Two years ago, Stratasys introduced its professional F123 3D printer series at SOLIDWORKS World 2017, designed for use in the office and classroom. The series consists of three user-friendly models – the 170, 270, and 370 – that can be used to print three to four different materials in ten colors, depending on the application. Stratasys worked with industrial design company Designworks, part of the BMW Group, to create the exterior design of the attractive F123 series. Now, the company is introducing a new addition to the family, which could transform industrial 3D printing: the F120. On a phone call with Stratasys, Craig Librett, the Senior Public Relations & Public Affairs Manager at Stratasys, told me that the new F120 3D printer “will drive accessibility of industrial-grade 3D printing.”
The company is officially introducing the F120 3D printer today at the AMUG Conference in Chicago. The reliable system features simple controls, high accuracy and repeatability, and is up to three times faster than its competitors.
“If we think about the customer demand we’re meeting with this, it’s a system that was designed for the next generation of designers, engineers, and educators,” Stratasys’ Director of Education Gina Scala told me. “Small-to-medium design firms looking for something to drive their business, ready to move to a 3D printer that they can rely on.”
“It’s a tool for productivity and drives endless applications – we’re super excited.”
For companies looking to decentralize 3D printing, Scala said that the system is easy to put “where their engineers and designers sit to enable fast-track iteration,” so that engineers and designers can try things out in their own environment without having to outsource the work. But while the F120 is perfect for use in an office setting, it can also be a great tool for the classroom as well, so students can be better prepared for tomorrow’s workforce.
While many desktop 3D printers require an operator with at least a little bit of knowledge to achieve accurate parts, the F120 offers “streamlined plug-and-print functionality,” according to Stratasys, and was designed to repeatedly create high-quality FDM models. With its GrabCAD Print workflow and user-friendly touchscreen interface, the system is easy to set up, and can support multiple uses – everything from rapid prototyping to tooling all the way to full manufacturing.
Scala told me that the F120 “will always work, the first time every time…and enables complex and functional parts due to soluble support and programming in the system. All of that makes an industrial-grade 3D printer that’s built to last and give you the results you expect.”
What I find most interesting about the F120 is actually what sits underneath it: two large filament boxes, filled with 200 cubic inches of material, for up to 250 hours of continuous 3D printing.
“It’s a real innovation,” Librett said about the filament boxes.
Not only do these boxes mean that you won’t have to waste as much time swapping out material, but the boxes are cardboard, which means they’re fully recyclable. There are no actual spools inside these boxes, just support material and either ABS or ASA, so once you’ve gone through the material, the boxes are empty and ready to go in the recycling bin. Thanks to the combination of these filament boxes and remote monitoring, you can start a large print on Friday night and, according to Scala, “everything is ready to go by Monday.”
Over 1,200 hours were spent testing the many features of the F120, including surface quality, part robustness and accuracy, and machine uptime, against competitor systems, and “came out on top.” Scala said the reasons for this is the printer’s industrial grade, as things like its software and heated chamber make it possible “to give you these results time after time.”
“While many analysts report the entry-level 3D printing segment has grown significantly, we note organizations struggle with building production-level models on the first or second try – at the reliability and repeatability of high-end systems. This puts smaller designers and academic institutions at a significant disadvantage,” Omer Krieger, EVP Products for Stratasys, said in a press release. “The Stratasys F120 printer meets the needs of customers, providing engineering and design groups with highly productive part printing – whether they’re across the hall or around the globe.”
As of today, the Stratasys F120 is now available to order, priced at $11,999 in the US – 40% less than the F170. Worldwide delivery for the system will start in July.
I asked the Stratasys team if the company is planning on any more additions to the F123 family in the near future. Scala said that while they can’t really talk about it right now, it is a “relatively young platform,” and there will definitely be continued material innovations, along with monthly software updates and GrabCAD features. Librett confirmed that the series “will continue to grow.”
