Jan 8, 2018 | By Benedict

Stereolithography 3D printing company Formlabs has introduced two new 3D printing resins, Rigid and Grey Pro. In collaboration with dental and audio technology company 3Shape, Formlabs has also demonstrated how its printers and resins can be used to make customized 3D printed earbuds.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is always a busy time for 3D printing companies, and Massachusetts’ Formlabs, one of the most popular companies in the additive manufacturing game, is no exception to that rule. This year, the SLA master is introducing two new 3D printing resins, Rigid and Grey Pro, and is also using the Las Vegas event to showcase a useful and potentially lucrative application of its 3D printing systems: making customized 3D printed earbuds.

We’ll start with the new Formlabs products on offer, both of which have been developed for Formlabs 3D printers like the Form 2. The first of these new products, Rigid, is the company’s first resin that is reinforced with glass, which gives it both very high stiffness and a polished finish. The other new resin, Grey Pro, offers high precision and versatile material properties, including moderate elongation and low creep. Formlabs says these properties make Grey Pro ideal for concept modeling and functional testing.

The new SLA 3D printing materials reflect Formlabs’ growing interest in providing 3D printing products for end-use applications, as opposed to rapid prototyping. Moving away from prototyping, the company thinks its new resins are suitable for both the factory floor and mass customization.

“We believe we can drive 3D printing into more end-use applications by dramatically improving material properties and significantly decreasing the cost per part, bringing the promise of 3D printed mass customization closer to reality for businesses and consumers,” said Max Lobovsky, co-founder and CEO of Formlabs.

For some CES attendees, however, the show will also provide a first glimpse of Formlabs’ latest 3D printers, the Form Cell (an automated 3D printing production system) and Fuse 1 (the company’s first SLS 3D printer), which were released in June 2017. It’s the first time either printer has been demonstrated at a trade show.

The Las Vegas event will also allow Formlabs to demonstrate some specific uses for its 3D printers and printing resins, the most exciting of which involves a collaboration with dental and audio technology company (and CAD/CAM specialist) 3Shape.

This collaboration involves the use of a flagship product from each company: the Form 2 3D printer from Formlabs and the Phoenix in-ear scanner from 3Shape. With these two pieces of electronic equipment, it is possible to create 3D printed earbuds that precisely match the contours of a wearer’s ears, resulting in long-term wear, comfort, stability, noise reduction, and noise cancellation from the environment.

“We’re seeing 2018 as the year custom earbuds will be available to most consumers,” said Dávid Lakatos, chief product officer at Formlabs. “This announcement marks a significant use case for 3D printed mass customization at the consumer level, but the implications of the technology go beyond headphones to include hearables. We’re proud to be part of the growing force behind accessible, affordable, high quality 3D printing that is making on-demand production of custom earbuds finally possible.”

The two companies say their partnership offers a “ready-made technology package” that retailers can use to provide customers with an on-demand custom in-ear product—either on the high street or via other routes. Such technology would previously have been available only to serious audiophiles or musicians, and therefore opens up a new market segment for ordinary consumers.

“This exciting partnership offers stores a unique competitive advantage, and earphone brands a true product differentiation to the multitude of standard fit earphones that leak music, are uncomfortable to wear, and fall out while on the move,” added Iain Mcleod, Senior Director and Head of Audio Business Unit at 3Shape.

In addition to the 3Shape collaboration, Formlabs has also been working with New York startup Quip on its popular electric toothbrush line, and also with Pankl Racing Systems on engine and drivetrain components for high-performance vehicles and aerospace applications. Formlabs has helped Pankl 3D print certain parts, removing the costly and time-consuming process of producing jigs, fixtures, and other tooling.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Materials

 

 

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