10 Reasons to 3D Print with Makelab

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Last Updated on
April 17, 2024
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The Impact of Makelab’s Rapid Prototyping Services and Inkbit’s VCJ Technology on STAND+'s Product Development and Market Success

STAND+, an innovative non-slip safety shoe company, embarked on an unexpected journey in the world of shoe manufacturing. This case study explores how STAND+ overcame significant prototyping challenges and accelerated their development process through working with Makelab. 

Makelab is a leading manufacturing service provider specializing in additive manufacturing. Makelab produces high-quality parts, prototypes, and production runs for diverse industries, including robotics, manufacturing, consumer packaged goods (CPG), medical, and hardware sectors.

By working with Makelab, STAND+ not only optimized their production timeline but also slashed costs, providing a sustainable and scalable path to success in the non-slip safety shoe industry.

How It All Started

STAND+'s journey began when the founder, Rob Gregg, initially involved in a different industry, stumbled upon the idea of creating medical grade protective footwear. The vision was clear: to create unique, comfortable, and durable shoes specifically designed for healthcare professionals to keep the same and comfortable on the job. 

Rob's inspiration to create a new brand of footwear initially for the healthcare field specifically came from observing the daily struggles of healthcare professionals. He realized that the long hours spent on their feet required shoes that offered superior comfort, support, and durability. This insight drove Rob to explore the possibilities of designing footwear that could meet these specific needs.

However, transforming this vision into reality was met with challenges. Initially, during prototyping phases, STAND+ could produce 3D prints that looked like shoes, but were rock solid and untestable/unwearable, minimizing their functional utility. Over time, they experimented with various materials, yet the prototypes remained akin to rubber bricks—far from the desired product.

The problem was that we could make something that looked like our shoe designs, but they were rock solid and we couldn’t wear test them. We had to move straight to opening production molds to figure out if we got it right. - Rob Greg

The Problem with Traditional Methods

The traditional prototyping process for STAND+ was not only laborious with long lead times, but also financially consuming. The original conventional approach to prototyping involved several critical steps and challenges:

  • High Initial Investment: Known for its exceptional durability and high tensile strength, Tough Epoxy ensures structural integrity and longevity in printed parts. It is ideal for applications requiring robust, impact-resistant components.
  • Risk of Flaws: Traditional prototyping methods come with a risk of flaws. Rectifying errors demanded additional time and financial resources, leading to significant delays and increased costs.
  • Inefficiency: The traditional process involved multiple stages, each taking weeks to months, leading to significant delays in development and market entry.
  • Limited Iterations: Due to high costs and time constraints, the number of iterations was often limited, stifling creativity and innovation.

This traditional approach posed a substantial hurdle for STAND+, preventing them from innovating quickly and responding to market demands promptly.

The Makelab Solution with Inkbit’s VCJ Technology and TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic material

STAND+ sought a more efficient, faster and cost-effective solution, leading them to work with Makelab. The collaboration provided two major benefits: advancements in the prototyping process and the use of innovative materials that bring the prototype closer to the final product.

1. Process Advancements

Makelab significantly sped up STAND+' development process by leveraging advanced additive manufacturing techniques and streamlined workflows. What previously took multiple months could now be achieved in about a week. This rapid turnaround was made possible through:

  • Digital Design Integration: Makelab’s integration of digital design tools allowed for quick modifications and iterations, reducing the time needed for each design cycle.
  • Rapid Iteration Cycles: The use of 3D printing enabled multiple iterations of prototypes to be produced quickly without the need for expensive and time-consuming mold changes.
  • Efficient Production Scheduling: Makelab’s flexible production scheduling allowed for faster transition from design to prototype, minimizing downtime and accelerating the overall development timeline.

The use of Inkbit’s Vision-Controlled Jetting (VCJ) Technology played a crucial role. Originating from traditional inkjet 3D printing, VCJ technology integrates a 3D computer vision scanning system that captures the print geometry of each layer in real-time. This digital closed-loop feedback control operation eliminates the need for mechanical planarizers and enables printing with slow-cure chemistries that build the polymer chain more precisely. As a result, VCJ can directly print intricate, multi-material parts with a wide range of mechanical properties with high accuracy and precision.

2. Material Advancements

Makelab introduced STAND+ to the innovative material Inkbit’s TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic, which provided the perfect balance of flexibility and durability, ideal for medical footwear. The TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic material offered the necessary flexibility and resilience required for medical footwear, ensuring comfort and durability for end-users.

The prototyping costs were cut fivefold, allowing STAND+ to allocate resources to other critical areas such as marketing and research.

What Made Makelab Unique

What truly set Makelab apart was the ability to transform the traditional prototyping process into a more dynamic and responsive operation. By leveraging Inkbit’s innovative technology and materials, Makelab provided STAND+ with high-quality, cost-effective, and rapidly produced prototypes. This ensured that STAND+ could meet market demands timely and efficiently, ultimately leading to a sustainable and scalable path to success in the medical footwear industry.

In summary: 

  • Cutting-Edge Technology: Makelab leveraged Inkbit’s VCJ technology to provide high-quality prototypes rapidly.
  • Custom Solutions: Makelab offered tailored solutions to meet the specific needs of STAND+, ensuring each prototype met exact specifications.
  • Expertise and Support: Makelab’s team provided expert guidance throughout the development process, from initial design to final prototype.
  • Advanced Materials: Utilizing Inkbit's TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic material, Makelab was able to create prototypes that were both flexible and durable, meeting the specific demands of medical footwear.
"We compacted 3/4 months of development time into about a week and cut costs fivefold." - Rob

Rapid Prototyping helps with raising funds

One of the significant benefits of working with Makelab was evident in STAND+'s fundraising efforts. STAND+ detailed how the ability to produce high-quality prototypes quickly and cost-effectively provided tangible product iterations to potential investors. 

This capability allowed STAND+ to:

  • Enhance Credibility: Showcasing functional and visually appealing prototypes boosted investor confidence.
  • Facilitate Feedback: Investors could interact with the prototypes, providing valuable feedback that informed further development.
  • Accelerate Funding: The rapid prototyping process helped STAND+ secure funding faster, fueling their growth and innovation in the medical footwear market.

Expansion Beyond Healthcare Footwear

STAND+'s innovative footwear quickly gained traction beyond the medical field due to its superior comfort, support, and durability. The initial success in the medical market demonstrated the potential of their products to a broader audience. Recognizing this opportunity, STAND+ decided to expand their product line to cater to anyone who spends a long time on their feet.

This strategic shift allowed STAND+ to reach a wider customer base, including professionals in various industries such as food & beverage, retail, hospitality, and education, as well as everyday consumers seeking comfortable and durable footwear for prolonged Standing. The same principles that made STAND+'s original healthcare footwear line a success – innovative design, rapid prototyping, and advanced materials – now benefit a diverse range of customers, solidifying STAND+'s position as an innovator in comfortable non-slip safety shoes.

Conclusion

STAND+' work with Makelab exemplifies how innovative prototyping solutions can transform product development processes. By significantly reducing time and costs, and utilizing advanced materials like Inkbit’s TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic, they overcame traditional manufacturing hurdles and advanced their medical footwear designs more efficiently. This collaboration not only facilitated STAND+' growth but also provided a robust model for other companies looking to innovate rapidly and cost-effectively in the healthcare industry.

The success story of STAND+, Makelab, and Inkbit’s technology serves as a powerful testament to the potential of rapid prototyping and advanced materials in driving business growth and operational efficiency in the medical footwear sector.

Are you ready to transform your product development process? Discover how Makelab can help you innovate quickly, reduce costs, and achieve market success. Contact Makelab today to learn more about our cutting-edge prototyping and manufacturing solutions.