But speaking of additions, the F120 isn’t the only new 3D printer that Stratasys is introducing at AMUG today. The large-scale, configurable V650 Flex stereolithography system (yes, you read that correctly!) is set to disrupt the SLA sector by giving customers more choices and lower costs when it comes to 3D printing prototypes and developing parts.
According to Pat Carey, Senior VP of Strategic Growth for Stratasys, the large V650 Flex is “a unicorn in that it stands out in the industry with its flexibility and openness.”
The commercial availability of this first-of-its-kind system, which Librett said will be a “real disruption to the marketplace,” will be the company’s official entry into the SLA market. But apparently, Stratasys has actually been 3D printing SLA parts for nearly 30 years in its service bureau, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (SDM).
“We have a deep experience with SLA, making our own printers for ourselves,” Carey explained.
“The people we’re targeting have always known we provide SLA.”
He went on to say that the company had, in fact, sold some of its SLA printers, but finally made the decision to commercialize with the new V650 Flex, which is supported by Stratasys infrastructure and features a build volume of 20″ x 20″ x 23″ and interchangeable vats for more flexibility. Carey told me that to ensure its reliability, SLA engineers put the system through its paces, with over 75,000 hours of runtime and more than 150,000 parts produced inside SDM.
Carey also said that Stratasys worked to maximize the footprint of the system, which makes the V650 Flex more cost-effective but won’t win it any beauty contests.
“It’s not pretty, but it’s very functional,” Carey told me, noting that service bureaus can fit three of these SLA printers into spaces normally occupied by just two. “It was designed by guys who are high SLA users who print a lot of parts. F123 is very beautiful, it was designed by BMW, but this one isn’t beautiful. It’s functional.”
Something else interesting about the V650 Flex is that it’s “highly configurable.”
“The big change that makes it unique is it’s an open materials configuration,” Carey said. “It fits all the use cases around SLA that we’ve all known for a long time.”
“Until now, we’ve been a closed materials company,” Carey told me. “Material has been part of the process for PolyJet, but open vat for SLA doesn’t go through the machine. So this is a big change for us.”
Backed by this new alliance, Stratasys customers are free to use DSM’s quality Somos SLA resins with the V650 Flex. This combination will allow them to achieve complex, durable parts that meet the requirements for a number of applications.
“From the high-performance demands of automotive and aerospace industries to the durability and flexibility requirements of consumer goods, customers worldwide rely on Somos materials to create the highest-performing additive manufacturing prototypes and tools. Stratasys’ entrance into the stereolithography segment is really a game-changer for the industry. Our collaboration allows customers to have greater access and flexibility for development of durable and reliable prototypes and tooling using stereolithography 3D printing,” Hugo da Silva, the VP of Additive Manufacturing at DSM, said in a Stratasys press release.
The V650 Flex system’s open vat configuration actually comes with recipes for several DSM Somos resins that are commercially available from Stratasys, including the following:
- Somos Element: designed for making strong investment casting patterns with fine features
- Somos NeXt: offers the accuracy of SLA with the performance, look, and feel of thermoplastic
- Somos PerFORM: perfect for applications that need stiff, strong, high temperature-resistant parts
- Somos Watershed XC 11122: produces optically-clear, detailed parts with water resistance
“The Stratasys on-demand network of service personnel and resellers is designed to enable customers to achieve much more through stereolithography than they have in the past,” Krieger said in the release. “The fact that the V650 Flex printer is configurable and the resins already verified allows end-users to reach design precision previously unavailable in yesterday’s stereolithography solutions.”
I asked the Stratasys team on the phone why the company chose to partner with DSM:
“They are the largest resin producer of SLA, as far as we know. They were a natural for us – they know SLA resins, their materials are very popular.”
To learn more about this partnership with DSM, along with the new F120 and V650 Flex 3D printers, visit Stratasys at Booth No. D17 in Salon D at the AMUG Conference this week.
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