On the heels of news that GE has moved from 3D printer user to 3D printer user and manufacturer, the corporate behemoth has announced participation in a funding round directed at none other than Carbon, inventors of the ultra fast Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) 3D printing technique. At the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), GE hit the stage with Carbon to discuss the investment, which totaled a whopping $81.1 million from Nikon, JSR and BMW, in addition to GE Ventures, as well as other investors that will be announced in 2017.
The M1 3D printer is the only printer to feature Carbon’s ultra-fast CLIP 3D printing process. (Image courtesy of Carbon.)
The $81.1 million in funds only augments Carbon’s existing investment cash, which already included $100 million
from a Google-led Series Cinvestment, $10 million from Autodesk
, and an initial $41 million
from various venture capital funds. This brings Carbon’s total funding to date to $222 million. Details related to additional investors involved in the deal and how those firms will use CLIP 3D printing for manufacturing projects will be made public in 2017.
The money will be used to further develop Carbon’s exciting CLIP technology, a digital light processing (DLP) system that projects UV light through an oxygen-permeable window onto a vat of photopolymer resin. CLIP, so far embodied in the M1 3D printer, is not only capable of fabricating parts in less than 10 minutes, but these parts exhibit mechanical properties that resemble those made by injection molding.
Due to the layerless nature of CLIP 3D printing, CLIP-printed components demonstrate mechanical strength that is equal in all directions. This is in contrast to the anisotropic properties of other parts printed by other means, which are weaker in the Z-axis than in the X- and Y-axes. Additionally, through the use of a second reactive element in Carbon photopolymer resins, prints are put through a post-processing phase that unlocks additional strength.
Steve Taub, senior director of Advanced Manufacturing at GE Ventures, discussed these properties in Carbon’s most recent press release. “In today’s digital world, additive manufacturing is changing how products are designed, made and serviced at GE,” Taub said. “Carbon’s CLIP technology can print exceptional quality parts for end-use production, opening the doors to incredible possibilities like low-volume manufacturing, freedom of design, and mass customization. We are excited to work with Carbon as part of our vision in deploying additive manufacturing applications across GE.”
Nikon and JSR are examining ways to make Carbon available to the markets of Japan and other Asian countries, with Nikon leveraging its own expertise in 3D measurement and CT scanning, and JSR bringing its knowledge of chemical manufacturing as it relates to microelectronics.
Masao Nakajima, senior vice president of Nikon Corporation, elaborated, “We’re excited to partner with the innovative Carbon team to explore opportunities for Japanese and Asian expansion.In addition to bringing fundamental scientific advances to 3D printing, the company has executed relentlessly, putting its M1 machine into the hands of customers, and continuing to innovate on their machine, software, and resins.“
Nobu Koshiba, president of JSR Corporation, added, “The current 3D printing market, with the exception of very few, is a prototyping market. Carbon approached the challenge, and potential, of 3D printing from a very different perspective. With its M1 and CLIP technologies, Carbon has introduced a solution that will truly revolutionize manufacturing.”
BMW has already begun using CLIP to3D print such applications as the mass customized nameplates for its MINI brand. Ford and Delphi Automotive have also used CLIP technology to 3D print auto components. Johnson & Johnson is also considering the use of Carbon 3D printing for the production of custom medical devices.
Carbon will now be able to evolve its technology even further to explore new materials, new markets and new use cases. Joseph DeSimone, CEO and co founder of Carbon, said of this latest phase for the company, “3D printing is a translation of the digital to a physical reality and, when done right, offers true design freedom across every category. At launch we set forth a bold vision to fundamentally change how the world makes ‘things.’ We have been working to deliver on that vision for the U.S. market, and are ready to step onto the global stage.”
The news is exciting for Carbon and the 3D printing industry alike. It’s already become clear that the technology has gone mainstream, as far as industry is concerned. And, as other companies develop their own continuous DLP technologies, it is now clear that Carbon may be able to stay a step or more ahead.