Looking to 3D Print a Large Hi-Res Plastic Model? Consider the Fortus 900mc
Kyle Maxey posted on March 30, 2015 |

Stratasys’ Fortus 900mc is the largest, most accurate 3D printer in the company’s Performance line-up. The Fortus 900 is capable of building anything from large prototypes to short-run production volumes thanks to one of the largest build volumes of all plastic additive manufacturing machines.

Aside from its large build volume, the Fortus 900mc is also supported by Stratasys’ full complement of thermoplastics. Whether a project requires prototype caliber ABS or high-strength Nylon-12, the 900 can process materials to fit almost any design need. It would be nice if the machine were able to use generic materials, but at this time the materials the 900mc uses are all proprietary to Stratasys.

As for quality, the 900 is a quantum leap ahead of other Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) printers. Stratasys has seen to it that the Fortus 900mc contains significant upgrades to its mechanical components and well as its electron mechanical and electric systems. When combined together these upgrades result in higher print resolutions, greater throughput, better repeatability and enhanced material use, although the system is still limited by the underlying FDM technology.

How the Fortus 900mc Works:

Similar to other FDM machines, the 900 builds models by extruding either a thermoplastic or support material onto a flat, exchangeable print board housed within a heated print chamber. At the beginning of a print, several layers of support material are extruded in the shape of the model being printed. These layers form a base that make removing the models from the board much easier once the print is done.

After printing the support base the 900mc will begin printing its model from whichever material is selected. Wherever support material is needed the 900mc will switch from its “model” material to support material to ensure that a print is mechanically sound.

Once a print has finished, it can be removed from its print base and support material can be broken away from the model. If support material remains on the model it can be placed inside a chemical bath where it will dissolve over the course of several hours.

The Fortus 900mc in Action:

Developing products for the military is one of Bell Helicopters main jobs. When it came to upgrading the V-22 Osprey’s tail wiring, technicians at Xworx, Bell’s rapid prototyping lab, knew they’d have quite a job in front of them.

“It takes a long time to design an aircraft. Starting from scratch it can take five years, and it’s a rigorous development process to go through,” says Xworx lab technician Mike Storp. “When using FDM over the course of development for a new aircraft, there is great potential to reduce costs and development time.”

With six mating sections inside the next-gen craft’s vertical stabilizers, Bell’s engineers were be looking at a massive print job if they were to functionally prototype all of the conduit sections within the craft’s tail.

After a careful redesign, Xworx engineers printed a single conduit section to guarantee size and fit. To no one’s surprise the experimental conduit fit, and within short-order Xworx was employed again. However, this time their prediction of a massive order was fulfilled.

With one or two minor tweaks added to the conduit design Xworx began printing five complete sets of conduit assemblies. In all Xworx printed a total of 42 conduit models.

“It took only two and a half days to make them all. The Fortus system ran around the clock.” The development group was pleased because Bell could keep control of the project in-house, but also because they would have had to wait six weeks if the prototypes were made traditionally of cast aluminum. “We obviously saved money as well,” Storp said.

Quick Facts
Manufacturer: Stratasys
Model: Fortus 900mc
Material: ABS-ESD7; ABSi; ABS-M30; ABS-M30i; ASA; FDM Nylon 12; PC; PC-ABS; PC-ISO; PPSF; Ultem 9085;
Dissolvable Support Material Color: Dependent on Material
Build Envelope: 914 x 610 x 914 mm (36 x 24 x 36 in.)
Layer Thickness: 0.330 mm (0.013 in.); 0.254 mm (0.010 in.); 0.178 mm (0.007 in.)
Axis Resolution: 178 microns (0.007 in.)
Printer Dimensions: 2772 x 1683 x 2027 mm (109.1 x 66.3 x 79.8 in.)
Printer Weight: 2869 kg (6325 lbs.)
Recommended Uses: Concept Modelling; Prototyping; Jigs & Fixtures;
Machine Price: $400,000

Who Should Use the Fortus 900mc:

The Fortus 900mc is the best expression of FDM printing available in the market. If you’re looking for inexpensive and quick prototyping the 900mc is a perfect machine. With its massive build chamber the 900mc can tackle nearly any single job and it can be used as a short-run manufacturing plant. For those reasons the 900 is likely a great fit for service bureaus or in-house jig & fixture labs.

Why Wouldn’t You Use the Fortus 900mc:

Anyone looking to build models with top-shelf finishes should shy away from the Fortus 900mc, and FDM printing as a whole. SLA printers will better suite your needs.

One major downside of the 900mc is that it uses Stratasys’ proprietary materials which can be expensive.

Overall FDM is 3D printing’s weakest method of building models and at $400,000 the 900mc might be outside many budgets.

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