BLOOMINGTON, MN – Stratasys Ltd. unveiled two prototype 3D printing machines designed to produce larger parts and give additive manufacturing a bigger role on the factory floor.
“Where we’re headed for tomorrow is much larger,” Rich Garrity, president of the company’s Americas operations, said in a briefing on Tuesday in Bloomington, MN. “We’re talking about feet and meters rather than inches and centimeters.”
Additive manufacturing, where parts are built layer by layer from a digital design, is in the midst of a transition. The industry is moving from making printers for home users to moving into manufacturing in industries such as aerospace, automotive and medical. Also, growth in 3D printing has slowed.
Stratasys, which has dual headquarters in Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel, displayed the machines for journalists and financial analysts at the Stratasys corporate office in nearby Eden Prairie, MN. Stratasys will display the prototype machines publicly at IMTS in Chicago next month. Executives said they want to use the trade show to gather customer feedback for further development.
The two machines Statasys showed are:
–The Stratasys Infinite-Build 3D Demonstrator, which was developed with Boeing Co. and Ford Motor Co. as partners. It’s designed to build large thermoplastic parts. The machine uses the Stratasys-developed FDM 3D printing technology while flipping it on its side. According to the company, this enables the printing of larger parts.
The additive manufacturer said Boeing is using an Infinite-Build 3D demonstrator to study producing low volume, lightweight parts. Ford also is examining automotive applications for the technology.
–The Stratasys Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator, with a six-axis robot and two-axis rotary positioner. It’s designed to print composite materials, such as thermoplastic combined with carbon fiber. Siemens is the company’s partner in developing the machine. Stratasys says with the range of motion parts are made more inside out than the normal layer-by-layer.
`Cannot Do This Alone’
During a press conference, Stratasys declined to provide financial and other details of its partnerships. Executives said the partnerships were necessary to develop the machines.
“We cannot do this alone,” Stratasys CEO Ilon Levin said at the briefing. “The future of additive manufacturing is taking technologies and applying them to very specific applications. Our industry is maturing.”
Levin became chief of Stratasys on July 1 following the retirement of David Reis. Levin was on the company’s board and executive committee.
It’s unclear how soon such technology will be available to customers.
“We’ve reached milestones from a technical standpoint,” Garrity said. The company is unveiling the machines ahead of IMTS to “signal our intent” how it will proceed in 3D printing, he said. Feedback at the trade show will be used to further develop the technology, he said.
“We’ll leverage that to see what is the finalized” form of the eventual production machines, Garrity said in an interview. “We’re not here to have a science fair for what could happen 10 or 15 years from now.”
Currently, there are fewer than five of the prototype machines, Garrity said, not wanting to be more specific. “You can count the number on one hand.”
The prototype machines are “about increasing the number of opportunities” and “increasing the number of likely candidates” to utilize 3D printing in manufacturing, said Todd Grimm, president of consulting firm T.A. Grimm & Associates, who attended the tour.
Stratasys also released the promotional video below.