How Makelab and Inkbit’s VCJ Technology Empowered ASU Students to Innovate

In Spring 2024, students of the IND622 Advanced Industrial Design Studio IV at Arizona State University, led by Professor Dosun Shin, embarked on projects to design products that enhance health and well-being. Sponsored by Makelab (hello!), a leading manufacturing service provider specializing in additive manufacturing, the students were challenged to leverage Inkbit’s Vision-Controlled Jetting (VCJ) technology. This advanced technology enabled them to integrate multi-material 3D printing with a focus on overmolding, resulting in sophisticated and functional prototypes. 

Exploring VCJ Technology, Tough Epoxy and TEPU 30A - Soft Elastic Materials, and Multi-Material 3D Printing Capabilities for Overmolding

To understand the impact on the students' projects, it's essential to delve into the technical aspects of VCJ technology, the materials used, and its multi-material capabilities.

Technology

Inkbit’s Vision-Controlled Jetting (VCJ) Technology represents a significant breakthrough in the field of 3D printing, evolving from traditional inkjet methods. This cutting-edge technology integrates a 3D computer vision scanning system that captures each layer's print geometry in real-time, enabling unprecedented precision. This digital closed-loop feedback control eliminates the need for mechanical planarizers and allows for the precise printing of intricate parts with diverse mechanical properties using slow-cure chemistries.

VCJ technology is relatively new and not yet widely democratized, revolutionizing the way multi-material 3D printing is approached. Its ability to integrate different materials within a single print without compromising on accuracy or durability opens new horizons for innovation. This advancement significantly reduces production time and costs while enhancing the complexity and functionality of printed parts, positioning VCJ as a game-changer in the additive manufacturing landscape.

Materials Used

For their projects, students could explore two materials:

  • Tough Epoxy: Known for its exceptional durability and high tensile strength, Tough Epoxy ensures structural integrity and longevity in printed parts. It is ideal for applications requiring robust, impact-resistant components.
  • TEPU 30A - Soft Elastic: This soft, elastic material offers excellent flexibility and comfort, making it perfect for ergonomic and wearable designs. TEPU 30A provides a tactile feel and is suitable for applications needing a soft, rubber-like texture.

Multi-Material Capabilities for Overmolding

VCJ technology’s multi-material capability supports the concurrent printing of Tough Epoxy and TEPU 30A - Soft Elastic materials, crucial for creating functional and durable designs. This technology enables chemical bonding and mechanical interlocking, ensuring robust product performance. Automatic interlock design (AID) and manual interlock design (MID) further enhance mechanical properties, supporting complex geometries and varying material properties within a single part.

VCJ technology’s multi-material capabilities allow for advanced overmolding techniques, offering several advantages:

  • Enables complex, multi-material designs: Integrates different material properties within a single part, allowing for the creation of sophisticated products that combine strength, flexibility, and other necessary characteristics.
  • Reduces assembly steps and production time: Combines multiple manufacturing steps into one, enhancing efficiency and reducing the potential for assembly errors. This streamlined process not only saves time but also decreases production costs and minimizes waste.
  • Enhances product functionality and aesthetics: Improves usability and appearance by integrating materials, allowing for the creation of ergonomic and visually appealing designs that are both comfortable and functional.

The automatic interlock design (AID) uses optimized patterns to securely join materials, ensuring strong adhesion and mechanical interlocking at the interface. This method provides enhanced durability and reliability in the final product. Manual interlock design (MID) allows for customized interlocking features in more complex parts, offering flexibility in design and accommodating specific functional requirements.

These capabilities are particularly advantageous in health and well-being design, where products often need to meet diverse functional requirements. The ability to combine rigid and flexible materials in a single part ensures that products can offer both structural support and comfort, making them suitable for various applications such as medical devices, ergonomic tools, and wearable technology.

Explore Student Projects

The integration of VCJ technology enabled students to create innovative solutions addressing real-world health and well-being challenges. Here are some standout projects:

Ergonomic Mouse by Jami Wu

  • Goal: Reduce carpal tunnel syndrome risk with an ergonomic design.
  • Features: Advanced sensors, customizable settings, ergonomic shape.
  • Impact: Enhances user comfort and reduces repetitive strain injuries.

Oasis Headset by Vijit Singh Rana

  • Goal: Combat stress and anxiety through a wearable device.
  • Features: Uses vibrations and projections for relaxation and focus.
  • Impact: Enhances user comfort and reduces repetitive strain injuries.

Makelab’s Commitment to Supporting Education

Makelab's dedication to education goes far beyond providing access to advanced technology. Our founders, Christina and Manny, are Pratt alumni who understand the challenges design students face, from waiting in long lines to access 3D printers to paying exorbitant fees for printing final projects. To support the next generation of designers, we offer a student discount program, Makelab for Students, that makes 3D printing prototyping and manufacturing services more affordable. This initiative encourages students to explore and realize their design ideas without financial barriers.

Additionally, we provide expert guidance to ensure student files are printable and optimized. By offering this support, we foster innovation and practical learning, equipping students with the skills and confidence needed to tackle professional challenges in the design and manufacturing industries.

Conclusion

The collaboration between Makelab and ASU’s IND622 course highlights the transformative impact of industry partnerships on education. By leveraging advanced 3D printing technology, students were able to develop innovative solutions addressing real-world health and well-being challenges. This case study underscores the potential of multi-material 3D printing in product design and the importance of supporting educational initiatives.

As 3D printing experts, we spend most of our efforts focusing on improving the printing process by optimizing the printer itself. However, while better printers and the correct print settings play an important role, what really determines the success of a 3D print is how well-optimized the underlying CAD model is. 

For the best printing results, designers need to use industry-leading CAD tools like SOLIDWORKS to create the most reliable, optimized, and printable models possible. SOLIDWORKS for 3D printing is a powerful option, and to make the most of it, a deep understanding of SOLIDWORKS productivity tips is necessary. 

The following are some of our favorite SOLIDWORKS features for optimizing your design-to-print workflow. 

Print3D

  • Direct 3D Printing Capability: Enables users to print directly from SOLIDWORKS to a connected 3D printer, optimizing orientations and positions to make full use of the printer’s build volume.
  • Interactive Pre-Processing Tools: Offers tools to adjust print settings, generate support structures, and preview the layer-by-layer build to ensure model accuracy and print quality.
  • Streamlined Design-to-Print Workflow: Reduces the gap between digital modeling and physical production, ensuring that the models are optimized for printing and aligned with design specifications.

The Print3D tool is a SOLIDWORKS feature that facilitates the direct printing of 3D models from SOLIDWORKS to a connected printer.

As part of this, Print3D offers an interactive interface where users can adjust their models for printing by specifying orientations, positions, and scales to optimize the use of the printer’s build volume. It supports a seamless design-to-print workflow by enabling the user to check the model’s suitability for printing, including verifying if the model is a watertight manifold, which is essential for 3D printing optimization.

Key capabilities include choosing print quality settings and automatically generating support structures necessary for overhanging features, significantly reducing manual pre-processing time. Users can also visualize the layer-by-layer build, including viewing potential problem areas with the display of striation lines, which helps in anticipating the print's quality and precision.

Overall, the Print3D tool in SOLIDWORKS significantly enhances the 3D printing process by ensuring that the models are optimized for printing and accurate to the design specifications. This tool effectively reduces the gap between digital modeling and physical production to create a streamlined path from CAD designs to finished 3D prints.

Mates

  • Geometric Relationship Definition: Allows users to define precise relationships between components in an assembly, guaranteeing correct alignment and fit for 3D printing.
  • Realistic Simulation and Automatic Adjustments: Simulates real-world physical constraints and automates adjustments to connected components, enhancing the realism and functionality of models and reducing iteration times.

The Mates SOLIDWORKS feature allows users to define precise geometric relationships between separate components within an assembly, ensuring that parts fit together correctly before moving to the printing stage. This is a necessary aspect of the SOLIDWORKS for 3D printing approach, which emphasizes precision in the design-to-print workflow.

