print_farm

A 3D printer that can print most of the parts for a whole new printer, that was the idea behind the RepRap project, from which the Prusa i3 was born. But, the more printers you want to print, the more printers you need. And of course, also a lot of space. As you may know, in the summer of 2017, we moved to a new building. Here, we finally have enough space for a new print farm. At least for the time being 🙂

If there ever is a robot uprising, it will start on our print farm. The new farm has 300 printers. The planned capacity is to have 500 printers in summer 2018. The printer composition is a mix of Original Prusa I3 MK3 printers and MK2S with the addition of magnetic bed with removable steel sheet plates. Using them saves a ton of time during the print removal for the 15 workers working here. The farm operates 24/7.

All of the printed parts are made from PETG except for the fan-nozzle shroud, which is made from ABS to withstand higher temperatures. We use 2 kg spools to decrease the frequency of filament spool changes. Each printer can print a whole set of plastic parts for MK3 in 27 hours. Furthermore, the farm consumes about 3 tons of filament every month. With the maximum farm capacity, it will consume one ton of filament each week. Crazy!

When you take a look at our huge 3D printing farm you might ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be better to just use injection molding?” Well, in some cases, it might. Even though a single mold can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it could be more effective. However, using 3D printing gives us one huge advantage – thanks to 24/7 heavy load we can keep innovating and upgrading our printers as we have to resolve every found issue. And in that case, injection molding is no longer a better solution. A 3D printer can also create much more complex parts than injection molding. And our workflow is also way simpler. As soon as we come up with a part improvement, we just test it, upload new gcode to the print farm and within hours we start shipping improved printers to our customers. Basically, we are leveraging one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing to the maximum.

Prusa Research printing farm (photo gallery)
From our video archives:
Printing farm (2015) | Printing farm (2016)

After the harvest, each printed part has to go through our thorough quality control, where it’s cleaned if necessary, holes get pre-drilled and its dimensions are verified. If a part does not hold up to our standard, it gets discarded.

So this how our farm looks at the beginning of the year 2018. What’s your setup, are you rocking a single printer or is your own small print farm already shaping up? Let us know in the comments 🙂

 

Comments

comments

10 thoughts on “Three hundred 3D printers in one room: A quick look to our printing farm

  1. I would like to know more about the overall process. How many persons do you have swapping parts/filament and setting up the farm. Do you print large batches of a single part or do you have each printer print an entire i3 part set together? If you have the 2S in the farm, how do you plan for filament swaps? At least with the MK3, you have a filament sensor to detect when you run out. What software are you using to control the farm? Octoprint or similar?

  2. What kind of control software does it take to command 300 printers at once?
    Is the software developed in-house or is it some variation of an existing solution?
    How do you handle networking?

    So many questions. 😀

  3. That is pretty impressive. Watching this video, I find myself wondering one thing. What do you all do to prepare the pei surface for printing petg on it? I have heard that the petg sticks to the pei too well but in your video it looks like it releases with ease.

    • Printing PETG on PEI surface is easy. Just clean it with IPA (isopropyl alcohol) before the print, when the sheet is at room temperature. After the print, let the sheet cool down a bit, then flex it and the printed object will detach almost by itself.

  4. It occurs to me that few other makers use their own printers so intensively, and that means that the Prusa models are tested for long term use much more than the average manufactured product.

    • It’s called eating one’s own dogfood. Big deal in the software/internet industry – if you don’t trust your own product why should your customers trust your product? It’s fairly reassuring on the one hand, on the other; I’ve long argued Prusa should be (at least) having certain parts that don’t change often and are well-tested made the old fashioned way so they can push things out faster, just seemed sensible to me – 3d printing everything, all the time, at least with current technology isn’t ideal in production runs, though I do recognise the benefit in certain situations.

  5. You should provide a “factory tour” option with a guide, showing the full process of making the printers 🙂

  6. Hey Josef,

    Have you consider switching to Masterspools for your print farm?
    That would help quite a lot with the tons of empty spools. And it cuts costs too.

    Just a thought

  7. how do you ventilate that room?
    what is the temperature in the room? 🙂

    isn’t it unhealthy to work there?
    (i am currently building an enclosure for my i3 mk2s because i am kind of concerned about the fumes and i don’t have a workshop or garage.)

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