It looks like the Shapeways production team’s dream may be a reality in the near future with a the announcement by voxeljet that they will be releasing “the first continuous 3D printing machine” (actually it is the second) at GIFA 2011.
”The innovative system design allows unprecedented performance to be achieved. While printing is carried out on one side of the system, unpacking can take place synchronously on the other. This is all done without operation being interrupted. It raises production, in particular patternless small batch production of moulds and models for metal casting, to a higher dimension of speed and cost-efficiency.”
Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO of voxeljet technology
They are calling it a concept study, so it may be a while before we see it available to the Shapeways community but it is a pretty impressive concept that actually could make a massive difference to the speed of turnaround and size of objects printable. With a build space of 500×500 millimeters that is already quite substantial but the fact that the system uses a conveyor belt to move the build along while it builds it up means you could 3D print an object of great length…
Based on the press release and launching at the International Foundry Trade Fair they are looking to aim this at mould making for foundries but the technology and accuracy with a resolution of 600 dpi and a layer thicknesses of 150 µm to 400 µm there are bound to be many applications.
You may remember Voxeljet launched the VX4000 with a massive 4000x2000x1000mm build area that you would need a forklift to remove your 3D prints. That one may be a little problematic from a logistics point of view for Shapeways and may put a little strain on our relationship with UPS but a conveyor belt of constant 3D prints is something we could work with.
Voxeljet is based in Augsburg, Germany, focuses on the automatic, patternless manufacture of sand casting moulds and the production of plastic components.