Italian 3D printer manufacturer Robot Factory Srl has launched its latest product, Sliding-3D, a new configuration that integrates an “infinite” printing surface for continuous small series manufacturing runs or the production of very long objects.
One of the challenges currently facing extrusion-based 3D printing is a lack of automation. In other words, human intervention is still usually required at several points in the production process—such as part removal—which inhibits the technology’s capacity for multiple production runs. Robot Factory is one company working to overcome this particular limitation and it has presented something of a solution.
Continuous production & infinite length
Though not a completely original approach (readers might remember the hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for the Blackbelt 3D printer), Robot Factory has developed a 3D printer that uses a moving belt instead of a static build plate. This configuration enables users to print multiple parts in a series, as the finished part is carried to the end of the conveyor belt and rolls off the belt and a new print commences.
The company says users can place a basket or container at the front of the conveyor belt to catch finished parts, so they do not have to be present to carefully detach the parts from the build plate. For managing print jobs, Robot Factory is also offering an External Pad that enables users to to manage their print jobs without a computer connection.
Continuous small series production isn’t the only advantage that Sliding-3D offers, however. Thanks to its moving built surface, Sliding-3D has a build volume of 410 mm x 380 mm x ∞ allowing for the production of infinitely long parts.
“Initially, various 3D printing solutions were examined,” said Andrea Martini, Ceo and Founder of Robot Factory. “Some of these would overcome the dimensional limit of the printing plan, some others would to facilitate the ‘continuous’ printing of one or more pieces without the continuous supervision of the operator, but the solution adopted on Sliding-3D has allowed to engineer a product that effectively overcomes these limitations, and to guarantee reduced production times and greater efficiency.”
Printing at a 45° angle
Another notable feature of Robot Factory’s newest 3D printer is the angle of the printing surface. Rather that opt for a even and flat surface, Sliding-3D’s build surface is set at a 45° inclination which reportedly offers a number of printing benefits. For one, the inclination reduces the amount of supports needed in a print. Robot Factory explains: “In design phase you can exploit the self-supporting corner of the 3D model (this process saves buckets of cash and time!).”
The angle of the print also offers better rigidity and mechanical properties for parts because the inclination helps to increase the internal forces between the layers of materials. Finally, the company says it can improve the overall surface quality of a print because problems encountered when using traditional, fixed print platforms do not come into play.
The moving print platform is made of a composite material and reportedly does not require any preparation before printing. In other words, users do not have to spray or coat the print surface before printing and are still promised good bed adhesion. The material, adds Robot Factory, “prevents the possible detachment of the model during the printing phase and favours the detachment at the end of the printing phase.” The bed is also heated, which improves overall print quality.
In terms of hardware, Sliding-3D is made from an aluminum structural frame, stainless steel and prismatic guides with double recirculating balls. The 3D printer also comes with the option to buy a protective cover made from aluminum profiles and transparent polycarbonate that fits over the machine and provides a constant build envelope temperature. Finally, Sliding-3D has a built-in extruder capable of reaching 280 °C, making it compatible with materials such as PLA, Nylon, PETG, HIPS, Fiberglass, Carbon fiber and more.
Robot Factory recommends using its Sliding-3D machine in combination with the Simplify3D software suite, as it supplies the axis translation program that makes managing the inclination of the print bed easy for users.