Since its invention in the 1980s, stereolithographic 3D printing has worked one way: A light cures liquid resin layer by layer, gradually building a 3D object. A key step is that the hardened object pulls away from the resin between each layer before the next one can be formed.
That is until Orange Maker, a 3D printing startup that recently came out of stealth, decided to tweak the system for faster and more reliable printing. The company plans to debut its first 3D printer, the Helios One, in 2015, and it works a little bit differently than other SLA machines.
“There is so much opportunity to innovate,” said Doug Farber, who co-founded the company with Kurt Dudley. “The stuff that people are using now and getting excited about, that’s 30 years old. There are so many ways that these systems are going to be improved upon.”
Farber and lead engineer Chris Marion told me that the Helios One has two major differences from other SLA printers. First, it prints continuously instead of breaking from the resin between each layer. It does that by constantly rotating its build platform, creating a spiral.
“Although the continuous building process with rotating build is the most obvious observable difference, this is not simply a rotating build platform on a standard SLA system,” Farber said. “That combination would not work. We overcame great engineering challenges in hardware and software development to be able to physically make this system work.”
To complete the system, they used a revamped light source. Most 3D printers use a laser or a projected image to cure the resin with UV light. Farber and Marion wouldn’t say exactly how the light source works, except that it is different and lessens the chance of a failed print.
“It’s a unique light system that we’ve developed that has allowed us to introduce light in a continuous fashion,” Marion said.
Orange Maker will spend the next six months preparing for manufacturing and project testing. The Helios One will target engineers, architects and other moderately experienced 3D printer users. Farber said the company will expand to consumers in the future, and there is plenty more room to innovate.
“We’re ferociously excited about the future of it,” Farber said. “We are so passionate about the way people can use this. In a lot of ways we want to inspire people to want to create.”