PRUSA IN 2024 | How We Make Our 3D Printers
Hi, I'm Jo Prusa and this is Prusa Research. We develop and manufacture a lot of cool things here: 3D printers, filaments, resins, PCBs. You name it and we make it in-house.
So, get comfy, and let's show you around. I hope you'll like what we've got going on here! So, once again let us take you to a beautiful city in Central Europe, to Prague. When we published the “Road to 100.000 3D printers” video five years ago,
we were nicely settled in an industrial area next to Prague’s first power plant. We had a team of 400 people, one building and one warehouse. Back then, it was easy to think we had enough space for a long time. Well, time really does fly and it’s getting pretty cramped in here. And because we know we can’t stay here forever, we’re already on the lookout for a new home. But right now, by the end of 2023, we’re still in the same location but so much has changed.
There are now more than 800 of us - and we’re still hiring. Over the past few years, we expanded to every possible location within the premises. The main building remains our HQ, but we now have extra locations for development, engineering, customer support, and more. And we had to expand the warehouses too, to make space for all the new printer models. But despite all these changes, we’re sticking to what always worked for us the best: to have everything and everyone in one location, ideally under a single roof.
We had to make some adjustments to keep all these people organized, of course, but the spirit of the company remains very much in line with what we’ve always had - even ten years ago. So let’s explore what’s new! SMT line and motherboard production producing custom electronics One of the most impressive recent developments is our very own SMT line dedicated to producing motherboards and other PCBs. We're big fans of self-sufficiency and we want to manufacture as many components in-house as possible. This new facility is amazing not only for rapid iterations during development but also for full-scale production. All the shiny new electronics in our MK4 and XL models are made on this SMT line. It can place 60.000 components per hour
and produce over 30.000 circuit boards per month. While we do love the good old DIY approach, and we have built much of our equipment-in house, with the SMT production, we went for a top-of-the-line solution. Quality is key, so we use advanced technologies for deep inspection and even x-ray to ensure everything around our electronics is absolutely flawless.
Quality control testing all components Quality control plays a crucial role in the entire manufacturing process. We’re sourcing components mostly from the EU and from local suppliers and here, in the Quality Control department, we make sure that every component we receive or manufacture is up to scratch. Extruder gears, heatbeds, SLA printer tanks… you name it. Everything goes through an extensive testing process. This also means we get to play with some really cool equipment in here like this Zeiss measuring machine for example. Some of the devices resemble technology straight out of Star Trek while others are a bit more traditional.
The quality of the components we use was always our priority, but with the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, the importance of this department has increased even more. You wouldn’t believe how many fake and lower-grade parts we got instead of what we actually ordered. This inevitably led to our decision to lean towards local suppliers. We like to make things ourselves which also leads us to our 3D printing farm.
3D Printing Farm 600 3D printers running 24/7/365 This hall is the place where the plastic parts for every single one of our printers are being made. It’s by far the largest 3D printing farm in the world. And in here, over 600 machines run 24/7, all year long. You can’t find a better example of how 3D printers are much more than just hobby machines. Our farm delivers production-ready parts for the printers we make.
In total, there are nearly 2000 printers in the company, and on every corner, you can see that almost any problem can be solved with the use of 3D printing. So, in the spirit of the RepRap project and our roots, we still have 3D printers making parts for new 3D printers. The Original Prusa MK3S+ could print all of its plastic parts in about 22 hours, but the new MK4 does it in just 11 hours, doubling our speed. We go through 7200 kilograms of filament every month.
We build our machines so that they are able to run non-stop here and they perform amazingly well. Over 98% of all prints turn out perfect. With hundreds of machines and 24/7 operation, we collect about half a million printing hours every month just on the farm. That’s a huge amount of data that helps us to improve our machines and tweak them for maximum efficiency and reliability.
All farm printers are connected to our internal stock management system so we have a great overview of everything that’s happening here. And right now, we’re in the process of replacing MK3S+ models with the new MK4 which will massively improve the output of our farm. However, it’s worth mentioning that the printed parts were never really a bottleneck in our production. So, just to summarize: Printing the parts has two main advantages compared to injection molding whenever we improve a part, we can start producing it immediately. And also, by utilizing our own printers, we test them all the time.
