Significant advances continue in rapid prototyping equipment, with emphasis on new capabilities and cost reduction. For the first time, medical design firms can create complex prototypes with a digital-based technology from Sweden.
“We looked for years for a technology provider that could help us create complex metal models in titanium, allowing us to meet a unique market niche,” says Andy Christensen, president of Medical Modeling of Golden, CO. “We believe that use of electron beam melting (EBM) technology will allow many manufacturers of medical devices the ability to reduce or eliminate non-digital technologies in the process of taking a design to a fully functional metal part.” Benefits include streamlined production times and less waste.
There are two other brand-new modelers that offer cost-effective modeling.
New modeler builds titanium parts
A new process called EBM produces solid metal parts, allowing elimination of nondigital processes (machining, casting) for making complex prototypes. Parts are built in layers of metal powder, each of which is melted by an electron beam to the exact geometry defined by the CAD file. Because this process occurs in a high vacuum, parts are completely solid, without imperfections caused by oxidation. Medical Modeling has acquired the system to provide surgeons and medical device manufacturers with titanium models for improved surgical planning and implant development. The technology is sold in North America by Stratasys, Minneapolis, MN, for Arcam AB, Gothenburg, Sweden.
3D will debut new imaging technology
3D Systems of Rock Hill, SC, plans to introduce a compact office modeler, the V-Flash, this summer. Based on a new (fourth) technology platform, it will be able to build ready-to-use, three-dimensional models within hours at home, school or office workstations. The new Film Transfer Imaging (FTI) technology will produce “stereolithography-like” accuracy, according to 3D CEO Abe Reichental. The company would provide no details on the technology. The 25 X 26 X 27-inch V-Flash desktop modeler will weigh about 100 lbs and have a maximum build volume of 7 X 9 inches and 8 inches tall with standard power requirements. It will be priced at $9,900.
New price point for color printers
The new ZPrinter 450 is described as the first color 3D printer to break the $40,000 price point. Color can clarify design intent through the addition of part annotations like text, arrows and engineering labels. It enables the display of finite element analysis (FEA) results and can specify steps required in manufacturing, assembly or medical application. Z Corp. of Burlington, MA, says the printer has push-button automated operation and quick-change materials cartridges that reduce touch time by 40 percent. According to Z Corp., the new lower price tag puts high-definition 3D color printing within the range of small-to-medium engineering businesses and divisions currently spending money to outsource to service bureaus.