By: Todd Grimm, President of T. A. Grimm & Associates, Inc.
It is the eve of EuroMold 2013, which means that many new 3D printing product announcements will be coming. This annual event has become the launch venue for the 3D printing industry, and if history repeats itself, we should be hearing about a number of exciting developments.
To prepare for the expected onslaught of news, we’ve prepared the following highlights of new products over the past 12 months. Progress is being made; operations are being simplified and output characteristics are improving. The 3D printing industry is advancing, but not at the breakneck speed that some proclaim. Contrary to what mainstream media would lead us to believe, most of these announcements are not ground-breaking innovations that are changing the 3D printing landscape at a rapid pace. However, the sheer number and broad range of developments prove that the industry is innovating, but in an incremental fashion.
This lineup is presented in two major categories: innovative for the unique, never-before-seen developments, and incremental for the developments that build on prior technologies and materials. While comprehensive, there are omissions, most notably in materials, software and consumer-class 3D printers because there is simply too much to cover.
Innovative? To Be Determined
The verdict is still out for these technologies. All are truly innovative, but none have been commercialized.
• The Technology Partnership (TTP)
Vista 3D: Multi-material jetting head TTP has given us a sneak peek at a jetting head that will print multiple materials at the same time, and the company claims that those materials will include metals, plastics, ceramics and biological cells
Hyperform: Big parts in small volumes. It is still in development and currently limited to a single axis, but Hyperform can produce a 50-foot chain in a five-inch cube. The secret is in the design of the printed part.
Freeformer: New process for thermoplastics. The new AKF (Arburg Plastic Freeforming) process is quite interesting. As with the company’s injection molding presses, thermoplastic granules are plasticized with a screw. That material then enters a discharge unit (print head) that spits out thermoplastic droplets. Two very notable items about the Freeformer are: 5-axis bed motion to eliminate support structures; materials — low-cost and broad selection since it uses the same materials as those stocked for injection molding.
Innovative: Appear To Be, But Not
Three new names were bestowed this year, but none is for a new technology.
• 3D Systems
ColorJet Printing (CJP): New name for decades-old process (powders). After years of calling the Z Corporation process 3D printing, it now has a unique and distinguishable name.
• Mcor Technologies
Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL): Established process given name (paper). Since its inception, Mcor’s process has been called 3D Printing. Now, it too has a name that differentiates the process.
• Solidscape ( a subsidiary of Stratasys). Smooth Curvature Printing (SCP): New name for decades-old process (wax). Like CJP and SDL, SCP is a unique name for what was referred to as 3D printing.
Innovative: Commercially Available
Of all the announcements, just three are innovations that are available for purchase.
• envisionTEC. 3SP (Scan, Spin and Selectively Photocure): Significant departure from DLP. 3SP eliminates the cost issues of scalability for DLP-based processes (envisionTEC’s heritage) and some issues with fixed origination point laser based systems. It promises high-speed without sacrificing accuracy or resolution.
A low-cost laser used in Blu-ray devices travels across a vat of photopolymer. Directed at a spinning mirror system and through two sets of optics, the beam moves front to back as its carriage moves left to right. The optics project a round beam profile across the entire build area.
The technology is available in three models: ULTRA 3SP, ULTRA 3SP HD and ULTRA 3SP Ortho. All offer 10.5 x 7.25 in. build areas and depth ranges from 3.0 to 7.6 in. XY resolutions are 50 and 100 microns while layer thickness ranges from 0.001 to 0.004 in.
• Formlabs. Form 1: Low-cost stereo-lithography (photopolymer). The innovation in the Form 1 is that stereolithography is now a simple, desktop alternative for just $3,300. Formlabs replaces the industrial laser with a low-cost laser from the Blu-ray market. This small unit has a 4.9 x 4.9 x 6.5 in. build volume and a 25-micron layer thickness.
