3D printing advances and lower pricing now allows us to dream about ideas and quickly create parts in the comfort of our homes. Despite its usefulness, 3D printing technology still has many sticking points for the professional user and is unsuited for large scale manufacturing. Shortfalls such as long print times and layering effects – to name only two – are holding the technology back. But things are moving forward with the latest announcement from Carbon3D.
Carbon3D, a Redwood City, Calif.-based company recently unveiled their prototype 3D printer using an innovation capable of producing parts 25 to 100 times faster than current DLP/SLA processes. They innovate in this field by introducing an oxygen permeable window (oxygen can go through) at the base of the resin vessel. This permeable glass allows for the creation of a thin layer of oxygen – dead zone – between the resin and the glass surface. Since oxygen inhibits the polymerization of the resin, it means that parts no longer stick to the bottom of the vessel, thus allowing the creation of objects in continuous mode. This new technique named CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) has the potential to bridge the gap between 3D printing and injection molding manufacturing.
As explained in their prototype presentation the so-called “Traditional Mechanical Approach” of DLP/SLA has four steps which have now been replaced by a single continuous exposition step. This is how the company plans to develop machines that would not only print faster but as Dr. Joseph Desimone (Carbon3D CEO and Co-Founder) points out, create parts that are “molecularly smooth” akin to injection molded parts. Carbon3D uses and develops sophisticated software to control the oxygen content and the thickness of the dead zone based on the print speed (photon flux) and the resin material used.
Insert videoFor those interested in reviewing the process with greater scientific rigor, the technique has recently been featured in the latest edition of Science (accessible in full with free registration). The article discusses the dead zone thickness parameters and test results in greater details. In addition and as expected, the article highlights that a trade-off still exists between print speeds and parts resolutions. In a video, Carbon3D shows how the popular 3D printable model of an Eiffel tower emerges from the resin vessel in less than 7 minutes.
Some have criticized the new technique as “not revolutionary” and “more of the same”, but with more than $41 million raised in venture capital from both Sequoia Capital and Silver Lake Kraftwerk the company is well on its way to perfect CLIP and introduce high-speed additive manufacturing technologies that could disrupt fulfill the true promise of 3D printing.