Mates in SOLIDWORKS help maintain the integrity of designs by controlling how assembly components interact with each other. For instance, a coincident mate can align faces to be planar, which helps confirm that components will properly align without adjustments during or after printing. Similarly, concentric mates guarantee perfectly centered components such as gears and wheels. Such alignment is a key part of 3D printing optimization.

By simulating real-world physical constraints within the CAD environment, Mates significantly contributes to the realism and functionality of the model. Simulation allows designers to visualize how parts will move relative to each other, identifying potential collisions or misalignments early in the design process. Such preemptive corrections help avoid costly reprints and ensure that the final printed products function as intended.

SOLIDWORKS' Mates feature also streamlines the modification process. If a designer changes one component, the mates can automatically adjust the connected components, maintaining the assembly's functionality without additional manual adjustments. With dynamic interaction, designers can significantly reduce the time required to iterate designs and allow for rapid product development cycles.

Multi-Material Model Handling

  • Simplified Management of Complex Assemblies: Enables the handling of multiple discrete bodies in a single part file, allowing for different materials and print processes in a unified design environment.
  • Advanced Modeling and Verification Tools: Supports Boolean operations between bodies and provides tools for interference checking and mass properties calculations, necessary for verifying design integrity before printing.

SOLIDWORKS' Multibody feature supports the management of multiple discrete bodies within a single part file without the need to create separate part files for each body. This capability is particularly beneficial for 3D printing applications where components may be made of varied materials or require separate print processes.

With the Multibody feature, users can create, modify, and manage multiple bodies independently but within the same context, which simplifies the design-to-print workflow for complex assemblies. For example, in the design of a multi-material object, designers can assign different properties and appearances to each body to simulate how each material will interact with the finished product.

The Multibody tool also enhances workflow efficiency by allowing designers to perform operations such as Boolean additions or subtractions between bodies, facilitating complex modeling tasks that are often required for 3D printing optimization. Interactively managing multiple bodies within a single document ensures that designers can swiftly make changes to one component without affecting other parts of the model, thereby speeding up the prototyping and development phases.

The Multibody feature also supports advanced functionalities like interference checking and calculation of mass properties for individual bodies or the combined assembly. These tools help verify that the designed parts will fit together correctly in the physical world, which is a common concern in 3D printing. Interference checks can prevent costly print errors by ensuring that parts do not overlap in ways that the designer did not intend, and accurate mass properties allow for better estimation of material usage and cost.

Model-Based Definitions (MBDs)

  • Integration of Manufacturing Information: Embeds detailed manufacturing data directly into 3D models, eliminating the need for traditional 2D drawings and reducing interpretation errors.
  • Enhanced Communication with Printing Hardware: Utilizes formats like STEP 242 for machine-readable annotations, facilitating precise communication of design intent to 3D printers and minimizing print errors.

SOLIDWORKS Model-Based Definition (MBD) is a comprehensive approach to integrating product manufacturing information directly into 3D models.This method effectively replaces traditional 2D drawings, embedding all necessary data—such as dimensions, tolerances, and annotations—within the 3D environment. The approach effectively ensures that designers can unambiguously define all manufacturing data such as geometric dimensions and tolerances (GD&T), surface finish specifications, and bill of materials (BOM). The system then organizes the data clearly and logically to reduce errors and eliminate the common discrepancies that occur when interpreting traditional 2D drawings.

Naturally, the integration of MBD in SOLIDWORKS supports advanced functionalities that are particularly beneficial for 3D printing workflows. It allows for the export of data in formats like STEP 242 and 3D PDF. STEP 242 is particularly advantageous as it supports machine-readable annotations, which manufacturing machines, including 3D printers, can directly utilize. This capability ensures that the user fully captures their design intent and communicates it to the printing hardware, minimizing the risk of print errors and material wastage. 

Moreover, by automatically aligning the digital model with the physical output, MBD helps maintain consistency across multiple prints and ensures that each copy is as close to the original design as possible. For industries that rely heavily on accurate and repeatable manufacturing outputs, such as aerospace and medical devices, SOLIDWORKS MBD enhances the efficiency of the design-to-manufacture workflow and improves the overall quality and reliability of the final 3D printed products.

Optimizing Your Design-to-Print Workflow

The success of any 3D printing effort hinges on the 3D printing optimization of the underlying model. SOLIDWORKS for 3D printing is among the best options available for designers who are looking to improve their design-to-print workflow. With these SOLIDWORKS productivity tips and a deeper understanding of the best SOLIDWORKS features, any designer can ensure success in their next 3D printing efforts. 

Makelab makes design and 3D printing easy with our extensive Design Engineering Services. If you’re a designer in need of support for your next set of prints, you can leverage our expertise in manufacturing, industrial design, and mechanical engineering to bring your ideas to life with 3D printing. Expert support is always available. Ready to bring your ideas to life? Talk to us today!

In the fast-paced world of product development, rapid prototyping is a game-changer, allowing us to turn ideas into real objects quickly. So quickly, that when compared to traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding and CNC machinery we're talking about reducing timelines from years to months or even weeks, accelerating the pace of innovation and significantly reducing time to market.

By definition, rapid prototyping transforms digital designs into physical models using three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD). This method not only cuts costs and saves time, it also significantly enhances flexibility.

At Makelab, our expertise in 3D printing streamlines this process even further. But how exactly do we bring your ideas to life faster? It starts with crafting proof-of-concept prototypes—these initial models are all about validating the core concept of a design. From there, we evolve these concepts into high-fidelity prototypes that not only look but also function similarly to the final product. What's truly exciting is our ability to utilize a diverse range of 3D printing materials, enhancing the realism and functionality of these prototypes. This approach allows us to tailor the prototyping process to meet the specific needs and goals of any project.

Rapid Prototyping or Prototyping - Which will work best for your needs?

Prototyping is a pivotal stage in any product development journey, yet historically, prototyping has been a time-consuming and costly bottleneck.

In the traditional way of product development, product designers and engineers relied on rudimentary tools to fashion proof-of-concept models. They had to create functional prototypes and production-ready parts often necessitating identical processes to those of finished products so creating prototypes could be a long and expensive process. Conventional manufacturing methods such as injection molding demands substantial investment in tooling and setup, rendering low-volume, customized prototypes financially unfeasible.

Rapid prototyping revolutionizes where prototyping falls short, by transforming ideas into tangible proofs of concept, evolving these concepts into high-fidelity prototypes that mirror final products in appearance, materials and functionality, and shepherding products through successive validation phases toward mass production.

Through rapid prototyping, designers and engineers can directly translate digital models crafted in CAD software into prototypes at an unprecedented pace, facilitating rapid and iterative refinement of designs to get out into the real-world for immediate testing and feedback.

Rapid Prototyping with 3D Printing Solutions

Rapid prototypes are commonly crafted through additive fabrication methods rather than conventional subtraction techniques, leading to the term rapid prototyping becoming interchangeable with additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

3D printing eliminates the need for special tooling, and delivers components with mechanical characteristics closely resembling those produced through traditional manufacturing processes using multiple materials. Although 3D printing technologies have existed since the 1980s, their prohibitive costs and intricate operation predominantly confined their utilization to major corporations.

The emergence of rapid 3D printing technology has disrupted the conventional landscape, sparking widespread adoption in prototyping & manufacturing. Through 3D printing, engineers and designers gain the ability to transition between digital designs and tangible prototypes. Today, it's feasible to generate prototypes within a single day, enabling numerous iterations in design, size, shape, or assembly. This drives faster real-world testing and analysis. In essence, the rapid prototyping workflow empowers companies to expedite their product development cycles, outpacing competitors in delivering superior products to market.

5 Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

1. Instant Feedback on Concepts
Rapid prototyping transforms initial concepts into low-risk prototypes that closely resemble final products. This replaces virtual visualization of products, enabling designers to grasp the aesthetic and tactile aspects of the design.

