Everything 3D Printing Announced at RAPID+TCT 2017
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on May 12, 2017 |
ENGINEERING.com provides a roundup of everything that’s been announced at RAPID+TCT 2017.

The formation of GE Additive was a signal that 3D printing really is moving into the mainstream manufacturing industry for end part production. Following that important indicator, RAPID+TCT 2017 may have been one of the biggest iterations of the North America’s largest additive manufacturing (AM) event to date. There was so much news from the event that we found it necessary to compile it all in one location here.

Desktop Metal

Perhaps the biggest announcement came just a week before RAPID+TCT 2017 actually kicked off. After years of hype, Desktop Metal finally unveiled its technology. Desktop Metal’s new technologies include an indirect metal 3D printing technology based on fused deposition modeling (FDM) and an inkjet metal 3D printing platform. At the event, Desktop Metal also announced that the systems would be made available through resellers of Stratasys, which was an early investor in the company. For more information about Desktop Metal’s technologies, read our coverage.

The DM Studio System is described as the first office friendly metal 3D printer. On the right is the microwave-enhanced sintering furnace. (Image courtesy of Desktop Metal.)
The DM Studio System is described as the first office friendly metal 3D printer. On the right is the microwave-enhanced sintering furnace. (Image courtesy of Desktop Metal.)

Stratasys

Stratasys is not only backing exciting new technologies, but also making its own. After the unveiling of two industrial-grade processes for large components and composites, the company showcased, at RAPID+TCT, the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator. This platform is a cloud-controlled modular unit made up of multiple FDM 3D print cells that 3D print simultaneously to create parts continuously, without much human intervention, before parts are automatically ejected and the process for creating new parts begins.

The Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator is already being used by companies like FATHOM. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)
The Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator is already being used by companies like FATHOM. (Image courtesy of Stratasys.)

This makes it possible to pursue mass customization and features such as automatic queue management to ensure that a workload is balanced across the print farm, so that if a job fails on one machine, another printer will start it again.

Beta customers have already begun using the platform, including Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as manufacturing service providers In’Tech Industries and FATHOM.

Blackbelt

Also expanding the envelope of 3D printing, literally and figuratively, is a start-up called Blackbelt, which is heading to Kickstarter on Friday May 12. The company gets its name from the black conveyor belt it uses to flip and extend the Z-axis out 1300 mm. This makes it possible to print objects 340mm x 340mm x 1300 mm in size, or longer when certain precautions are taken, or to 3D print a series of objects that can deposited into an attached bin when they are completed.

Impossible Objects

All of the aforementioned technologies are part of a larger trend to see 3D printing used as a manufacturing process instead of a prototyping tool. Among those attempting to execute such a vision is Impossible Objects, which, at RAPID+TCT 2017, launched the pilot version of its Model One composite 3D printer. The technology is a very interesting one that can combine fiber reinforcement material, like carbon fiber, with thermoplastics, like polyetheretherkeytone. Not only that, but the Model One has the potential to be sped up and scaled up, to enable the mass manufacturing of composite parts. For more information, read our interview with Impossible Objects.

The Model One 3D printer from Impossible Objects, which is currently sold to pilot customers, is one of the few composite 3D printers on the market capable of using a wide variety of reinforcement materials. (Image courtesy of Impossible Objects.)
The Model One 3D printer from Impossible Objects, which is currently sold to pilot customers, is one of the few composite 3D printers on the market capable of using a wide variety of reinforcement materials. (Image courtesy of Impossible Objects.)

3D Hybrid Solutions and Multiax International

In time for RAPID+TCT 2017, 3D Hybrid Solutions and Multiax International announced what the companies claimed is the largest metal 3D printer in the world with a build area of over 500 meters cubed and a print speed of 20 pounds per hour. In addition to 3D printing with a laser deposition head, the system has a built-in 5-axis CNC system from Multiax. 3D Hybrid Solutions will also be selling a multi-metal printing tool that is meant to add AM to any CNC machine. The announcement fits into an important trend of CNC manufacturers, particularly those building large machines, such as Ingersoll and Thermwood, which are creating hybrid AM capabilities.

3D Hybrid Solutions and Multiax International claim that this is the largest metal 3D printer in the world. (Image courtesy of 3D Hybrid Solutions.)
3D Hybrid Solutions and Multiax International claim that this is the largest metal 3D printer in the world. (Image courtesy of 3D Hybrid Solutions.)

Essentium

After showcasing the technology at RAPID last year, Essentium Materials is now making its FlashFuse technology available to the public. FlashFuse relies on an electric welding technique and filament coated in energy-responsive carbon nanotubes to bring isotropy to parts printed with fused filament fabrication. Essentium also announced a partnership with chemical giant BASF to create materials for this process. To learn more about the technology and why isotropy is an important topic in 3D printing, read our interview with Essentium.

