News . 3D Printing

03 May 2017

From photopolymers to living tissue to composites, EnvisionTEC is leading the way in 3D printing innovation that delivers real value to the market.

Michael Molitch-Hou of Engineering.com writes about the changing face of the company after interviewing EnvisionTEC CEO Al Siblani.

“The SLCOM 1 3D printer may have been the biggest news of the RAPID 2016 event, if not figuratively then at least literally,” Hou wrote of the company’s Selective Lamination Composite Object Manufacturing printer for unidirectional or bidirectional woven fiber composites pre-impregnated with thermoplastic, such as Nylon 6, Nylon 11, Nylon 12, PEEK, PEKK, or polycarbonate. This kind of 3D printing technology is highly valuable to the aerospace, defense, and automotive sectors.

“We have already seen interest from the defense and aerospace markets,” Siblani said, “which tend to be early adopters of manufacturing technology in general, as well as manufacturers of performance and exotic cars. These companies are increasingly interested in lighter-weight composites, as well as a diversity of composites.”

Rapid 3D – EnvisionTEC training webinars for 2017Siblani also told Engineering.com more about the company’s exclusive strategic partnership with Viridis3D in Boston, which makes a Robotic Additive Manufacturing (RAM) technology. Today, that technology is used for binder jetting sand molds and cores for the foundry industry, and it’s being used in the marketplace today. But Siblani sees more applications for the technology.

“For example, we are working to develop robotic 3D printing of PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate), an acrylic plastic, for direct investment casting, especially of large parts,” Siblani said.

Siblani also talked about his overall vision for EnvisionTEC:

“In 2017, EnvisionTEC celebrates its 15-year anniversary. Looking back, it’s been an amazing journey. … The vision is to look at all 3D printing technology platforms that would give us the chance to disrupt existing traditional manufacturing processes,” Siblani said. “So we engage and we invest and we innovate in areas that have the biggest chance of taking us where there is an opportunity to add the most value.”

Earlier this year, 3D printing stalwart EnvisionTEC unveiled new technology and partnerships that proved that it wasn’t satisfied with dominating the photopolymerization market, but that it aimed to take an even bigger stake in industrial 3D printing.

The Founding of EnvisionTEC

Before founding EnvisionTEC in 2002, Siblani worked for the now-defunct Helisys, the 3D printing firm behind the laminated object manufacturing process. He then went onto to invent his own 3D printing technology, filing a patent in 1999.

EnvisionTEC soon became a leader in the 3D printing industry with its digital light processing (DLP) 3D printers. In 2002, the company began selling its first Perfactory DLP 3D printers, which used DLP projectors from Texas Instruments to cast UV light onto a vat of resin, curing large swaths of photopolymer a layer at a time with speed and precision.

One issue associated with DLP 3D printing, however, is the fact that the resolution possible with the technology begins to decrease as the light source grows farther from the resin or the size of the object increases.

EnvisionTEC solved this problem when it unveiled its Scan, Spin and Selectively Photocure (3SP) process in 2013. Instead of a DLP projector, 3SP directs a multi-cavity laser diode through a spinning drum and casts the light onto the vat of resin, making it possible to maintain high resolution regardless of the size of a 3D-printed object.