• voxeljet. VXC800: Continuous printing (sand, thermoplastic). The process remains the same, but what makes the VXC800 innovative is that it uses a conveyance system to print parts without needing to “swap out” jobs. That patent-pending design also produces parts that are longer than the system is deep. Maximum width is 33.5 in., and the maximum height is 19.7 in.
Although not innovative breakthroughs, these incremental advances improve on technologies that are well established.
• 3D Systems
ProJet x60: Z Corp rebranded (powders). The Z Corp ZPrinter line has a new name, ProJet X60, and a new look. There are six 3D printers in the lineup: 160, 260C, 360, 460Plus, 660Pro and 860Pro.
ProJet 3500 Max: New features and new look (photopolymer). The two systems in this line, HDMax and CPXMax, got a new look and a cool tablet interface for remote control and monitoring. What makes them Max is having the highest print resolution, 750 x 750 dpi, for the entire build volume of 11.8 x 7.3 x 8.0 in. Layer thicknesses are 16, 29 and 32 microns.
ProJet 3510: New features and new look (photopolymer). The eight models in the 3510 series have the new look and tablet interface of the ProJet 3500 Max.
ProJet 5000: Faster than before (photopolymer). The latest version of the ProJet 5000 is up to twice as fast as its predecessor. It has a 21.7 x 15.5 x 11.8 in. build volume and offers resolutions of 375 x 375 dpi to 750 x 750 dpi.
• Arcam AB
Arcam Q10: Industrial production of implants (metal). Replacing the A1, the Q10 is a purpose-built machine for manufacturing implants. At its heart, the Q10 has a new electron beam gun that yields faster builds and higher resolution. It also includes LayerQam, a new camera-based monitoring system for continuous quality assurance.
Like the A1 it replaces, the Q10 offers multi-beam processing and a build volume of 7.9 x 7.9 x 7.1 in.
• Concept Laser
X line 1000R: Big metal parts (metals). Born out of collaboration with Fraunhofer ILT and Daimler AG, the X line 1000R boasts a 24.8 x 15.7 x 19.7 in. build volume. Its 1 kW laser yields 10x speeds over competitive offerings. To keep production going, it has a rotating, two-chamber design that allows removal of parts while another job is running.
• EOS GmbH
FORMIGA P110: System refined (thermoplastics). Replacing the FORMIGA P100, the P110 offers improvements in stability, reproducibility and throughput. While improved process controls aren’t visible to the casual observer, the addition of 0.002 and 0.005 in. layer thickness is.
3Dent Printer: Application specific option (photopolymer). Using its tried-and-true process, DLP, 3Dent is an option for dental applications. It prints 0.4 in. per hour at an XY resolution of 25 microns. For simple operation, it offers a touch screen interface.
Perfactory Micro Ortho: Application specific option (photopolymer). The fourth in the Micro line of small (11 x 10 x 24 in.) plug-and-play printers, the Micro Ortho is targeted for dental applications. To handle dental models, it increases the build envelope to 4 x 3 x 4 in. and is touted as having a resolution that produces clear aligners without visible stairstepping.
M-FLEX 3D Printing System: Multi-material (powders). Stainless steel, tungsten and bronze are the current material options, but ExOne plans on supporting foundry sand, glass and ceramics on this platform. M-Flex offers a 3X build speed improvement – now 30 seconds per layer – and 10X process speed improvement. The build volume is 15.7 x 9.8 x 9.8 in.
SP Series: Another DLP alternative (photopolymer). Kevvox uses blue LED light sources for its adaptation of a DLP-based 3D printer. Two models, the SP4300 and SP6200, offer three proprietary materials, XY resolutions of 43 and 62 microns and layer thicknesses ranging from 10 to 100 microns. For ease-of-use and simple workflows, the company bundles the printers with its integrated software, K-Studio.
• Mcor Technologies
Matrix 300+: Higher speed and quality (paper). This 3D printer has three times the speed of its predecessor with higher quality. It adds a new draft mode (0.007 in. layers) and new software that reduces both build and weeding time. Weeding is Mcor’s term for the postprocessing step of removing surrounding paper.
