Airwolf has just launched its EVO 22 a Core XY 305 mm x 305 mm x 578mm build volume printer has a 315°C maximum extruder temperature and 160°C maximum bed temperature. This lets it print materials such as ABS and PC. The build plate is Borosilicate Glass, it has a 7″ Touchscreen, USB connectivity and no wifi. It has a QuickChange hot end system, linear guides, a ball screw and carbon and HEPA filtration. It works with Cura based Apex, Airwolf’s software and will be available in September for $11,995.
The company calls the Evo an Additive Manufacturing Center. Such a lofty name and the accompanying price tag will set expectations very high for the system. In general, our market is bifurcating with the low end being populated by $200 printers and others moving into higher end territory beyond $3000. Airwolf is decidedly moving in the direction of the enterprise and industrial side of things with this machine. Industrial users would not mind the price tag if the machine performs as desired.
Companies expect ease of use, reliability, repeatability and above all little or no downtime. They also want a machine that can make the parts they need. A few years ago desktop companies could not provide this but we are slowly but surely moving into a market where several vendors are exploring the entire proposition around 3D printing. I’ll go into this in more detail at one point but you have to “Control for the 3D printing Decagon” and you have to overcome “Zeno’s boiled frog”. These will both be separate posts but it will take me a while to do them. Essentially, however, a lot more engineering and capability in many more areas will be required to compete in the future. Build quality, quality control and looking at the entire 3D printing experience is very important for the current phase of competition in 3D printing.
Relatively unknown in Europe I’ve always like Airwolf printers such as the Axiom. What makes me optimistic about their company pulling off the EVO 22 is that they have been looking beyond the box at the entire 3D printing experience. They made their own Apex software and have come out with a line of bed adhesion products called WolfBite. The company now has a bed adhesion solution for almost every common 3D print material. Airwolf also lets you lease printers from them and they have a Rent a printer program where you can rent a 3D printer for a week for $175 or $550 for a month. The company also stands by its product through having a 3D printer buyback program where you can get up to $1700 for an old Axiom printer. Its this kind of thinking beyond the box that makes me very optimistic.
The EVO 22 also has two things that are particularly interesting. Genesis and Tri-heat. The company has developed its own microcontroller the Genesis board.
“The GENESIS Board, a custom 32-bit automotive-grade microcontroller developed specifically for delivering higher speeds, more precision, and greater control…(of) temperatures.”
More understanding of microcontrollers and firmware should give the company an advantage going forward. For many OEMs firmware is a major weakness and is retarding their performance. The Genesis also has an automatic shut off of nozzles, motors heated bed and chamber heater with too high temperatures or current which seems like a great idea. Expertise in this area is indeed a good sign. Tri Heat is the other thing that interests me. Rather than using the nozzle or nozzle and bed to heat the chamber, it uses two dedicated chamber heaters. This should speed up startup times and give them a much better thermal environment in the chamber. The chamber by the way which they say they have a patented version for. The company also says that,
“Comprised of two built-in chamber heaters…., rated for 160 degrees Celsius, the Tri-Heat™ Build Environment gives users greater control over the machine’s internal ambient temperature, allowing them to create the ideal thermal environment for supporting large part production. Combined with a patent-pending hot end and enclosed chamber design, the TriHeat™ technology optimizes and regulates the heat needed to increase part strength while minimizing cracks and warpage.”
For a little more background we reached out to Airwolf founder and CEO Erik Wolf and he gave 3DPrint.com more background.
The EVO 22 is designed for industrial use by professionals in industries, such as automotive, aerospace, medical, and other manufacturing environments that wish to produce large, real-scale prototypes or production parts in end-use materials like ABS with HydroFill Water-Soluble Support and polycarbonate, although it also works really well with PLA.
The tri-heat build environment is the name we’ve given to the three main heat sources inside the machine: two internal chamber heaters and the heated bed. It helps solve some of the major issues that come with attempting to print large parts in..materials like ABS and polycarbonate — namely cracking and warping. The ability to manage a high-temperature thermal environment like this enables you to keep parts evenly heated throughout the printing process, making it ideal for supporting large part production.
You get less warping and cracking because parts are kept at an optimized regulated temperature while printing. This also helps with layer bonding. You’ll get a stronger part when utilizing this type of heat management.
The Genesis board is one of our biggest innovations to date. We custom-designed it from the ground up to support high-performance industrial manufacturing. It has the built-in headroom to make the machines faster, more precise, and more quiet. We designed the board to handle both thermistors and thermocouples, lights, additional fans (the EVO series has five different fans), chamber heaters, and multiple extruders. It runs a ground-up firmware we designed which is optimized for 3D printing. We make continuous upgrades to the firmware to improve the user experience. Updates are piped in through the custom Touchscreen software we also developed in-house.
We’ve always sold to enterprise users, but have moved towards selling to a decidedly more professional/industrial user base. Most of them are in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and other manufacturing fields who require rugged, high-performance machines. We’re committed to supporting all of our customers, whether they are a small business with a single printer or they’re a full factory running dozens of our machines for hundreds of hours a month. We have one customer who prints over 20,000 hours per month using our machines.
We offer full support — phone, email, online help desk — for all of our machines. The EVO Series is a little different, though. To support the type of customers buying EVO machines, we’ve put together the EVO Customer Service Team. It’s dedicated exclusively to EVO support and is composed of team leads working throughout the company — R&D, Tech Support, Operations, Sales, and Marketing. The team’s goal is to ensure EVO customers have all the tools and support needed to integrate their EVO machine into their workflow successfully.
That sounds like a great step towards more control and better parts for the user. Thermal control has long been overlooked and could now really become a great area where could see a lot of investment. What do you think of the EVO?