As part of its SHAPING WHAT’S NEXT™ vision for manufacturing, Stratasys introduced the Continuous Build 3D demonstrator at the Rapid manufacturing event in Pittsburgh this past May. SHAPING WHAT’S NEXT builds on Stratasys’ industrial FDM® 3D printing expertise to respond to the needs of customers’ most challenging applications, addressing manufacturers’ needs to rapidly produce strong parts ranging in size from an automobile armrest to an entire aircraft interior panel. The Continuous Build Demonstrator is the newest demonstrator announced since Stratasys unveiled the Infinite Build Demonstrator and the Robotic Composite Demonstrator in August of last year – both massive machines unlike anything we’d ever seen before.
The Continuous Build Demonstrator is almost pure automation. It’s a modular unit composed of multiple FDM 3D printer “cells,” each working simultaneously and controlled by a central, cloud-based architecture. Each cell can produce a different print job, enabling mass customization with very little operator intervention – the printers automatically eject finished parts and begin 3D printing new ones in a continuous stream.
It’s a scalable platform, meaning that additional 3D printer cells can be added as needed to meet companies’ production needs. Features include automatic queue management, load balancing and architecture redundancy. Print jobs are automatically routed to whichever print cells are available, and if one print cell fails for any reason, the print job will be immediately rerouted to the next available cell.
The move from purely prototyping to actual manufacturing has already begun – but largely in baby steps, as companies like Boeing have experimented with it on a small scale for customized pieces. Stratasys’ new wall of 3D printers could mark an important shift in scale and speed for those looking increasingly toward the tech as an alternative to more traditional modes like injection molding.
The technology brings the promise of continuous manufacturing, all keyed up to a single cloud-based system. The individual cells are capable of working simultaneously on different parts, ejecting their prints when done. If one of the cells screws up a print for any reason, it will be moved to the next cell to complete. Stratasys says the rig can be run with minimal interventions by human operators, and modularity means that new cells can be added to the system at any time.
“The Stratasys Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator is an important milestone in the company’s long term vision to make additive manufacturing a viable solution for volume production environments,” said Scott Crump, Stratasys Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer. “It combines our FDM print quality, GrabCAD control and monitoring, and a new multi-cell, scalable architecture to create a breakthrough manufacturing platform.”
Watch the video below to see students and instructors from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) discuss their experience with the new Stratasys Continuous Build Demonstrator and to learn more about how SCAD utilizes the demonstrator.
Click here to download Stratasys’ SCAD Continuous build case study to read more.
As the name implies, the Continuous Build Demonstrator system is still in showcase mode, but three partner organizations are already trying it out to showcase its targeted applications. While Stratasys has not yet announced when the Continuous Build platform might be commercially available, the company believes its wall of cells represents a key shift toward the dream of 3D printing for manufacturing.
Interested in learning more? Contact your local sales rep!