Rize One Seeks to Alleviate 3D Printing Challenges
Desktop 3D printers can be agile tools for prototyping, making fixtures and other low-volume applications. However, the support removal, polishing and other postprocessing that may follow the print can prevent these tools from being as productive and user-friendly as they might be.
According to Frank Marangell, that's the downfall of most polymer 3D printers for industrial applications. The time it takes to deliver a professional-looking, finished product is a 50-50 split between actual print time and all the postprocessing tasks required-- removal of supports, polishing, and so on. Further, print materials, solvents and coatings can emit hazardous fumes and demand special disposal procedures. Postprocessing equipment also takes up space, essentially extending the footprint of the printer. These factors make many 3D printers less than office friendly, he says.
Marangell is the president and CEO of Rize, a company that has developed a printer that seeks to meet these challenges, and more. The Rize One is said to be the first "zero postprocessing" 3D printer and safe for office environments. According to the company, the materials used are recyclable and do not emit harmful fumes; no volatile chemicals are required; venting, special disposal equipment and gloves are not necessary; and mechanical finishing processes such as filing and sanding are not needed. The only step following the print is to remove the supports, which is easily done by hand as demonstrated in the video below.
The Rize One uses a process the company calls Augmented Polymer Deposition (APD) in combination with two specially developed materials to make this possible. The print head extrudes Rizium One, a thermoplastic that is twice as strong as ABS and similar to polycarbonate in terms of flex strength and deflection, the company says. The Rizium One material does not emit harmful fumes as other materials can when extruded, eliminating the need for venting, and is recyclable. As a medical-grade material, it is also safe for contact with human skin.
This material builds both the supports and the part itself. But between the part and its supports, the printer jets a second substance called Release One, a repelling ink that prevents the part and support from bonding with each other. It can be deposited voxel by voxel on organic-shaped forms to support the print without sticking, similar to injection molding release agents. The ink does not dissolve or blend with the thermoplastic, but forms a smooth barrier upon which printing can continue.
The barrier between layers also means that "The surface finish on the bottom is as good as the surface finish on the top," Marangell says. The parts produced on the Rize One with the Rizium One material are watertight and twice as strong as those made with extrusion from ABS. Coupled with the fact that support removal takes only a few minutes and requires no special tools or processes, the savings in time and labor on postprocessing alone could be significant.
Further reducing postprocessing steps, the printer is also equipped with marking ink for adding text or images to a printed part. Currently only black ink is available, but the inkjet head contains slots to accommodate additional colors and enable full four-color printing in the future. It is possible to determine which and how many layers receive the ink, enabling printing inside the part itself, controlling the print on a voxel level. The inks can be jetted precisely onto the part with resolution of 300 DPI.
Beyond the implications for delivering quality parts more quickly, this level of precision points to the ultimate goal: to control a print at the voxel level. The ability to place inks and additives layer by layer in precise locations is the foundation for being able to control material properties with the same level of accuracy, says Marangell. Future applications for APD could include rubberizing the surface of an otherwise rigid product such as a hearing aid, or improving the Z strength of parts made with graphene-filled materials by jetting an additive between layers to create an extra bond. Future advances for the technology will include a greater range of materials and increased speeds, plus improved part quality similar to injection molding in terms of geometric accuracy and surface finish, the company says.
While the first applications for the Rize One will likely include use in prototyping and engineering labs, Marangell says it's really about "breaking the chains of the 3D printing lab." The printer's physical characteristics allow it to fit comfortably and safely into an office environment. The 135-pound (61-kilogram) printer offers a build size of 12 by 8 by 6 inches (300 by 200 by 150 millimeters) within a compact frame. Without the need for venting and postprocessing equipment, its footprint is small. Further, user-friendly features such as software that helps generate support structures automatically enable use by nonexperts and faster operation. Marangell envisions applications for the Rize One including orthodontic alignment tools, medical drill guides, custom on-demand auto parts and other non-lab uses where this would be a benefit.
For now, the Rize One is in a stage of controlled-release beta testing at a number of customers, including shoe manufacturer Reebok. The company expects to begin taking orders by the end of the year.