As part of a new partnership between the firms, ExOne will exclusively market the machines, which feature Rapidia’s proprietary ‘two-step’ 3D printing technology. The technique is predicated on a water-based metal paste, that evaporates during printing, removing the need for any time-consuming polymer debinding steps.
The deal also gives ExOne first refusal over any future acquisition of its Vancouver-based partner, and sees Rapidia’s founder Dan Gelbart join as a ‘technical advisor.’ According to John Hartner, CEO of ExOne, the partnership will enable its clients in the industrial and education sectors to access an accelerated production workflow.
“We are delighted to partner with the visionary Dan Gelbart and the Rapidia team,” said Hartner. “Now researchers, educators, and industrial designers will be able to bypass days of waiting and produce high-quality parts without the limitations faced by parts that require traditional debinding.”
“This technology is a true time-saving innovation that complements ExOne’s portfolio.”
Rapidia’s ‘Two-step’ technology
Essentially, Rapidia’s proprietary two-step technology involves 3D printing directly onto a mildly-heated glass bed using a water-based metal or ceramic paste called ‘HydroFuse.’ The technique is advantageous because the resulting parts don’t require debinding before sintering, reducing what’s usually a ‘three-step’ process into a ‘two-step’ one.
Traditionally, three-step approaches have involved 3D printing objects with polymeric binders, but this causes shrinkage once they’ve been burnt off which sometimes limits their applications. By contrast, Rapidia’s pastes replace 98% of the binder with water which evaporates during printing, serving to lift any part thickness limitations and expedite the process.
Uniquely, Rapidia’s technology also allows for both 3D printed and machined parts to be moistened, stacked on top of one another and combined into a unified structure. By partnering with ExOne, Rapidia will effectively be able to utilize its reseller network, and market its two-step process to a wider audience.
For ExOne, meanwhile, the deal enables it to leverage the technology to broaden its existing metal 3D printing portfolio, as well as bolster its own capabilities. What’s more, given the interest in binder jetting technologies driven by Desktop Metal’s decision to go public, now could be the ideal time to market its new machines.
The Metal Designlab and X1F systems
ExOne’s Metal Designlab 3D printer is based on the technology used within Rapidia’s earlier machines, and it functions using the same two 0.4mm or 0.6mm independent extruders. Similarly, with dimensions of 78 x 70 x 157 cm, the system remains relatively small, and its compatibility with water-soluble binders makes it somewhat ‘office-friendly.’
With regards to build volume, the Designlab is a little bigger than Rapidia’s initial machine at 200 x 280 x 150 mm, and requires 110-125 AC of power to run at a speed of 2.4 inches per hour. The overall system weighs in at 100kg, rising to 120kg once filled with cartridges, and the printer allows four of these to be loaded at one time.
In terms of materials, the Designlab is currently compatible with the 17-4PH and 316L stainless steels, with the promise of more new alloys and ceramics to come. Each refillable cartridge measures 7 cm x 35 cm, and contains 4-5 kg of ‘HydroFuse’ alloy, that’s designed to allow users to fabricate complex support-free metal parts.
Understandably, the X1F furnace system weighs a heavier 500kg, but it has the same 235mm x 400mm volume as Rapidia’s earlier machine. The furnace is also controlled by a similar 10-inch touch screen, and because it’s powered by a regular 220-240 AC socket, it doesn’t require any special installation by an engineer either.
Technical specifications and pricing
Below are the technical specifications for the Metal Designlab 3D printer and X1F furnace. Orders are now being accepted for both machines, with delivery available from Q2 2021 onwards. Readers interested in purchasing the systems can visit the ExOne website for a quote.
|Metal Designlab 3D printer|
|Print Technology||Extrusion of water-based paste|
|Build Volume||200 x 280 x 150 mm|
|Resolution||0.6mm and 0.4mm nozzles|
|Print Speed||Over 40 cc (2.4 cubic inch) per hour|
|Print Sheet||Flexible stainless steel, reusable|
|Dimensions||78 cm (W) x 70 cm (D) x 157 cm (H)|
|Weight||100 kg, 120 kg with four full cartridges|
|Atmosphere||Forming gas (3% H2 in Ar)|
|Max Temperature||1400 °C|
|Inside Dimensions||235 mm (D) x 400 mm (L)|
|Outside Dimesions||78 cm (W) x 105 cm (D) x 188 cm (H)|
|Power||220-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz|
|Ventilation||Single ½” plastic tubing vented to outside|
|Control||10” touch screen|
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Featured image shows a concept image of ExOne’s new Designlab 3D printer and X1F furnace. Image via ExOne.