A 3D printer that can print most of the parts for a whole new printer, that was the idea behind the RepRap project, from which the Prusa i3 was born. But, the more printers you want to print, the more printers you need. And of course, also a lot of space. As you may know, in the summer of 2017, we moved to a new building. Here, we finally have enough space for a new print farm. At least for the time being 🙂
If there ever is a robot uprising, it will start on our print farm. The new farm has 300 printers. The planned capacity is to have 500 printers in summer 2018. The printer composition is a mix of Original Prusa I3 MK3 printers and MK2S with the addition of magnetic bed with removable steel sheet plates. Using them saves a ton of time during the print removal for the 15 workers working here. The farm operates 24/7.
All of the printed parts are made from PETG except for the fan-nozzle shroud, which is made from ABS to withstand higher temperatures. We use 2 kg spools to decrease the frequency of filament spool changes. Each printer can print a whole set of plastic parts for MK3 in 27 hours. Furthermore, the farm consumes about 3 tons of filament every month. With the maximum farm capacity, it will consume one ton of filament each week. Crazy!
When you take a look at our huge 3D printing farm you might ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be better to just use injection molding?” Well, in some cases, it might. Even though a single mold can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it could be more effective. However, using 3D printing gives us one huge advantage – thanks to 24/7 heavy load we can keep innovating and upgrading our printers as we have to resolve every found issue. And in that case, injection molding is no longer a better solution. A 3D printer can also create much more complex parts than injection molding. And our workflow is also way simpler. As soon as we come up with a part improvement, we just test it, upload new gcode to the print farm and within hours we start shipping improved printers to our customers. Basically, we are leveraging one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing to the maximum.
After the harvest, each printed part has to go through our thorough quality control, where it’s cleaned if necessary, holes get pre-drilled and its dimensions are verified. If a part does not hold up to our standard, it gets discarded.
So this how our farm looks at the beginning of the year 2018. What’s your setup, are you rocking a single printer or is your own small print farm already shaping up? Let us know in the comments 🙂