Injection molding line industry-standard machinery We’re often asked about injection molding and how it stacks up against 3D-printed parts. Those are great questions by the way. We do actually have an injection molding line in-house.
This might come as a surprise since you just saw the massive 3D printing farm, but there’s a good reason behind it. There are some parts that either take way too long to print or they are not subject to frequent changes and we need to produce a ton of them. Like filament spool sides or the front and back MINI panels which are one hundred percent made from recycled plastics. A component may even begin its life as a 3D printed model and after some time, once it proves itself, we can switch to injection molding.
Manufacturing assembly and quality check Right next door to our printing farm is the plastic part quality inspection. Every single part we print is carefully checked, processed and moved into production. Plus, we have built our own testing equipment not only to check all the plastic and metal parts, but electronic components as well.
Everything is carefully tested before it’s packed and sent to you. And by “everything” we really do mean “everything”. not just a single sample from a batch, but actually every single item.
Because you can get our 3D printers as assembly kits and build them at home screw by screw, it’s extremely important that the parts you receive were properly tested. And yes, we still offer our printers as assembly kits - not only is it fun to assemble the entire machine, but it’s also the best way to get to know your printer inside out and truly understand how it works! We have an entire engineering department dedicated to the development and production of special machines for testing and manufacturing. Because we’re makers at heart, we build most of the machines here ourselves, and we often reuse parts from our 3D printers to build something entirely different. What started with simple devices for basic testing many years ago turned into massive projects, such as this machine for sorting and packing screws and bolts.
Over the years, we established a very smooth production process. Our manufacturing operators complete only sub-assemblies for the printer and their tasks and routines are changed frequently to keep things fresh. And they really do know the printers inside out. Currently, the record for the fastest assembly of a complete printer sits at a mere two hours. But on average, it takes around four hours to build a single MK4 3D printer and about twelve hours to build the XL. Once a printer is assembled, it goes through the initial power-up process.
It is turned on for the first time and once it passes the Selftest, it prints the very first object. This test print along with a testing report is included in the package you receive. As the range of our 3D printers grew, we found ourselves with a bit of a space puzzle in our hands. Especially the new XL printer was a challenge.
There was no way to integrate it into the existing manufacturing lines. So we had to build new ones. Things may look the same on a quick glance, but it took a lot of effort and reshuffling. With the amount of things we do here, it’s often like playing Tetris - but with desks, production lines and equipment. The entire assembly department spans across two huge floors and it’s where most of our crew works.
But if you’re new here, you don’t have to worry about getting lost. All newcomers go through a proper onboarding process led by our experienced team members. You’ll feel right at home in no time.
Dispatch packing and shipping Once a printer is fully tested and ready for shipping, it heads down to the expedition and shipping section. This department is stretched across two floors and covers around 600 square meters. And right here, your 3D printer is carefully packed and sent on its way.
It's an incredibly busy place with a stock inventory of over 200,000 items. Every month, we ship out more than 10,000 3D printers and over 100,000 items. That's over 30.000 packages every month and nearly 400,000 packages per year. And we ship them all from our HQ to the entire world. And what's amazing: only a little over 40 people run this show! We operate a pick & pack system here, which is something like shopping in a giant supermarket - complete with a code reader and a basket. Our team members pick items from our warehouse and hand them over for packing.
Then, everything gets ready for the delivery company. Once everything's in place and fully packed, your package along with the other ones on the pallet is sealed with foil, ensuring everything's safe and sound. And then, finally, it’s on its way to you. So, that's the journey our 3D printers have to make before they are turned into fully functioning machines. But we’re far from finished.
There's a whole lot more happening here. Polymers filaments and resin manufacturing In 2018, we introduced Prusament, our own in-house made filament. We were not satisfied with the quality of filaments on the market, so we started making it ourselves.
