today is May 19, 2022

To the extent that we think of 3D printers as production machines, we tend to imagine huge banks of FDM machines slowly but surely cranking out parts. These printer farms are a sensible way to turn a slow process into a high-volume operation, but it turns out there’s a way to do the same thing with only one printer — as long as you think small.

This one comes to us by way of [Andrew Sink], who recently showed us a neat trick for adding a dash of color to resin printed parts. As with that tip, this one centers around his Elegoo resin printer, which is capable of intricately detailed prints but like any additive process, takes quite a bit of time to finish a print. Luckily, though, the printer uses the MSLA, or masked stereolithography, process, which exposes the entire resin tank to ultraviolet light in one exposure. That means that, unlike FDM printers, it takes no more time to print a dozen models than it does to print one. The upshot of this is that however many models can fit on the MSLA print platform can be printed in the same amount of time it takes to print the part with the most layers. In [Andrew]’s case, 22 identical figurine models were printed in the same three hours it took to print just one copy.

It seems obvious, but sometimes the simplest tips are the best. And the next step is obvious, especially as MSLA printer prices fall: a resin printer farm, with each printer working on dozens of small parts at a time. Such a setup might rival injection molding in terms of throughput, and would likely be far cheaper as far as tooling goes.