Tomorrow, the highly anticipated formnext 2017 will begin – we’ve been inundated with announcements ahead of the show for months now, and 3DPrint.com is at formnext this week, ready to report on-site. NXT Factory, a company made up of engineering startup executives, will be at the event in Frankfurt this week in order to form several strategic partnerships after officially unveiling its Quantum Laser Sintering (QLS) technology today.
The company plans to leverage its QLS technology into its first industrial-grade, high-speed additive manufacturing system, the NXF1, with a goal of replacing traditional injection molding of plastic parts at scale. NXT Factory believes that products manufactured with injection molding could be made more quickly and cost-effectively, with better quality, with its proprietary technology.
NXT Factory Founder and CTO Tomasz Cieszyński said, “We have built an actual prototype and it gives us a confidence, that it’s not just a theoretical engineering exercise, we have actually proved it, again and again.”
NXT Factory has completed the development phase for its beam delivery system, which offers a 300 x 400 x 400 mm build area and can convert one single laser into several million micro lasers, without any power degradation. QLS technology is very different from traditional laser sintering and jet fusion systems – rather than using one laser point, its proprietary laser beam matrix can rapidly image full layers at once. The company’s QLS system actually covers the whole build area at once, which the company calls a “quantum leap in digital manufacturing.”
Cieszyński, together with NXT Factory CEO and Founder Jakub (Kuba) Graczyk, partnered up with a familiar name in the additive manufacturing world to establish the company – Avi Reichental, former President and CEO of 3D Systems. Reichental now sits on the Nano Dimension board of directors, and is the CEO of Techniplas Digital; he worked with Cieszyński and Graczyk to establish NXT Factory as part of his California-based XponentialWorks venture investment, advisory, and product development company.
“We challenged ourselves with the question: can you really take the single laser beam and shape it into an entire cross section of a layer? Or simply put; can you sinter an entire XY slice at once really fast? For the ensuing periods, we conducted a tireless bench research and carried out dozens of experiments,” said Reichental, Executive Chairman of NXT Factory. “Today, after eighteen months of bootstrapped research and development, we concluded, that not only it is achievable – but our technology has the potential to de-bottleneck energy delivery in the LS 3D printing process`s with truly open-ended potential to scale into mass production.”
The company’s proprietary light engine, which can multiplex one laser beam into millions of micro lasers with no degradation, is at the center of this unique technology. One beam of a 1070 nm laser source travels through beam-shaping optics, before it enters a high-powered projector. Once inside, the projector multiplexes the beam and reshapes it, while at the same time channeling all of the available power into a full-imaged slice of a print layer’s entire cross-section – this only takes one second per layer, which makes it possible to scale without having to give up print accuracy, speed, or power delivery.
While most of the existing laser sintering systems have production-grade thermoplastic properties, they are unfortunately pretty slow, which makes it hard to replace traditional injection molding technology with tool-less options like 3D printing. According to NXT Factory, “energy delivery to the material is the bottleneck of this class of systems,” and filament extrusion is even slower than laser sintering technology, which is why the three founders decided to fix the problem.
“Initially our idea was to just develop a low-cost Laser Sintering 3D printer, but after many months of deliberations, we concluded that the world doesn’t need another cheap LS 3D printer,” explained Graczyk. “Instead, inspired by HP’s success with high-speed Jet-Fusion, we decided to go after factory-floor ready, high-speed thermoplastic 3D printer and create a new category.”
NXT Factory is using its proprietary, deep-learning algorithms to make predictive, real-time choices to optimize its printer’s performance. Its innovative light engine has managed to reduce exposure time and increase the amount of energy delivered to the material each second.
Because the company believes that its QLS technology can transform additive manufacturing from prototyping to production at the necessary manufacturing scale and quality, it’s working hard to make sure that its NXF1 3D printer is connected and cognitive, in order to make use of important Industry 4.0 capabilities like cloud computing and big data.
The printer is purported to be up to ten times faster than today’s industrial 3D printers, and offers a uniform heat distribution across the print surface. According to NXT Factory, a survey of the growing additive manufacturing world intimates that the quick success of HP‘s Multi Jet Fusion system is a good sign that its NXF1 could be the next step in additively manufacturing thermoplastics at a higher speed and scale.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.[Images provided by NXT Factory]