Exploring Recent Technical Innovations at 3D Systems: A Booth Tour with VP Marty Johnson


At Formnext 2023, I was privileged to tour the 3D Systems booth led by Marty Johnson, who is the Vice President, Product and Technical Fellow at 3D Systems. Our exploration accentuated the firm’s most recent advancements, inclusive of a breakthrough platform previewed at the event.

On our tour, Johnson illustrated the EXT 1070 Titan Pellet, drawing our attention to its exceptional attribute as a pellet extruder that can manage standard pellets, commercial pellets like PC ABS, carbon polycarbonate, and others. This innovation permits seamless finishes on plastic pieces, advantageous for fabricating large components such as automobile jigs and fixtures with precise data. Johnson accentuated the velocity and accuracy of this technique, proving beneficial for vacuum-forming tooling.

A topic of considerable discussion was the affordability and efficiency of these new technologies in revolutionizing transportation. Johnson exhibited this by citing a part formulated from glass-loaded polycarbonate pellets, highlighting the usage of high-efficiency plastics. Another instance was a radar mounting mast fabricated from carbon cell ABS, post-production gel-coated for a smooth finish. This piece, distinguished for its lightweight and aesthetic quality, signified the advancements in 3D printing technology for lower-volume production, presenting an alternative to more conventional methods like metal machining.

Johnson emerged with a conveyance that utilizing these novel technologies could significantly curtail both time and cost in manufacturing procedures, especially for high-precision, low-volume items, marking a transition in production methodologies towards more productive and adaptable solutions.

Our ensuing destination encompassed a glimpse of 3D Systems’ recent progress in 3D printing technology specifically designed for medical utilities.

Johnson presented the EXT 220 MED, earlier recognized as the Kumovis R1, an especial medical printer acclaimed for its cleanroom-rated premises. Its consequential role in the making of a cranial implant was underscored, along with the profound ability to 3D print PEEK, which is pivotal for such medical employments. This innovation marks a substantial advancement in the realm of medical 3D printing, making room for novel potentialities in patient-centric treatments.

On elaborating about the Delta configuration of the printer, Johnson outlined its merits in aspects of unhindered motion and precision, which are crucial for fabricating intricate medical components like spinal cages. The Delta configuration also bestows versatility owing to less electronic content on the print head, rendering it advantageous in a high-temperature milieu inside the printer.

New PSLA 270 combines SLA and Figure 4 Technologies

Johnson then previewed the PSLA 270, a new model that merges features from SLA and Figure 4 technologies. The printer is proud to show off a dual-projector system, a VAT at its base, and enhancements in speed, precision, and repeatability. Johnson made mention of the successful utilization of the Figure 4 PRO-BLK 10 material, applauding its rigidity, rapid print speeds, and resistance to impact. Its properties were compared to those of PMMA acrylic plastic, showcasing its adaptability to various applications.

Throughout the conversation, the long-term stability of these materials was a central point. Johnson emphasized that their materials are expertly designed for endurance, with the barest to null changes in elongation at break after 8 years of indoor testing and an impressive 1.5 to 2 years of testing outdoors. It’s critical to select stable materials like these for industrial and medical usage to ensure the longevity and reliability of the printed parts.

Finally, Johnson announced that the new PSLA 270 printer model, debuted at the event, is slated to hit the market in the middle of the coming year. He highlighted the importance of perfecting the product for a successful launch and the printer’s unique abilities.

Discussion around the choice of materials for the new printer, more specifically the NextDent material portfolio, is still underway. There is a confidence resonating on the Figure 4 material portfolio because of its wide-ranging inclusions—materials designed for medical sterilization, as well as high-durability applications like Figure 4 FLEX-BLK 20.

3D Systems’ extensive background in software development and projector-based printing that stretches back since 2007 has facilitated the sophistication of pixel manipulation and edge resolution. This domain expertise combined with their prolonged process knowledge, specialized hardware, and comprehensive customer support place them ahead in the industry. One notable team within the company, the Application Innovation Group (AIG), is dedicated to problem-solving complex issues, showcasing their delivery of speed, accuracy, repeatability and simplicity in their SLA systems.

According to Johnson, the competition has evolved—no longer bound within 3D printing companies but with traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding and machining. High-value applications can be captured by leveraging their technological capability to create complex geometries and materials. This strategic shift is not just about existing within the 3D printing industry but an aim to challenge conventional manufacturing methods. This speaks volumes about 3D Systems’ aim to revolutionize production procedures across a wide range of industries.

The competitive edge of 3D printing

Delving into the realm of medical applications, especially in the context of surgical planning, Johnson presented the SLA 750 Dual, an enhanced 3D printer that moved from a single laser to a dual laser platform in the span of a year. He emphasized the significance of this device, asserting that, “When we discuss SLA, we have been implementing it from the start,” drawing attention to 3D Systems’ prowess in handling materials and machine control.

The conversation also touched upon one of the vital materials, namely, the Accura AMX Tough FR-V0 Black, a material known for its flame-retardance as well as remarkable toughness, a trait not generally found in flame-retardant materials. The combination of this material with the 3D Sprint, an advanced software by 3D Systems, facilitates improved speed, precision, and replication.

Mention was also made of the application of these technologies in extreme pressure situations, Formula 1 being a case in point, demonstrating the importance of their printing proficiency in manufacturing high-performance components swiftly. An instance was given on how the dual laser system could substantially cut down printing time. For example, a part that would take a Pro X 800 system 32 hours to print could be printed in merely 25 hours using their single laser system, and even more quickly with the dual system.

Such advancements are indicative of a significant transformation in the effectiveness and utility of 3D printing technology for a range of high-requirement applications.

Advanced Metal AM and Accessible SLS for smaller manufacturing environments

I also saw 3D Systems’ advanced metal 3D printing technologies and accessible SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) systems.

The DMP Flex 350 Triple is a metal printer with unique features, including an auto-latching door and enhanced heat and gas flow balance for optimal productivity. He explained, “The system goes to 350 by 350 by 350 mm. You’re able to take advantage of those three lasers.” The DMP Flex 350 Triple’s design allows for efficient use of material, crucial given the high cost of metal materials, and aims to achieve first print success with a focus on longevity and reusability.

Johnson also mentioned the market’s growing interest in smaller-scale SLS technology, represented on the 3D Systems’ booth by the SLS 300 and the accompanying ecosystem of Atmosphere Generator, Water Jet Cabinet, and the forthcoming Powder Recycling Station (PRS).

Johnson noted the system’s appeal to newcomers and larger companies looking to scale their printing capabilities. He said, “It’s a way to help scale their print lab within their company.” Discussing the printer’s accessibility, Johnson highlighted its appeal to experts and non-expert users, saying, “It’s not only accessible to more people, but it’s accessible to non-expert users to be able to run in their center.” The system’s compactness and integrated components, including the aforementioned nitrogen generator and Powder Recycling Station, make it an efficient solution for maximizing lab space. The system is designed for ease of use and efficiency, with software that optimizes print jobs within the machine’s capabilities.

The conversation at Formnext 2023 showcased 3D Systems’ commitment to advancing 3D printing technology, making it more accessible and efficient for a wider range of users and applications. Johnson’s insights highlight the company’s focus on innovation, user-friendliness, and market expansion in the 3D printing industry.

Read all the 3D Printing Industry coverage from Formnext 2023.

What does the future of 3D printing for the next ten years hold?

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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