LIFTcell Production Lines: Coobx CEO Tells Us About Combining 3D Printing Process Steps into Continuous Workflow
3D printer manufacturer Coobx, headquartered in Liechtenstein, came onto our radar last month, when the additive manufacturing company debuted its EXIGO 3D printer with patent-pending LIFT (Light Initiated Fabrication Technology) 3D printing technology. This resin-based 3D printing method uses oxygen inhibition to selectively cure the resin while it’s printing, and Coobx refers to this oxygen-permeable zone as a LIFE Zone (not to be confused with Carbon’s Dead Zone). The LIFT method combines every single step of the 3D printing process into a single, continuous workflow. Coobx is back with more news today, and has announced the launch of its LIFTcell production lines, which is, essentially, an extension of its existing EXIGO 3D printers, to make the entire additive process more automated and productive. We talked to the head of the company to learn more about this latest announcement.
Marco Schmid, Coobx CEO and the head of R&D, told 3DPrint.com, “Having only a fast printer without any grade of automatization means there will be no real productivity. You always have dead times, when a printer waits for manual operation, loading, unloading, refilling etc. – to get a printer up and running it needs real automation. In every industrial process you look to keep the machine run times as high as possible, to reach a maximum possible output. With this thoughts in mind already EXIGO printer itself has been designed. It needs to be a modular and expandable system. So we’ve found the lucky solution to reach the build platform also from behind. This allows to do automation from the back and still keep up manual maintenance possibilities from the front even when the robotic is running. One other big point has been to make the automation as flexible as possible, to reach the demands from a service bureau but also from the mass producing industry. Integrating up to 6 different materials in one LIFTcell unit means, that you will be always on the secure side.”
The LIFTcell production line system, with its qualified process and minimum footprint, is designed to make flexible, high-volume production quantities possible. There are three different LIFTcell units available, with different automation grades, in order to keep up with customers’ quantity demands: the LIFTcell 2, LIFTcell 8, and LIFTcell 12. Each of these LIFTcell versions can enjoy the full advantages of the modular EXIGO 3D printers, and can be equipped with the standard EXIGO 1-110, the EXIGO 1-350, or mixed up together in one unit. The LIFTcell units were designed specifically for workshops, service providers, and laboratories that are looking to get the most out of the EXIGO 3D printers. The production line systems are very beneficial for users, including fully integrated and reliable 6-axis Staubli TX2 robotics, and at least 15 hours of independent operation.
“We’ve learned also during the last years, that 3D printing is not only one process. To get productive end-use parts it needs to be a complete workflow. When you want to reach continuously comparable mechanical properties also the post-processing needs to be set accordingly the used materials,” Schmid told us.
“We see the LIFTcell as a solution for the producing industry. It closes the gap from Prototyping to true Additive Production and combines fast printers with a clever automation.”
The LIFTcell 2 system is said to be the best choice for companies wanting easy automation. It was designed to handle up to two 3D printers, and offers a fully automatic Pick&Place system, which makes it easy for up to 60 build platforms at a time to be organized into a state of continuous production. In order to keep the workflow running smoothly, the 3D printer, using LIFTcell 2, has full resin control for up to six different resins, which will be automatically adjusted and refilled by two CIP (clean in place) hose pumps; there’s also a resin collection unit. 3D printers can be supplied with two different materials using the LIFTcell 2 system, and the integrated job spooler will organize the print jobs. The EXIGO Clean&Cure unit manually takes care of any post-processing needs.
The LIFTcell 8 and LIFTcell 12 systems were designed for industrial, mass production, and the fully automated workflow includes a post-processing unit based on a high output rotary transfer, which is able to clean, cure, dry, temper, and collect the resin. The extremely productive rotary transfer system works at high speeds, and can process build platforms in a 150 second cycle time: this means that one build platform is fully post-processed every two and a half minutes.
These systems are able to handle up to 6 different materials, for up to 12 printers in a unit, complete with automatic refill; the resins are stored and processed in the central unit. The dispensing unit has up to 240 build platforms, and each unit has 5 different post-processing options. Single process steps for the LIFTcell 8 and 12 systems are defined according to the process needs, but are able to be reorganized, while the central print server organizes all of the print jobs for the LIFTcell 8 and 12 systems and the production systems allow for full Industry 4.0 integration.
“At the moment expressions like Industry 4.0 and Digitalization is in every mouth, but nobody really knows what this means. In the machine tools industry such solutions have been done since years and now we are offering a solution for Additive Manufacturing,” Schmid told 3DPrint.com.
“As an example for a use case we could take the customized series production of glasses frames. It is possible to customize every frame with form, design, size and even customizations like name labelings etc. On a LIFTcell 12 the frames can be printed in 6 different materials. So a producer of such frames can give an added value to every customer by offering true digital customization. By the way he can reach quantities of up to 384,000 frames a year. For smaller components with shorter print cycle times, yearly production quantities are even going to millions.”
The team behind Coobx has over two decades of experience in designing and producing automation systems, machines, and components, for the machine tool and semiconductor industry, which helped the company invent its innovative LIFT Technology, and now its LIFTcell production lines. We can’t wait to see what Coobx comes up with next.
“With the LIFTcell production solutions we give a new tool how to produce parts to the industry. One very important point is also, that the education now begins,” Schmid told us. “Additive production processes need to be implemented to basic education programs for many jobs. When we talk to young professionals, we see already now that it begins. The first engineers have graduated with the knowledge, that there is more than drilling and milling possible.”
Discuss in the LIFTcell forum at 3DPB.com.
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