March was a huge month, not only for the 3D printing industry, but for the entire technology sector in general, as a wave of innovation swept over the already established 3D printing companies to make way for a startup. On March 16, the Redwood City, California-based company, Carbon3D, emerged from stealth mode to unveil what many are calling one of the most exciting 3D printing advancements we have seen in years.
With a process they call Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology, the company blew us all away with the rapid fabrication that they were able to achieve via this new 3D printing process. Using a combination of light and oxygen to cure as well as inhibit the curing of a photosensitive resin, Carbon3D was able to print object at speeds which were unheard of up until now (between 25 and 100x the speed of current technologies). Not only was rapid speed inherent in the process, but layering was nonexistent, leading to a more structurally sound production method than can be realized with ordinary SLA or FDM printing.
With all the excitement, we reached out to Carbon3D to provide additional insight into their plans, their thoughts on the industry, and what this technology could mean for the future of manufacturing. We were able to get in touch with Rob Schoeben, the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer at Carbon3D, who was kind enough answer some of our more pressing questions. Below you will find his responses:
What is your target market initially? Jewelers? Consumers? Industry? etc.
We are focused on helping commercial customers connect the digital thread from design through prototyping to the production of final parts. We want to support these customers’ efforts whether they are in-house, through a service bureau or both. It turns out that making 3D printing faster, offering consistent and predictable mechanical properties and differentiated materials is appealing across a range of industries, some of which include automotive, aerospace, industrial goods, personalized medicine, and many more.
Have any larger companies contacted you interested in partnering or acquiring the rights to this technology?
We have a pretty grand vision and know that we cannot achieve all that we plan to achieve on our own. While we have nothing to announce at this time, we intend to collaborate with other companies — both customers and strategic partners — to make 3D manufacturing a reality.
Is there room for even further speed improvements, and is this technology possible to scale so that larger items can be rapidly fabricated?
We believe that CLIP technology is a step function advance over the current state-of-the-art for polymer-based 3D printing. With that said, by transforming 3D printing from a mechanical process to one governed by software and chemistry, there is significant opportunity for ongoing technical advancement in speed, part quality and materials.
Is there an estimated price point that’s been decided upon, and when could we expect to see these printers officially hit the market?
We are currently focused on showcasing our core technology, CLIP, as a preview of what’s possible. Stay tuned for future announcements around product pricing.
Will we see just one printer, or will there be multiple sizes with varying capabilities?
This isn’t something we’re speaking about just yet. We are focused on showcasing our CLIP technology. We plan to productize the technology within the coming 12 months.
What sparked the idea to use oxygen as an inhibiting agent?
We were definitely inspired by the Terminator 2 clip. The Co-Founders thought, “Why couldn’t a 3D printer work like what we saw with T-1000 in Terminator 2, where you have a 3D object rise from a puddle in essentially real time with essentially no waste to make a real object?” We wanted to come up with a way to actually get this to work. That was our challenge. To make Hollywood’s fiction a reality, we brought a new perspective to traditional 3D printing. Specifically, we brought our expertise in chemistry and physics to an industry that relied on mechanical processes. From a photopolymer chemistry perspective, it is well understood that oxygen inhibits polymerization. Where Joe and the founding team thought differently than everyone else was to explore whether this oxygen inhibition could be used for good. It turned out that by harnessing light and oxygen, together, they could grow a part continuously without it ever getting stuck to the window. It was fast and the part had no layers. They knew they were onto something big.
Where do you envision this technology and your company 5 years down the line?
Right now, we are very much focused on delivering our first product within the next 12 months and getting it into the hands of designers and engineers to see what they can do with it. While we have lots of exciting things we’re working on, we’re taking this one step at a time. We want to enable the production of commercial quality parts through 3D manufacturing, and achieve the vision that people have talked about.
Do you envision the resin that’s required being a limiting factor, or do you think the materials space will adapt and expand rapidly for this machine?
Because we operate at the intersection of hardware, software and molecular science, materials and resins are at the core of what we’re working on. At the moment, we are focused on polymeric materials from which you can manufacture commercial quality parts. CLIP allows for a range of product properties from soft, highly elastic materials to very rigid, impact resistant plastics and everything in between.
Let us know your thoughts on this incredible technology in the Carbon3D forum thread on 3DPB.com. Below you will find a video of Carbon3D’s CLIP technology in action: