A 3D printing company has just emerged from quiet mode to announce its technology: a machine that can create objects 25 to 100 times faster than the typical 3D printer.
Carbon3D, a three-year-old company based in Redwood City, Calif., said its Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) printing process can create objects in minutes versus the hours a typical 3D printer takes.
Carbon3D said in a demonstration video that the idea for the technology came from the "Terminator 2" movie, in which a liquid alloy cybernetic robot changes shape to become whatever object it wants.
Similar to existing stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping processes, Carbon3D's machine uses an ultraviolet (UV) light projector under a light sensitive resin pool. As the platform moves upward, the projector moves light along cross sections of the liquid polymer solidifying it as it goes and forming objects.
The difference between CLIP and traditional SLA, is that instead of a UV light moving across the liquid polymer pool, CLIP projects an entire cross section of the object across the pool.
The CLIP technology is still being perfected, according to Carbon3D, which has yet to set a launch date for its products.
Carbon3D claims it can print an object that's roughly 2 inches in diameter, such as a geometrical ball, in about 6.5 minutes, compared to SLA, which would take 11.5 hours or selective laser sintering (SLS) that would take 3.5 hours.
The most popular form of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is fused deposition modeling (FDM) where filament is melted and extruded through a nozzle layer upon layer to build an object. Carbon3D claims even that process would take 3 hours to build the 2-in. diameter ball.
The CLIP technology combines UV light, which triggers photo polymerization, and oxygen, which inhibits it. By carefully balancing the interaction of light and oxygen, CLIP continuously creates objects from the resin pool.
Carbon3D is being backed by Sequoia Capital, the sixth largest U.S. early-stage venture capital firm, which manages more than $10 billion in assets. Between Sequoia and Silver Lake Kraftwerk investors, Carbon3D has raised more than $41 million.
"If 3D printing hopes to break out of the prototyping niche it has been trapped in for decades, we need to find a disruptive technology that attacks the problem from a fresh perspective and addresses 3D printing's fundamental weaknesses," Jim Goetz, a Carbon3D board member and Sequoia partner, said in a statement.
After seeing the technology in action, Goetz said, "it was immediately clear to us that 3D printing would never be the same."
The CLIP technology, Carbon3D claims, enables "a huge range of materials" to create production-quality parts.
"We're able to draw from the whole polymer family to meet highly specific application requirements. Elastomers, for example, cover a range of needs, from the high elasticity needed for athletic shoes to the strength and temperature resistance needed for automotive parts," the company stated in its marketing material.
The printing process also allows for more accurate creation of CAD drawings versus printing "layer-by-layer."
"Parts printed with CLIP are much more like injection-molded parts. CLIP produces consistent and predictable mechanical properties, creating parts that are smooth on the outside and solid on the inside," the company stated.