The name “Fuse1” seems to imply that a fusion process will be involved in the new hardware that Formlabs will be presenting at the upcoming Digital Factory event to be held at the MIT Media Lab next June 5th. This would exclude an upgraded and possible larger SLA system as it would also exclude an updated “Farm” network system.
1 – A Sinterizer
Following this train of thought the number of possibilities is reduced to 2, perhaps 3. Most Formlabs users (and this was our first thought as well) seem to think it may be a low cost, desktop SLS system. Several hints point to this options. It would enable Formlabs to be present on the market with more than one technology (which is strategically important in a rapidly evolving market such as 3D printing). The technology is now sufficiently patent-free and there are other systems available which vary in price from $5,000 to $30,000, which may be within the realm of interest for Formlabs’ target as well. Finally, the machine partially visible in placeholder page does look like a low cost sinterizer. On the other hand launching and pushing a low-cost SLS system is no light task and it would seem that this launch is a bit too soft for something as potentially disruptive as low cost SLS from Formlabs.
2 – A Multijet fusion – polyjet hybrid
Rize has shown that it is possible to integrate inkjetting/material jetting (polyjet-like) technology into FDM, much like HP has shown that it is possible to add inkjetting/material jetting technology to a powder bed fusion process. In recent times Formlabs has been targeting polyjet users – especially in the dental segment – so the new system could possibly offer a new take on inkjet/material jetting technology. It would make sense from a business point of view however polyjet is an even more complex technology to build than SLS is and it would make sense for Formlabs to do create a much larger launch campaign if it were to introduce such a system.
3 – A Furnace for the new Form X Ceramics Resin
After giving this a lot of thought this would seem like the most likely scenario. The main reason is that Formlabs has introduced a ceramic based resin as part of its Form X project for experimental applications. High resolutions, high performance ceramics stereolithography is a hot topic, with Lithoz, 3DCeram, Admatec and Prodways working on its and other smaller companies such as Tethon3D also showing that it can be achieved at affordable costs. While metal alloys and high performances polymers are also trending, ceramics is one of the most interesting materials for both medical and aerospace applications. In this scenario the Fuse 1 would be a furnace to fuse the “green” 3D printed ceramics objects. Desktop Metal, a company’s whose go-to-market approach is very similar to Formlabs’ (and Carbon’s), recently demonstrated that a furnace can be a studio or even desktop product and Formlabs itself has recently been focusing on materials and hardware accessories to complete the production process rather than new systems and new technologies. Only time will tell but our money is on the bet that Form X marks the spot.