Today’s quest for additive manufacturing is to make parts as fast as traditional machining and injection molding. Innovative developments continue to move additive manufacturing closer to that goal. A really new and interesting approach will be introduced by Evolve Additive Solutions, headquartered in Minnetonka, MN, and with another facility in Rochester NY. This new company, a spin-off of Stratasys Ltd, has developed an additive technology that promises to be competitive with injection molding.
The management of Evolve includes several familiar names; Steven Chillscyzn, CEO and co-inventor, and Dr. Arun Chowdry, VP of technology and materials. One of the board members is Scott Crump, CTO of Stratasys.
After nearly 10 years as an incubation project, the management team is now focused on bringing the proprietary technology, known as STEP, to market. The goal is to deliver high-volume production additive manufacturing at breakthrough speeds compared to other commercially available additive processes.
What these gentlemen have developed is a layer-by-layer build process that has roots in microinjection molding. It is intended for high-volume production runs into the hundreds of thousands per year, with part costs on par with the costs from other manufacturing methods.
In addition, the parts made from this process have a surface finish and dimensional accuracy that is also comparable to injection molding. For example, injection molding 2000 pieces of an ABS bracket takes about 25 sec per part at a cost of about $2.64 per piece. Total production time is about 2 to 8 weeks. This information does not include the time to build a mold for injection molding.
The Evolve system takes 1 day to build those 2000 pieces, at 14 sec build time a piece, at a cost of $1.38 per part. With the Evolve system, no mold is needed. These are the kind of stats manufacturers are looking for in order to consider additive as a viable manufacturing process.
The Evolve system, note the developers, is 50 times faster than High Speed Sintering (HSS). The materials used are engineering grade thermoplastics that deliver isotropic properties in the X, Y, and Z directions.
The build envelope is 24 x 13 x 6 in.
–Speed: 4.7 layer across the envelope.
–Dimensional accuracy: 600 dpi; 0.005 in (IM accuracy)
–Minimum feature size: 42 micron voxel size,
–Layer height: 0.001 in thru 0.003 in.
— Multiple material printing capable within the same layer
— Full color printing capability – including spot and process
— Industry 4.0 and automation factory floor integration
No polishing, smoothing, sanding or other methods to finish parts are required; No additional process steps such as a furnace, chemical or other post-treatment is needed.
The proprietary Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP) technology combines time-tested 2D imaging technology with proprietary IP developed by Evolve to precisely align incoming layers and sophisticated bonding techniques that create final parts that are fully dense with isotropic properties of injection molding. This is basically a high-speed printing press that works with thermoplastic materials (initially). Using selective deposition, printing drums deposit a layer of material that meets the dimensions of the part and builds the part layer by layer. You can control the material deposition to the individual voxel. The result is parts without striations, full layer-to-layer fusion, and that are fully dense.
“We are excited to introduce Evolve Additive Solutions and proprietary STEP technology,” said Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions and co-inventor of STEP. “We believe the STEP Technology is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap in the market not yet addressed by additive or traditional manufacturing technologies,” continued Chillscyzn. “It is the first-of-its-kind technology offering an additive method for mass production. It’s designed to deliver the benefits of additive, while handling high-volume production. And we’re confident in the Evolve team’s ability to make this technology a success.”
Evolve is already seeking initial purchase orders from several leading automotive, consumer goods and aerospace companies during its alpha stage. Over the next 12 months, Evolve also plans to engage new customers to evaluate beta systems for applications in volume production environments across many vertical markets. Parties interested in beta opportunities are encouraged to contact Evolve directly. Evolve has not yet announced the date of expected general availability of its products.
Industry Consultant Todd Grimm commented, “Evolve’s STEP process is interesting because it brings a completely new approach to production environments using additive manufacturing, yet it prints using production grade thermoplastics, which is what manufacturers are most familiar with when producing parts conventionally. Having had the opportunity to get a glimpse early on, it’s very encouraging to see how Evolve has progressed the development of the STEP process.”