We had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of one of the most interesting 3D printing companies around today: Rize, Inc.
Frank Marangell is the President and CEO of Rize, who this year have released their fascinating and highly extendable 3D printing technology. Their process provides an ability to 3D print isotropic parts with literally no post-processing requirements.
[UPDATE] We have learned that since our interview took place, Mr. Marangell is no longer President and CEO of Rize. However, his statements still provide significant insight into Rize's operations and technology.
In the future, they hope to deliver full RGB color printing, as well as automated surface smoothing. It’s a very powerful technology.
Fabbaloo: I understand a bit about what the technology does for you, but where does Rize come from? What is Rize’s genesis story?
Frank Marangell: The group is a combination of industry pioneers that all had experience somewhere. The founder was part of the advanced development Group of Z Corporation, Eugene Giller. He came up with an idea. Eugene was hired by ZCorp to make their plastic machine and just as a side note the machine he was creating, the technology that they were using, is the core of what HP uses for the multi Jet Fusion. ZCorp was struggling at the time, and couldn't get this technology to work and decided to let the patent go away and not follow through with it.
It actually became public domain, once they let it go public. So the core of what HP is using is public domain. I’m sure they've added hundreds of patent applications in and thousands of engineering hours to make it where it is today. I'm not trying to compare the two, I'm just trying to suggest the core of laying down powder and then putting an activator down and then thermally keeping the temperature of the chamber just below that melting point and then flashing the layer by layer to solidify that layer and then having the detailing agent to define the edges, is Eugene's invention.
When he left he did some other consulting and nothing was exciting as 3D printing, so he decided that he was going to come up with a new idea. He didn't know what it was, but he was certain of one thing: it was not going to involve powder, because dealing with powder is hard.
It's a pain and it flies around. You want small particles and the smaller the particle, the harder it is to control. You want small particles, but dealing with small particles is a pain. He decided this: “let's see if we could do thermoplastic extrusion”. That's the most efficient way to get real engineering plastic. Let’s take a step back: he's trying to create a machine that could make real end-use parts and that's where we're heading down the road. Thermoplastic extrusion was the most efficient way to get real engine plastic on the table. The problem is z strength, surface finish, feature detail and color. He came up with the idea that is the core of Rize, Inc.
Originally the company was named “File2Part”, but we changed our name about a year year-and-a-half ago. The patented technology we have is called “augmented polymer deposition”. We deposit a polymer and then we have the ability through an industrial jet head to change the mechanical properties voxel by voxel. We do 3 to 7 picoliter drops every voxel in 300 DPI which is a current resolution of the printer.
That's the patent. The ability to jet so many things is endless. We have so many ideas of what could go inside a part on every voxel, that's amazing. What we decided to release as our first machine and address the prototyping market and the manufacturing tooling market is the release material to print the support in the same as a model and then print an insulator, a material that repels the attachment of the layer below.
It’s based on something called Hansen solubility parameters. Two materials that have solubility parameters that overlap will dissolve within each other. Materials where their spheres of solubility don't overlap like oil and water, they don't dissolve within each other. The release material has spheres that aren't attached, they are as far away as he could find them so it insulates that attachment.
It’s not a hundred percent. We wanted insulating, but we don't put it in every voxel because we want to have attachment, otherwise it does this [makes sliding motion]. It doesn't stick to anything! You want to stick enough but not too much that you couldn't just peel it off. That's our release material.
Our second material that we're jetting, as you know, is this pretty blue color. The colors are inside the part and you can have it and on any voxel you want, not just the surface. You can't scratch it off.
You can decide where on a part by putting it the right amount of pixels “in”, and then you could determine when something wore down to a certain level and appearing. Anyway, we have so many ideas to use this material.
When I mentioned that pretty blue it's because that blue has zero volatiles in the MSDS so it's it's safe. The filament doesn't outgas anything, whereas a lot of the thermal plastic extrusions outgas.