We bought a number of filament manufacturing lines and did something what’s very common here - we took them apart. and started modifying them because we wanted to make an extremely consistent filament with perfect winding. When you want to start producing filament, it boils down to two main things: source materials and equipment. We start with these plastic pellets and mix them with color pigments and other additives in these machines. The entire path of the filament is closely monitored with a number of high-precision sensors to ensure color consistency and the state-of-the-art 0.02mm precision with most of our materials. Every spool comes with a QR code - scan it and you’ll see manufacturing details including ovality and manufacturing tolerances.
So what happens with spools that don’t pass the tests? We recycle them and use them to produce our Recycled PLA and PETG filaments. And plenty of spools also end up in our Content department where they are turned into amazing prints we take to various events and shows. The demand for Prusament keeps growing and we produce around six hundred tons of filament each year, but we’re constantly expanding our manufacturing capacity and also improving various parts of the process to make it more efficient - like by adding this box-folding robot.
With the SL1S printer, it only made sense to start developing and making resins, too. And now, don’t worry, nothing’s wrong with your screen. We have to use special protective surfaces on the windows to block UV light, so this is actually how the place looks. For our resins, we carefully picked all the components and made sure that our products do not contain Bisphenol A.
We’re offering BioBased, Tough, Model, and Flex resins and we’re constantly adding new colors, too. Just like with our filament, the entire process is closely monitored for correct properties and color consistency - so you don’t have to worry that prints from two different batches will have a different color. Plus, our resins are low-odor and certified to be non-irritating to the skin. With all the quality control and in-house equipment, it’s not very common when our printers get returned. In fact, we have a warranty claim rate of just 0.3%. But in case you have a problem, or you need any kind of assistance, our tech support team is here for you.
Support and Service customer case and product servicing They are doing a consistently amazing job and I’m pretty sure that our 24/7 tech support in seven languages is one of the things our users praise the most. Needles to say, it’s often a very tough job and requires constant learning and training. Our tech support team has to know every printer inside out. So they can quickly provide assistance should you need it. Next up, our Customer Services team takes on the more complex issues that couldn’t be resolved remotely.
On the rare occasion, something does go wrong, our technicians get to the bottom of the issue with deep diagnostics, often cooperating with the Quality Control department. The Sales and Shipping team plays a vital part in the process, too. The sales support team is in constant communication with our customers, assisting with price quotes and order placements. And the B2B Sales team is dedicated to building important partnerships, bringing solutions for our customer's unique requirements, as well as overseeing various sales projects. Meanwhile, our Shipping team works closely with our transport partners to ensure top-notch shipping services globally, ensuring every package arrives in great shape, right where it's supposed to be.
When you enter the main building you’ll encounter an important part of Prusa Research: PrusaLab. PrusaLab hi-tech workshop Since 2018, it’s been an amazing workshop for makers, hobbyists, architecture and design students, entrepreneurs, and anyone else with a creative spark. With plenty of space and full of of hi-tech equipment, it's one of the largest shared workshops in Central Europe. 3D printing is obviously the main focus here, but the range of the tools quickly expanded - lasers, CNC machines, an electronics lab, and more.
We use them internally, too - for prototyping and testing of various designs. When the pandemic struck, we had to restrict access to the premises. However, we didn’t want to sit down and wait for the pandemic to blow over. Instead, we put our machines (and our hands) to work and we started manufacturing protective face shields for frontline staff.
We made over 250.000 shields in total and our local project quickly turned into a global endeavor. Once the pandemic began to subside, PrusaLab took the opportunity to shift its focus to custom manufacturing and we started an Accelerator program to help startups turn great ideas into great products. This new approach has led to awesome success stories, like JoySeat, the world’s first customizable 3D-printed bicycle seat.
It's also been a launchpad for innovative projects featuring recycled materials. And we also made the remarkable Fluidum project that made waves at EXPO 2020. Many times PrusaLab proved to be a reliable technological partner for artists and innovators from our local Czech community and beyond. When you get one of our 3D printers, it comes with an assembly manual and a handbook, but you can check our web for printing tips, academy courses, free models to download, and you can learn how to tweak and tune your printer in the Knowledge base. Content videos, articles, manuals, websites Photos, videos, voiceovers, Printables and other websites, tutorial and guides, new product announcements… this all comes from here: the Content department. It’s a bunch of developers, writers, filmmakers, designers and other creative people bringing you all sorts of content.
