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The First New 3D Printer Technology in Years

by Pete Basiliere  |  April 12, 2018  |  3 Comments

Evolve Additive’s “Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process,” or STEP for short came out of stealth mode last week. The samples produced by its alpha printer that I handled had very impressive detail.

With STEP another 2D printing technology migrates to 3D printing — electrophotographic printing, better known as EP or laser printing. EP technology is found inside many office printers.

The ISO/ASTM standards organization currently defines seven 3D print technologies:3D Printing Defined - small

Now let me state that, yes, there are 3D printer vendors who say their product is a new technology. While their offerings may be variations and advances on the seven ISO/ASTM technologies, their 3D printers fit the core definitions.

Evolve’s printing process begins by imaging a receptive drum which causes 22 micron plastic toner to adhere to it. The toner is transferred to an intermediary drum. The toner comprising the first layer of the 3D build is then transferred to a carrier sheet. The toner for subsequent layers is deposited on top of the previous layers. Each layer passes through a heating unit before the subsequent toner layer is laid down.

The first Evolve 3D printer will use a reciprocating carrier to move the pieces that are being printed under the imaging engines. One engine will be for the plastic (ABS or TPU at first) and one for the water-soluble support material. Eventually the Evolve will leverage all five of the engines inherent in the system in order to 3D print CMYK and clear plastics.

The second generation Evolve printer will have a continuous feed system that could move the parts to subsequent operations — or to an intermediary station where electronics or other components could be picked and placed on the partial build — after which the items return to the 3D printer for the additional layers needed to complete the build.

Evolve’s 3D printer is in alpha stage this year and expects to have beta devices in the market during 2019. The device could be priced in the $750,000 range.

STEP TechnologySTEP Technology

source: Evolve Additive

 

The printer will print at the rate of 4.5 seconds per layer. Evolve estimates the fully-loaded cost of producing these plastic parts will be less than comparable injection molded parts when used to 3D print 5,000 to 15,000 pieces.

The samples that I saw were smooth except for a slight striation on vertical surfaces. The pieces held very small features extremely well. The parts were tests devised by a consumer products manufacturer, which I was told reported that it had never seen such high quality and precision from its injection molded parts.

 

 

Evolve prefers to use the term “toner” to describe its material, saying that “powder” implies laser or electron beam Powder Bed Fusion technology, which STEP is not. The toner used for supports is created with mechanical grinding and the imaging toner is chemically grown (the latter being a more precise process than the former).

Evolve grew out of Stratasys, which began working on the technology in 2009. Evolve’s principals convinced SSYS to spin off the company, which SSYS has shares of. While the formal separation took place last August, the final details were completed within the past three weeks. Evolve has engaged BNPP to support its efforts to line up additional investors.

Don’t expect to see Evolve Additive’s first commercially available 3D printers until late 2019. Rather, consider this new 3D printer technology as evidence of the continued R&D that will benefit the entire 3D printing community.

Category: 3d-printing  additive-manufacturing  trends-predictions  

Tags: 3-d-print  3d-printer  additive-manufacturing  bnpp  electrophotographic-printing  evolve-additive  isoastm  powder-bed-fusion  selective-thermoplastic-electrophotographic-process  step  stratasys  

Pete Basiliere
Research Vice President
10 years at Gartner
16 years IT Industry

Mr. Basiliere provides research-based insights on 3D printing, digital printing systems and software applications, customer communications management (CCM), strategic document outsourcing (SDO) and automated document factory (ADF) best practices, go-to-market strategies, and technology trends. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The First New 3D Printer Technology in Years


  1. I do consider all the concepts you’ve inroduced in your post.
    They’re really convincing annd will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are too brief for beginners. May just you please extend them a luttle from next time?
    Thanks for the post.

    • Great and concise insight into STEP method. I’m an Additive Manufacturing insider and often find AM-related articles oversimplified and concentrating too much on explaining the basics rather than addressing the core innovation. This one certainly fulfilled my curiosity.

      I have just launched a website whose aim is to explain issues regarding Additive Manufacturing for beginners in the field. The 3D PULA, or the 3D Printing Ultimate List of Acronyms, has been a great help for many of my customers who couldn’t quite understand the difference between the variety of AM processes. I am also writing a blog called Inverted Normals.

      If you have time, I would appreciate if you have a look. I would also be happy to find the answers to your additive questions.

      Best regards, The 3D Printing Lady

  2. Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe this site needs
    a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!



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