For the final wrap-up on the Society of Manufacturing EngineersÆ Rapid 2012 conference and show, In Short takes a look at three new companies in the 3D printing industry.
Nanoscribe (Germany) offers technology for producing micro- and nano-sized parts.
The fundamental process that Nanoscribe uses is 3D Laser Lithography, which is also called Direct Laser Writing. This is a two-photon absorption process that is non-linear, which means that it can draw while moving simultaneously in three axes. With its recent advancement, Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL), the company has overcome the limits in structure height. One example of this capability is a replica of the Statue of Liberty that measures 100 X 100 X 900 microns.
Nanoscribe offers a product called Photonic Professional, which is a tabletop unit. Applications include cell biology, biomimetrics, nano-photonics, micro-fluidics and micro-optics. With the DiLL process, features down to 150 nanometers (0.15 micron) are possible.
The next company has reincarnated a process for making metal parts that was first demonstrated in the 1990s. The company is Fabrisonic; the process is Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM).
Fabrisonic is a joint venture between Solidica, which created the original process called Ultrasonic Consolidation, and EWI, and Ohio-based manufacturing research organization. This venture has advanced Ultrasonic Consolidation with new intellectual property for higher-power machines that can process high-strength alloys like aerospace grade aluminum, stainless steel and titanium.
UAM is unique in that it is a hybrid process. First, metal tapes are welded together using ultrasonics. Then, as needed, a CNC mill moves in to remove unwanted material. The result is complex, unmachineable metal parts with deep slots, internal honey combed structures and sealed internal cavities with embedded objects such as electronics.
Fabrisonic offers three systems: SonicLayer R200, 4000 and 7200. The R200 is a research platform for universities. The 4000 and 7200 are industrial products. With UAM, metal parts and tools can be quite large. The SonicLayer 4000 has a build envelope of 40 X 40 X 24 inches, and the 7200 offers 72 X 72 X 36 inches.
For the final company, the advantages are clear.
LUXeXcel (The Netherlands) made quite a splash as it handed out 3D printed business cards that were optically clear and highlighted with brilliant colors. The companyÆs process uses its proprietary Printoptical Technology that prints clear ink on translucent media to make optical elements such as LED lenses. Like other processes, it uses ink-jet technology to deposit droplets that are cured with UV light. WhatÆs different is the ultra-high resolution ù1440 dpi ù and the direct-from-print clarity.
Not only is the technology different but so is the companyÆs business model. First, LUXeXceL isnÆt selling 3D printers. It is licensing its technologies to others. Second, it has created subsidiaries with specific application focuses that sell production goods.
EXXELENS is the companyÆs services and contract manufacturing subsidiary. From it, companies can purchase prototype and production runs of printed optics and receive fully assembled final products.
LUXimpress is the companyÆs subsidiary for the graphic, decorative, communication, marketing and art sectors. The most striking application is stained glass replicas complete with 3D textures.
Then there is LUXimprove, a subsidiary and distribution partner. This company sells products enhanced by the Printoptical Technology, products that manipulate light for improved distribution. Product lines include Optiled, which offers LED lighting, CableLED, for LED light strips and Litefoil, which sells window films.