Like this video. Did you get it this time? Let's do it one more time. We have also launched an incredibly successful program for schools, universities and other institutions to bring 3D printing into modern education and we prepared a number of thorough 3D printing courses in the Prusa Academy program that will teach you everything from design principles to 3D printing itself. And all the awesome models for various events are made here, too. When you take filament scraps and give them a bit of good old post-processing with sanding and painting, the results are simply amazing. There is a downside, though.
There are days when you have to battle your way through a bunch of life-size Iron Man statues and robots before you get to your office. Development Hardware & Software And next, we would love to take you to our development area - after all, we have over a hundred developers here. But there’s a catch: we can’t show you all the offices because of all the various prototypes being scattered absolutely everywhere.
But we can definitely show you the Prusa Pro AFS which was already showcased on various events. It’s our next-generation automated print farm system designed for business customers and universities. It shares some components with other printers but there are several unique solutions including automated print collection. And of course, we do much more than just hardware - we also develop software.
Our printers receive firmware updates with new useful features even years after release. We continuously improve Prusa Connect, our remote print management system, and we also developed our own open-source slicing software called PrusaSlicer. We have a team of 13 full-time developers who maintain the code and thanks to their hard work, PrusaSlicer is an absolutely feature-packed slicing tool for many 3D printers out there - not just ours. You may not even know it, but even if you’re using a different slicer, the codebase may actually be shared with our PrusaSlicer. And our websites have massively expanded over the years too.
Our web department develops more than 30 applications both for customers and for internal purposes and they serve more than one million users every month. That's not just our e-shop, but also, the Printables community website, a vast knowledge base and our remote printer management system just to name a few. We use everything from Python and PHP to modern tools such as Kubernetes, ArgoCD, OpenTelemetry, or Grafana.
So all these huge prints, special tools, and hi-tech toys are really cool, but our company wouldn’t get too far without departments that keep the whole show running. We have our Processing team to ensure that the entire chain, from sourcing parts to delivering the printer works smoothly. Then there’s the HR department, the finance team, purchasing department that processes thousands and thousands of orders, and also the grants department: It works closely with a number of universities and research organisations to develop new products. We are a member of the National Centre of Competence for Industrial 3D Printing supported by the Czech Technology Agency.
With the support of the Czech Development Agency, we also implement projects developing socially beneficial 3D printing in Africa. And let’s make a short stop in our Sustainability department that helps to reduce our carbon footprint on this planet. The side panels of Prusament spools are made from recycled plastic, we manufacture recycled filaments, you can download a sustainability report and also a product passport for the MK3S+ which gives you a great overview of the origin of its parts and CO2 production. But it’s also the general purpose of 3D printers that makes a difference - 3D printers allow you to fix broken things, so you can repair them instead of throwing them away. We also cooperate with many leading companies that publish their designs on Printables.com.
And since you’ve seen most of our factory by now, you can probably imagine how demanding is to keep all the stuff running. That’s a task for the IT and facility departments. Yeah, it takes a lot of people to keep this ship sailing. And actually, some animals too. Let’s take a little walk behind the warehouses because here you can find our very unusual colleagues. Whenever you need to take a break from your duties, you can spend some time here with our alpacas.
Just be sure to bring some snacks with you. They enjoy the company and actually starred in a couple of movies already. And to wrap up the introduction of these unlikely residents in this industrial area, let’s visit the beehives really quickly. Yes, we do have bees! They collect pollen from the neighboring park and a botanical garden and produce delicate honey. So there you have it - that's Prusa Research.
When you’re in Prague, come see by yourself. I promise it’s even better than on YouTube in 4k. Thank you all for watching and big thanks to Honza for the narration.
I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak into what we do here. And as always Happy printing!