The State of VSHAPER’s 5-Axis 3D Printer

 The VSHAPER 500 5-axis 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]
The VSHAPER 500 5-axis 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]

VSHAPER is readying their powerful 5-axis 3D printer for production.

We first saw their 5-axis 3D printer at formnext 2017, but evidently that device was a prototype. Recently we saw the second version of the device, and it seems that is the production version.

But wait, you’re wondering what the big deal is about a 5-axis 3D printer? There are very few of these in the world, and they offer significant advantages over standard 3D printers.

Virtually all 3D printers use either a cartesian (X-Y-Z) or delta (cylindrical) motion system. While they move slightly differently, both have the unfortunate characteristic of holding the hot end in a vertical orientation. A cartesian system, for example, is a 3-axis system.

This is suitable for many geometries, but this motion approach requires the use of support materials due to the layer-by-layer deposition cycle that is implied by the motion system. Sometimes portions of a layer are isolated and require additional material to keep them in place while the rest of the structure is built.

Those problems mostly go away when using a 5-axis system. Unlike a 3-axis system, there are two additional axes of motion in the design. It’s like adding a wrist or two the hot end.

Non-Parallel Layer Lines

This additional motion capability is then able to move the hot end in ways unimaginable in 3-axis systems. One key technique that can be used by 5-axis systems is to avoid the use of support by literally tipping the partial print over and printing without overhangs. This results in the ability to 3D print virtually any geometry without support structures. Here’s an example:

 Part made with VSHAPER’s 5-axis 3D printer. Note non-parallel layer lines [Source: Fabbaloo]
Part made with VSHAPER’s 5-axis 3D printer. Note non-parallel layer lines [Source: Fabbaloo]

If you look carefully at this image, you will see the layer lines are not parallel: the 5-axis system has moved to 3D print in a different orientation as the print proceeded.

Multiple Toolheads

The VSHAPER 500 system is also able to accommodate different tool heads on its 5-axis motion system. Here we see several toolheads, including a 3D print hot end, a milling head for CNC work, and a touch probe for part quality testing.

 VSHAPER 500 toolheads [Source: Fabbaloo]
VSHAPER 500 toolheads [Source: Fabbaloo]

We’re told by VSHAPER CEO Tomasz Szymański that the company developed their own 5-axis software, which is a tremendously difficult challenge. They apparently spent four years to complete the project, gradually adding functionality. Now the system moves in 5 axes simultaneously.

 VSHAPER CEO Tomasz Szymański [Source: Fabbaloo]
VSHAPER CEO Tomasz Szymański [Source: Fabbaloo]

The VSHAPER 500 is priced at €500K (US$560K) and the company is seeking additional resellers.


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