May 16, 2017 | By Benedict

Collider, a 3D printing startup based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is developing a multi-material 3D printer that combines 3D printing and injection molding. The Orchid 3D printer, soon to be in BETA, prints the outer shell of an object before filling it with a mix of metal powders and liquid binder.

When weighing up the pros and cons of 3D printing and injection molding, neither side ever shows a definitive advantage. Additive allows for more complex shapes, but molding offers the advantages of smoother surfaces and stronger parts.

At the end of the day, manufacturers simply have to choose the process that is best suited to the job at hand.

But what if there was a “best of both worlds” solution to the AM versus injection molding debate? What if there was a production system capable of making geometrically complex parts with the speed of rapid prototyping, while simultaneously offering the strength and material versatility afforded by injection molding?

According to innovative Tennessee startup Collider, there is such a solution—or at least, there will be later this year.

The company is currently organizing a BETA testing program for its Orchid 3D printer, a machine that supposedly combines additive manufacturing and injection molding in a way never before seen.

According to Collider, the new Orchid 3D printer is able to produce smooth, surface-perfect objects in materials like silver, stainless steel, silicone, and copper.

How? Because it’s not really a 3D printer.

Like a standard 3D printer, the Orchid takes its cues from a digital 3D model. But forget slicing, density, and all that business, because the Orchid only 3D prints the outer shell of an object. This shell, printed in a dissolvable material, acts as a mold for the real material.

And that stuff doesn’t get 3D printed. Instead, the Orchid takes a “cartridge,” a mixture of metal powders and liquid binder, and squeezes it into the 3D printed mold immediately after printing.

These cartridges can also contain other materials, and Collider has already developed a bunch of them to work in the Orchid 3D printer. So far, the company has two rubber mixes and two polyurethane mixes, as well as stainless steel and copper variants.

When the injection molding process is complete, it’s time to remove that 3D printed outer shell, which simply dissolves away in a warm bath. The metal part inside is then put in a furnace, sintering the metal and burning away any binder resins inside.

The result, according to Collider, is a shiny metal object that exhibits many of the properties of an injection molded part, but with a shape made possible by 3D printing. It also takes much less time than traditional injection molding, since traditional tooling is not required.

“Built with disruptive technology that drastically reduces tooling lead-time and costs, Orchid delivers production quality parts that can be made using a variety of traditional manufacturing materials,” Collider says on its website.

At present, Collider’s business plan is to lease its innovative Orchid 3D printers to 3D printing service providers like Shapeways, as well as small regional manufacturers and labs.

Those interested in joining the Orchid BETA program can get in touch with Collider here. BETA machines are expected to ship late 2017.

Orchid 3D printer specs:

  • Height: 71 in (1,788 mm)
  • Width: 31 in (785 mm)
  • Depth: 34 in (868 mm)
  • Build Volume: 14 in (355 mm) x 12 in (304 mm) x 8 in (203 mm)
  • Vertical Print Speed : 36 cm/hr
  • Power: Standard 110V/AC

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer

 

 

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