Zcorp has long made powder based 3D print systems for 3D printing color models. Zcorp is now departing from its basic technology with its introduction of a "high end" system, the Zbuilder Ultra. The Zbuilder user a photopolymer is a process similar to SLA (stereolithography). This would mean that Zcorp can now 3D print in plastic and at high detail. The deviation on parts would be around 0.2 mm and the minimum feature size would be 138 microns. Around the office a few of us felt it reminded us rather a lot of the EnvisionTEC Perfactory and the EnvisionTEC Ultra. Although the resemblance and the fact that both the EnvisionTEC Ultra and the Zbuilder Ultra have the same Ultra name and resolution of 138 Microns is probably just a coincidence. The system uses a DLP projector and is touted as being twice as fast as
existing rapid manufacturing systems. They seem to want to position it surely against the Stratasys FDM machines. It would cost $34,900. This heats up the price point near the Stratasys Dimension systems and the entry level Objet systems. You can see a movie about the Zbuilder here.
This move by Zcorp is going to make things in 3D printing land very interesting. Up and until now most 3D printing companies were founded on a single technology and contnue to exploit and improve this one technology. 3D Systems has two technologies (their original SLA technology and SLS Selective Laser Sintering). But, they were the exception. Stratasys only does FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling),the technology Stratasys' foundere developed and commercialized for example. A choice for a technology in most cases meant a choice for a particular vendor and vice versa. This year most of the mayor 3D printing patents are expiring. This could mean that the vendors could even perhaps use each other's technologies. This would make competition much more interesting. We all understood that the HP and Stratasys distribution deal would change a lot of things and Zcorp embracing an additional technology is just one of the many ripple effects we will see.
EnvisionTec is making this for Z-corp under a private label agreement, so its an EnvisionTec technology that has been around a while. Be warned, this machine uses one material and has break-off supports. Also, it requires a lot of post processing including washing off hazzardous photopolymer and curing in a separate UV oven. The supports leave scars on the bottom surfaces and you can not remove supports in inaccessible part features. Accuracy and repeatability are also variable around the build platform due to the focal point of the DLP light. Warpage of thin wall features is also a curse of this technology. Don't expect your parts to look like the ones Z-corp shows you. On speed, this machine does have a very fast Z-layer build speed, but many geometries have to be standed up to prevent excess support scars and warpage meaning that the "build time" is not any faster than many other 3D printing technologies. Just thought you might like a little truth amongst the Z-corp marketing hype!
Thanks for the post. A number of the points you made are accurate, but some are pretty misleading. The Z Builder Ultra is indeed the result of a technology partnership between Envisiontec and Z Corporation (we can link to the new announcement). Like SLA, it does use a single material for the part and for the supports. Whether it requires ‘a lot’ of post processing depends on what you are used to. It does require more work than the Z Printer line, but it would be very comparable to systems like SLA, Objet and FDM. Like SLA, it leaves marks on the bottom side, but obviously these are removed pretty easily on SLA parts and the same is true of the Z Builder Ultra. The idea that accuracy and repeatability are variable is not correct. The DLP engine delivers precise amounts of light to each voxel, and a compensation mask, unique to the bulb in the engine, ensures uniform accuracy and repeatability. It’s hard to know what you mean by thin walls, but the machine actually does typical injection molded wall thicknesses very, very well. It is true that speed can be a tricky thing to measure. Each system has different quirks that affect build speed, but we’re happy to put the Z Builder head to head against the competing machines on speed any time. With regard to not expecting your parts to look like what Z Corp shows, we wouldn’t show parts we can’t deliver. Z Corp is happy to make benchmarks for qualified buyers.
If there is post curing in a separate UV oven and a washing phase will these be included in the $35K price tag? Is the curing time included in the "twice as fast" timings? I wouldn't want to get sucked into the hype and waste my bosses time!
To clean the models from its resin, just use some Iso Propanol (alcohol). Spray in on or clean it in an ultrasonic cleaner.
Post curing in a separate UV Curing Unit is not a matter of hours but just minutes There are several Curing Units available on the market. The post curing will harden the material to give it a more rigid structure and seal the outside so it will not be sticky.
It is true that the “Ultra” machine is direct from Envisiontec but Envisiontec can print on their “Ultra” 2 kind of materials. One(RC31) is a nanoparticle filled material that is used to build hard-wearing, stiff and high temperature resistant parts. The other material is the SI500 and is a yellow high-temperature, ABS-like photopolymer to build three-dimensional parts.
Like any machine there are pro’s and con’s. Sure you have to do some post processing after the part is finished but you can easily sand, polish, drill, glue it and even metalize the nanocure (RC31) material (See http://www.3ddc.eu). If you remove the support gentle it will not break out of the model itself.
In the near future Envisiontec will even improve the focal point of the DLP chip with new way of calibrating. If you compare the Envisiontec “Ultra” and its accuracy/price relationship with other machines the “Ultra will stand out its competition.
Because of the “projection method” it does not matter if you print a single item or the whole build platform filled with products, so it is with 12mm/h still a quick machine. This in comparison with laser or nozzle technology.
If you want to see the Envisiontec Ultra in action contact CNC Consult in Den Bosch. They have an Ultra working and are dealer for the BeNeLux of Envisiontec products.
I must say Z-corp does an excellent job in marketing the product
I want to clarify a few inaccuracies noted in the thread above...
The ZBuilder Ultra is indeed manufactured by EnvisionTec and will be distributed by Z Corporation through our large, proven worldwide reseller channel, which we believe is an advantage of purchasing the technology from Z Corp. Our resellers provide localized sales, service and support. Another advantage for customers is the ability for designers and engineers to one-stop-shop with a proven vendor, enabling them to purchase the right tool for the right application, whether that application warrants ZPrinting inkjet 3D printing technology or ZBuilder DLP technology. An earliier post also talked about Z Corp. "departing" from ZPrinting technology with this announcement - nothing could be farther from the truth. Z Corp. is absolutely committed to its ZPrinting, inkjet 3D printing technology, and is distributing the ZBuilder DLP technology as a complement to ZPrinting in order to provide designers and engineers with solutions that meet all phases of the product development cycle, from concept modeling through design verification and late stage functional testing.