Today I was searching for more examples of volumetric 3D printing, which seems to be appearing daily in our pages this week.
Volumetric 3D printing, if you are not familiar with it, is a new 3D printing process that hopes to dramatically speed up print durations. This is accomplished by using a vat of liquid photopolymer that is illuminated from all angles in a near-simultaneous fashion. This forms a solid object within the vat almost instantaneously, as opposed to the tedious layer-by-layer approach used by almost every other 3D printing process.
With a couple of recent announcements of companies working on this type of 3D printing system, it seemed to me that there were no doubt others also working on volumetric processes. These could be operating in stealth mode, hoping to launch their products to the public at some later date. This is a common approach by companies who believe they have something truly new, and we’ve seen this in the past in several instances.
So far my searches have identified few organizations working on the problem, and I’ll likely publish a full story on my findings in coming days, but there was one company that I fell across that seemed a bit different.
The company is Corporeal, a Budapest-based company that seems to have been around for at least a couple of years.
My interest was triggered by their tagline, “volumetric 3D printing”. Aha, I thought, another one to add to the list. They say they can produce “Super-sized 3D objects at super-fast speeds!” Again, this is congruent to the concept of volumetric 3D printing I have come to understand.
But a look at a video showing how they achieve this 3D print speed shows something unexpected:
They do not seem to be using a true volumetric approach as I understand it. They seem to have something quite different. In fact, it turns out they are a user of Massivit’s large-format 3D printers and produce huge sculptures for clients.
Although it is not volumetric 3D printing per se, Corporeal’s Massivit equipment does have an interesting 3D printing process. It seems they have a specialized extruder that deposits a gel-like substance that is immediately solidified by a UV light source. It’s kind of a hybrid between SLA and FDM, if you like.
Corporeal says they are able to produce large objects at 10X the speed of alternatives, and I don’t doubt that claim. In their build volume of 1517 x 1117 x 1800 mm, they can apparently produce objects at the rate of 350mm height per hour. That’s pretty fast.
They can also produce objects larger than the build volume of their equipment, likely by splitting 3D models into bite-sized pieces and assembling them after printing. One excellent example of their work is this incredible life-sized dinosaur 3D print:
For larger unique 3D printed sculptures, Corporeal might be an option to consider.
However, my concern is in the terminology here. Corporeal lists themselves as a “volumetric” 3D printing company, likely to reinforce the notion of large-scale 3D printing, as in “volume”. But while they may have been using the term for their business for some time, it has been also used by the research community to describe a rather different 3D printing process.
It’s fascinating to watch the evolution of terms as they are applied to new concepts. Today we may have cemented in our brains tight links between terms and concepts, these are far looser initially when concepts are invented. It takes time for terminology to “settle”, and it seems we’re going through that with “volumetric 3D printing” right now.