Manufacturers’ Monthly got in touch with Bilby 3D’s chief operating officer, Lee Bilby, to discuss the latest advancements in 3D printing and how it is transforming manufacturing.
Bilby 3D prides itself as being the biggest 3D printer retailer in Australia. The company supports 3D printer customers with sales, support and consulting through its wide network of resellers and offices in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Bega. They also manufacture a number of parts and filaments used for 3D printing.
Bilby 3D is the Australian distributor for the global 3D printer brand, Raise3D. Bilby says Raise3D’s products have helped dramatically improve resolution and size capabilities for 3D printers.
“Up until Raise3D, the standard resolution for 3D printers was about 100 microns per layer. The Raise3D models have a resolution of 10 microns per layer, that is a tenth of other models in the market.”
Bilby 3D has also been manufacturing filaments for the past six years and has also partnered with other companies like Proto-Pasta in the US for manufacturing metal materials with filaments.
“We started manufacturing filaments in the very early days when there was only ABS as a material for 3D printing.”
“ABS is the traditional material used for injection molding, but it’s not a great material for 3D printing. The reason it works for injection molding is that it shrinks and it comes off the mold. But you don’t want that when you are 3D printing, because what happens is that your part will start to shrink before you finish printing, and unevenly, so you don’t get that engineered precision you want and can achieve with 3D printing when you use ABS.”
“So, PLA (polylactic acid) was invented and has really become the backbone of 3D printing in many ways. PLA material actually does a full state change from a solid to a liquid when you print with it.”
PLA is actually a great material for a few reasons. From a global perspective, it is a great material because it is biodegradable, unlike ABS which is a petroleum bi-product.”
“Another difference is that when you work with ABS it just goes into a molten state, whereas when you work with PLA is goes into a liquid state and that is how we can achieve the very fine resolutions that we can.”
Bilby explains how advancements in material invention and 3D printing technology have gone hand in hand.
“One of the reasons that better resolution 3D printing has become achievable is because of the PLA material development or we never would have gotten here. Material development and 3D printing innovation go hand in hand because the materials get developed that allow machines to do more things and machines develop more capabilities that allow them to deal with more materials.”
3D printers are also increasingly able to use other materials apart from plastics to create a wider range of products.
“A case study is a company that is using 3D printing to produce bronze casts. Also, we have 3D printable bronze now, so you can actually print metal products.”
Bilby also explains how 3D printing can be economically feasible, particularly for small quantity productions.
“3D printing only uses what it needs because it’s an additive manufacturing versus a subtractive manufacturing. If you compare it to say CNC-ing a part where the part is cut out of a larger block of material, 3D printing only uses the exact material as needed so it becomes cheaper eventually.”
Another area where 3D printing finds applications is where companies need parts for their ongoing warranty services.
“Many companies need to have parts in order to supply warranty. 3D printing allows them to only manufacture the required quantity rather than having to stock a large quantity, as is common practice through traditional manufacturing.”
Using 3D printing also gives smaller companies an edge over their larger competitors as they can iterate their products more quickly to meet customer requirements.
“Small companies can quickly iterate their products using 3D printing much quicker than the companies who use traditional manufacturing with longer time commitments. With 3D printing your commitment time is much shorter as you can quickly iterate and innovate your product customer feedback.”
Consulting with the industry
3D printing being an emerging industry, consulting is an important part of Bilby 3D’s business.
“One of the things that we thought was very vital from the beginning was to have a very strong support network for our customers and our resellers. The support is not limited to the physical aspects of the machine. It extends to cover all aspects of the manufacturing from idea to production.”
Over the time, Bilby 3D has been able to bring together a diverse range of experts across industries from engineering to design and manufacturing, which allow the company to consult with experts in various industries.
“Buying a 3D printer is not like say buying fridge where you have an inherited knowledge. People don’t know how it works and what the possibilities are and what’s the best way to use this equipment. “
“That’s why the biggest part of our company’s resources is dedicated to research and support. We research different industries and what people can do with it and how different materials impact that.”
“Our aim is to take that knowledge and share it with the Australian industry to help our clients make the most of this technology within their industry.”