IRIS: Full-color printing (paper). Add a high-resolution color printer to the front-end of the Matrix 300+ and you get IRIS. This is the first 3D printer to offer CMYK color (over 1 million hues) at 5,760 x 1,440 resolution.
• SLM Solutions
SLM 500 HL: Bigger and faster (metal). For large metal parts, SLM offers its SLM 500 HL with a build volume of 19.7 x 11.0 x 12.8 in. and up to 10 times the speed of similar process. Two laser carriages, each with 400 W and 1000 W lasers, provide the speed improvement. The SLM 500 HL also offers swappable build chambers and a continuous material conveyance system.
• Solidscape (a subsidiary of Stratasys)
3Z Series: Additions to the new line (wax). Solidscape has been rounding out its line-up of 3D printers with simple setup and operation. The 3Z series eliminates the somewhat arduous pre-print setup and streamlines the work flow with one-touch, easy-to-use printers: 3Z Lab (dental), 3Z Studio (jewelry) and 3Z Max (general purpose). The main difference between the three units is build height, which ranges from 2 to 4 in. The 3Z Max also increases build speed. All offer 6 x 6 in. build areas, 5,000 x 5,000 dpi resolution and adjustable layer thickness down to 6.3 micron.
Objet1000: Massive jetting system (photopolymer). With a build chamber of 39.4 x 31.5 x 19.7 in., the Objet1000 has 10 times the volume of the next biggest 3D printer, the Objet 500 Connex. Yet, nothing is sacrificed; it has multi-material jetting, 600 x 600 dpi resolution and 0.001 in. layers.
Objet30 OrthoDesk: Application specific alternative (photopolymer). The company openly acknowledges that this is an Objet30 Pro with workflow modifications to make the 3D printer a better tool for orthodontics labs. What changes are items that are needed for the dental market.
VX200: Smaller size and price (sand, thermoplastic). voxeljet has one of the largest 3D printers, the VX4000, and it now has a smaller and more affordable option. The VX200 offers a build volume of 11.8 x 7.9 x 5.9 in.; 300 dpi resolution and speeds up to 1.5 in. per hour.
There are too many new materials to list so we’ll just highlight some of the more significant developments.
• Bayer Material Science: Desmosint X 92 A-1: Thermoplastic urethane (thermoplastic). Thermoplastic urethane (TPU) is rubber-like with high elasticity, tear strength, dynamic loading resistance and abrasion resistance.
• CRP Technology: Windform SP: Carbon-filled (thermoplastic). This carbon-filled polyamide adds increased shock, vibration and deformation resistance even when exposed to high temperatures.
• EOS GmbH: PrimePart PLUS: Improved re-use rates (thermoplastic). More recycled material goes into the laser sintering machine since PrimePart PLUS needs only 35% virgin powder.
NickelAlloy HX: New metal option (metals). The heat- and corrosion-resistant nickel-chrome-iron-molybdenum alloy offers high strength and resistance to oxidization, even at high temperatures (up to 2,200 ºF).
• ExOne: New powders and binders (metal, sand). For the first time, 3D printers offer iron. The company has also added phenolic and sodium silicate binders to expand the range of sand casting alternatives.
• Microfol Compounding GmbH: SinterPlast PP: Polypropylene (thermoplastic). For the first time, laser sintering now has a polypropylene option.
• Solvay: Sinterline: Nylon 6 (thermoplastic) Polyamide (PA) 11 and 12 are the staples of laser sintering. Now there is a PA 6 option.
• Somos Materials by DSM: NeXt LV Grey: Tough parts, low viscosity (photopolymer). This second generation material offers ABS-like parts with a high modulus while maintaining a low viscosity for easier, faster building. With these advances and more to come, the future of 3D printing certainly is bright. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow holds. MPF