Some time in the not too distant future, 3D printing will be utilized within mass manufacturing processes. In fact, 3D Systems has been working towards this goal by utilizing a racetrack-like architecture which we have discussed in the past, but others too are looking at ways to do the same.
Currently the majority of printing, from a manufacturing point of view, is used for prototyping. There are some manufacturers utilizing direct metal laser sintering to build complex end-use parts. However, when it comes to FDM/FFF printing, such uses are almost non existent. Why? Because injection molding is still much cheaper and faster at this point in time.
With that said, one company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, called Digitrax 3D, is trying to change all of this. Utilizing a 5-extruder system, they are aiming to take mass manufacturing via 3D printing to the next level. A few weeks ago, the company revealed their prototype 3D printer on their Facebook Page. In doing so, they peaked my interest and certainly many other’s.
The Digitrax MH5 multi-head 3D printer is able to increase production capacities by five times over the average machine on the market. Usually when an additional extruder is added to any 3D printer, this addition will be countered by a decrease in the print volume when all extruders are being utilized. This is also the case with the MH5, but what makes a bit of a difference with this machine is the fact that the printer is a decent size, sporting a build envelope of 28 x 28 x 20cm. Needless to say, you aren’t going to be mass producing basketball sized objects with this printer, but if smaller objects are on your menu then it may be just the right tool for you.
The company provided an example of just how much faster a group of objects can be printed compared to a single extruder machine. A single PLA flower pot, measuring 8cm in height would take a single extruder printer 1h 4min to print. Using the MH5 3D printer, and printing 15 flower pots (3 per extruder) at one time, the entire fabrication would take approximately 3h 20min. This equates to just about 13.4 minutes per flower pot.
With the MH5, users will have the ability to control the extrusion temperature via an LCD interface for each of the five extruders. This means that if you need a higher temperature to print one item with ABS and a lower temperature to print another item at the same time with PLA, there isn’t a problem. Additionally, each extruder can easily be removed and spaced out however the user chooses, providing the ability to customize the machine for each project. Below you will find the full specifications of the Digitrax MH5:
- Print Resolution: 100μ
- Filament Size: 1.75
- Filament Material Compatibility: PLA for MH5, PLA, ABS for HD Version 5.1
- Machine size: 77 x 57 x 55 cm
- Build Envelope: 28 x 28 x 20 volume printing (Coming soon: 60×30 cm)
- Printer Weight: 40 kg
- Connection: USB or micro SD card
- Nozzle diameter: 0.4
The company also plans to release a much larger machine in the near future, but hasn’t stated when. The price and exact date in which the MH5 will be available is forthcoming, as it’s currently only a prototype. Is this a machine that you are interested in? Let’s hear your thoughts. Discuss in the Digitrax MH5 forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the short clip below showing the printer in action.