Most people, if they’re familiar with 3D printing at all, know at least something about the most common 3D printing technologies: FDM, SLS, DMLS, etc. It’s easy to forget how many types of 3D printing technologies there really are, and the number keeps growing as new companies develop and patent their own unique methods of printing. Today, another new 3D printing method joins the universe as Coobx, a Liechtenstein-based 3D printer manufacturer, announces the launch of its first product: the Exigo, featuring patent-pending LIFT technology.
LIFT stands for Light Initiated Fabrication Technology, and while that could technically be a description for 3D printing in general, Coobx’s technology is something new: a resin-based printing method that is somewhat similar to Carbon’s CLIP technology but with a few unique features of its own. Like CLIP, LIFT uses oxygen inhibition to selectively cure the resin as it prints – in what seems like a cheeky nod to Carbon’s “dead zone,” Coobx calls its oyxgen-permeable zone a LIFE Zone.
“We know, that some people call a building zone as ‘dead’, but we are convinced, that where something grows it’s the wrong expression. So we call it LIFE zone. The effect of oxygen inhibition is integrated as a standard,” Coobx states on its website.
LIFT combines all steps of the printing process, from pre-processing to post-processing, in one continuous workflow. Slicing is done directly on the printer itself; just upload your 3D file and the printer’s integrated software will prepare the file and generate the optimal supports. The machine also comes with a Clean & Cure Unit for post-processing and finishing the print.
The Exigo also has the ability to automatically change the resolution in XY, and it offers two integrated operating modes: continuous or semi-continuous. Both modes automatically calculate the necessary curing time, layer height and intensity in real time based on each printed layer.
“LIFT is different. Coobx is different,” said Marco Schmid, Coobx CEO and head of R&D. “We are always thinking in new ways how to solve existing problems and find the most valuable solution. Putting the state of the art, bottom-up printing technology on the head back to top-down was a milestone in development. Together with the LIFE Zone (oxygen inhibition) it is an unbeatable team. Easy to handle, highly accurate and ground-breaking new material possibilities concerning viscosity and infill grade are possible.”
It also works in zero gravity, according to Coobx.
Coobx already offers multiple resins, optimized for a variety of industrial and medical/dental applications, that were developed with the help of several material partners and suppliers, and the company promises that many more will be coming throughout the year. They also offer interested parties the option of contacting them for custom-developed resins. The Exigo comes in two versions: medical and industrial, with size being the key difference: the industrial version offers a build volume of 154 x 86 x 340 mm, while the medical unit has a build volume of 154 x 86 x 110 mm.
According to Coobx, the Exigo can print at speeds of 300 mm/h, with XY resolution ranging from +/- 10 microns to +/- 40 microns. It features an auto-focus, high-powered LED light engine, and, the company says, it’s Internet of Things-ready. The modular design of the printer allows it to be easily integrated into existing manufacturing systems.
I don’t mean to keep comparing Coobx to Carbon, but the way that Coobx has suddenly appeared out of nowhere with a brand new technology reminds me a lot of Carbon’s emergence two years ago. The actual performance of LIFT technology and the Exigo 3D printer remains to be seen – Coobx is a brand new, unproven company, but those are often the most exciting to follow. We look forward to learning more about this new technology in the coming year.