The upcoming 3D printer models you need to know about
Whether you’re an aspiring hobbyist or seasoned professional, there’s currently a tremendous range of choice if you’re looking to purchase a new 3D printer. From simple, compact desktop units to large-scale industrial machines, new printers, technologies and materials are entering the market at a rapid (and increasing!) pace as more and more global companies delve into additive manufacturing. Today on the blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the upcoming 3D printer models that the RP Platform team are most excited about. While these differ considerably in terms of technology and applications, we expect all of them to prove to be serious game-changes for our industry. Let’s take a closer look…
There’s been a lot of press interest in the Rize One printer. It’s not had to see why, as the company’s new Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD) technology promises to deliver full-colour 3D printed parts that are ready for use straight from the printer bed. In simple terms, this technology works by jetting a combination of thermoplastics and functional inks through a single extruder, adding colours directly to each layer during printing. This means that support structures can simply be snapped away at the end of the printing process, with no effect on the part’s colours. Furthermore, it allows for multi-colour designs and even text or graphics to be incorporated into a part’s surface, with the colours actually bonded to the material during printing rather than being added afterwards via dying or painting.
The combination of true full-colour printing and the elimination of the time-consuming post-processing stage is clearly a huge development for 3D printing technology as a whole. We look forward to seeing the technology prove itself in an industrial capacity.
Stratasys’ Infinite Build/H2000
Formerly referred to as the Infinite Build system, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of the H2000 system ever since it was first demonstrated at the IMTS event in 2016. The H2000 is theoretically capable of printing parts on a limitless scale, via the use of a conveyor belt mechanism and a specially-designed extruder. The unit is — naturally — ideal for large-scale industrial applications, with the specifics of each unit tailored to the user’s requirements. To give some idea of the sizes the H2000 can work with, an early demonstration involved 3D printing a full-sized canoe!
The H2000 has been designed in close collaboration with Boeing and the Ford Motor Company, who have already used the unit to successfully print interior parts for their cars. At the time of writing, the units should be ready to ship in November 2017, with a lead time of 6-9 months.
Solidscape’s S500 wax printer
Wax printing is still very much in its nascent stages compared to other 3D printing technologies, but Solidscape’s new wax 3D printer promises to change that. The S500 was created for one purpose: the creation of high-quality wax moulds for metal casting applications. This process involves creating a positive print of the desired part in wax, immersing it in one of the standard materials used for casting purposes, and then allowing the wax to melt away in a furnace. The result is a highly precise mould that will then be suitable for casting liquid metal. The S500’s main selling point is its excellent level of precision (with layers as small as 0.0006mm being possible). This is achieved through a combination of ‘drop on demand’ technology to position the wax on the printer bed, and a rotating blade that smooths out each layer to ensure accuracy is maintained.
While this is undoubtedly a highly specialised tool, it’s encouraging to see more 3D printer manufacturers tailoring their technology to suit the needs of new industries. Solidscape have taken this approach further by designing a number of specialist materials to go with the new printer, such as Midas: a special casting material for jewellery makers.
These new 3D printer models all represent very different applications of the technology, but this is something that we should celebrate and encourage. The more we see 3D printing technology that is tailored to specific industrial applications rather than providing ‘one size fits all’ solutions, the faster we will see it establish its ideal niches. All this will help 3D printing reveal itself as a truly mature technology and free itself of the hype and misconceptions that have held it back since its inception.