2. Enhanced Communication of Ideas
Physical models provide designers with a powerful tool to communicate their ideas effectively to colleagues, clients, and collaborators. Rapid prototyping fosters the generation of clear, actionable user feedback, crucial for designers to comprehend user requirements and iteratively refine and enhance their designs.

3. Save Time & Money
Through rapid prototyping using 3D printing, expensive tooling and setup become unnecessary; the same equipment can fabricate various prototypes using multiple types of materials. This reduces the high expenses and lengthy lead times linked with other forms of manufacturing.

4. Iterative Design 
Design invariably entails iterative stages involving multiple rounds of testing, evaluation, and refinement before reaching the final product. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing offers the flexibility to produce more lifelike prototypes and enact modifications instantly. This enhances the pivotal trial-and-error process.

5. Minimal Design Flaws By Iterative Testing
In product design and manufacturing, detecting and addressing design flaws at an early stage can assist companies in circumventing expensive design alterations and tooling adjustments later on.

Rapid prototyping enables engineers to extensively evaluate prototypes that closely resemble final products in appearance and functionality. This helps mitigate the risks associated with usability and manufacturability issues before transitioning into the production phase.

Types of Rapid Prototyping

Proof of Concept
Concept models or proof-of-concept (POC) prototypes play a crucial role in helping product designers validate ideas and assumptions, as well as test a product's feasibility. Physical concept models serve to illustrate concepts to stakeholders, foster discussion, and facilitate decision-making by conducting low-risk explorations of concepts.

POC prototyping occurs during the initial phases of the product development process, with these prototypes featuring the essential functionality required to validate assumptions before progressing the product to subsequent development stages.

The cornerstone of effective concept modeling lies in speed; designers must generate a multitude of ideas before constructing and assessing physical models. During this phase, usability and quality take a back seat, and teams primarily depend on off-the-shelf parts whenever feasible.

3D printing is an optimal solution for bolstering concept modeling. Makelab’s 3D Printing solution offers unparalleled turnaround times for transforming digital files into physical prototypes, enabling designers to explore more concepts. 

Works Like Prototypes
In tandem with the industrial design phase, engineering teams engage in a process focusing on prototypes to assess, iterate, and enhance the mechanical, electrical, and thermal systems. These works-like prototypes may deviate in appearance from the final product but encompass the fundamental technology and functionality required for development and testing.

Frequently, these pivotal core functions are developed and tested within test units before integration into a unified product prototype. This approach isolates variables, facilitating the division of responsibilities among teams and ensures reliability at a more detailed level before all elements of a prototype come together.

Visual Prototyping
Visual prototypes emulate the final product at a conceptual level but may lack certain functional elements. Their purpose is to offer a clearer understanding of the end product's appearance and user interaction. Before investing substantial design and engineering resources into fully developing product features, ergonomics, user interfaces, and overall user experience can be assessed and validated through visual prototypes.

The development of visual prototypes typically begins with sketches or models made from foam or clay, then progresses to CAD modeling. Throughout the iterative design process, prototyping alternates between digital representations and physical models. As the design approaches finalization, industrial design teams strive to create appearance-oriented prototypes that closely resemble the end product by incorporating the actual colors, materials, and finishes (CMF) specified for the final product.

Engineering Prototypes
The engineering prototype serves as the point where design and engineering meet. Engineered prototypes are used to create a minimum viable version of the final commercial product tailored for manufacturing (DFM). These prototypes are instrumental in lab-based testing with a select group of users where they can convey instant feedback to tooling specialists in each stage of the process.

At this point, attention to detail becomes paramount. Leveraging 3D printing, engineers can craft high-fidelity prototypes that faithfully mirror the finished product. This facilitates the verification of design, fit, function, and manufacturability before committing to costly tooling and transitioning into production, where the expense and effort required for alterations become increasingly cost-prohibitive

Cutting-edge 3D printing materials can closely replicate the visual, tactile, and material properties of components manufactured through conventional methods like injection molding. Diverse 3D printing materials can emulate parts with intricate details, textures, soft-touch surfaces, smooth finishes, low-friction surfaces, sturdy enclosures, or transparent components. Additionally, 3D-printed parts can undergo post-processing techniques such as sanding, polishing, painting, or electroplating to mimic any visual characteristic of a final part. They can also be threaded to allow for easier assembly using multiple parts and materials.

Engineering prototypes are ideal for functional and usability testing to evaluate how a component or assembly will perform under the stresses and conditions encountered in real-world usage. 3D printing provides access to engineering-grade materials tailored for high-performance prototypes capable of enduring thermal, chemical, and mechanical stresses.

Validation Testing & Manufacturing
Rapid prototyping empowers engineers to fabricate small-batch runs, custom one-offs, and sub-assemblies for engineering, design, and product validation (EVT, DVT, PVT) builds.

Utilizing 3D printing streamlines tolerance testing while considering the actual manufacturing process. This enables comprehensive in-house and field testing before advancing to mass production.

3D printed rapid tooling enhances flexibility, agility, scalability and the cost effectiveness for prototyping so they can be seamlessly integrated with traditional manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, thermoforming, or silicone molding, augmenting production processes. This technology also offers an efficient solution for developing custom test jigs and fixtures.  

3D printing extends the design process way beyond an image on a screen or a hand built model. Rapid prototyping tools enable designers and engineers to perpetually enhance products, swiftly and efficiently addressing issues on the production line with the aid of jigs and fixtures that optimize assembly or quality assurance processes.

Conclusion

Rapid prototyping works with applications across many industries, catering to both Fortune 500 corporations and small enterprises, aiming to expedite development, reduce expenses, enhance communication, and ultimately enhance product quality.

Discover more about how Makelab’s 3D printing services can allow you to cut costs and shrink lead times from design to production.

At Makelab, we're super excited about how fast 3D printing is progressing. It's mind-blowing to see all the different materials that we can use to make awesome stuff. And you know what's even cooler? There are always new materials coming out that let us do even more amazing things.

Being at the forefront of innovation is what we're all about at Makelab. We love trying out new materials and always staying curious and open-minded. But we don't just stop at providing top-notch 3D printing services. We also want to share what we know and teach you all about the incredible world of 3D printing materials.

We're here to help you out, give you the knowledge you need, and create a collaborative space. Alright, let's dive into the exciting world of 3D printing materials! There's a whole range of options out there, and we want you to be aware of them:

We're going to focus on two popular plastics in this article: PETG and ABS. These materials have their own unique properties that make them suitable for different applications. We'll compare them based on factors like ease of 3D printing, strength and durability, chemical resistance, cost, printing speed, post-processing, and environmental impact. Plus, we'll provide you with real-world examples of how these materials can be used.

If you're curious about other materials, our materials hub is packed with valuable information waiting for you to explore!

Finally, let's kick things off by introducing you to the materials we'll be discussing in more detail: PETG and ABS.

PETG vs ABS: Ease of Printing

No doubt about it, PETG takes the cake when it comes to ease of printing compared to ABS. Let us break down why:

PETG is a breeze to work with, especially for beginners diving into the world of 3D printing. One of its advantages is that it doesn't require a heated bed. This makes it more accessible to novice enthusiasts who may not have a printer with that capability. Plus, PETG boasts excellent layer adhesion, resulting in finished products with a smooth surface that's free of those pesky visible layer lines.

Another perk of PETG is its low shrinkage. This feature significantly reduces the risk of warping during the printing process, ensuring your creations come out just as intended.

On the flip side, ABS presents some challenges in the printing department. It has a tendency to warp and shrink, which can cause headaches. To tackle this, ABS requires a heated bed to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the print, aiding in minimizing warping. Additionally, an enclosure is recommended to prevent heat loss and enhance the adhesion between layers, ensuring a successful print.

So, if you're looking for a material that offers a smoother printing experience, especially for beginners, PETG is the way to go. Its accessibility, excellent layer adhesion, and low shrinkage make it a reliable choice. However, if you're up for the challenge and have the necessary equipment like a heated bed and an enclosure, ABS can still deliver strong and durable prints, although with a bit more effort.

