Chromatic 3D Materials, an additive manufacturing (AM) company based in Minneapolis, has announced the launch of two new products for reactive extrusion AM. In addition to ChromaScan, a software platform that allows users to print directly onto non-planar objects with resin, Chromatic 3D also just released RX-Flow, a line of machines for reactive extrusion AM with thermoset elastomers.
The RX-Flow, which so far comes in two different sizes, is intended for low-volume production and R&D, and as such costs — according to the company — just 25 percent of the typical cost of an industrial printer. Since reactive extrusion printing is a relative newcomer to the AM sector, Chromatic 3D is deliberately attempting to open up a market with this product line. ChromaScan serves the same purpose, as it would seem impossible to introduce printing with resin onto other objects to engineers and manufacturers who have never done it before, without an accompanying software platform created expressly for that purpose.
Essentially, reactive extrusion means that the materials dry mostly in the print bed, with little or no post-processing necessary. Being able to accomplish this while also printing directly onto other objects should, after sufficient energy and time is devoted to figuring out the technology, yield countless new possibilities for the kinds of end-products that can be printed.
Along with new customers from other AM market segments, reactive extrusion could have a better chance than most other techniques, in catching on with customers who are entirely new to AM. A technique with little or no post-processing would presumably be more appealing to individuals who are unfamiliar to the technology, than comparable alternatives with intensive and complicated post-processing phases.
More broadly, if the AM market does indeed scale up significantly over the next few years, then it is a smart time to target the R&D market. As the sector scales up and evolves, what’s happening at the R&D level will scale up and evolve, as well: the more popular that AM becomes on an industrial scale, the greater the number of workers and/or students there will be who are entering the market without ever having used the technology. In that sense, the business model of making the technology more accessible to new users is likely to spawn a cottage industry of its own.
Images courtesy of Chromatic 3D Materials
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