Why I mention all of that, is because the machine is meant to work outside the lab. We have a lot of smarts built into the software so that the user doesn't have to have a training course to use the machine. Either use the desktop software to program it or use the machine: it's very graphical. Just push the part and push print.
We're trying to break out of the lab and have anybody be able to use this thing. The intelligence is built into the system.
The system automatically adds the support, and automatically adds where the release material goes. It automatically adds the color to where you put a picture or put text on the part in the desktop software. You can put this where you want the part, when you want the part.
You don't have to have the lab environment. A lot of remote locations are possible, whether to be in the engineering design office, that's one, but you could put this machine in a hospital. You want to put this machine in a military theater. You want to put this machine right on the manufacturing floor. That's the release we're doing now
This machine was designed with six heads or 6 “channels”: three heads with two channels each. We are only introducing two today so you'll see a big gap in the head. Here's where two heads and four channels are going to be. So it’s going to be CMYK (four colors), the release material and the sixth one is going to be a smoothing agent.
The smoothing agent is going to jet on the edge of the part with enough viscosity that it doesn't roll over the edge. It has an absorbing factor where it absorbs down into the the layer and sit there and waits until the next layer and then absorbs up.
Here is a sample part that I carry with me. You can feel the surface is smooth and that's where we're heading.
I didn't mention that the part has isotropic strength. XY and Z have the same high level of strength. The Z is actually twice the strength of ABS Plus!
When you have isotropic strength, and you have smooth surfaces, and you have full color, now you actually have and end-use part.
That's what the original design was meant to be and that's where we'll be at the end of the year: being able to make engineering quality parts for and-use that can compete against low-volume manufacturing with the flexibility, because it's easy to program and zero post-processing.
I'll say now it’s virtually zero post-processing because it's 25 seconds versus three hours; that’s the kind of comparison that we use in one of our parts.
Imagine it now in the warehouse. Instead of building 10% extra and storing it and counting it every year, you print a spare part on demand: digital inventory. You don't have to worry about obsolescence, you don't have to worry about running out, you print it as you need it. This works in any remote location. In a talking with some of the military guys they can send the digital file to some field operation and have the mechanical plastic parts produced on-site.
You just save space and have the flexibility to make spare parts in the field or custom auto parts in a mechanic shop.
Fabbaloo: I think the inking is really interesting, because when you make these parts you could put serial numbers on them, or labels, or instructions, like “THIS SIDE UP” and more.
Frank Marangell: There is so much of that right now. We have some of the parts with lots of pretty pictures on them, but most of these guys are engineers and they get excited about revision numbers, part numbers, just boring texts. But they're designing new stuff and “is that rev C or rev E? I'm confused?” The revision change was very small and they could print it right on the part instead of remembering whether they put the right part number on it.
The same happens with manufacturing tooling. In thermoplastic there's a lot of growth in jigs and fixtures on the manufacturing floor. If you can put the manufacturing instructions right on the tool itself, that’s a really nice feature. Instead of hanging a paper over it, you can put it right on the tool: “careful here, insert here”, etc.
There are so many opportunities that we're growing into. The first one being prototypes in the lab, then breaking into the office environment and then manufacturing tooling. There is a lot of interest at trade shows because the people here know 3D printing and they know the pains of post processing.
We have a consumer products company that doesn't want to use their name formally, so I won't tell you. They did a comparison of their Fortus machine already in their shop, with our machine. It cost them, aside the cost of the machine, around USD$90,000 a year to operate their Fortus to make 80 kilograms of parts. It cost them USD$10,000 to make the same amount of parts, 80 kilograms, on our machine, so they save $80,000 a year by using my machine instead of the Fortus.
From an operating cost it's huge: our material cost is half, service prices one quarter, post processing costs are a fraction compared to, say, USD$25,000 in labor to have somebody doing post processing. It's a non-value-added process. Buy the chemicals and then you have to dispose of them after.
That all adds up. And that doesn't count that they save a day of iteration. They do on average four iterations on a part. So they save four days on every part that every engineer does.
This is part 1 of a 2 part interview. Part 2 is here.