The worlds of 2D printing and 3D printing are really being brought together through a new partnership between Eastman Kodak and Evolve Additive Solutions Inc. Through the collaboration, Kodak will supply Evolve Additive with imaging systems, parts and consumables based on its KODAK NEXPRESS digital electrophotographic platform. In doing so, the companies will work together to accelerate the development and commercialization of Evolve Additive’s Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP).
Evolve Additive Solutions was founded in April 2018 as an independent spin-off of 3D printing giant Stratasys. In short, the innovative company was started to pursue a new, proprietary 3D printing process known as STEP, which is an electrophotography-based technology for the production of thermoplastic parts.
STEP has the potential to be 50 times faster than existing additive manufacturing solutions, and offers the benefits of producing parts with isotropic properties in all (X, Y and Z) directions. Additionally, the technology is reportedly capable of multi-material printing in the same layer and multi-colour printing. At this stage, Evolve Additive expects its STEP technology to be commercially ready by 2020.
Kodak, a pioneer of electrophotographic technology, will work with Evolve Additive to, well, evolve its additive system with the help of its modular and upgradeable KODAK NEXPRESS Platform. The companies say the Kodak platform is “ideal” for Evolve to transform into a production technology for AM.
More specifically, Evolve will be using Kodak’s toner manufacturing process to make part toners for its own electrophotography-based STEP system. The partnership between the two companies seeks to reach beyond materials and components into manufacturing, service and support.
“We are very encouraged by the opportunity to expand our electrophotographic platform capabilities outside of 2D imaging to the 3D printing or additive manufacturing sector,” commented John O’Grady, President of the Print Systems Division at Kodak. “Having worked closely with the talented staff of engineers working on the STEP technology for several years, we are confident Evolve will help change the way the organizations approach production of plastic parts for manufacturing.”
The STEP process is expected to reach speeds and quality comparable to traditional manufacturing techniques, and is being developed as a complementary manufacturing solution to these processes. To date, there have been some notable progressions with the technology, as Evolve deployed its first STEP system through an alpha development program this past September. The alpha development partner is reportedly utilizing both Kodak and Evolve resources. Evolve Additive also recently raised $19 million through an equity investment round led by the LEGO Brand Group.
“Creating a strong technology partnership with Kodak is an important element in the development of STEP,” added Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions. “The selection of the Kodak systems and technology for STEP allows us to deliver to the market a highly-reliable solution, based on a proven engine that is recognized as one of the most productive printing systems in world. By working with Kodak, we have a technology and a collaborative relationship that will not only allow us to get to market quickly, but we will have the throughput expansion to grow as we push STEP capabilities into the future.”