Vendors continue to develop interesting and novel ways to improve 3D printing / additive manufacturing speed, production, and throughput. At the 2017 RAPID + TCT conference, Stratasys Ltd announced its Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator, which is a step into low-volume, continuous production using additive technology. Commercial product availability has not yet been announced.
The new platform is a modular unit with multiple 3D print cells working simultaneously and driven by a central, cloud-based architecture. The Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator produces parts in a continuous stream with minor operator intervention. It automatically ejects completed parts and begins new ones.
Each 3D print cell can produce a different job, which suits mass customization projects. Additional cells can be added at any time to the scalable platform to increase production capacity as demand requires. Features include automatic queue management, load balancing and architecture redundancy, which accelerate throughput as jobs are automatically routed to available print cells. If a single print cell fails, the job will be automatically rerouted to the next available cell.
Target applications include education RP labs and environments that can benefit from zero tooling production and from a zero inventory supply chain.
“The Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator is an important milestone in the company’s long term vision to make additive manufacturing a viable solution for volume production environments,” says Scott Crump, Stratasys Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. “It combines our FDM print quality, GrabCAD control and monitoring, and a new multi-cell, scalable architecture to create a breakthrough manufacturing platform.”
A variety of Stratasys customers, including designers and manufacturers, have begun using the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator. These include:
In’Tech Industries, Inc., a premiere supplier of rapid prototyping/additive manufacturing, engineering services, tooling services and injection molding, wanted to expand its 3D printing offerings to create a bridge-to-production solution for their OEM customers. The automated workflow of the Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator enabled In’Tech to offer same-day or next-day delivery of quantities of identical or mixed parts that would eventually be injection molded, helping the company improve customer service without adding additional staff.
FATHOM, an advanced manufacturer with an expertise in additive technologies, is leveraging the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator to push the limits of additive manufacturing. Many of its customers have adopted digital fabrication beyond prototyping as a means of production and are using proven additive technologies like FDM for high-value, end-use applications. Having a six-cell configuration in-house at FATHOM increases throughput significantly and enables a greater volume of FDM parts within a shorter lead-time. With the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator, there is an opportunity to use FDM more effectively for not just a hundred just-in-time parts, but for 1,000+ parts on-demand.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), a preeminent art and design university, ensures all students have 24/7 access to state of the art 3D printing services. Installing a Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator in the award-winning university’s Design Lab expands student learning opportunities in 3D printing, and the enhanced technological capacities benefit professors and students focused on advanced design projects and skills.
“This is the future!” said SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace. “We believe the Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator represents the next generation of 3D printing, the first-ever platform of its kind. The world has never seen an approach to rapid prototyping like this before. As ever, SCAD students are the earliest adopters of design technology.”