Evolve Additive Solutions, Inc. announced this week that it has shipped its first STEP additive manufacturing system to an undisclosed client, described only as “a large manufacturing company with an iconic brand name and the undisputed leader in their field.” The AM system, now in its Alpha development stage, will be further refined and adapted to a manufacturing setting with the help of the strategic partner.
Evolve Additive Solutions was formed earlier this year as a spin-off of Stratasys to develop and launch its Selective Toner Electrophotographic Process (STEP) technology. The proprietary process, now approaching commercial viability, is expected to offer new manufacturing and business model opportunities by reducing time to market and increasing design capabilities.
“As the co-inventor of STEP and being the executive in charge of development over the last nine years, it’s not only exciting but critical that we get the technology into a customer’s hands for development of real-world applications,” commented Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions. “The Alpha stage is key to our progress and provides the necessary feedback to R&D to get to commercialization.”
Indeed, the deployment of its STEP system to its first customer is a key landmark in bringing the AM technology closer to a market launch. Evolve Additive Solutions and its partner will work closely to refine and hone the technology, taking it out of the laboratory setting and adapting it for a manufacturing environment.
STEP itself has been developed specifically for factory-floor integration and is built to enable volume manufacturing of parts made from production-grade thermoplastics. The scalable additive manufacturing solution is based on Evolve Additive Solutions’ proprietary electrophotography technique and has applications in a number of sectors, including automotive, consumer goods, industrial and medical.
“Although we cannot disclose the name of our strategic partner for our first Alpha system, we can say with extreme confidence that it will be put through the paces to ensure STEP is ready to perform in a manufacturing environment,” saif Bruce Bradshaw, Chief Business and Marketing Officer for Evolve. “The Alpha program tees up the organization for the next phase in the process which is Beta.”
Evolve Additive Industries is already in discussions with various companies across a range of industries and that many of them are keenly interested in participating in its forthcoming STEP Beta program. The company says it is looking for partners that are seeking to exploit polymer-based AM for volume production.
Chillscyzn elaborated: “We believe STEP is unique in many aspects, such as material offering, automation capabilities, part quality and we are looking for Beta customers whose management are as passionate as we are about the future of manufacturing.”
Evolve’s process relies on 3D imaging technology and the company’s proprietary method to align incoming layers. The STEP process also integrates an advanced bonding process which results in parts that are fully dense and which demonstrate isotropic properties that meet or exceed injection molded parts.
Other features which have made the STEP process of particular interest to manufacturing companies are its compatibility with engineering-grade thermoplastics, including amorphous and semi-crystalline materials; multi-material and multi-colour printing capabilities; and lower cost per parts than traditional manufacturing for short to medium production rungs.