PETG vs ABS: Strength and Durability

Strength and durability are key considerations when choosing a 3D printing material, and both PETG and ABS offer unique qualities in these aspects.

PETG truly shines with its exceptional impact resistance. In terms of strength, PETG has a stronger tensile strength in comparison to ABS. It offers impressive impact resistance, making it an excellent choice for objects that need to withstand high-stress situations without easily cracking or breaking. PETG's resilience and flexibility allow it to handle challenges effectively while maintaining its structural integrity.

Now, let's talk about ABS. This material excels in providing robustness and durability. With its higher compressive strength, ABS is well-suited for objects that require stability and the ability to withstand significant loads. It maintains its shape even under pressure, making it a reliable option for applications where strength and durability are crucial.

PETG vs ABS: Chemical Resistance

In terms of the chemical resistance properties of PETG and ABS, and how they can impact various applications, PETG takes the spotlight.

This remarkable material exhibits a superior ability to withstand a wide range of chemicals, making it a top choice for printing objects intended for outdoor use. Whether it's facing exposure to the elements or contact with different substances, PETG showcases its resilience. Notably, PETG is known for its higher resistance to UV light, offering added protection against the potentially damaging effects of sunlight. So, if you're working on projects that require excellent chemical resistance or extended outdoor use, PETG is your reliable ally.

In contrast, ABS has certain limitations in terms of chemical resistance. While ABS is a versatile material suitable for many applications, it is more susceptible to chemical degradation compared to PETG. This factor restricts its use in applications that require exposure to harsh chemicals. If your project involves objects that will come into contact with chemicals or corrosive substances, it's crucial to consider the specific limitations of ABS in those scenarios.

PETG vs ABS: Cost

Generally speaking, PETG tends to be more expensive than ABS. The primary reason behind this price difference is that PETG is considered a specialty plastic that requires more advanced manufacturing processes. As a result, the production and processing costs associated with PETG are typically higher compared to ABS. Also, the cost of PETG can vary depending on the manufacturer and brand. Some PETG brands may be more expensive than others due to factors such as quality control, brand reputation, and additional features or certifications offered by the manufacturer.

ABS is a widely used plastic that is readily available in the market. Its popularity and wide adoption contribute to its relatively lower cost compared to PETG. ABS is considered a more cost-effective option for many applications due to its availability and the efficiency of its manufacturing processes.

PETG vs ABS: Printing Speed

In terms of printing speed, PETG tends to have a faster printing speed compared to ABS.

PETG is known for its zippiness when it comes to printing speed. Thanks to its lower printing temperature and faster cooling time, PETG prints can be produced at a quicker pace. The lower temperature allows for rapid layer solidification, enabling the printer to move swiftly and complete the print job in a shorter time. This can be a game-changer when time is of the essence in your 3D printing project.

You see, ABS’s printing process requires a higher temperature, which means the printer has to take its time to ensure each layer is properly formed. This slower speed allows for better cooling between layers, resulting in a more precise and well-crafted print. While it may take a bit longer, the trade-off is worth it considering the remarkable properties that ABS brings to the table.

PETG vs ABS: Post-Processing

To achieve the desired finish, both PETG and ABS require post-processing techniques.

PETG offers the advantage of easier post-processing. It can be sanded and polished to achieve a smooth and glossy finish. This allows you to refine the surface of your printed objects and enhance their overall appearance. Additionally, PETG can be painted with acrylic paints, providing the opportunity to add vibrant colors and intricate textures to your creations.

ABS on the contrary requires more extensive post-processing to achieve a smooth finish. While sanding and painting are viable options for ABS, it typically benefits from an additional step called chemical smoothing. Chemical smoothing involves using specific chemicals to dissolve the outer layer of the printed object, effectively reducing or eliminating the visible layer lines. This process results in a glossy and professional-looking finish for ABS prints.

PETG vs ABS: Environmental Impact

PETG is considered to be a more environmentally friendly choice compared to ABS for several reasons. First, PETG is a recyclable plastic, which means it can be recycled and reused multiple times without significant degradation of its properties. This recyclability helps reduce waste and promotes a more sustainable approach to manufacturing and consumption.

Additionally, PETG is known to emit fewer fumes and odors during the printing process compared to ABS. While both materials may release some volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when heated, PETG generally produces lower emissions, making it a safer and cleaner option for indoor use.

In terms of recyclability, ABS can be more challenging to recycle compared to PETG. While ABS is technically recyclable, the recycling process can be more complex due to its composition and the need for specialized recycling facilities. This can make ABS less environmentally sustainable compared to PETG, which is often more readily accepted in recycling programs.

It's important to note that environmental considerations can vary depending on specific manufacturing processes, recycling infrastructure, and local regulations.

PETG vs ABS: Real-World Examples

PETG is a material that finds its way into a wide range of everyday items. You'll often spot it in food containers, water bottles, and other products that demand both chemical resistance and impact resilience.

But that's not all! PETG also contributes to the automotive industry, playing a crucial role in the production of durable automotive parts. It even lends a helping hand in the medical field, where it's used to create reliable medical devices and prototypes.

Turning our attention to ABS, the unsung hero of countless industries. ABS is a go-to material for automotive enthusiasts, as it dominates the production of automotive parts like resilient bumpers and trusty dashboard components.

But ABS also doesn't stop there! It brings joy to millions of children and adults alike through its presence in the world-famous Lego bricks. Yes, those colorful building blocks are crafted from none other than ABS plastic. It also makes its mark in the creation of electronic enclosures, sturdy cases, and innovative prototypes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the perfect material for your 3D printing project requires careful consideration of the application and desired properties. At Makelab, we understand the importance of finding the ideal match. PETG and ABS are both famous in the world of 3D printing, each with its own spotlight-worthy features.

PETG takes the stage with its easy printing capabilities, making it an absolute favorite for both newbies and seasoned creators. Meanwhile, ABS struts its stuff with its rigid nature and impressive compressive strength. Widely available and budget-friendly, ABS steals the show when it comes to versatility. Each material has its shining moments, and understanding its unique qualities will guide you toward selecting the best material for your project.

Join us at Makelab, where we'll be an extension of your team, providing the expertise and support you need to achieve extraordinary results.

Christina Perla is the Co-Founder and CEO of Makelab, a 3D printing service in NYC that prints parts, and prototypes for designers & engineers who are building physical products. Recently she shared her expertise at NYU with an exclusive group of attendees. Now, we brought her lecture to you.

Christina’s background is in industrial design, and before 3D printing existed, she and other designers used blue foam insulation from Home Depot to prototype new products. It was messy and toxic, but it was the best option at the time. It was so common that there is even an Instagram account called @blueformdust.

When Christina and Manny started Makelab, they were printing just a handful of materials, but it was already overwhelming. The pace of innovation in the industry is insane. There's always a new material or technique being developed. The latest thing Christina heard of was a 3D-printed basketball that was completely hollow and bounced the same as traditionally manufactured basketballs. It's revolutionary.

Despite the constant innovation, many people are still adopting 3D printing into their workflows. It's fast, cost-effective in some use cases, and allows designers to prototype quickly and efficiently. There are a lot of materials available, which is great, but designers may not always know what they need until they see it.

3D printing is a revolutionary industry that's changing the way designers and engineers work together to develop new products. Let’s get into the following materials: PLA, Standard Resin, Grey Pro Resin, Durable Resin, and Flexible Resin.

PLA

PLA is one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing. It is an affordable and fast option that can be used for a wide range of applications, particularly for early-stage prototyping. The material may not offer the highest quality, but it gets the job done efficiently and has its use cases for display models and early-stage prototyping.When it comes to designing a part like a water bottle or any other model with a basic shape, PLA is an excellent option for prototyping. It is also suitable for loosely fitting parts. Nevertheless, it is crucial to keep in mind that PLA prototypes do not have the same tolerances as injection-molded plastic pieces.

