Inkbit’s CEO discusses the future of materials in 3D printing: achieving hardware at the same speed as software.


Inkbit, the Massachusetts-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the Vista line of 3D printers, has recently introduced a new material called TEPU 50A at the Formnext 2023 event held in Frankfurt, Germany. TEPU 50A is a medium-soft thiol-ene polyurethane-based elastomer and is the second elastomer in Inkbit’s portfolio, following TEPU 30A.

During an interview with Inkbit’s CEO, Davide Marini, he explained that TEPU 50A was developed based on customer feedback. Inkbit had previously launched TEPU 30A, which received great enthusiasm from customers due to its ability to combine elastomer rebound properties with high resolution and fine features. However, customers expressed the desire for a slightly harder material, leading to the creation of TEPU 50A.

TEPU 50A has garnered significant interest in various applications, including automotive gaskets, soft robotics, medical wearables, and prototyping for wearables. The material’s silicone-like feel makes it ideal for producing seals, gaskets, and other soft and bouncy components that require good rebound with intricate details.

Inkbit’s platform stands out from others in the market due to its integrated vision system, which is contactless and eliminates the need for mechanical planarization that could deform soft structures. Additionally, Inkbit utilizes wax as a support material, enabling the creation of intricate geometries. The company’s machine vision system is the first to generate a real-time 3D depth map, setting it apart from other platforms that use only cameras and not 3D computer vision systems.

While being ahead of the curve has presented its own challenges, it has also allowed Inkbit to form innovative partnerships, particularly in the robotics sector. Marini noted that robotics companies are open to new technologies and willing to explore different approaches. Furthermore, the volume production quantities typically required by robotics companies align well with 3D printing capabilities. Marini also highlighted the concept of hardware/software co-development, which he believes was pioneered by the robotics industry and will become more prevalent in other sectors.

Inkbit’s introduction of TEPU 50A demonstrates the company’s dedication to meeting customer needs and pushing the boundaries of additive manufacturing technology. With its advanced platform and innovative materials, Inkbit continues to make strides in the 3D printing industry.

The ability to change both hardware and software at the same speed is a challenge that many robotics companies face. However, with the advent of 3D printing, this problem can be solved. 3D printing allows for the rapid prototyping of hardware, making it possible to rebuild a prototype every time the control algorithm is changed. This is why robotics companies are drawn to 3D printing – it allows them to change the hardware at the same speed as the software.

Inkbit, a company specializing in 3D printing technology, is particularly well-suited to prototyping fully functioning products. Their technology allows for the printing of both rigid and soft structures simultaneously. This is a substantial advantage because it enables the creation of structures that closely resemble those found in nature. Often, human inventions are inspired by nature, such as the wings of birds in aviation. In the field of robotics, the natural inspiration to turn to is the human hand. Our hands are comprised of both rigid and soft structures, making them the most sophisticated naturally-occurring robots. Therefore, in order to advance the robotics field further, technologies like Inkbit’s that enable multi-material manufacturing are needed.

When discussing the future of the additive manufacturing (AM) sector, the development of new materials is a key factor. Inkbit’s CEO, Davide Marini, believes that the development of better and better materials is essential to unlocking scale in the AM sector. In the early years, the focus was on ensuring their machine worked reliably. Now, the goal is to continue developing materials that can be used for production. Marini envisions a future where someone can have an idea in the morning, prototype it in the afternoon, and launch it to market the next week, all on the same machine. This dream is only possible with the development of high-quality materials that meet the demands of the industry.

In conclusion, 3D printing has revolutionized the robotics industry by allowing for the rapid prototyping of hardware. Inkbit’s technology, in particular, enables the printing of both rigid and soft structures, making it ideal for creating fully functioning products. The development of new materials is crucial to the future of the AM sector, as it will allow for the scaling of production. With advancements in materials, it is possible to imagine a future where ideas can go from concept to market in a matter of days.

Original source


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