I had a chat with the folks from B9Creations.
The Rapid City, SD-based company might not be the most well known in the industry, but they are among the oldest. They began with founder Michael Joyce’s Kickstarter campaign way back in 2013, and they’re now celebrating their tenth anniversary. There are not many 3D printer manufacturers that can boast that.
At the time of their first Kickstarter they were one of two notable campaigns of the day: the other was Formlabs.
The first two Kickstarter projects by B9Creations raised over half a million dollars, and literally kickstarted the company forward for many years.
While their initial equipment was made for general purpose use, which was the custom of the day, things changed significantly over the course of the company’s lifetime.
In 2013 it was generally thought that 3D printers would become consumer products, where household objects would be commonly printed by basically anyone. A large number of startups emerged at the time in order to capitalize on that concept.
However, it was all for nought, as the technical level required to operate those machines was beyond the majority of the consumer population, and there was a drastic lack of content and even well-understood use cases. As a result, the consumer market quickly collapsed and so did many 3D printer manufacturers of the day.
The smart companies shifted into other markets, typically education or professional prototyping use. These proved much more profitable, and those companies that switched generally survived and even thrived. Those that did not switch ended up in a “race to the bottom” with inexpensive Asian providers that they could not win.
But here we are ten years later and B9Creations is not only still standing, but doing quite well. According to company representatives, they now have around 50 staff and have successfully transitioned from “hobby” to professional markets.
These days their core product is the B9 Core Series, which is comprised of several models of DLP-style resin 3D printers.
While there are plenty of resin 3D printers on the market, B9Creations’ key feature is rapid 3D printing. Unlike many of the inexpensive brands on the market that are slowed by constant layer-by-layer peeling off the resin tray, the B9Creations system can run continuously thanks to a process to inhibit adhesion to the tray. We’re told it’s oxygen based, somewhat like Carbon’s. In fact, B9Creations said Carbon actually refers to B9Creations method in their patent.
The B9 Core Series is targeted at the jewelry & casting, prototyping, manufacturing, education, research, aerospace, defense markets, as well as model making, which has recently become a significant market on its own.
The shift wasn’t as challenging for B9Creations as it was for some other companies, because early on they realized they were making B2B sales rather than B2C sales as was happening for most of the other 3D printer startups.
Today they sell equipment to a wide variety of buyers, including a growing healthcare segment.
This is understandable, not only because the B9Creations machines print quickly, but also because they are specifically designed to be easy to operate. There are no calibrations required, as well as no maintenance, and most processes are automated. The equipment also comes with cleaning and curing stations that process prints without generating any toxic mess that is oh-so-frequently seen in other equipment.
B9Creations offers a good selection of materials for their equipment, which by the way can be either 405 or 385nm. Materials include prototyping resins for strength and fine details, clear resin, several casting resins, including wax for jewelry, a selection of bio-compatible materials for healthcare and research, engineering materials, including flexible and high impact, and a new ESD material.
They also provide the ability for the equipment to use third party resins, and with the ability to use both 385 and 405nm means the entire materials field is open.
The latest development from B9Creations is the new B9 Core 5 Ascent XL, which has a rather tall build volume of 125 x 70 x 320 mm. The device can 3D print as much as 85mm of material layers per hour, which is incredibly fast.
The B9 Core 5 Ascent is sold only in the United States and is priced at just under US$26,000.