One of the benefits of PLA is that it is easy to work with. You can paint, sand, and coat it to give it the appearance of other materials. However, the way it is printed (print orientation) can impact the accuracy and dimensions of the finished product.FDM, also known as Fused Deposition Modeling,  works by melting the material and re-extruding it to follow a specific path, similar to a hot glue gun. Yet, it is not possible to print in the air, which means supports are needed for certain geometries, also known as overhangs. It's also vital to note that anything the supports touch will have scarring, affecting the overall accuracy, dimensions, and visual look of the product.

When it comes to the design of PLA prototypes, the best advice is to keep things simple. Intricate designs may not translate accurately, but basic geometries, big blocky parts, and thick walls work well. As the size of the product increases, so does the volume of material used, making PLA an economical option.

PLA is an excellent material for proof-of-concept models and early-stage prototypes. Customers often use it before moving on to more expensive materials as they finalize their designs. Graduating from PLA saves money since mistakes can be costly, especially when using more expensive materials.

In conclusion, PLA is affordable, easy to work with, and can be used for a wide range of applications. However, it may not have the same tolerances as injection-molded plastic pieces and intricate designs may not translate accurately. Overall, PLA is a reliable and cost-effective option for anyone looking to 3D print basic shapes and parts.

STANDARD RESIN

Unlike traditional 3D printing materials like PLA, which are made from thermoplastics, Standard Resin is made from a completely different technology. This allows the material to achieve a much higher level of surface quality and detail, making it ideal for a wide range of applications. The main barrier is really cost. Print time can also be a barrier here.

One of the interesting uses of Standard Resin that we’ve seen at Makelab is for making mold positives. We’ve seen this be particularly useful for ceramicists, who often create handles and other objects that need to be slip-cast. To do this, the handle is placed into a box and plaster is poured around it to create a mold. The slip is then added and the mold is cast to make multiple copies.

Besides mold positives, Standard Resin is also a great choice for certain engineering applications that require a high level of surface quality and precise tolerances. For example, in aerodynamics, the surface of a component is critical to its performance, and resins excel in this regard, offering the level of detail and accuracy required for demanding engineering applications.

Another advantage of Standard Resin is its ability to achieve high levels of detail in small parts. This is due to the layer height of each step in the printing process, which can be 100, 50, or even 25 microns. Even so, Standard Resin isn't suitable for every use case, since it lacks the heat and chemical resistance of traditional plastics. Additionally, Standard Resin can be brittle, which makes it susceptible to cracking and shattering if dropped. Despite these limitations, resin remains a valuable tool in the 3D printing toolkit, particularly for prototyping and aesthetic applications.

So, if you need to create a high-quality mold positive, or if your project demands a level of surface quality and precision that other materials can't match, Standard Resin is your go-to material.

GREY PRO RESIN

Resin 3D printing, also known as SLA (stereolithography), has revolutionized the world of prototyping and small-scale manufacturing. And within the resin printing realm, one material that has gained a lot of popularity is Grey Pro. It is a resin material that is specifically designed for printing small, intricate parts with fine details.

What makes Grey Pro stand out from other resins is its flexibility. While most resins can be brittle and prone to breakage, Grey Pro has just the right amount of flex to make it more durable, making it ideal for printing small parts that need to withstand bending or slight impacts without breaking.

But Gray Pro's flexibility is not the only advantage it has over other resins. It also provides a better surface finish, which means that the printed parts have a smoother and more refined surface. This is particularly important for small parts that require high levels of detail and accuracy.

At Makelab, we’ve seen Jewelry companies have found Grey Pro to be a particularly useful material for prototyping intricate parts, such as gold chains and small rings. However, it is important to note that while Grey Pro is a great material for engineering use cases and multi-part assemblies that require movement, it may not be the best choice for aesthetic parts. If you need to simulate pliability in a model, Grey Pro can work, but for painting or molding, it may not be the most cost-effective material.

When using Grey Pro for prototyping, it is still necessary to be mindful of supports. While the support nibs are easier to manage than those of other resins, they can still leave a little bit of scarring. Therefore, it is fundamental to orient the part properly and to provide instructions to the printer to ensure the surface is clean and accurate.

Overall, Grey Pro is a versatile and reliable resin material that can provide excellent results for small-scale printing needs. Its flexibility, durability, and surface finish making it a popular choice for jewelry makers and engineering companies alike.

DURABLE RESIN

One of the materials that have caught our attention quickly at Makelab is Durable Resin. It is a low-drama material that can simulate polypropylene. What is impressive about this material is its strength and flexibility. Unlike Grey Pro, it has more flex, and it can withstand a lot of pressure without breaking. If you print out a bottle prototype, you can squeeze it, and it will bounce back.

The smooth surface of this material makes it perfect for ball joints, snap-fit joints, or interlocking pieces that need to function for a long time. Its strength lies in longevity, making it useful for student projects or final projects where you need pliability and a smooth surface finish.

The accuracy of Durable Resin is top-notch, making it a favorite among printers. It is semi-translucent and very thin when in its liquid form, making it easier to print than, for example, black resin (which is difficult to print because it's so dark). The viscosity of this material is a big factor in the success or failure of resin printing.

We printed several sample parts using Durable Resin, and the results were impressive. Small parts are perfect for this material, making it an ideal choice when you need precision and pliability. The surface texture also comes out very well in this material.

Of course, no material serves all purposes and there are some limitations to using Durable Resin. We do not recommend using it for aesthetic purposes, anything super flat that can be laser-cut, or anything that connects with another piece and bears weight. In these cases, the cost and risk outweigh the benefits.

Overall, Durable Resin is an excellent choice when you need a material that can simulate polypropylene, withstand pressure, and last for a long time. Its accuracy, pliability, and smooth surface finish make it a favorite among printers.

FLEXIBLE RESIN

3D printing with elastomers has become increasingly popular in the additive manufacturing world due to its ability to produce intricate details and soft-touch parts. We offer two types of elastomer materials in-house: Flexible Resin and Elastic Resin. While Flexible Resin has improved over the years, it still has some limitations that must be taken into account when using it for printing.

One of the main challenges with printing with Flexible Resin is that the material is difficult to support during the printing process. Depending on the shape and orientation of the piece being printed, support structures may be required, which can affect the tolerance and make it difficult to fit the part over other objects. These supports are also more difficult to remove, given the flexible surface. Additionally, the material can wear and tear over time due to continuous exposure to UV light, making it less durable than other printing materials.

Despite these limitations, 3D printing in Flexible Resin can still be a valuable tool for creating small, detailed parts with a soft touch. However, the material is not ideal for extra large parts or for anything that requires stiffness or strength.

As the material continues to improve, it's likely that we'll see more and more applications for Flexible Resin in the additive manufacturing world.

Interested in learning more about 3D printing materials? Visit our materials guide. And if you’re a Startup or a Student, we have special programs with discounts for you. Discover Makelab for Startups and Makelab for Students.

3D printing has revolutionized the way we create prototypes, products, and parts. It has made it possible for anyone to turn their ideas into physical objects without the need for expensive tooling or manufacturing equipment. However, when it comes to choosing the right materials for 3D printing, there are many options available, and it can be challenging to know which one to choose.

Here at Makelab we deliver 3D printing services to designers & engineers making physical products and answer these kinds of questions daily to guie you into making the right decision. More often than not, the material that comes to mind when thinking about 3D printing is plastic. And although polymers are the predominant material for 3D printing, there are other materials like metals and ceramics. Nevertheless, even when we narrow our options to polymers, there are still a few options to analyze.

In this blog post, we will compare two popular materials for 3D printing: PETG and PLA, by analyzing their ease of 3D printing, strength and durability, chemical resistance, cost, printing speed, post-processing, environmental impact, and real-world examples for each 3D printing material. Let’s start with a short introduction to PLA and PETG.

