Having introduced a concept for the world's first continuous 3D printer at GIFA 2011, voxeljet is introducing the VXC800, a 3D continuous printer that has been developed and is now ready for series production.
"Our presentation of the concept study was so well received that we decided on a rapid implementation of the project. Our development team worked at full speed for an entire year. The result is the VXC800 – the world's first continuous 3D printer that lays the foundation for a completely new generation of equipment. The building and unloading process steps now run in parallel, without a need to interrupt the operations of the system – an absolute novelty for the industry," stated Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO of voxeljet technology.
One of the advantages of the concept is that the system design allows for new standards of performance and flexibility. While the printing process is active on one side of the system, unloading can take place simultaneously on the other side. All of this can be done without interrupting operations. The developer predicted it would raise the levels of speed, profitability, and flexibility for patternless small series production of metalcasting molds and prototypes.
This advance in technology is possible thanks to a patented design with a horizontal belt conveyor that controls layer building. The layers are built at the entrance of the belt conveyor, while the unloading takes place at the exit. VXC800 makes the build containers common in conventional additive processes a thing of the past.
The printing process, the core of the VXC800 technology, is done on a level tilted to the horizontal. Printing is similar to conventional 3D printing. First the coater generates a layer of powder at an angle to the horizontal that is smaller than the repose angle of the powder. A high-definition, 600-dpi resolution print head then selectively bonds the layers. The conveyor system moves the entire fill toward the unloading area by one layer thickness. The finished component can simply be removed from the rear end of the system when it has gone through the entire material.
Compared to the concept study, the build space of the series machine has been enlarged significantly: it measures 850 mm wide by 500 mm high. The length of the molds is virtually unlimited with this system, as there are no restrictions with respect to the length of the belt conveyor. The usable build length is limited only by the manageability of the moulds. The tilt of the print level enables the print head to take far less time for positioning movements, which improves the print speed.
Apart from the technological highlights, users will be pleased with the investment and operating costs, which are lower than those of conventional systems. The continuous printer does away with build containers and a separate unloading station, resulting in lower acquisition costs. The printer also scores points with the high re-use rate for unprinted particle material, which is returned straight to the build zone from the unloading area. Consequently, the machine requires smaller filling quantities and incurs lower set-up costs.
Similar to conventional 3D printers, the VXC800 uses proven voxeljet print technology. The machine works with layer thicknesses ranging from 150 µm to 400 µm. "The development of the world's first 3D continuous printer is a milestone not just for voxeljet but the entire industry. Orders for the machine can be placed as of the start of the EuroMold. The first deliveries are planned for the second quarter of 2013," stated Dr. Ederer.