Among the AM industry’s key hardware manufacturers is Raise3D, a global company founded through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015. Initially focused on bringing to market 3D printers for the prosumer market, the company has in recent years increasingly turned its focus to industrial applications. Recently, this strategy has been bolstered significantly with Raise3D’s launch of new and improved extrusion-based systems: the Pro3 Series for rapid prototyping and production applications and the E2CF, a robust carbon fiber 3D printer.
Raise3D recently showcased these solutions and others (including the brand new RMF500 system for large-format carbon fiber 3D printing) at Formnext 2021. In the lead up to the event, we had the opportunity to learn more about the company’s newest products and how they fit into Raise3D’s ongoing mission to enable flexible manufacturing.
Flexible manufacturing solutions
Raise3D CEO Edward Feng elaborated on the idea of flexible manufacturing, emphasizing that the concept is really at the foundation of what Raise3D aims to achieve with its products and solutions.
“In early 2018, we associated a deep internal strategic analysis to the launch of our Pro2 Series,” he says. “We were confident of our technological knowledge and our capacity regarding AM, but we needed to find the best way to translate that capacity into value. So we asked ourselves ‘what should the key driver for AM adoption be?’. Our answer was ‘Flexible Manufacturing.’
“We live in a world of volatility, with an increasingly rapid change in pace. What we could take for granted yesterday may not hold today. The time when companies could base their businesses on long-term plans and bear high-fixed costs is now gone. More and more, companies and society in general need to seek flexibility to ensure a constant capacity to adapt to this changing context.”
This notion, of course, has become even more apparent and urgent after seeing the devastating effects of manufacturing and supply chain weaknesses during the pandemic. In 2020, we saw how AM could step up and fill the gap. As a result, many outside of the AM industry are also now seeing how the technology can bolster supply chains by providing a more agile production chain.
Robust hardware for industrial applications
There are several pieces in the flexible manufacturing puzzle, including materials, software and hardware. Raise3D is addressing all three but its particular speciality is 3D printing hardware. Its most recent AM machines, the Pro3 Series and E2CF, equip end-users with the tools they need to realize reliable, high-quality agile production workflows for polymer and composite parts.
“Both the Pro3 Series and the E2CF are ideal for creating complex, industrial-quality pieces in a short period of time and at an affordable price,” says Feng. “Such capabilities can instantly benefit several application areas, including functional prototyping, jigs and fixtures and small batch production, without the usual limitations felt within industries. The Pro3 Series delivers a remarkably large build space, while the E2CF specializes in fiber-reinforced thermoplastic filament printing, enabling it to make lightweight but extremely strong end-use parts.”
These characteristics, as well as other features that we’ll look at in more detail below, offer benefits to manufacturers in many industries, including automotive, aerospace and engineering. As Feng points out, practically any industry that values large-scale production capabilities, efficient production and good environmental resistance will achieve a good ROI with its new machines.
The Pro3 Series
Now let’s take a closer look at Raise3D’s latest solutions, starting with the Pro3 Series. The 3D printer series, which follows the company’s Pro2 Series launched in 2018, includes two dual-extrusion 3D printers: the Pro3, which has a build volume of 300 x 300 x 300 mm and the Pro3 Plus, which has a larger capacity of 300 x 300 x 605 mm. The 3D printer models retain many of the Pro2 Series’ award-winning features while integrating improvements, such as better usability, efficiency and repeatability.
“While the Pro3 Series inherits the outstanding large-format performance and reliable quality of the Pro2 Series, it introduces new unique features that set it apart,” Feng explains. “These include the EVE virtual assistant, which helps users if an issue arises and keeps track of maintenance schedules so users have the peace of mind of not having to do that themselves.” In short, EVE is there to enhance the user-friendliness of the new platform.
Other notable enhancements include interchangeable hotends, which reduce machine downtime and facilitate switching between abrasive and non-abrasive filaments; auto bed leveling, which streamlines calibration and increases repeatability; and an air flow manager, which improves heat dissipation and air circulation within the print chamber resulting in greater print consistency.
