3D printing startup Structur3d has upgraded their paste extruder to version 2.0.
The Canadian company released their initial product, the Discov3ry (now 1.0) paste extruder add-on for desktop 3D printers in 2014, and the product shipped in 2015. Since that time many 3D printer operators have considered the system as a way to convert their machine into a more powerful unit capable of additional making processes.
The company also made a deal with Ultimaker to provide a way to sell bundled versions of Ultimaker 3D printers equipped with the Structur3d Discov3ry unit.
Yesterday they announced version 2.0 of the Discov3ry paste extruder, and it’s quite a bit different.
Evidently they’ve obtained feedback from “thousands” of clients across the globe to develop the new version 2.0, which features a way to permit extrusion of two-part materials.
Essentially it is two paste extruders that work in tandem, but have a single nozzle through which the material flows, and more importantly, mixes.
This means that you will be able to extrude two-part materials, such as epoxies, that react when mixed. As far as we can tell, this hasn’t really been attempted in a commercial product previously, aside from German RepRap’s silicone system. And this opens up the possibility of 3D printing in a number of new ways that haven’t been explored yet.
In a way, this is an extremely strategic move for Structur3d, as it positions their product squarely in the professional desktop 3D printing market, rather than the consumer-oriented market where folks might be experimentally extruding food, for example. This way Structur3d can ride the huge wave of interest in professional desktop 3D printing.
One aspect of importance is the resolution. In almost all paste extruders, the resolution is quite coarse due to the nature of the extrusion. While this may work when extruding cookie dough, it might not be good enough for professional use.
Structur3d says the two 60cc cartridges of “A and B” materials will be extruded through the single nozzle, which can be as small as 0.1mm. That’s pretty close to the nozzle sizes of common desktop 3D printers, which are usually 0.4mm. I suspect they will be able to extrude with some level of accuracy.
We spoke with Structur3d’s CEO and co-founder, Andrew Finkle, to find out more.
Fabbaloo: Can you describe in a bit more detail the specific types of applications you foresee using this approach? What exactly would people be building and why would it be better than other approaches? Can you provide some ideas on non-epoxy potential uses of the dual material approach? Would it be possible to mix food pastes together, for example? Or are there other concepts in mind? Is a dissolvable support material possible?
Andrew Finkle: The three big areas I see this technology being used are:
1) The Traditional Silicone and Epoxy Industry are now given the advantages of additive manufacturing (control of complexity / internal geometries, customization, and rapid prototyping). The first Discov3ry extruder had the capability to print with air-cure materials like caulking which had limited selection of material properties (like hardness and flexibility). With two-part printing the options for material choice expand widely. For example, now a mold maker can use two part materials supplied by companies like SmoothOn and create molds using a CAD design and 3D printer workflow. Another possibility would be better control over orthotics production, reducing turnaround time (printing on demand) and tuning of firmness of the sole.
2) Materials Researchers in the areas of composites, additives, biotech, nanotech, and the like. The Discov3ry 2.0 allows control of the mixing of different components jut before extrusion; this is advantageous when there is some reason the materials cannot be pre-mixed or mixed in a specific way. Consider a coaxial extrusion where a conductive material can be extruded in the centre of the deposited filament and an insulator could be printed around the surface making a small 'wire' within a print. Instead of a conductive material it could be a mechanical reinforcement like carbon fibres to increase print strength. Regarding the support material, there could be some interesting possibilities but this is yet unexplored.
3) Would be food, you mention it below. I do believe that the ability to mix foods may be an ideal application. It could be as simple as mixing food pastes, like ketchup and mustard or peanut butter and jam. But I foresee other interesting opportunities like: mixing seeds (like sprouts) into an edible growth environment (mushroom paste); tuning properties of the food like textures, colours, densities, aesthetics; and even allowing complete customization of macronutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) and medicines based on individual needs.
Fabbaloo: What kind of two-resin materials can be used? Just epoxies? Are there certain mixes recommended / required?
Andrew Finkle: I mentioned many material possibilities above, but like our first product we want to incorporate an open cartridge system. This means the users can load whatever they like into their Discov3ry 2.0. That being said, we are putting together a list of recommended materials for our developers that they will be able to use out of the box. Behind the scenes, we are also working with some material manufacturers in order to supply our own lineup of materials, we expect this to be available in 2018.
Fabbaloo: What happens to the nozzle tip after printing? Is it sacrificial, as the A+B will solidify in it?
Andrew Finkle: For the cartridge setup we have 2 Syringes that feed the A/B through tubing into a manifold that goes into the mixer and then through the nozzle tip.
Everything except the manifold is designed to be disposed after completion to avoid contamination, unintentional mixing, and the need for tricky cleaning.
The Syringes, Tubing and Manifold can be capped if an experiment is incomplete, and resumed later.
The low-cost mixer and nozzles will need to be replaced each new material of if sufficient time has passed and the material has cured.
Our nozzles are plastic and twist on and off easily and can be replaced in seconds. The advanced starter kit we offer has various nozzle diameters and geometries for different applications.
Fabbaloo: What machines is the Discov3ry 2.0 compatible with? Your release shows attachment to an Ultimaker 2, but I assume it will work with others? Or are there certain machines that you’ve figured out an easy way to set it up?
Andrew Finkle: The Discov3ry 2.0 will work with any 3D printer where the user has the ability to modify the gcode and printer firmware. This would be many of the open-source models available like Ultimaker, Lulzbot, Printrbot, RepRap, etc. We have this option available for the maker/hacker crowd but we encourage the pairing with the Ultimaker as the user experience has been designed to be as resistance free as possible.
Fabbaloo: Pricing and availability?
Andrew Finkle: The Discov3ry 2.0 and Discov3ry 2.0 Complete will be available for order Friday (Nov. 3) and shipment will begin within 6-8 weeks. The product is designed for many R&D and industrial applications within startups, university, and corporate laboratories and we will be offering many options such as: UV curing, cartridge heating, training and support, option of Ultimaker Printer, and beginner materials. As a result, we will be building customized packages for each customer and pricing will vary; we will be accepting pricing inquiries starting Friday.