Further with Ford: Carbon3D 3D Printing Innovations

Carbon3D Printer

Last week I was in San Francisco to see the latest projects that Ford Motors has been working on as part of their annual Further With Ford event for media. The project that I wasn’t expecting to see happened when we visited their Innovation Center in Palo Alto and I got to see first hand, a Carbon3D 3D printer.

Carbon3D has garnered a lot of buzz lately after coming out of stealth mode and unveiling their new continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) printing method for resin printing using light and oxygen. Here’s just one of their amazing videos showcasing their technology:

I have to admit, at first glance, the video (and the printer) was interesting but didn’t rock my world as much as I was told it should until I realized two things: it’s really fast and it’s not just any resin.

Most resin/DLP/SLA printers (aka sterolithography) use a photo/light reactive resin and a projector/laser method to project a slice of the model onto the resin at the surface and the build platform slowly moves away, effectively drawing the object out of the ‘goo’. This is as close to Star Trek as I’ve seen. This technology has been around since the 80’s and only now are the patents starting to expire and it’s use is growing (no pun intended). Typically there are a number of downsides to this technology including small build areas, fragile parts and the post processing that is required to cure the finished prints.

What Carbon3D has done is take something that used to take 6 hours to print and accomplish it in 6 minutes. That’s leaps and bounds faster than anything on the market right now. But what really impressed me is the quality of these printed objects combined with a myriad of different materials it can print with.

This TED video from one of the founders explains a lot more about Carbon3D’s innovations, particularly in material sciences:

Ford is currently the only automotive partner working with Carbon3D and are exploring a number of interesting options as far as prototyping and production of various parts.

Here’s some samples I got to play with at the Ford Center and I think you’ll see how this is a gamechanger for the 3D printing space, if not the automotive one as well:

Most of the parts appear like they could have been injection moulded as there weren’t any visible seams or typical layer lines. I’m told that even under a microscope you wouldn’t see any either. Also the materials felt very strong and durable…the rubber polymers where especially squishy and kept their shape despite my attempts at folding/crushing them.

As someone that’s been involved in 3D printing for a while, it takes a lot to get me excited and this demonstration certainly did that. I can’t wait to see more from this collaboration.

Disclosure: Ford Motor Company paid for my travel and accommodations during the visit to their facilities but the content is my own.

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