A small group of MIT students living in a frat house developed a fully-automated commercial 3D printer that now forms the basis of their business at New Valence Robot.
To use the printer, which is dubbed the NVPro, users electronically submit a file using any type of device, which then queues up in the NVCloud along with files from other users. When that file gets 3D printed, the print plate lowers and the blade moves to the plate, wedging itself underneath the part. The blade next moves across the plate and cuts away the part, which gets pushed into a bin. The blade retracts and the plate returns to its operational position. The next project or file gets started immediately, and the creator of the first file is notified their file is completed. Users can also monitor the printer as it works over a webcam.
The machine makes it quicker to print multiple files and drops the cost per part. The machine is also easy to use with only one control: a stop button in case of emergencies. The company says users need no training in 3D printing and can be creating unique objects in less than a day.
The machines have been in use by more than 100 commercial clients, including schools, since last April. They have been used to build 84,000 objects, in the process saving more than 165,000 hour of labor.
New Valence Robot is now working to improve security, getting the machines to work with a wider array of materials, and improving their human-robotic interfaces. The company also spun off a new company, Digital Alloys, which hopes to develop a low-cost printer capable of turning out multi-metal objects quickly. It’s already come up with a printed head that can crank out parts of up to 20 kilograms per day. The current industry-leading metal printer is limited to 2 kilograms of parts per day. The key to the Digital Alloy machine is that it uses thicker wires as the feedstock.