Both PLA and PETG are technically non-toxic, although long-term effects have not been studied and we do not recommend this material be used directly in food applications and prolonged skin contact.

PLA vs PETG: Ease of Printing

Let’s talk about ease of printing. Both PLA and PETG are known for being easy to 3D print with when looking at the wide range of materials available.

But since PLA is a low-temperature filament, it makes it easier to use on a wider range of 3D printers, including those with lower-end heating elements. PETG, on the other hand, is a more challenging material to 3D print with than PLA because it requires higher temperatures.

Another point in favor of PLA is its lower tendency to warp than other materials, allowing you to print large objects with minimal distortion. PETG, on the contrary, is more prone to warping and cracking, which can lead to failed prints or parts that are not as strong as they need to be. The success of printing parts in this material is determined by the geometry of the part.

PLA vs PETG: Strength and Durability

If you’re looking for a material that is strong, durable, and can withstand impact, we have a clear winner: PETG. Plus, it is also more resistant to temperature changes, and more flexible than PLA! Considering these properties, PETG is a great choice for outdoor applications, parts that will be exposed to high temperatures, and printing objects that need to bend or flex without breaking.

Beware that neither PETG nor PLA is known for being UV resistant. Though PETG is known for having a higher heat and UV resistance than PLA, meaning it can be exposed to the elements more than PLA before starting to break down.

PLA vs PETG: Chemical Resistance

Following the previous topic, another advantage of PETG is its chemical resistance. PETG is more resistant to chemicals than PLA, making it the go-to choice for printing objects that will be exposed to harsh chemicals or solvents. If you predict your part will be exposed to water or humidity, worry not, since PETG is also resistant to moisture.

PLA vs PETG: Cost

Regarding cost, PLA is the cheaper option. Because PLA is widely available, it can be purchased in bulk for a low cost. PETG, on the contrary, is more expensive due to its higher manufacturing cost and more advanced properties.

Nevertheless, while PLA is cheaper than PETG, it may not always be the most cost-effective option (you know how the saying goes, sometimes cheap is expensive). This is because PLA is not as durable as PETG and may need to be replaced more frequently, which can increase the overall cost of using PLA.

Want to have an idea of how much a 3D-printed piece might cost? We got you - but please, be mindful that the cost of 3D printing an object can be influenced by several factors, including:

As a rule of thumb, the more complex, large, detailed, and accurate the print, the higher the costs. But each case is unique, and you can get a quote through our 3D printing quoting software.

Still, we want to be as transparent as possible, and make your 3D printing journey smooth and easy. Here are some examples, their characteristics, and their price before shipping:

EXAMPLE 1
ABG Cap
Price for PETG: $1.53
Price for PLA: $0.98
EXAMPLE 2
Buckle Clip
Price for PETG: $10.54
Price for PLA: $6.42
EXAMPLE 3
Dishwasher Wheel
Price for PETG: $21.28
Price for PLA: $12.75
EXAMPLE 4
Prusa PETG Jaw
Price for PETG: $88.1
Price for PLA: $52.11
All the dimensions are displayed in mm.

PLA vs PETG: Printing Speed

In terms of printing speed, PLA is unequivocally the faster option. As previously mentioned, PLA prints at a lower temperature than PETG, meaning that it can be printed more quickly. While the printing speed for PETG is said to be kept at max at 60 mm/s, PLA can easily go up to 100 mm/s. This can be an advantage if you need to produce large quantities of prints in a short amount of time.

PLA vs PETG: Post-Processing

When it comes to post-processing, PLA and PETG have some notable differences. PLA is generally easier to post-process, as it can be sanded, painted, or glued easily due to its lower melting point. However, PLA can be brittle and prone to cracking, which can make it more difficult to work with in some situations.

Post-processing PETG can be more challenging. Due to its higher melting point, PETG may require more specialized tools or techniques.

An important remark is that PLA filament can be painted while PETG cannot. But PETG is known for being able to be transparent which has its own benefits in a number of applications.

PLA vs PETG: Environmental Impact

Nowadays we can’t overlook the environmental factor, and it is something we care dearly for at Makelab. Luckily, both PLA and PETG are considered to be the most eco-friendly 3D printing materials. PLA can be composted, while PETG is recyclable and can be melted down and reused. However, it is important to note that both materials require energy to produce and recycle, and the disposal process for 3D-printed objects may vary depending on local regulations.

PLA vs PETG: Real-World Applications

Sometimes the best way to decide what’s the best 3D printing material for your project is by analyzing real-world examples. We selected the most common applications for each 3D printing material.

PLA real-world applications:

PETG real-world applications:

In conclusion:

Ultimately, the choice between PETG and PLA will depend on the specific needs of your project and the properties required for the printed object. In any case, we are always available to help and guide you in the right direction. Feel free to reach out to us through our chat, this form, or if you feel comfortable already about what you’re looking for, to get a quote through our self-serve auto quote.

The amount of materials you can print is quite frankly, overwhelming. Each has a slightly different set of material properties that lend themselves to different and varied use cases. We're covering this on our #matchthematerials series.

So let's talk about SLA (Stereolithography) and resin. It's commonly referred to as "resin 3D printing" and is 3D printed using a laser that cures liquid resin into hardened plastic. Like other materials and technologies, this is done layer by layer. But because we're using lasers, the precision is much tighter and more accurate. The number of different resins you can 3D print in is endless. You have your run-of-the-mill Standard Resin, and then a whole collection of Engineering Resins.

Standard Resin

The Upside

This is the most commonly used, the lowest price point, and the most versatile of our resin collection here at Makelab. We've seen everything from cosmetic and display models for retail and events, prototypes for jewelry designers, molds for jewelry makers, molds for ceramicists, and prototypes and parts for industrial designers and engineers. With resin, you can get a level of detail that is difficult to achieve with FDM and PLA.

Besides being incredibly accurate, the surface is smooth. This is great for parts that need an additional step of finishing. Whether it's painting, metallizing, electroforming, or felting, this is the material for you. For anyone with a fabricator background, it sands quite easily and retains primer and paint very well.

The Downside

The cost of resin is higher than other materials we offer at Makelab. One reason for this is the raw material cost and the consumables needed to 3D print a build. Another reason is post-processing & support removal! SLA and Resin usually come out of the printer with a large amount of supports. It takes time for us to remove the supports and sand away the many nibs that are required for a successful 3D print. The time to print is also generally longer than FDM & PLA 3D prints.

Another downside is that it's not the most volume-order friendly. Because of the cost and post processing required, it's not the first material we'd suggest for QTY 200+.

It's messy! This isn't a problem for us, but if you're 3D printing SLA and Resin on your own, you will want to make sure you have proper safety equipment, IPA alcohol to clean any resin residue, and lots of gloves (you don't want prolonged skin contact!).

Engineering Resins

The Upside

How many materials are offered! PP-like? No problem. ABS-like? No problem. Rubber or silicon-like? No problem. The unique properties of all these materials allow for more realistic prototyping and testing of parts before sending them to production. In short, because of 3D printing, users all over have access to these materials that allow for small testing and short runs.

And the AM industry is just engineering more and more materials with more and more capabilities.

For a list of all our engineering materials, visit our Materials Overview page.

The Downside

If you're looking for hyper-longevity of parts, these resins may not be for you. Engineering resins function great as prototypes with a short lifespan and short testing period. These materials are UV sensitive and degrade over time, especially with exposure to UV lights (which is all around us!).

Price points are much higher than FDM materials and Standard Resin. This is mainly because of the raw cost of materials. BUT! The price points are still more cost effective than traditional prototyping.

Resources

Formlabs' Guide to Finishing Resin PartsGuide to Transparent PartsMakelab Materials Overview

Even with customers who have utilized 3D printing in the past, the same questions persist, but possibly with a history of not so smooth orders. Historical orders were late, printability issues were not communicated, it was difficult to get in touch with people, questions went unanswered. Maybe only <25% of the orders went south, but those are the ones that are remembered for future prints.

