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Evolve Additive Sells First Commercial STEP 3D Printing System

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Evolve Additive‘s high resolution and smooth parts blew me away when I first saw them in 2018. The company later took investment from LEGO and Stanley Black & Decker. They also deployed alpha systems in a few locations and Stanley kicked in more money. Their CEO Steve Chillscyzn was always clear that the company was targeting injection molding, but it’s a tough challenge to go from an alpha machine to something that someone will buy. Now, the company has achieved that step.

Evolve’s Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP, previously referred to as Selective Toner Electrophotographic Process) was incubated at Stratasys for years before spinning out in 2018. STEP “uses a laser printer engine to image a layer onto the surface of a drum, this imaged layer with positive and negative charges is rolled near 22-micron toner particles with the opposite charge, electrostatic force transfers the toner onto the charged areas. The image and toner is then rolled onto another roller and then onto a carrying belt. STEP places a voxel at a specific place in a layer, and can even place multiple voxels of materials at specific points.”

The first STEP machine, called the SVP (short for Scalable Volume Production),  was sold and installed at an undisclosed customer’s facility. Is it Stanley or LEGO or maybe German service bureau FIT, whose CEO Carl Fruth has a penchant for buying everyone’s first machine? We don’t know. Who do you think it is?

The company doesn’t even disclose the industry, but does say that it will be used in manufacturing, including for multi-colored parts and a wide range of materials. This does possibly point to a service bureau using it for a wide variety of different applications. Evolve claims better time-to-market and cost savings as well as flexibility as advantages.

“Shipment of our first system to a global customer is a significant accomplishment for our organization. With the proprietary and proven technology that STEP brings we are confident in our ability to continue to provide solutions to additional clients world-wide,” said Steve Chillscyzn, CEO and Founder of Evolve

Evolve’s toner-based process is very rapid, but, up and until now, was a bit height-challenged in the parts that could be produced. However, components were very smooth and had a very high level of detail. They look oh-so-sharp, too. That coupled with high throughput and a system built for millions of components has always made this a very promising technology. And this is not fused deposition or stereolithography. This is a completely new technology stack that they’ve commercialized.

This is a remarkable achievement. I’d love to see more super creative repurposing projects make use of other high-speed industrial technologies and turn them into 3D printing processes. STEP lets you use colored ABS and PA. It lets you mix colors and even materials in the same build. One could imagine unique properties, also.

I also love the industries that they are targeting. No fancy aerospace stuff here. Evolves interested industries are beautifully mundane and humdrum, including housings, heat protection, building accessories, document handling, water treatment, filtration, as well as body protection, and lawn and garden. Lawn and garden. Is that an application area on your radar? Not at all, I’m guessing. You probably have never thought about calling up Gardena or have been thinking of parts for Stanley’s lawn mowers. But it is spectacular that we can do such mundane and new things. I’d love for new firms to open up our market to many more specific applications in many more industries. To the garden and beyond.

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