It's always interesting to examine a 3D printer with an entirely new process for producing objects. One may think there's only a few processes, but in fact companies often invent new methods.
Prodways is one of them.
We spoke with Prodways President Raphaël Gorgé (seen above with the M350) and Head of Research & Development André-Luc Allanic to learn more.
Prodways uses a resin process, similar to other manufacturers, but there's a huge difference.
Resin 3D printers use photo-curable liquid resin, often solidified by a moving laser light. Sometimes a DLP projector is used, where a complete array of 1024 x 768 "pixels" is solidified in one shot. With the DLP approach you can focus the array on a small area to produce objects with super-fine accuracy (but only 1024 x 768 resolution). Such systems are lousy at making large objects because the resolution worsens as the same DLP array is simply focused on a larger layer area.
Prodways changes all that. They use a DLP approach, but instead of shooting the entire layer with the photo array, they can do it multiple times.
They MOVE the DLP array across the resin surface, enabling the production of super-fine objects at massive size. How massive, you ask? Their M350 Producer unit can print parts with "diagonals greater than 1 meter and up to 550 mm high". Whoa.
And how fine can the resolution be? Let's put it this way: they can print 100 swatches of 2 million pixels each on each layer. Of course, if you have an object that doesn't occupy the entire layer, only the required portions are illuminated, significantly speeding up the printing process.
The print volume and resolution combined are so huge that the this machine has actually printed STL files exceeding 8 Gigabytes in size!
Even better, Prodways has dedicated chemistry staff that are busily designing new resins, including ceramic resin. If you can afford it, you can purchase several resin tanks - and quickly swap them in/out to almost instantly change materials. No need to empty and refill the reservoir.
You might expect this machine to be expensive, and you'd be correct. The M350 Producer is priced at €350,000 (USD$480,000). So far, we're told, 15 units have been sold.