Finally, the large-format Pro3 Series is compatible with a broad range of materials. As Raise3D succinctly puts it: it is “capable of printing any filament that extrudes up to 300℃, including PLA, ABS, HIPS, PC, TPU, TPE, NYLON, PETG, ASA, PP, PVA, Glass Fiber Infused, Carbon Fiber Infused, Metal Fill and Wood Fill and more.” Raise3D does offer a portfolio of its own filaments, though the system is also qualified to print third part filaments through the Open Filament Program.
Unveiled in August 2021, the E2CF is based on Raise3D’s E2 3D printer but has been engineered to print fiber-reinforced materials. The system is specifically optimized for carbon fiber 3D printing, opening up applications for high-strength, lightweight parts in automotive, aerospace, healthcare and beyond.
One of the biggest challenges associated with carbon fiber 3D printing is the abrasiveness of the filaments. Raise3D thus set out to tackle this challenge from multiple directions. “When running a 3D printer with CF materials, nozzle abrasion is always the key issue,” Feng says. “Concurrently, our material scientists wanted to have better filament performance when compared to other CF reinforced materials on the market, so the length of our chopped fiber within the filament is about 20% to 30% longer.
“This endows it with better mechanical performance, but the estimated lifetime for the nozzle is over 50% shorter. So finding a durable extrusion path is the first problem we solved, and thanks to the hard work of our engineers, we adapted the most advanced silicon carbide nozzles for the system in order to give customers a longer lifetime for their nozzles when using CF filaments.”
Another notable challenge of printing fiber reinforced materials that Raise3D has solved with its E2CF is humidity control. “Since nylon-type polymer is used as the main base resin for the reinforced material, this type of polymer can easily absorb moisture,” the CEO states. “The problem with having moist filament is not only the risk of a failed print; even if the print is successful, the mechanical performance would be very different from data sheet specifications.”
While Raise3D recognized that using hot air to dry filament is the best solution for humidity control, the cost and noise associated with this method make it unsuitable for office settings. “After validating different approaches, our final answer was to use a sealed dry box. This allows the filament to remain with a humidity of under 20% for over two weeks with relative 100% humidity outside,” Feng adds.
In terms of applications for the E2CF, they are practically limitless. But Feng highlights a particular group of applications he and the Raise3D team are excited about for the new printer: rapid prototyping and small batch production for products with electronics. “The advanced mechanical properties and the electrostatic discharge (ESD) property of carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic can satisfy the requirements of an end-use part. It can help enterprises transition smoothly between these two phases. For example, we are able to produce most of our prototype parts using the E2CF, gradually reducing the supply chain cycle. We even build our EVT batch printer parts with the help of the E2CF.”
Building an industrial AM portfolio
Raise3D’s new product releases further reinforce the company’s position within the industrial desktop 3D printing segment, providing robust and reliable solutions for users seeking to streamline product development, prototyping and small batch production.
These two systems are also accompanied by other industrial-grade 3D printing solutions, including the soon-to-be-launched RMF500, an industrial carbon fiber 3D printing system with a large build volume of 500 x 500 x 500 mm, and the Raise3D MetalFuse solution, comprising the desktop Forge1 3D printer, the D200-E catalytic debinding furnace and the S200-C sintering furnace. The metal system is compatible with Ultrafuse Metal Filaments from BASF Forward AM. Of course, the hardware alone can’t establish flexible manufacturing workflows: it is also supported by a comprehensive ecosystem consisting of materials, ideaMaker slicing software (with a metal version for the MetalFuse) and the RaiseCloud print management platform.
Feng concludes: “The Pro3 Series and the E2CF are aimed at cementing Raise3D’s place as a provider of state-of-the-art, industrial-grade desktop 3D printers, while always staying at the forefront of usability and the highest safety standards.”
The Pro3 Series and E2CF pre-sales are now open with first deliveries scheduled for December. The price of Pro3 is €4,749 in Europe and $5,249 abroad, while the Pro3 Plus is retailing for €6,249 and $7,249. Prices for the E2CF 3D printer are €3,999 in Europe and $4,499 abroad.
This article was published in collaboration with Raise3D.