Australian company takes on 3D printing’s need for speed – an interview with Gizmo 3D Printers

A crop of new companies are trying to address the issues around 3D printing’s slow speeds, which have – as have other things – all but ruled out mass production applications. One of these start-ups is Brisbane’s Gizmo 3D Printers. Brent Balinski spoke to the company’s founder, Kobus du Toit, to find out more.

Answering the need for speed?

Last month featured a 3D printing announcement that – like many before it – had excitable headline writers predicting that manufacturing would be changed, maybe even revolutionised.

University of North Carolina chemistry Professor Joseph DeSimone, leading the venture Carbon 3D, unveiled a ground-breaking solution that offered speed improvements of 25 – 100 times over other methods of additive manufacturing with resins.

Using light to cure polymer and oxygen to inhibit curing within a “dead zone”, Carbon 3D’s CLIP (Continuous Light Interface Production) process was being touted as the first true 3D printing process. CLIP rapidly “grew” objects, bottom-up, out of a resin pool, in a way that way inspired by the T-1000 robot in Terminator 2.

Other 3D printing was –DeSimone told a TED audience as a ball made out of geodesic structures was printed in under seven minutes – “actually 2D printing over and over again”.

Frequently referred to as a “disruptive” development in 3D printing, reporting on Carbon 3D was generally enthusiastic.

However, Brisbane inventor Kobus du Toit wasn't convinced when he saw DeSimone’s speech.

The CLIP method, which – like the three-decades-old method of stereolithography, uses light to cure a pool of resin – was also featured in a story in Science.

But there are issues among the hype that have been glossed over, believes du Toit.

“You’ll see in that video where they’re printing the Eiffel Tower, where they actually almost stop when they get to the flat surfaces,” he said.

“Unfortunately the video doesn't mention that with continuous printing, come problems with flat surfaces. Maybe you could design your objects so they never have flat surfaces.”

There’s no way yet around the difficulties involved in printing quickly with Digital Light Projection – the resin still needs time to properly coat the build plate. Also, sacrificing accuracy for speed is an issue that most people in the 3D printing industry are aware of.

Top-down made sense

A computer programmer (since he was 11) by trade, du Toit had only heard of 3D printing three years ago.

He threw himself into 3D printing soon after, armed with a Student version of SolidWorks and a MakerBot Replicator 2X.

He found the machine frustrating and troublesome, tinkering around, making an improved extruder, and then coming up with his own machines, which he plans to release later this year.

“I saw a lot of people complaining about the bottom-up printers, and I didn’t want any more issues,” he explained of internet forum conversations he’d had.

Using his gut and his observations, he came to see top-down, DLP printing as more reliable than bottom-up fused deposition modelling options. It’s also become more affordable as cheaper resins become available.

“But nobody has [top-down machines], because they’re too scared of the cost of resin,” he said.

“At that time you had Formlabs resin and that was $200 or $300 a litre. And B9 resin was $200 or $300 a litre. And then I found Fun To Do resin [which Gizmo 3D is the Australian distributor of] and that’s $65 a litre.”

Dating back to the early 1980s, using light to cure liquid polymers is an invention credited to Chuck Hull, the founder of 3D Systems.

Along with other new start-ups –such as Carbon 3D and China’s Prismlab– Gizmo 3D aim to shake up the industry with super-fast DLP printing.

These companies and others, in their own ways, are aiming to overcome one of the things that has made 3D printing more relevant from prototyping than manufacturing: build times that are usually measured in hours rather than minutes.

A “Super-secret” add-on?

Du Toit calls his particular, top-down method “continuous 3D printing” or “animated printing”. It involves overriding the “dipping” DLP printers use to ensure an appropriate coating of resin on the build plate.

Only appropriate for thin walls in parts, it has similarities with the CLIP method unveiled last month.

What he has been able to create is nearly finished, and has the interest of “one of the big resellers of 3D printers in the world at the moment”, said du Toit, who recently closed beta orders for the Gizi range.

Gizmo has also been of interest to numerous 3D printing news sites, following du Toit’s interview with 3dprinting.com

“It’s taken me two years and there’s over 130 individual, separate components in the fully-fledged printer,” he explained.

“So it took me a long time to design 130 different components into the machine. And I’ve spent about $15,000 to $20,000 redesigning things and rebuilding things and now we are at the point in time where the software has a couple of nice features like override manager, like the hotspot compensation.”

Also among Gizmo’s technology is a “super-secret, super-speed” add-on, to be offered as a $2,500 optional extra when the range of three different printer models (see specs below) is launched.

Du Toit is in talks with attorneys about patenting the add-on, about which he is cagey. He will not say what it involves, but that he believes, with it, printing speeds of 1 cm per minute can be achieved.

If he can get a distribution deal, the entrepreneur has even bigger things planned for the future.

“I’m very driven,” he said.

“I look at what others are doing and then I try to do it better. Those guys that printed the ABS car – I hope to drive past you one day in my very own 3D printed car.”

Images: http://www.gizmo3dprinters.com.au/

 

GiziMate series

 

GiziMate

GiziMate HD

GiziMate HD+

Maximum build platform

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

Maximum build height

200mm

200mm

200mm

Maximum XY resolution

50 micron

35 micron

35 micron

Projector lumens

3000

3000

3500

Maximum Z resolution

1 micron

1 micron

1 micron

Price US$

$2500

$2900

$3200

GiziPro series

 

GiziPro

GiziPro HD

GiziPro HD+

 

Maximum build platform

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

Maximum build height

380

380

380

Maximum XY resolution

50 micron

35 micron

35 micron

Projector lumens

3000

3000

3500

Maximum Z resolution

1 micron

1 micron

1 micron

GiziMax series

 
 

GiziMax

GiziMax HD

GiziMax HD+

Maximum build platform

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

400mm x 250mm

Maximum build height

850mm

850mm

850mm

Maximum XY resolution

50 micron

35 micron

35 micron

Projector lumens

3000

3000

3500

Maximum Z resolution

1 micron

1 micron

1 micron