Rize Arises with Voxel-Level 3D Printing and Limited Post-Processing

Rize’s Augmented Polymer Deposition technology is capable of 3D printing near isotropic parts that require almost no post-processing.

While HP was stealing the show with its Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology at RAPID 2016, another yet unknown company showcased its own disruptive 3D printing platform. Not wishing to yet go public with news about its product offering, Mass.-based Rize was quietly telling attendees about its Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD), a patented 3D printing technology able to produce engineering-grade parts with almost no post-processing or toxic fumes and with functional capabilities rivaling those promised by HP with MJF.

The Rize One 3D printer is capable of 3D printing near isotropic parts without post-processing. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

The Rize One 3D printer is capable of 3D printing near isotropic parts without post-processing. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

Rize is now ready to go public with APD and the new Rize One 3D printer—and there is a lot to go public about. For instance, the firm has already announced its first beta customer, Reebok, which will use the technology mostly for prototyping sneakers and plastic parts for athletic equipment.

In an interview with ENGINEERING.com, company President and CEO Frank Marangell was able to speak at great length about APD and its potential impact on 3D printing present and future.

What is APD?

What is immediately most striking about APD is the advantages it has over other technologies, particularly fused deposition modeling (FDM). Unlike FDM, as well as just about every other 3D printing process, APD requires very little post-processing. Once a part comes off the print bed, support structures are easily removed by hand.

No pliers, bead blasting, saws or sanding, as is sometimes required with FDM and stereolithography (SLA) parts. No super glue baths, as is used with binder jetting. No high-pressure water jetting and chemical baths, associated with PolyJet or Multi Jet. And no excavation, as is seen in selective laser sintering.

Instead, APD blends thermoplastic extrusion, similar to FDM, with inkjetting, similar to PolyJet and Multi Jet. As a specialty thermoplastic called Rizium One, developed by Rize in-house, is extruded onto the build plate, an inkjet head is able to deposit a range of unique inks to print for a variety of applications.

In the case of easy support removal, this material is a repelling ink called Release One, which is deposited between the print and the support structures. While both the print and the supports are made from Rizium One, an engineering- and medical-grade plastic, the Release One prevents the two from forming a strong bond. That way, once the print is complete, the supports can be easily removed from the part.

Ultimately, Rize estimates that easy support removal enables users to cut total 3D printing turnaround time by 50 percent. Marangell relayed that, when a Reebok engineer visited Rize headquarters near Boston, “he had to go into the office at 6 am to start post-processing parts he had printed over night, otherwise the engineers weren’t going to get their parts that day. With the right solution, he wouldn’t have needed to do that.”

In fact, Gary Rabinovitz, Additive Manufacturing Lab Manager at Reebok, is quoted in a recent Rize press release as saying, “We run our 3D printers 24/7 to create the parts central to Reebok’s innovation and unfortunately, post processing has been a necessary but laborious and time-consuming process. An easy-to-use, zero post-processing 3D printer like Rize would dramatically improve workflow, enabling us to deliver parts as much as 50 percent faster than similar technologies, while reducing the cost of labor, materials and equipment.”

The Properties of Rizium One

This easy support removal lends some very important properties to the APD platform. First of all, APD allows the Rize One to 3D print with very strong thermoplastics, such as Rizium One. While Marangell could not disclose the exact nature of Rizium One, he described it as similar to polycarbonate (PC) in terms of strength.

A 3D-printed part created with the Rize One. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

A 3D-printed part created with the Rize One. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

He said that, due to the way that the material bonds during the printing process, Rizium One is able to retain much of its isotropic properties, meaning that the parts printed in this material have almost the same strength in all directions (X,Y, and Z). This differs from most 3D printing technologies, which are unable to create parts that are as strong in the Z-axis, due to the weak bonds that form between each layer of material. For this reason, these bonds are referred to as anisotropic.

“[Rizium One is] a compound thermoplastic that is high up in the engineering thermoplastic pyramid. It’s not one material. It’s not PC, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), or polylactic acid… It has properties similar to PC. It has about the same strength as PC, although we have twice the strength of ABS in Z. We’re almost isotropic,” Marangell said.

Marangell explained that parts made with the Rize One only experience a 10 percent loss in isotropic properties, compared to the stock material. Typical FDM parts, on the other hand, may lose around 40 percent of their Z-strength. He further pointed out that not even all injection-molded parts have 100-percent isotropy, due to the way that the mold is created.

If the same Rizium One filament were extruded by an FDM machine, however, the support structures would bond too well to the print, making them impossible to remove very effectively. Therefore, the combination of Rizium One with the Release One enables these PC-like parts to be printed without support-related issues.

As an engineering- and medical-grade material, Rizium One is suited to both industrial and biocompatible applications. While a manufacturer might use ADP to produce jigs and fixtures, a dentist or doctor might 3D print dental or surgical guides. An added benefit is the fact that, according to Marangell, Rizium One is eco-friendly in that it does not produce ultrafine toxic particles while printing.

ABS, on the other hand, is known to create styrene as a byproduct, a toxic chemical that is potentially dangerous when inhaled. For this reason, those 3D printing with ABS are sometimes advised to maintain 3D printers in a well-ventilated workshop, rather than in an office or classroom environment.

