I recently had the opportunity to visit Prodways, the largest French 3D printer manufacturer, in their headquarters and factory located in Les Mureaux, near Paris. The impressive technologies I saw (advanced SLS, fast, large size MOVINGLight and ceramic 3D printing capabilities) made me wonder about their potential to compete with new technologies such as Carbon’s ultra fast CLIP and other continuous DLP processes.
My questions were just answered as Prodways released an impressive video for what is likely to be the fastest photoactive resin 3D print ever made: a 4.15 minute 3D print of a high resolution 8,5 cm tall Statue of Liberty.
Mr Raphael Gorgé, CEO of the Group by the same name that owns and founded Prodways, explained that this test is – at the moment – only a proof of concept, to demonstrate the company’s research capabilities. It is also clearly meant to show that they are not blind to new and novel approaches in the 3D printing industry.
“We do believe that, with sufficient research and investments in terms of materials and process optimization, there may be very important industrial applications for this technology in the future,” Mr Gorgé said.
World Record Speeds
“When Carbon3D’s CLIP technology was made public a few months ago I showed it to André-Luc and he said he would be able to at least double its speed. This video shows that he kept his promise,” Mr Gorgé told me.
In terms of Z axis speed, Prodways’ yet-unnamed continuous DLP approach can reach up to 2 cm a minute, which is incredibly fast if compared with most current DLP’s 1 cm an hour rate.
While US-based Carbon used the most recognizable French Icon, the Eiffel tower, to show off its speed capabilities, France-based Prodways returned the favor by 3D printing the iconic Statue of Liberty. Incidentally, the Statue was created by a French architect, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, and, perhaps more importantly in this case, is more difficult to 3D print at high speeds. While it is also hollow inside, its external surfaces are whole and not just a skeleton structure like the Eiffel tower. They thus require more time and are generally more difficult to stabilize through the continuous DLP membrane system.
From MOVINGLight to Continuous DLP
The impressive final result was achieved by adapting current Prodways technologies under specific conditions, which include accurately calibrating the materials with the LED light source. While Mr Gorgé stressed that there are no immediate plans to develop a commercial system based on this approach, there are no limits as to possible future developments, both in terms of compatible materials and further increases in size and speed.
In fact the technology could even be theoretically combined with Prodways’ current MOVINGLight, which enables very fast photoactive resin 3D printing of multiple or very large objects. If you consider total material throughput, MOVINGLIght already solidifies more material per hour than any continuous DLP approach, on print plates that can span almost one meter wide.
Prodways’ current technologies, including its SLS machines, will be on display at the upcoming RAPID show in Florida, where 3DPrint.com will be in attendance. The company is very serious about becoming a major contender for a leadership role to the rapidly growing industrial 3D printing market. The strength of Groupe Gorgé (which operates in the field of advanced robotics) and the significant investments the company has been making in 3D printing process and materials research, including continuous DLP, ensure and demonstrate that it is at the forefront of innovation in the field. That is the only place to be in 3D printing.