Yesterday’s post on NextReef using a 3D printer to ‘print’ sumps was in fact an April Fool’s prank we were a part of so sadly, we are not quite ready to have a 3D printed sumps quite yet. However, there is the growing trend of using 3D printers to help with the production of equipment in the aquarium industry. The other day we shared how GHL is using a 3D printer to help with evaluating new designs, helping to eliminate costly and time-intensive prototyping. We did have a chat with the NextReef team and learned how they are really incorporating the 3D printer into its production process.
One of the things the 3D printer provides that another machine like a CNC cannot do is to produce low-volume production of parts that aren’t otherwise available. One example they provided was when they were looking for a part for its protein skimmer line and were looking at $14,000 for injection molding. The geometry was unique enough so it couldn’t be milled on the CNC machine. By investing in a 3D printer, they can print them on demand and can change them as needed along the way making it uber-flexible.
The unit the team at NextReef invested in is what looks like a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus that will make parts that are really ready for prime time. While the MakerBot is good for creating concepts and getting a 3D model of an object, this beefy machine prints using ABSplus thermoplastic, so you can not only create models but functional prototypes that are durable, stable and pinpoint accurate.
Thank you for playing along and we are hoping the NextReef team can print out a custom sump in the future.