the doors of the Element 3D printers. This unique automated door control innovation allows for the printers to maintain heated build environments during prints while also being robot accessible between prints for build plate changes.
Building on top of this bed removal automation, Mosaic’s Palette X product allows you to manage your material library, and which materials are printed without interacting with Array.
Mosaic has been developing our patented Palette technology for 7 years, and has been through 5 commercial iterations. To date, Palette has worked alongside 3rd party 3D printers to allow them to print multiple materials in a single print, as well as ensure that if a material ran out, a second material would be spliced, and fed to the users’ print head. With tens of thousands of Palette systems in use in 70 countries globally, Palette is a proven technology and Palette X takes this to the next level.
Palette X allows the operator of Array to accomplish two main goals:
1) Automate Material Changing: Array allows you to run a number of prints in a fully automated way. These prints may be in a number of different materials - your first print in PETG, then in CF Nylon, then ABS, then TPU. The Array Robotics system handles the swapping and removal of the finished print for an empty build plate - but if you’re not able to swap out the appropriate material for each print, you won’t be able to have the flexibility that you need to make automated printing valuable.
This is where Palette X comes in. Palette X, in communication with Canvas, will cut off the material at the end of your first print, and automatically feed up the material for your second print. Element will then complete a transition sequence, and you will have completely switched from your first material (for print #1) to your second material (for print #2). Palette X allows you to load up to 8 materials in each Element 3D printer (32 total), giving you significant flexibility when it comes to which materials you wish to print throughout your queue.
2) Multi-Material 3D Printing: A unique feature to Mosaic’s product line is the ability to print up to 8 filaments in a single print. Usually, these are a mix of different colors of the same material, or a combination of a build material(s) plus a support material. This ability to add new visual elements to your prints, or new geometries due to support material will ensure you’re able to have the most flexibility in what you can print on your Array. Unlike traditional systems with many clunky printheads, Mosaic’s unique technology allows for multi-material printing from a single nozzle.
Palette X builds on Mosaic’s core technology, with a number of notable improvements.
Palette X is the only Palette technology which doesn’t splice - this is important as it unlocks the automated material changing, and multi-material 3D printing for a wider variety of industrial materials and dissimilar materials.
The removal of splicing was only possible in Element, where for the first time Mosaic has control of the entire system including the print head material pods and all feed systems.
Palette X comes with a metal reinforced substructure which ensures it does not wear with more abrasive materials such as CF Nylon, or CF Petg. Mosaic’s reliability engineering team has put Palette X through tens of thousands of meters of filament to test and model out various component wear to ensure it can stand up to the rigorous high volume requirements of Mosaic’s customers.
Automation via hardware only covers a portion of the requirements to increase the throughput and scalability of 3D printing. When working to complete hundreds (or thousands) of prints on a monthly basis, the process of managing material settings, slicer profiles, print files, and finished prints is extremely laborious and time consuming. Canvas Array handles the project management aspect, and ensures that you and your team are able to track and control your jobs effectively.
Smart Queueing System:
When you send a number of prints to your Array, Canvas will evaluate the available materials, required completion date, and current print queue and prioritize which model will be printed on which printer, ensuring the most optimal output.
Canvas Teams allows you to grant certain permissions to various team members in your organization. Aspects like the ability to submit a print, run a print, modify material and print settings are all controllable through the permissions and teams setup page.
Notify individuals when their prints are completed, manage your print projects and understand the key metrics of your Array system. Share projects and files across your organization and ensure consistent and simplified communication when it comes to your 3D printing workflows.
Canvas Array is where you will interact with Array the majority of the time, and will act as the information hub for 3D printing in your organization.
Element Array: Your Array’s Print Core
Each Array comes complete with 4 Element or Element HT Printers. These printers vary from the stand-alone models in a number of ways; however, many of the core features and functionality remain the same.
There are two configurations, Array and Array XT where Array XT has all the powerful features of Array with the additional benefit of being equipped to print high temperature materials including Ultem 9085, PEKK, and PEEK.
Both Element printers have a 14”x14”x14” build volume (355cm), all metal hotend, Core XY Gantry system, webcam, 8 moisture sealed material pods, and Palette X system for automated filament management.
Safety Systems and Certifications
Array was designed with operator safety as one of the most important aspects. There are a number of systems inside of Array to ensure your safety, and the safety of your team. In addition to this, Array comes CE and cTUVus certified meaning that it achieves world class product certification and safety standards.
Array Robotic Safety Interlocks: The front door of Array has an industrial grade encoded read switch interlocked with the power to the robotics. When the front door of Array is opened, the Array Robotic System will automatically cease movement, and shut down. The robotics will not start back up until the door as closed an a button on the outside of Array is pressed to reactivate the system The printers inside of Array are behind individual doors, these printers will continue to operate unless their printer door is opened.
Closed Loop on Array Robotics System: The motor and movement systems powering the Array Robotics System are closed loop systems, and are able to detect higher than normal resistance. This means that if something was causing resistance against the Array Robotic System, the feedback system would detect that resistance, and safely shut the system down. This is a secondary safety system to ensure that the Array Robotics System is not able to harm any operators, or cause harm to the system itself.
Integrated Filters and (Optional) Fume Extraction: Each Element Array will come with a fully closed build chamber, and an included HEPA filter and active carbon filter. Array is able to be hooked up to an external fume extraction system for the flexibility to tie into other air management systems.
Scalability in 3D Printing is here
The demand for scaled 3D printing applications has been present for years - but the technology in the industry has lagged behind this market need. Array bridges that gap, and for the first time makes scaled 3D printing economical and efficient.
Scale your 3D printing throughput without scaling your costs. Help your team be more efficient, and get more productive hours out of the capital investment you’re making in additive manufacturing.
If you’re interested in learning more about Array, contact our team using the form below: