Sometimes, when we receive enquiries from our growing customer base at our 3D design and printing service bureau, the customer is not entirely sure what 3D printing process to use and which materials would be most suitable.

Recently, we received an enquiry from Rothamsted Research which requested a print of a test tube rack.  An initial examination at the design highlighted a few issues which required further clarification.  The height of the holder was only 25mm, which could have caused long test tubes to fall.  This was clarified with the customer that the test tubes were only 50cm high, which is fine for the height of the holder.  Another issue was that the holes for the test tubes were tapered, with the bottom of the hole smaller that the outside diameter of the test tube.  Again, the customer clarified this stating that it was based on an existing design of test tube holder.  Further questioning of the customer revealed that it was for long term storage of sample.  This could cause an issue if the temperature or humidity was too high, or the holder was under a load which would cause the holder to deform.  This was critical information that was required for the choice of material which was only obtained through careful examination of the design and discussion with the customer to get the full design requirements.  Once the requirements were defined, it was possible to advise on the material, which was ABS using the Fortus 370 FDM machine.  It could have been printed on our Objet30 Pro using VeroWhitePlus, but this would have been too expensive for the required accuracy of the component.

So, we all sat down in the office over a pot of coffee and decided that the best way to do this job, rather than farm it out to another 3D printing bureau service that may well have the capacity to 3D print a job of this size was to cut it up into a number of separate sections. Our Sales and Marketing manager visited the customer and told him of our dilemma. The customer was very accommodating in acknowledging that we do not have the capacity at our 3D printing bureau and was willing to give us the responsibility to cut the part up into sections and 3D print it using our FDM 3D printer.

Always remember that this is all part of 3D Rapid Print’s satisfaction guarantee to ensuring that the component we print is in the most suitable material, using the most suitable process to give you the best possible value for money.


Following on from the initial printing of the test tube holder, there was an additional requirement to produce 100.  The customer initially asked if that was feasible using 3D printing.  Of course, if it can be printed once, it can be printed 100 times, however, it may not be the most economical manufacturing technique.  3D printing is cost effective for “one offs” and batch production (depending on how many components can fit onto the print bed for each print run), but for larger numbers it probably better looking at alternative production techniques.

At 3D Rapid Print, we have an extensive network of manufacturers who can produce components in small production runs in a variety of materials and processes.  From the requirements given for the test tube holder, it was likely to be too expensive to injection mould due to the tooling set up costs.  There were other possibilities, like machining from metal or another polymer, but again, the production run is not necessarily large enough to offset the set up costs.  What was suggested was vacuum casting in polyurethane, using the Objet30 Pro printer to print the mould.  This was a novel approach for the company, but one that would work well.

At 3D Rapid Print, we strive to provide innovative design solutions that save the customer time and money.


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