Paxis

Also at RAPID+TCT 2017 was the unveiling of Wave Applied Voxel (WAV) 3D printing from Paxis. Paxis is a spinout of 3D printing and engineering service provider CIDEAS. An early adopter of Carbon’s unique digital light processing (DLP) technology, CIDEAS spun out Paxis to develop its own DLP-style platform described as four, eight and 24 times the speed of large vat DLP systems. WAV is in the early stages of development, but the company claims that it will feature modular hardware expansion and can produce large parts or larger batches of small parts.

EnvisionTEC

The inventors of DLP, EnvisionTEC, also had news at the event: an LED engine upgrade to the company’s P4 line of DLP 3D printers. Replacing the mercury gas lamp in the Perfactory line, the LED engine increases the resolution of parts while also lowering operation costs. Whereas the cost per hour of the mercury gas lamp was $2.90 and lasted for 500 hours, the new LED system has a cost of $0.50 per hour and can run for 10,000 hours. Alongside the new hardware, EnvisionTEC also announced a range of new materials.

 

IC3D and Aleph Objects

In what should be exciting news for anyone who cares about the development of technology for progress over profits, Aleph Objects, makers of LulzBot 3D printers, and IC3D Industries, filament manufacturer, released what is described as the “first-ever certified open source” 3D printing filament.

These materials are claimed to be the first certified open-source filaments. (Image courtesy of Aleph Objects.)
These materials are claimed to be the first certified open-source filaments. (Image courtesy of Aleph Objects.)

As detailed in an article on ENGINEERING.com, the open-source movement is capable of increasing innovation, decreasing costs and improving lives. To help bring this philosophy to typically closed-source filament production, IC3D published a 16-page white paper documenting its manufacturing process, parameters and material grades on GitHub.

This will make it possible for those interested in experimenting with new types of materials to begin tinkering or even producing their own. Hopefully, IC3D goes on to make all of its materials open source and others follow suit.

SABIC

While IC3D was busy announcing the first open-source certified filaments for 3D printing, the world’s fourth largest chemical company, SABIC, announced a series of new materials, as well. In addition to a number of industrial filaments for Stratasys Fortus machines (ULTEM polyetherimide [PEI], CYCOLAC acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene [ABS], and LEXAN polycarbonate [PC]), SABIC also unveiled a line of materials specifically designed for large format AM. The THERMOCOMP AM compounds were tested on the company’s own Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system from Cincinnati Inc. They also include PEI, ABS and PC, as well as polyphenylene ether. SABIC suggests that the THERMOCOMP AM line exhibits good creep behavior and reduced deformation, including lower shrinkage during cooling. If true, these plastics will extend the material set for large format 3D printing, which will be increasingly used for automotive and aerospace applications.

Livrea and Autodesk

SABIC’s BAAM and its new line of materials were actually used to 3D print large-scale components for what will be the world’s first 3D-printed racing yacht, from Italian yacht company Livrea. In conjunction with Autodesk’s advanced research team, Livrea was able to convert drawn designs to CAD models, with unique geometries for weight reduction.

Livrea aims to have the yacht ready for the 2019 Mini Transat, a 4,000-mile transatlantic race that begins in France and ends in Brazil. (Image courtesy of Livrea.)
Livrea aims to have the yacht ready for the 2019 Mini Transat, a 4,000-mile transatlantic race that begins in France and ends in Brazil. (Image courtesy of Livrea.)

Autodesk’s team explored the production of the yacht using a large-format, multifunction robotic AM technology the company is developing inhouse. The technology uses advanced motion control and machine vision to 3D print large objects, all while performing in-process monitoring and machine learning. However, to achieve the scale necessary for this project, the yacht’s hull was then 3D printed using SABIC’s BAAM. The hull’s outer layer was printed from carbon fiber-reinforced PPE, while the inner lattice structure was made from carbon fiber-reinforced PEI.

GE Additive

Coinciding with RAPID+TCT 2017, GE announced the transition of its Center for Additive Technology Advancement in Pittsburgh, Penn.,to a “Customer Experience Center” (CEC) that is focused on spreading the use of 3D printing among its customers. Previously an internallyused facility that opened last April, the CEC will feature machines from GE’s recently acquired 3D printer manufacturers, Concept Laser and Arcam. The site will aid GE Additive in attaining its goal of earning $1 billion in annual revenues by 2020, as discussed in our interview with the division earlier this year.

As big as RAPID+TCT was this year, the growth in industrial 3D printing only indicates that it will be bigger in the years to come. Metal 3D printing is getting better and more affordable, while the materials available for plastic AM are expanding greatly. Stratasys, among other companies, is inventing entirely new ways to print the stuff, too. One can only imagine what the event will bring in 2018.


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