Formlabs Aims To Take 3D PrintIng From Prototyping To Production
Somerville, Massachusetts based 3D printing startup, Formlabs, recently debuted two new types of 3D printing equipment. Their capabilities and accessibility could take the technology from a high-end prototyping resource to an affordable part of the manufacturing and production process. How will these new products impact the manufacturing industry?
A Series Of Printers And Robotic Arm
The Form Cell is an automated manufacturing system that takes five of Formlabs’s Form 2 3D printers and creates an assembly line. Through the use of a robotic arm, the printers are automatically loaded with material. Once the printed parts are completed, the robotic arm moves them on for post-production.
Image Source: TechCrunch
Lower Production And Labor Costs
By automating the most repetitive tasks involved with 3D printing, the Form Cell is meant to offer substantial savings in labor costs and reduction of overhead for every part it prints out. According to Form Labs chief production officer, David Lakatos, it would take 15 printers, running 30 percent of the time, operated by three employees to create the same output that’s possible through a single Form Cell system running 90 percent of the time under the supervision of just one full- or part-time operator.
Designed For Manufacturers Of Custom Products
Per Formlabs, the Form Cell has been created for those manufacturers in the “mass customization field”, where the majority of their production is dedicated to custom specs. This includes companies making medical prosthetics, wearable disability-aids, and other products that are similar in structure but catered to more individualized requirements.
Image Source: Engineering.com
Tougher Parts And Prototypes
In addition to the Form Cell, Formlabs has unveiled the Fuse 1, a compact desktop printer that’s capable of producing more rigid, lower cost parts compared to their Form 2 3D printer, which debuted in late 2015. The Fuse 1 can create stronger parts through the use of selective laser sintering, which lends itself to finished part production in addition to just stronger prototypes.
The Fuse 1 also requires a minimal investment compared to other industrial 3D printers. At just $9,000, it costs 20 times less than other options for manufacturers that want to create high precision prototypes and parts with stronger materials in less time.
With the increased automated production and prototyping capacity, combined with less of an initial investment requirement, perhaps more manufacturers will make 3D printing a more integral part of their practices. Comment and tell us what you think.