Strengths and Weaknesses

From ProtoLab Wiki

A complete list of each machine's strengths and weaknesses:

Laser Cutter

The Epilog Laser Cutter excels at inexpensively and quickly cutting 2D geometry out of a variety of materials. It should usually be the first machine to consider when thinking about how to create a prototype. Even though the laser can only cut 2D geometries, it can still create 3D parts either by using acrylic solvent to bind acrylic or creating parts that fit into each other. However, if one solid part needs to have depth or 3D aspects, the laser cannot be used. Also, the laser is restricted to the 18" x 24" bed, as compared to 48" x 96" bed size of the ShopSabre. It is very simple to create files to cut in AutoCae, and they can quickly be sent to the laser computer and cut. However, there are oftentimes a long queue to use the laser, and during these times each slot in the queue is 1 hour long, so it can quickly add up into very long wait.


Form2 3D Printer

Strengths
  • Highly Detailed
  • Sturdy Parts
  • Multiple resins available
Weaknesses
  • Expensive
  • Extremely Slow
  • Support Structures may cause defects



uPrint Plus 3D Printer

Strengths
  • Strong engineering plastic
  • Soluble Support
  • Multiple densities: Low, High, and Solid infills
  • Reliable continuous printing
  • Cheapest 3D Printer material
Weaknesses
  • Monochromatic: One color per part.
  • Highest Resolution 0.010"
  • Added cost of support material



zPrinter 3D Printer

Strengths
  • High Resolution
  • Full Range of Color
  • Fastest Printer
Weaknesses
  • Parts are Initially Weak
  • Higher Chance of Failure if walls are not at least 2mm



Roland 4-Axis

The Roland excels in making small or intricate parts with the advantage of its 4th axis. Rounded geometry, organic shapes and 360 degree patterns can easily be cut with the 4th axis. It is also commonly used to make custom circuit boards. Student will make their own pattern for the circuit board and the CNC will cut away the copper layer where it is not needed. Though more prep time is needed for the CNC as opposed to a 3D printer or laser cutter, it can cut a wide variety of materials in complex 3D shapes, whereas the 3D printers will only extrude in certain plastics or resins.

ShopSabre CNC

The ShopSabre CNC excels in creating large, primarily 2D parts quickly and cheaply. The ShopSabre can also machine more materials than the Epilog Laser Cutter since it can work with materials up to 4 inches thick. This creates the possibility of creating strong mechanical parts quickly. The ShopSabre is also used over the laser when parts have a 3D aspect to them, since the laser can only cut in 2 dimensions. Some weaknesses of the machine are that the geometries it cuts cannot be as detailed as the laser, since an endmill is much larger than a laser in comparison. Also, the ShopSabre cannot make sharp 90 degree edges inside of a part, the inside edges of the cuts will be rounded. Also, generating the G-Code and creating a file in Rhinoceros can be a time consuming process, especially if you are not familiar with the process or the shop is busy. Since it can take awhile, if you are not familiar with the process of creating toolpaths, make sure you are not able to laser cut or create the part by hand before considering the ShopSabre.