shapeways logoThe 3D printing industry is in the midst of an identity crisis at the moment. Last year saw the desktop 3D printer market drop for the first time in nearly a decade, and the two biggest players in desktop 3D printing took pretty serious financial hits as the stock market responded poorly. In response, Stratasys laid off a large chunk of their MakerBot staff while 3D Systems just took their Cube and left the desktop market entirely. While that has left plenty of room for smaller desktop manufacturers to fill in the hole in the market, it still left the industry with some questions about its future, and many considering the possibility that maybe 3D printing wasn’t ready to be adopted by mainstream consumers.

Let’s face it, 3D printing can be expensive, and for those unfamiliar with working with sensitive technology it can also be a lot of trouble to deal with at home. While the growing need for 3D printing hasn’t gone anywhere, a lot of users are choosing to forgo 3D printing on their own and simply hiring someone to do it for them. Shapeways is one of the largest 3D printing service providers in the industry, and they practically set the standard for how buying printed parts online works. Not only do they have a large marketplace where designers all over the world can sell their creations, but they will 3D print those designs and ship those products directly to their users.

Shapeways certainly isn’t alone in offering online 3D printing services, but they are one of the biggest, and got there by offering one of the most diverse collections of innovative 3D printing materials and processes around. They offer dozens of materials ranging from a full selection of metals, including precious metals, to plastics to ceramics. Their newest material, Black High Definition Acrylate, is a super smooth and durable material that is ideal for very small parts and object with lots of fine details like miniatures, figurines or jewelry prototypes.

Mini train made using Black High Definition Acrylate.

Mini train made using Black High Definition Acrylate.

Black High Definition Acrylate is a UV-sensitive acrylic polymer that is closest in properties to Shapeways’ Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) material. However, instead of using a Multijet Modeling process, Black High Definition Acrylate is 3D printed using Direct Light Projection (DLP) technology. DLP is very similar to stereolithography (SLA), light is projected into a bath of liquid resin while a platform pulls the model up a single layer at a time. However, instead of using a laser to cure the resin, the process uses the visible spectrum of light to cure the resin one entire layer at a time. By printing entire layers, the build speed is considerably faster than SLA, not to mention similar processes like laser sintering. Once the entire model is printed it simply needs to be cleaned and then cured in a UV light box to completely solidify. 

Because the DLP process is so precise, models printed using Black High Definition Acrylate are capable of an incredible amount of detail. The prints are ideal for objects that need to be highly accurate and with a fine resolution. The material is also more durable and flexible than FUD, and is easier to customize, post process and paint. It will also have virtually unnoticeable striation marks and an extremely smooth surface that rivals the finish of an injection molded part.

Here is a video of Shapeways’ Materials Project Manager Blair explaining more about Black High Definition Acrylate:

As with most new materials, Black High Definition Acrylate is currently only an available material for the Shapeways maker community who are encouraged to test out the material and offer their feedback. Once the Shapeways team has settled on the best way to offer the material it will be open to everyone. You can hear Blair talk more about the material on this week’s Shapeways Live segment or head over to the Shapeways Community Forum to ask any questions that you may have about the material. And you can learn more about Black High Definition Acrylate over on its Material Information page. Let us know what you think in the Shapeways New 3D Printing Materials forum over on 3DPB.com.

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