Stratasys has repeatedly demonstrated that it is one of the most forward-thinking companies in the 3D printing industry, particularly over the course of the last year. In August, the company unveiled two 3D Demonstrators, the Infinite Build Demonstrator and the Robotic Composite Demonstrator, both massive machines unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Stratasys also moves fast; in March, Ford began piloting the Infinite Build 3D printer. Now, as RAPID + TCT enters its second day, Stratasys has unveiled a brand new 3D Demonstrator, this one called Continuous Build.
The Continuous Build Demonstrator is almost pure automation. It’s a modular unit composed of multiple FDM 3D printer “cells,” each working simultaneously and controlled by a central, cloud-based architecture. Each cell can produce a different print job, enabling mass customization with very little operator intervention – the printers automatically eject finished parts and begin 3D printing new ones in a continuous stream.
It’s a scalable platform, meaning that additional 3D printer cells can be added as needed to meet companies’ production needs. Features include automatic queue management, load balancing and architecture redundancy. Print jobs are automatically routed to whichever print cells are available, and if one print cell fails for any reason, the print job will be immediately rerouted to the next available cell.
“The Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator is an important milestone in the company’s long term vision to make additive manufacturing a viable solution for volume production environments,” said Scott Crump, Stratasys Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. “It combines our FDM print quality, GrabCAD control and monitoring, and a new multi-cell, scalable architecture to create a breakthrough manufacturing platform.”
While Stratasys has not yet announced when the Continuous Build platform might be commercially available, three partner organizations are already trying it out to showcase its targeted applications. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is using the system so that all students and staff can have access to 3D printing technology whenever they need it – which is quite frequently in a design-focused school. The Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator has already been installed in the college’s Design Lab.
“This is the future!” said SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace. “We believe the Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator represents the next generation of 3D printing, the first-ever platform of its kind. The world has never seen an approach to rapid prototyping like this before. As ever, SCAD students are the earliest adopters of design technology.”
Meanwhile, on the manufacturing side, In’Tech Industries is using the system to create a bridge-to-production solution for its OEM customers. A service bureau that offers 3D printing and rapid prototyping along with tooling, injection molding, and engineering services, In’Tech is all about speed and quality, and the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator allows the company to offer same-day or next-day delivery of identical or mixed 3D printed parts that will eventually be injection molded.
FATHOM, which has recently been expanding the range of its 3D printing services, is using a six-cell version of the Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator to scale up its production capabilities. Many of FATHOM’s customers have begun to adopt 3D printing as a means of end-use production in addition to prototyping, so demand is rising, and FATHOM can now use the system to produce thousands of parts on-demand, rather than hundreds.
“This new Demonstrator is enabling us to look to the future where our production center could look like a 3D printing server farm, where there’s just rows and rows of Stratasys Continuous Manufacturing™ 3D Demonstrators. That’s where our minds are going because the FDM-based technology is that good from a design and cost standpoint,” Rich Stump, FATHOM Co-Founder, told 3DPrint.com. “This system is going to enable us to sell higher-volume FDM parts for AM application because it’s going to push the barrier of number of parts we can sell competitively. Our opportunity here is setting up these modules for 1,000-plus parts, which I’m confident we can get to—even higher. And that’s just comparing apples to apples from a cost standpoint; that’s not taking into account designing for more function.
With the Continuous Manufacturing 3D Demonstrator, a total disruption of the supply chain is possible for on-demand parts,” he continued. “Customers can request what they need in their MRP system when they need it and inventory is available on time, every time, only as desired.”
If you’re at RAPID, you can check out the Continuous Manufacturing 3D Demonstrator for yourself at Stratasys’ booth, number 1513. If you’re not at RAPID, you can take a look at the system via the video below:
If that weren’t enough, Stratasys has also announced that it will be extending its partnership with Desktop Metal. Stratasys was one of the first to invest in the young company, and now that Desktop Metal has released its Studio System and Production System 3D printers, Stratasys’ resellers will be selling the machines alongside Stratasys’ own 3D printers.
“Working with well-respected strategic partners like Stratasys adds critical capabilities for broadening access to our metal 3D printing systems,” said Ric Fulop, CEO and Co-Founder of Desktop Metal. “The addition of Stratasys’ network of resellers allows us to deliver more effectively to our market and also enables Stratasys’ customers to gain access to Desktop Metal’s systems while retaining the service and support they have come to expect.”
While the partnership is solely distribution-oriented at the moment, Stratasys and Desktop Metal have intimated that they may work together on a more technology-focused collaboration in the future. Discuss in the Stratasys forum at 3DPB.com.