One of the most exciting things about 3D printing is its potential for large-scale automation. A longtime goal of the industry is to enable so-called “lights-out” 3D printing, allowing companies to run printers 24/7 without supervision. These automated 3D-printing factories have the potential to free up human operators for other tasks and to improve productivity.
3D-printing company Formlabs is making this goal a reality with its new Automation Ecosystem debuting at CES in Las Vegas, NV, on Jan. 5 to 8, 2023. The ecosystem includes Form Auto, which enables automated 24/7 printing with automatic part removal. It features Formlabs’ patented Quick Release Technology, which removes finished parts from the build platform as soon as the print job is complete. Form Auto then quickly starts the next print in the queue.
The Automation Ecosystem also includes Fleet Control, a suite of new features within Formlabs’ Dashboard and PreForm software. It includes centralized queue management and automatic printer assignment, working with Form 3+, Form 3B+, Form 3L, and Form 3BL printer fleets.
Finally, there is the High-Volume Resin System, which increases resin capacity to five liters — five times the standard cartridge size. A resin pump consistently dispenses resin, reducing downtime as well as the need for operator intervention.
Image courtesy of Formlabs
|The Automation Ecosystem will enable medical device manufacturers to scale production of patient-specific implants and surgical guides and improve outcomes, according to Formlabs.|
According to Formlabs, the Automation Ecosystem increases productivity by three times while saving up to 80% on labor, lowering cost-per-part by 40%, and reducing packaging waste by up to 96% compared with conventional 3D-printing technologies. Seth Berg, Engineering Lead for Form Auto, expects that the ecosystem will enable medical providers, facilities, dental labs, and device manufacturers to further advance personalized healthcare.
“As the healthcare industry increases adoption of 3D printing, the Automation Ecosystem will enable them to scale up their production and print more custom medical devices — implants, surgical guides, and more — at scale,” he told PlasticsToday. “This is a next step toward using 3D printing to improve efficiency and patient outcomes in the medical industry.”
The automotive industry is another sector that will see benefits from the Automation Ecosystem, Berg continued.
“The automotive industry is using Formlabs technology to create a variety of end-use parts, rapid tools, concept design components, and more for automotive designers and manufacturers,” he said. “With lower part costs and reduced labor, Formlabs anticipates that Automation Ecosystem will spur new innovation by enabling manufacturers, designers, and other automotive users to continuously fabricate custom automotive parts with fewer interruptions.”
The Automation Ecosystem can manage multi-user, multi-material printer fleets. Its continuous production capabilities allow printing to continue overnight and into the weekend without humans present.
At CES 2023, visitors can see firsthand the system’s ability to produce back-to-back prints non-stop and operator-free. Formlabs will be at booth 54217.