Xolo Introduces First Industrial Volumetric 3D Printer – 3DPrint.com

The Berlin startup xolo is in the process of launching xube, the first commercially available volumetric 3D printer – when it goes into operation. The xube can currently be reserved for purchase, but is only intended as a test bench machine to explore the possibilities of volumetric 3D printing or “xolography” as the company calls it.

The xube 3D printer from xolo. Image courtesy of xolo.

While we have looked at volumetric 3D printing in the past, all efforts so far have been in the research phase. What makes the technology so fascinating and unique is the fact that it is theoretically capable of making objects in just a few seconds. To do this, the photopolymer resin is cured in a polymer container from several angles and cured all at once to a solid part, in contrast to layer by layer. The exact method behind the volumetric technique depends on who is performing it.

Xolography extends other methods of volumetric 3D printing, such as those developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), with the introduction of a laser beam. While LLNL’s computed axial lithography (CAL) is based on a projector to cast a 3D model as a film on a rotating tub made of photopolymer resin, Xolo directs a 405 nm diode laser through lenses to create “a thin, homogeneous sheet of light” . Similar to the LLNL method, a projector then throws a video with sectional images that represent each level of a 3D model onto the light sheet. Meanwhile, the resin container is moved away from the projector while the light sheet activates a thin layer of photoinitiators in the resin, which absorb the projector rays and polymerize them into a solid object.

“Rendered representation of the pressure zone and the associated photo-induced reaction pathways of the DCPI.” Image courtesy of nature.

The inventors of xolography describe the process this way in a recent article for Nature:

[W]e [use] two intersecting beams of light of different wavelengths to consolidate localized areas. This approach, known as two-color photopolymerization (DCP), is mediated by a two-color photoinitiator added to the resin that is activated by a first wavelength while initiating absorption of the second wavelength either (1) or (2). inhibits photopolymerization.

The key to the process is the use of a two-tone photoinitiator (DCPI) that absorbs light within the first wavelength of 375 nm and remains transparent in the visible range. Photo switching is then carried out and the second wavelength from the projector (450 to 700 nm) excites a component of the photoinitiator which, in combination with the co-initiator, accelerates the polymerization process. Any material that is not hit by the visible light from the projector will return to its original, non-activated state.

“3D models (a, d, g, j) and photographs of printed objects before (b, e, h, k) and after (c, f, i, l) post-processing. a – c, ball cage with free floating ball, 8 mm diameter. d – f, encapsulated flow cell with rotating wheels, 9 mm wide. g – i, Aspherical Powell lens for generating laser lines, 9 mm wide, as shown in the right inset. j – l, anatomical model derived from the Manix CTA dataset, 30 mm wide. “Image courtesy of Nature.

Volumetric 3D printing is comparable to the vat photopolymerization technology commonly used today, such as stereolithography (SLA) or digital light processing (DLP), in which resin is cured point by point with SLA or layer by layer with DLP. In return, it is possible to produce complete objects in even shorter periods of time than with continuous DLP, which is currently the latest in vat photopolymerization technology from companies such as Carbon, EnvisionTEC, 3D Systems, Carima or Azul 3D.

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#xolography isn’t just print speed, it works on the other end of the spectrum in terms of resin viscosity compared to SLA and DLP. https://t.co/Gt47WiiTh9 pic.twitter.com/Tf4QPuCg1g

– xolo (@ xolo3D) December 26, 2020

Xolography can print at 104-105 speeds, which is faster than two-photon photopolymerization, on the same scale as CAL. The authors of xolo’s Nature article believe that the speed will increase as laser sources and photoinitiators with faster thermal relaxation are studied. The build volume of the xube is 50 x 70 x 90 mm (1.97 “x 2.76” x 3.54 “), and the company claims it can produce objects in two seconds to five minutes with a maximum resolution of 30 microns XY axes and 50 microns in the Z print.

A 3D model 3D printed with xolography. Image courtesy of xolo.

According to SmarTech’s fourth annual market study of markets for manufacturing polymer additives, volumetric 3D printing is expected to have an impact on the larger polymer 3D printing industry. Of course, it will only represent a small fraction of the $ 55 billion polymer 3D printing expected to be generated by the end of the decade, but xolo is the earliest iteration of a technology that could disrupt the industry as a whole.