3D Systems develops 3D printer for manufacturers

A 3D Systems Figure 4 manufacturing platform. Image courtesy of 3D Systems
A 3D Systems Figure 4 manufacturing platform. Image courtesy of 3D Systems

US-based additive manufacturing company 3D Systems this week unveiled a new 3D printer designed for use in large-scale manufacturing.

The manufacturing platform, called ‘Figure 4’, is one of the first 3D printers designed exclusively for an industrial production niche.

In order to make it more attractive to manufacturers, the system includes a number of features which can be easily used in mass production.

Specifically, it is designed in modular elements which can easily be scaled up in number if a greater production rate is required. A Figure 4 system can use a single printer, or as many as 16 connected together in series.

The actual 3D printers which form the backbone of the Figure 4 system print parts using a thermoplastic resin.

3D Systems says that Figure 4 is able to print these plastic parts at 50 times the rate of regular 3D printing devices. This, combined with other efficiencies, would deliver significantly lower costs per part produced, according to information released by the company.

“We believe our breakthrough Figure 4 platform will revolutionize manufacturing by transforming production of both mass customized and complex end-use parts with a compelling total cost of operations versus conventional methods,” said Vyomesh Joshi CEO of 3D Systems.

“While others are realizing the need to transition from prototyping to production, we are delivering real solutions across all key vertical markets and applications that are helping customers solve problems today.”

According to the company, at least one Figure 4 system has already been sold to a Fortune 50 industrial company, with additional orders expected to be shipped mid-year.

One industry which 3D Systems is initially targeting for Figure 4 sales is dentistry. Currently, dentists use a large number of custom-made plastic tools and parts, which could easily be manufactured using the system.

Moreover, the Figure 4 could also be used to produce crowns and dentures for patients at a much fast rate than previously possible.

To this aim, the company plans to show off the system at the International Dental Show (IDS) 2017, in Cologne, Germany this week.