When people say that 3D printing is a fast solution, it is, of course, a relative definition of fast. Traditional manufacturing and fabrication techniques can be clocked at speeds far outpacing any speeds that typical 3D printer can reach. But the preparation time required for a process like injection molding coupled with the tooling cost of the molds is going to slow production down to a crawl. This ends up leaving product developers waiting days and even weeks to receive their proof, prototypes or first run products. But if you compare that to 3D printing, the five, ten or twenty hours that it takes to print a prototype suddenly makes it a dramatically faster solution.
While some 3D printers are faster than others, for the most part additive manufacturing is measured in hours, not minutes, no matter what make of printer is being used. But a South Korean 3D printer manufacturer called Carima is looking to change that. They’ve developed a new printing technology that they call Carima-Continuous Additive 3D Printing Technology (C-CAT ). According to the manufacturer, a DLP 3D printer fitted with the C-CAT technology will print up to 400 times faster than most existing DLP 3D printers. Carima was at last week’s Euromold 2015 where they demonstrated the new technology by printing a 10cm (3.9 inch) Eiffel Tower in less than ten minutes.
With only a few exceptions, most 3D printers tend to lose detail and precision the faster that they print. However the new Carima printing technology reaches incredible speeds and yet still manages to produce highly accurate parts that don’t seem to sacrifice any of the detail. Carima says that they expect to release a new DLP 3D printer built with C-CAT technology in early 2016. The tech will also be incorporated into their current DLP printer, the DP 845, by next year. However there was no word about whether only new machines would be fitted with the technology or if the company would make upgrade kits available for customers who already own the DP 845.
According to Carima, a DLP fitted with their C-CAT technology will reach lightning fast printing speeds of 1 cm per minute and up to 60 cm per hour without losing any detail accuracy. Most DLP 3D printers would produce that same part in hours not minutes. The C-CAT does this by generating cross-sectional images that cure the resin continuously from multiple angles. While their DP 845 DLP printer is already extremely fast and capable of printing models with a layer thickness of about 12 microns at print speed of 0.3 cm per hour, that is considered a snail’s pace in comparison to the C-CAT. On the Z-axis, Carima’s newest printer will generate models at an absurdly fast 60 cm per hour with a layer thickness of only 5 microns.
Just to put that into perspective so you’re aware of how insanely detailed that is, a single micron is the equivalent of 0.0001 centimeters. That is far too small for the naked eye to see, meaning models printed on the new Carima DLP printers will have absolutely no visible striation marks. The final models will have a surface that appears to be as smooth as something that has been injection molded. And you will get all of that all in a matter of minutes, not hours or days. This is an exciting advancement of DLP technology, and you can be sure that we’ll be keeping an eye out for future updates and availability.
Let us know your thoughts on this new machine in the Carima C-CAT DLP 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.