The big news on the first day of Rapid 2010 was the
unveiling of a new rapid prototyping machine from Z
Corp. that builds high-end
functional prototypes at one-third the price of stereolithography machines with
comparable performance. Called the ZBuilder Ultra, the machine will be
available in July.
ZBuilder Ultra builds durable plastic parts that rival injection molding's
accuracy, material properties, detail and surface finish, says Joe Titlow,
director of product development from Z Corp., Bulington, MA.
Like other rapid prototyping systems, it enables engineers to verify designs
for form, fit and function prior to full-scale production, eliminating costly
modifications to production tooling and speeding time to market.
The ZBuilder Ultra builds 3D parts additively using a
high-resolution Digital Light Processor (DLP) projector to solidify a liquid
photopolymer instead of the laser systems used in stereolithography systems.
The technology was developed by a company called envisonTec,
which has focused on medical and jewelry applications. Titlow says envisionTEC
is licensing the technology to Z Corp. to develop industrial mechanical
Z Corp. is working with envisionTEC on new materials
technology that will extend potential industrial applications. EnvisionTEC is based in Gladbeck,
Germany, but is
manufacturing the ZBuilder in California.
The technology is a significant expansion of the Z Corp.
product line. Z Corp. began in 1995 with an exclusive license for a 3D printing
technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on a
plaster-type material. An inkjet-like printing head driven by a CAD file moves
across a bed of powder, depositing a liquid material in the shape of the
section. A fresh layer of powder is spread across the top of the model, and the
process is repeated.
The ZBuilder puts Z Corp. into functional testing markets
where engineers want parts with some flexibility and more accurate details. The
new system produces part features within +/- 0.008 inches (+/- 0.2 mm). The
data differ somewhat by geometry and process. Minimum feature size is 0.005
inches (138 microns).
"For concept and mid-stage modeling when you need speed, low
cost, and visual appeal, our ZPrinters are the fastest and only color 3D
printers on the market. And when the material properties of a part are
important for final design verification, the affordable ZBuilder delivers parts
that rival injection molding. Bottom line, engineers now have a single source
for the best design technologies."
The build size of the system is 10.2 x 6.3 x 7.5 inches (260
x 160 x 190 mm). The suggested retail price in the USA is $34,900.
Organizers of Rapid 2010 said that attendance is up slightly
from Rapid 2009, and that the industry seems to be recovering from a weak 2008
and 2009. Rethia Williams, senior project engineer at Boeing, was awarded
the Industry Achievement Award from the Rapid
Technologies and Additive Manufacturing community of the Society of
Manufacturing Engineers (SME).
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