Marangell likened his product to the change that has occurred with document printing, in which a printer lab was once separate from the main office, but now it’s possible to have 2D printers on one’s desktop. “That’s what we’re bringing to the engineering office. That kind of efficiency. Once you break the chain of the 3D printing lab, the opportunity is endless. You can put the system chairside in a dental office to make dental drill guides or orthodontic alignment tools. Or in a medical office for medical guides,” Marangell said.

The thermoplastic used with ADP, however, is not limited to Rizium One. Other plastics are in the works, including a graphene-infused filament which Marangell suggested would also have near-isotropic properties, thus fully exploiting the capabilities of graphene in all directions.

3D Printing with Voxels

While HP has now claimed the word “voxel” for its own use, the word has been in use to represent three-dimensional pixels since at least the ‘80s. Only since the advent of 3D printing has the word denoted the possibility of actually controlling physical matter the way one might control a 2D pixel on a computer screen. So far, however, HP has been one of the few companies to claim the ability to do so. That is, until Rize went public with ADP.

Voxel-level control enables ADP to 3D print full-color parts, though the initial release will only print in grayscale. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

Voxel-level control enables ADP to 3D print full-color parts, though the initial release will only print in grayscale. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

“At each voxel, we’re able to jet an additive of our choice. Our IP is based on thermoplastic extrusion and then jetting an additive on each voxel wherever it makes sense to change the characteristic of that material,” Marangell said.

Due to the inkjet print head, it’s possible to bind thermoplastic filament with functional inks. For easy support removal, this is Release One, but, as Rize ships its first five beta machines to customers this August and September, the Rize One will also come with the ability to 3D print detailed text and images with the company’s Marking Ink. This ink is jetted anywhere and anytime it’s called for in the file to print  directly onto parts.

In future releases, Marangell says, this ability will be expanded to encompass the complete CMYK color profile. More than that, Rize will also come out with other functional materials, such as conductive, thermo-insulating and thermo-conducting inks. “Immediately, you can imagine what else we can do with [voxel-level 3D printing] … You can create active smart sensors so that you can actually have a 3D-printed part that has active materials in it. You can create a battery within a 3D-printed structure. The sky’s the limit.”

One specific application that the company is working on is the ability to change the mechanical properties of the plastic by coating it with a flexible additive in order to produce comfortable, but effective hearing aids. Many of the world’s hearing aids today are 3D printed with SLA technology, which limits the structure of the device to one material property.

What Rize intends to do is to 3D print them in such a way that the interior channel of the aid is rigid, so that sound can bounce through the hearing canal, while the exterior is coated in soft, flexible material so that it fits comfortably within a wearer’s ear.

The Rize Team

If you’re already excited about ADP and its potential, you have the 14-person Rize team to thank, all of whom have important backgrounds from a number of companies associated with the 3D printing industry. Founder and CTO Eugene Giller, for instance, was the senior R&D chemist for Z Corp, inventors of the colorful binder jetting technology responsible for 3D-printed shelfies.

Co-founder Leonid Raiz worked as a senior vice president of PTC before founding architectural CAD firm Revit, which was ultimately purchased by Autodesk. Raiz has applied some of his CAD engineering skills to integrate a unique feature into the Rize 3D printing software that fixes imperfect files and makes them printable.

Even the firm’s Vice President of Marketing, Julie Reece, comes from both Zcorp and Mcorp, famous for its full-color paper 3D printing technology, and the Vice President of Customer Support, Amnon Hamami, hails from Stratasys by way of Objet.

Marangell, too, is a 3D printing veteran, having acted as president of Objet North America. “I was bringing foreign companies’ technologies to the US marketplace, many times Israeli companies. When Objet came to the US in 2006, someone told them about me and the rest was history. I started Objet USA and grew it to the point where we were going to do an IPO in 2012 and we ended up merging with Stratasys.”

A complex part 3D printed with the Rize One. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

A complex part 3D printed with the Rize One. (Image courtesy of Rize.)

Altogether, the team has 20 3D printing patents between them. One patent, which has now fallen into public domain, is in many ways, according to Marangell, the basis for HP’s MJF. While Giller was at Z Corp, he worked on a technology for fusing plastic powder that was patented by the company. When Z Corp decided not to pursue it further, it fell into public domain, even preventing HP from filing patenting the technology.

With all of this history, this new startup has seen all of the flaws associated with traditional 3D printing technologies and has the skills necessary to address those flaws. It’s no surprise then that Longworth Venture Partners and SB Capital provided Rize with $4 million in seed funding and that ADP has attracted such a high profile customer as Reebok.

The Future of ADP

In the near term, Rize is prepping for the official release of the Rize One. After shipping out its first five units in August and September, the company will begin the full release in Q4 of this year. Rize plans to sell the Rize One with a price of $19,000, though an all-inclusive package will be sold for about $25,000.

This price competes with the Stratasys uPrint, which has a roughly $19,000 price tag. With a larger build volume of 12 in X 8 in X 6 in (300 mm X 200 mm X 150 mm) and prints that don’t require post-processing, however, the value of the Rize may exceed that of the 8 in x 8 in x 6 in (203 mm x 203 mm x 152 mm) uPrint.

In the more distant future, it’s clear that we can expect new materials, new 3D printer models, and some very exciting applications. HP may just have to keep its eye on this 3D printing startup.