Oct 5, 2017 | By David

The awkwardly named but impeccably organized IN(3D)USTRY, Europe’s largest industrial 3D printing trade show, is taking place this week at Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via Venue, and 3Ders is there to share what it has to offer with you. Subtitled "From Needs to Solutions," the expo covers everything that an industrial 3D printing enthusiast might want to see, with companies and organizations involved in healthcare, automobiles, aerospace, and many other sectors all demonstrating their products and services.

Amongst all the global heavyweights in attendance at this year’s IN(3D)USTRY additive manufacturing expo, local 3D printer manufacturer Natural Robotics stood out as a low-key, home-grown success story. 3ders interviewed company founder and CEO Hector Esteller to find out a bit about how his company started and where it’s heading in the future.

The main focal point of the Natural Robotics booth was its latest 3D printer, the Vit SLS. This is the company’s first foray into SLS technology, and it is hoping that the success of this machine will bring the advanced precision and reliability of lasers to the lower end of the market, where FDM is currently the norm. Hobbyists, makers and smaller manufacturers could have a lot to gain from the Vit SLS 3D printer, which should be relatively affordable. It is capable of printing at 20mm/h, on the Z-axis, with 0.05mm resolution.

Interface: 7-inch touch-screen
Printer Dimensions: 800 x 600 x 950mm
Build Envelope: 250 x 250 x 250mm

We were able to check out some examples of objects printed using the Vit SLS, and they were truly impressive. An incredibly high level of detail and intricacy and an excellent surface finish were easy to see, particularly on one prosthetic arm model with functional finger and wrist joints.

We were keen to find out more about the impact of 3D printing on the Catalonian region, which has seen the success of Natural Robotics and many other local companies and projects. Hector suggested that there were a complex range of factors behind the popularity of 3D printing here.

He started out as part of the local maker scene, which has a strong focus on independence and collaboration. The proliferation of open-source technology acted as a catalyst both for Hector’s career and for the development of all kinds of cutting-edge digital manufacturing projects in Catalonia, with 3D printing being at the forefront of the region’s technological growth. There are also many apprenticeships offered for technology in Barcelona and elsewhere in Catalonia, which is another factor contributing to the construction of a strong local skills base.

As for the establishment of Natural Robotics, this was a natural progression from Hector’s hobbyist background. After being a ‘‘professional maker’’ for many years, he was familiar with the difficulties that 3D printer users can face at every stage of their project. Whether you’re struggling with the initial print settings, the final build quality, or any other aspect, even the most basic 3D printing project can be challenging to get right, and the problems will often be specific to the particular machine you are using. Hector recognized that there was a considerable lack of maintenance and support offered by 3D printer manufacturers to independent hobbyists and makers, and this is what led him to focus on after-sale care as the company’s most important contribution and selling point in a crowded hobbyist 3D printer market.

Their Delta Black FDM went on sale back in 2016, and sold remarkably well. The design and construction of the 3D printer was entirely carried out by the Natural Robotics team, at its base in Barcelona. This gives the company an advantage over other manufacturers as it can offer support and maintenance to customers for every part of the machine.

After establishing a strong reputation in the FDM 3D printer market, both in Spain and further afield, Hector wanted to develop the Natural Robotics brand further. He told us that, along with 3D printing, ‘’lasers have always been my passion’’. This passion inevitably led him to wonder about the possibility of building an SLS 3D printer.

When he started out, this kind of 3D printing technology was prohibitively expensive to develop or purchase, and accessible only for high-end professional projects and large-scale manufacturers. However, he always ‘‘had a vision, that more opportunities would become available (for laser-based 3D printing).’’ The aim was to allow smaller companies to afford the kind of quality production that SLS 3D printing offers. ‘’It took a while, but we got there eventually’’, he says.

We pressed Hector to identify a favourite industrial collaboration of his, but he instead praised the whole community of small-scale manufacturers in Catalonia. He hopes to continue to influence and encourage their work, whether it’s through the building of prototypes or small-series production.  Natural Robotics’ Vit SLS is due to be launched via Kickstarter on October 24, with an early-bird price point potentially as low as 9000 Euros.



Posted in 3D Printer



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