It seems that everyone has been waiting for Euromold to unleash their new additive machines. After the two new 3D printers I reported on yesterday, there are three more I am having to wrap my head around today. These three are all very different in their own right and they are each very exciting. Exciting for me, because I just love this stuff, and five of them in two days, well, anyone that knows me will be able to imagine!! And, more to the point, exciting for creative and industrial designers, engineers and manufacturers. These new machines are truly fulfilling the evolutionary promise of additive technology and not just for the super rich — right across the board. Indeed two out of the three are 'hybrid' machines, that is, systems that take all the advantages of additive technology and make it even more productive by combining it with other technologies.
A quick overview of each:
The FreeForm Pico is a straight up 3D printer — it's cute courtesy of it's very small and tidy footprint of just 22 cm and its attractive facade, but boy does it pack a punch. The resolution that it offers is 37.5 µm pixels in UF mode. Asiga — the company behind this printer — defines the process as "sliding separation" and it uses an LED light source to create each layer of the part build. The price point for the Pico is $6990, which means that this manufacturing quality machine is available to small and medium sized companies in a range of industries that have been waiting for the quality they need at a price they can justify.
Then there is the machine with no name! It's a big one. And it is from TNO, a company with a long history of working with additive technologies in terms of R&D. The tag line is "Fast and Flexible Production" and it "is the embodiment of TNO's vision for additive technologies."This is because the sole selling point is not just the additive process (deposition, by the way), rather it is a machine focused on speedy, quality production; incorporating other processes, such as pick-and-place robots and surface finishing equipment. This means that the machine can operate continuously, even with multiple materials, and produce a hundred different parts extremely quickly, we're talking minutes here, not hours or days! The production machine is flexible and can be tailored to fit any application.
And finally, although not entirely new, a true hybrid machine — additive & subtractive — the Lumex Avance 25, got some deserved attention today at Euromold. This one is from Matsuura, a Japanese stalwart in the industrial machining market, and it is a combination of metal laser sintering with 3D milling. Looking at the history of the company, they have been working on hybrid technology since 2002. Indeed the first machine, the M-PHOTON 25C' won the 33rd Japan Industrial Technology Grand Prize in 2004. This machine got noticed in Japan four years ago, but little has been heard in Western territories. It's really great to see this changing. IMO, hybrid machines are what will make additive processes truly mainstream within industry (as opposed to 3D printers for consumers) — and I've held that view for a few years since talking to Mike Ayre at a TCT event, when he succinctly and convincingly presented on this very topic. I have remained convinced since.
It just remains for me to tip my hat at Mr Duncan Wood, for his top three tips from Euromold 2011. Thx DW - well tweeted sir!!