Apr 6, 2016 | By Alec

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 3D printing expos and conferences are the premier location for learning more about the hottest upcoming tech applications. The 2016 Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Conference in St. Louis (ongoing until 7 April) is no different, and features a very special setup from the fathers of 3D printing, 3D Systems. The company is there in full force, showing off their range of 3D printers, materials, software and on-demand 3D printing services as Diamond Sponsor. Also present is what could be the production line of the future, the incredible robotic 3D printing SLAbot-2, based on the Figure 4 technology developed by founder Chuck Hull.

At the event, 3D Systems is providing a very impressive experience of 3D Systems technology and services, and are hosting a diverse program of discussions on 3D printing development as well. “Now a leading conference for additive manufacturing, AMUG evolved from an early users’ group of 3D Systems’ stereolithography technology in the late 1980s,” said Cathy Lewis, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, 3D Systems. “Currently in our 30th anniversary year, 3D Systems is thrilled to celebrate this joint history with such a collaborative community.” Chuck Hull also attended AMUG yesterday, participating in a panel. “It is always a pleasure to be able to exchange and foster new ideas directly with our users,” Hull said of the event.

But it wasn’t just an opportunity to educate potential new clients and strengthen their bonds with their existing users, but also one for showing off their upcoming technologies. 3D Systems is all too aware of the possibility of a futuristic 3D printing production and assembly line, and have been optimizing what they call their Figure 4 technology to realize that. “Figure 4 technology gets its name from the Fig. 4 illustration in Chuck Hull’s original patent filing for SLA in 1984. This configuration holds the key to achieving the breakthrough speeds of current Figure 4 installations,” 3D Systems explains. It is also a return to their focus on industrial applications, after having spent some time and money on reaching private users.

It stands out from other photopolymer 3D printing systems for its ability to manufacture hybrid materials for optimal toughness, durability, biocompatibility, high temperature deflection, and even elastomeric properties. “Figure 4 technology produces parts in minutes, versus hours on conventional systems. Using arrays of manufacturing modules, a finished part can be created every few seconds,” they say. “This opens the door to new end-use applications in the fields of consumer goods, automotive, aerospace, medical, and beyond.”

If you happened to be at CES 2016, you might have seen their previous iteration, the SLAbot-1 3D printing robot. Consisting of a robotic arm equipped with an SLA setup, it was essentially a one-armed 3D printing robot that not only 3D prints at a high pace, but also takes care of all post processing steps by moving the print from one module to the next. “When printing is complete, the SLAbot-1 pulls the build out of the material vat, shakes it free of extraneous material, and deposits the tray and print to the side for retrieval before collecting another tray and beginning the following build,” 3D Systems explained at the time.

At AMUG, they essentially showed off the upgraded version of the SLAbot-1, the SLAbot-2 – featuring two robotic arms to further optimize an automatic 3D printing production and assembly line. Every possible step of 3D printing production is taken care of. “We’ve housed this ultra-fast additive manufacturing technology in discrete modules, allowing it to be placed into automated assembly lines and integrated with secondary processes, including material recovery, washing, curing and finishing steps,” they say.

It pulls a print up from a vat of resin at remarkable speeds, using a membrane system reminiscent of Carbon’s CLIP technology. The object is then cleaned, washed, and cured all within the production line. Theoretically, it opens the way towards mass production SLA 3D printing, as you can see in the clip below. The advantages, obviously are huge. Time and cost reduction is obvious, while its tremendous speeds and high quality could make the SLAbot-2 (or an even further scaled up version) a true competitor for other production systems. 3D Systems could be right to call it both “the past and future of stereolithography.”



Posted in 3D Printer



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Joshua wrote at 4/6/2016 6:56:45 PM:

Nice article!

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