Massivit 3D Brings Large-Scale 3D Printing to the World of Marketing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on September 29, 2016 |
Lilach Sapir, vice president of marketing and business development for Massivit 3D, discusses the fi...

As foreseen by the diviners of 3D printing future, the technology is getting bigger and faster. New technologies and new companies are making it possible to 3D print objects more quickly and at larger scales than previously possible.

Among the firms to join the 3D printing wave is Massivit 3D, which shipped its Massivit 1800 3D printer to its first customer earlier this year. Massivit 3D has since begun shipping worldwide as it shows off its unique gel dispensing printing (GDP) technology at such events as drupa and SGIA.

The massive Massivit 1800 3D printer from Massivit 3D. (Image courtesy of Massivit 3D.)
The massive Massivit 1800 3D printer from Massivit 3D. (Image courtesy of Massivit 3D.)

To better understand the technology and its potential impact, spoke with Lilach Sapir, vice president of marketing and business development for Massivit 3D. Sapir was able to discuss how GDP works and what makes it stand out, particularly in the world of marketing and promotions.

From 2D to 3D Printing

Massivit 3D was founded in 2013 by a team experienced in both the 2D and 3D printing spaces. Massivit CEO Avner Israeli previously acted as the general manager of Asia-Pacific and global and strategic accounts for Stratasys, while Massivit cofounder Gershon Miller was one of the founders of Objet, the Israeli company that invented PolyJet 3D printing and merged with Stratasys in 2012.

Before that, these two members of the Massivit team, along with many others worked, for Scitex, a wide-format 2D printing company that was ultimately acquired by HP to form HP Scitex. A combination of large-scale 2D printing and photopolymer expertise would seem to lay the basis for Massivit’s GDP technology, which relies on photosensitive gel, dubbed Dimengel, to produce large objects at fast speeds.

The proprietary GDP process sees this gel dispensed onto a build platform and instantly cured with UV light to create a solid layer of material, as the object is built up layer by layer. Sapir mentioned that, visually, the process may look like the fused deposition modeling process invented by Stratasys, but the use of photosensitive gel makes it an entirely different method with its own unique benefits, including increased curing and printing speed and a lack of dependence on support structures.

Sapir explained, “We are able to print at a fast rate, which is due to several components within the technology—primarily due to the UV gel and its properties. First of all, because we are curing a gel, the material is already closer to a solid form than a liquid. Secondly, we are printing very thick layers, so the build rate is very high because we are building large layers. Thirdly, because the gel has a kind of self-sustaining power, we can print a lot of prints with hardly any support to no support at all. The printer, then, does not spend time on printing supports.”

She added, “Last, but not least, because we’re using a UV curing process that is very rapid and not heating up and cooling down thermoplastic materials, we can move to the next point and very rapidly lay down the next bit of material.”

As a result, the Massivit 1800 is able to produce a line of material at a rate of up to one meter per second. The video below shows a 170 cm (5.6 ft) perfume bottle in just 5 hours. It should be noted that objects printed by GDP are typically hollow, further speeding up the printing process. Though layers may be as thick as 1 mm or more, objects can be printed up to 180 cm x 150 cm x 120 cm (5 in 9 ft x 4 in 9 ft x 3 in 9 ft) in size, making these lines less noticeable. The application of a variety of coatings and finishes will also hide these details.

The lack of support material also contributes to a reduction in production time, not just because the printer does not have to print support material, but also because it decreases any post-processing that might be necessary to cut away these structures. There is no need for a secondary curing process using additional exposure to UV light, which further speeds up the production time. Additionally, the lack of support structures means that only the material required to produce an object is used, cutting down on material waste.

What Can You Print with a Massivit 1800?

As a photopolymer, the gel used to print with GDP may not be sufficient to produce engineering-grade parts, which is often the case with many photopolymer materials. That isn’t to say that engineering-grade gels cannot be developed; however, Sapir explained that the production of end parts is not the company’s goal at the moment. Instead, Massivit 3D is focused on the marketing and advertising segment.

So far, the company’s technology has been involved in a number of large-scale projects for big-name brands. New York–based large-format print business Carisma used GDP to 3D print bus wrapping ads for Sony pictures to advertise Ghostbusters and The Angry Birds Movie.

The benefit for the advertising industry may not be immediately noticeable to those unfamiliar with large-scale print marketing; however, the impact is not lost on Massivit 3D. According to Sapir, the ability to craft 3D displays digitally is absent from the space, leaving advertising firms to rely on manual processes like sculpting foam blocks.

“I think that, in the marketing segment, 3D in general is not very common, not to speak of 3D printing,” Sapir said. “We actually bring the ability to do that. A lot of the creation of sculptures and designs for advertising is still done manually with foam, so it has never really become a common thing for advertising. But because 3D printing is a digital process and it’s distributed manufacturing, it allows for a lot of personalization and localization, which are so important in advertising and promotion. 3D printing will actually create the ability to do that and to use such parts that were not commonly used before at all.”

Massivit 3D for Manufacturing

Though Massivit is not yet targeting the industrial space, the technology still has benefits outside of marketing. “You could print an end use product and maybe coat it with material that would give you whatever mechanical strength you may need or resistance you may need, but that might not be available through our materials directly,” Sapir said.

One unique application that the technology has been used for is vacuum forming and thermoforming, during which a large mold can be 3D printed with the Massivit 1800 before the end part is created from that mold. Some products that this might be ideal for would be customized covers for vending machines, slot machines or arcade games. For instance, a college vending machine could have a custom exterior made with the school’s logo and mascot by vacuum forming from a GDP-printed mold.

Because the Massivit 1800 features two print engines, capable of working independently on two different objects simultaneously, the machine is able to manufacture multiple large-scale prints at a time, potentially lending itself to batch production.

A 3D-printed mold used for thermoforming an object. (Image courtesy of Massivit 3D.)
A 3D-printed mold used for thermoforming an object. (Image courtesy of Massivit 3D.)

Due to the sheer size and speed of the technology, GDP could actually lend itself far outside of the segments that Massivit is targeting. For this reason, Sapir invites the world, including the engineers in the audience, to test the boundaries and potential of the technology.

The Future for Big, Quick 3D Printing

Sapir explained that Massivit 3D is already shipping to customers worldwide. Flextronics, the world’s second largest contract manufacturer of electronics, has been enlisted to manufacture the Massivit 1800, and Sapir suggested that the company is now putting out between three and five machines per month with a backlog of orders reaching into 2017. The exact price of the Massivit 1800 was not disclosed, except that it falls in the $360,000 to $400,000 range.

Sapir was not able to comment on the future activities of the company, but emphasized that Massivit 3D is investing a lot in R&D, “both in chemistry and other disciplines.” What exactly Massivit 3D has up its sleeve then is hard to say, but given the excitement around the company’s technology already, whatever it releases next will surely be welcomed by the 3D printing community.

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