We get it. Our founders were industrial design consultants in a past life, used 3D printing for quick prototyping, and ran into all of these questions and issues. They even bought their own 3D printer to bring it in house, but only used it a few times until the first few failed prints.

So that’s why they built Makelab with a focus on the customer experience. Here’s what they did:

1. Printability checks, via a human

We have a team member check every single part that is printed on our systems. We know what can or cannot be done, how far we can push our machines, the limitations of our materials. So that’s why a human will always check for printability of parts. Never just a machine.

2. Local pickup

Sometimes, picking up an order and walking out with it is the best way to ensure that you have your part, when you need it, and how you need it. Plus, who doesn’t love to meet the faces behind the calls & emails, a sneak question or two for the next project, or a little lab walkthrough to show you how it’s done 🙂. That face time is invaluable for building business/vendor partnerships, and we get it.

3. Courier options

But we also know that there are occasions where you need it fast, don’t have time to swing by, and shipping is too slow. That’s why we’ve partnered with Roadie to get your parts to you same-day, via courier.

4. Quality checking & documentation, every time

Before any order goes out, we log it in our system. We have a team member (someone who was not working on your order) review it to make sure it’s up to quality standards. The worst feeling is to receive your part and it turns out you can’t use it. THE WORST! So that’s why we created this system of checks. And we photograph your part before it leaves our doors, so we can always reference back to it. (Don’t worry, that photo stays in our internal servers, for our eyes only).

5. Buffer for file changes

When you’re in that iterative stage of product design, it’s easy to miss something. It’s human nature. So we built in a buffer that allows you to swap our your file 6 hours after you place an order, and 2 hours after we confirm it!

6. Email updates during the process

Have you ever experienced Domino’s pizza order process? How they notify you every step of the way? That’s what we’re aiming for at Makelab. We want to function like your internal team. So. We let you know what’s happening. When your part is about to get printed, when there’s an issue that delays the deadline, and when it leaves our facilities. But don’t worry, we’re building to add more features to make our process even more transparent.

7. File modification services

Files designed in CAD aren’t always printable. And you don’t always have the time to modify your file. So that’s why we provide file modification services. For the busy designer or engineer on the run, too busy to go back into Solidworks or OnShape.

8. Assembly services

Scenario: A part is too large to print in one piece. We split it up, make it work, and re-assemble. You receive an oversized part, in the material you needed, and it works. Yes, it has a seam line, but that’s okay. It works. End scene.

9. A dedicated service specialist to help you out

We realized early on the importance of good service and someone to call if/when things don’t go as planned. That’s why we hired a dedicated Service Specialist available M-F during business hours to assist with any/all orders. They’re also trained to help with materials & negotiations on bulk orders 🙂

10. A direct line to our team

Yep, we still use phones. And when you call, if one team member does not pick up, your call is directed to another. Unless we’re at an all team meeting or at lunch, phones are picked up. That’s a fact.

In the ever-evolving landscape of water conservation and sustainability, companies are constantly seeking innovative solutions to make a significant impact on our planet's future. 

Hydrific, an innovative venture-backed by LIXIL, is focused on water conservation. LIXIL is a global leader in housing and building materials, products, and services, and Hydrific’s mission is to make water conservation enjoyable and easy. Their first product, Droplet, entered the market in March 2024.

With help from Makelab, the Hydrific team discovered a new material and 3D printing approach using Inkbit’s Vision-Controlled Jetting (VCJ) technology.  

Inkbit’s VCJ technology originated from traditional inkjet 3D printing and integrates a 3D computer vision scanning system that captures the print geometry of each layer in real-time. This digital closed-loop feedback control operation eliminates the need for mechanical planarizers and enables printing with slow-cure chemistries that build the polymer chain more precisely. As a result, VCJ can directly print intricate, multi-material parts in a wide range of mechanical properties with accuracy and precision. 

Inkbit’s VCJ technology along with its soft elastomer material, TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic, has uniquely solved a prototyping challenge for a Hydrific part that required a set of complex characteristics, including durability, flexibility, and a watertight seal.    

Hydrific was able to rapidly print and iterate the 3D part on demand with lead times as fast as 7 days, avoid expensive tooling of custom O rings at this early stage, and ship their product for field testing on time. 

Meet the Innovators

Ari Morse
The Mechanical Engineer

Ari is a mechanical engineer dedicated to shaping the physical design of Hydrific's groundbreaking water conservation device. From design to packaging, he is deeply involved in the product's development, ensuring it meets the highest standards of precision and functionality.
makelab customer photo emilie williams lixil hydrific

Emilie Williams
The Industrial Designer

With 20 years of experience in industrial design, Emilie has left her creative mark on renowned brands like Contigo and American Standard Brands. In early 2021, she was part of the co-founding team at Hydrific and took on the role of leading the creative direction, brand, and design for Hydrific’s first product.

The Prototyping Challenge

Hydrific's journey began with a crucial challenge: creating seals and gaskets for prototypes intended for field testing the Droplet device, a smart IoT product that will help homeowners and tenants understand their water usage. These components needed to be not only precise but also capable of ensuring water-tight integrity. Ari explained, "We didn't think there was a 3D-printed material that could solve this problem."

The team had previously experimented with silicone-like printing materials, like the other flexible SLA materials but found it to be too thick for their requirements. Soft tooling was another option, but it was slow and costly. They needed a faster and more cost-effective solution that would meet their high-quality standards.

The Makelab x Inkbit Solution

The breakthrough came with the discovery of Inkbit’s TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic, a thin and flexible solution that met all the requirements for Hydrific’s prototype. This material enabled the creation of precise, cost-effective, and rapid prototypes of the seal, essential for field testing. Makelab played a crucial role in this phase, providing their printing support and expertise, which was vital in effectively utilizing Inkbit’s innovative material.
Ari excitedly reported,
"And it worked. It was the exact shape we needed. Faster and cheaper than soft tooling, watertight, and we were able to quickly integrate it into our prototypes for field testing."
Emilie added,
"It's game-changing to have something this thin, flexible, and functional. I didn't know this was possible. I can imagine the incredible potential of this new material for testing asymmetrical and complex seal designs for various applications.
As Emilie envisions,
this material and technology can extend beyond seals and gaskets to applications like flexible hinges, over-molded parts, and even wearables"

MAKELAB x INKBIT

Makelab is the on-demand 3D printing partner for Inkbit VCJ technology and materials like TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic and Tough Epoxy.

Learn more about VCJ.

Request a Sample

Makelab vs In-House 3D Printing

Hydrific initially used an in-house FDM printer for quick prints during the early ideation phase. However, they encountered limitations in terms of materials and quality.

While trying out other on-demand service providers, Makelab emerged as the ideal partner due to a unique combination of high-quality prints, speed, and expert support to assist with the ideal materials and technology to achieve their goals. Beyond Inkbit’s innovative 3D printing materials & technology, Makelab augments the basic FDM they have in-house with SLA technology and materials like Standard Resin, and Tough 2k Resin, helping to address diverse prototyping challenges that arise during the iterative design phase.

Makelab’s ability to provide same-day pick-up and delivery in NYC where Hydrific is based was especially important when creating many iterations and improvements in a short period of time to speed up the product development and design process.

What’s Next for Hydrific?

By leveraging cutting-edge 3D printing technology and materials like Inkbit’s TEPU™ 30A - Soft Elastic, Hydrific has unlocked new possibilities for designing efficient and sustainable water conservation solutions.

Hydrific is excited to launch their debut water conservation product, and with partners like Makelab, they look forward to continuing the collaboration to help keep rapid prototyping at the forefront of their product development expansion and success. The Droplet device is now available at hydrificwater.com

Offers Discussed in this Post

Offers Discussed in this Post

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