May 9, 2017 | By Benedict

Netherlands-based 3D printing startup Blackbelt 3D has provided a sneak peek of its new conveyer belt 3D printer, which is able to print objects of theoretically unlimited length. The 3D printer has a moving conveyer belt for a build surface, and prints at a 45-degree angle. A Kickstarter is imminent.

In what could signal a radical change to conventional FDM 3D printing, Dutch additive newbie Blackbelt 3D has introduced the Blackbelt 3D Printer, a “new type of industrial production machine” that can print extremely long parts, continuously print one part after the other, and print overhangs without additional support material.

It can do all this thanks to its unusual conveyor belt build surface, which moves the print along one axis—potentially forever!

According to Blackbelt, a “high-precision conveyor belt” functions as the printer’s Z-axis and print platform, moving horizontally with every new layer. The belt is made from “carefully selected and well tested” carbon fiber composite, which lets the 3D printing material stick properly.

Surprisingly, however, most of the Blackbelt 3D Printer works like your average FDM machine. Blackbelt says most parts of the new 3D printer are “standard 3D architecture,” and it’s mostly just the conveyor belt build surface that sets it apart. The printer also prints at an angle (45° by default), so it’s never printing on thin air.

This clever design provides a number of advantages. Obviously, being able to print an extremely long object could be useful in a number of situations. But being able to print several shorter objects continuously is also an incredibly handy feature, especially in a production setting. A container at the end of the conveyer belt even “catches” prints once they are finished and reach the end, so the printer can function unmanned.

The printer’s angled printing also removes the need for support structures in many instances. “Many geometries that need support when being printed with the traditional method under horizontal layers can be produced now without any support material, saving time and building material,” Blackbelt says.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that people in the 3D printing industry have attempted to make a 3D printer with one “unlimited” axis. A couple of years ago, for example, the unofficial Z-Unlimited add-on for Ultimaker 3D printers was introduced to remove the Z-axis limits of the FDM printer.

But while others have attempted unlimited printing before, the Blackbelt 3D Printer sure seems like one of the slickest attempts to develop this kind of technology. Also, if its makers are to be believed, the printer will also be really easy to use.

“The idea behind the entire concept was to make an FDM 3D printer as easy to use as a 2D printer that prints on paper,” Blackbelt says. “You simply start up the print job, and the print comes out of the machine.”

Blackbelt says its new “endless” 3D printer is both customizable and modular. BOSCH Alu profiles have been used for the frame construction, making the printer “easy to adapt” for “any industrial or desktop environment,” and the printer also comes with three print heads with different nozzle diameters.

A Kickstarter for the Blackbelt 3D Printer will be announced this Friday, May 12. The 3D printer will be available as either a desktop version or a standalone version, which comes with a downstream roller table that can support “extremely long products” when printing.

Blackbelt says the desktop version of its new 3D printer will cost €9,500 ($10,350), with the standalone version retailing for €12,500 ($13,600). It adds that Kickstarter backers will receive a “significant discount” on these prices.

Blackbelt 3D Printer specs:

  • Interchangeable print heads
  • Industrial linear guides
  • Build volume: 340 x 340 x ∞ mm (13” x 13”x ∞”)
  • Print angle adjustable: 15°/ 25°/ 34°/ 45°
  • Filament diameter: 1.75 mm
  • Print heads included: nozzle sizes 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 mm (more to be available)

 

 

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Feign wrote at 5/10/2017 9:37:57 PM:

The Thing-o-Matic replaces the Y-axis with a conveyor belt, while this type of machine has both the X and Y axes on the gantry, with the belt acting as a skewed Z-axis. It still has the potential issue of the belt lifting up with the part if the part curls up as it cools.

Feign wrote at 5/9/2017 10:48:23 PM:

It really is a very elegant system, though I remember seeing very similar prototype printers by Polar3D at Rapid 2016, but they didn't seem enthusiastic about bringing it to market.

Marcus wrote at 5/9/2017 10:03:14 PM:

What did they do about the Makerbot patent from the Thing-o-Matic? (May that crap rest in pieces) http://www.google.com/patents/US8668859



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