I had a chance to check out MiniFactory’s 3D print technical sheets, and they are quite fascinating.
MiniFactory is a Finnish manufacturer of industrial 3D printers. While we first saw them around seven years ago when they were marketing more rudimentary 3D printing equipment, they have dramatically stepped up their capabilities since.
Their flagship 3D printer these days is the “Ultra”, which is a high temperature device. It is capable of 3D printing materials such as ULTEM, PEEK, PPSU and PEKK. Here’s a print sample of a PEKK part, which looks quite good:
They’ve provided several interesting innovations over the past year, including MiniFactory’s material technical data sheets that provides an easy way for engineers to quickly determine whether a part 3D printed in a specific material on their equipment would meet requirements.
Another innovation is Aarni, an unusual method of leveraging 3D printer sensors to “look inside” a given part to ensure print quality.
One of the features in Aarni is a kind of technical sheet that records the outcome of a 3D print job. We had the opportunity to take a look at one close up to see what sorts of information were being recorded. Here’s an image of the sheet obtained from an ULTEM 3D print on a MiniFactory device:
The information being recorded includes:
The name of the 3D model printed
Date of print
Which 3D print profile was used to do the print
Infill percentage, layer height, top/bottom layers, perimeters, speed, etc.
Spool number (to track back in case of problems with a particular materials spool)
Rendering of the 3D model
This is all good, but what’s more interesting is underneath that “tombstone” information: a moment-by-moment record of sensor readings during the entire print job. Here you can see a record of:
Filament chamber temperature
Filament chamber humidity
Heat blower speed
If these factors all stay within tolerance during the 3D print, you can expect a good result. This is, in a way, a record of the quality of the print job.
Ensuring 3D Print Quality
It’s quite similar to what Prusa Research does with their Prusament filament spools: they record the diameter of the filament as it is produced and publish this information with each spool. It’s a way of being transparent and ensuring that the product is of high quality — with evidence.
The same thing is happening with MiniFactory’s print report sheets. They provide transparency on the printing operations in a permanent way. For example, a service bureau using a MiniFactory Ultra could provide these sheets to their clients as evidence the print jobs were successful.
That’s something you don’t see too often in this business. Maybe other 3D printer manufacturers should do something similar, but for now it may be that MiniFactory is the only option.