We Know that any innovation or new idea needs to be further improved after few decades to help it survive.
This is the case with a Technology named “FDM” or “Fused Deposition Modelling”
As the name suggests, this technology involves Thermoplastics in the form of Filament wire extruded through a nozzle after melting and deposited on a platform layer by layer. Genius indeed, but this was in vogue few decades back when Stratasys invented it. Since then many other technologies have evolved which did show the limitations of FDM in terms of unidirectional strength, lower resolution and rough and uneven surfaces. Of course, there were few methodologies adopted to reduce the surface roughness through post processing mechanically and Chemically, but that did not improve the overall strength or resolution of the parts. Particularly as Thermoplastics have been used in various end use components manufactured through Injection moulding, the comparison was always with the latter.
Few decades later, there came along low cost FDM printers lead by “Makerbot” and a herd of others which Improved the availability of 3d printers to masses and smaller companies who couldn’t afford Stratasys. Even Designers started using 3d printing right on their desktop to validate design iterations. This also gave birth to lot of companies and new divisions of large organizations to develop Thermoplastic filaments for the smaller machines as they were open source. Further we started witnessing a lot of R&D ensuring different types of Thermoplastics with rigid, elastomeric, Flexible, Flame Retardant, Composites, etc which gave the FDM printers a diverse utility. Now all this was being done only for Prototyping. So, now designers were able to utilize 3d printing for sampling and choosing the final design. But Manufacturing and Engineering still had an issue of utilizing 3d printing for end use components or support roles. This was either due to the huge investment cost for large OEM printers or availability of less dependent low cost 3d printers.
The Need for a mid-range 3d printer which helped manufacturers build larger prototypes and parts for end use purposes but with affordable capex and lower running cost gave birth to few 3d printer companies in different directions. Some focussed on high end materials like Ultem and Peek which some just printed Big protos.
A company named BigRep from Berlin, Germany had a different vision. It wanted to cater to the mid segment and large segment market with it’s large capacity printers. Thus BigRep was born! It revolutionised the FDM Technology by offering large parts at affordable running costs.
That was just the beginning when many companies started utilising Bigrep printed parts for furniture, gifts and other end use parts. Even this opened up 3d printing for casting foundries where affordable and accurate sand casting patterns could be printed in Thermoplastics in days and hence reduced the overall manufacturing cycle. But the need for speed and Consistency was the next to be taken care of as the foremost issues of FDM.
BigRep few years back understood the Gap and developed the Next Generation Technology named MXT or Metering Extrusion, which enabled faster and continuous flow of droplets at high speeds giving more consistency and repeatability to the erstwhile slow and uncontrollable FDM technology.
Metering Extrusion made a small buffer of liquid plastic available just before the nozzle which at certain determined pressure flows through the nozzle. This when compared to the regular thermoplastic extrusion technology where the filament was melted just before the nozzle causing a lot of dependability on the filament size and extrusion speed, failed when either or both varied.
The MXT Technology due to the buffer and its Bosch Control system nearly ensures Drop-on-Demand, which brings multi-directional strength, consistency in layering and near-to-isotropic nature of the part.
Thus, FDM or FFF, without MXT would be extinct in few years has actually catapulted into the manufacturing applications for large parts and End use.
Check out the BigRep Pro and Edge series of 3D Printers on this link…..