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Frank Marangell, President and CEO, Rize
The additive-manufacturing industry is still growing according to Frank Marangell. He talks to Machine Design about his plans to address the limitations in 3D printing.
What is your background?
I am President and CEO of Rize. I’ve been in the 3D printing industry for about 10 years. In 2013, I was the Vice President of Global Field Operations for Stratasys, responsible for the worldwide materials business as well as the company’s expansion into dental and medical 3D printing. Prior to the merger of Stratasys and Objet, I was president of Objet’s North American subsidiary. I actually started Objet USA from my home in 2006 and grew it to an $85 million business in 2012. Prior to Objet, I held various senior management positions, including U.S. President of Elbit Vision Systems and VP of Sales for Orbotech’s PCB division based in the U.S. and Europe.
The Rize team members all have experience in 3D printing. How did you all come together to form Rize?
Our founder, Eugene Giller, had left Z Corporation and was inventing augmented polymer deposition (APD) technology, which involves the simultaneous extrusion of thermoplastic and jetting of inks, out of his home. He recruited Tom Davidson, our VP of Engineering who worked with Eugene at Z Corp., to make his invention a reality. At about the same time, I left Stratasys and was exploring new opportunities. I heard about what Eugene and Tom were developing, recognized the enormous benefit and resulting market potential, and said “Sign me up.”
Why now? What is the state of 3D printing today and where is it headed?
While the consumer/hobby 3D-printing market has stumbled over the last few years—due to hype, unmet expectations, and stagnating growth of incumbent industry leaders—analysts project massive growth in commercial/industrial 3D printing. In fact, according to Wohlers Associates Inc., the professional 3D-printing market grew five times over the last six years. It is projected to continue with four times growth over the next five years, from $6 billion to $26+ billion by 2021.
Despite the continued evolution of 3D printing, the technology’s promise has been greater than its real-world use. This is especially the case for engineers and product designers—people who depend on prototyping to help fuel innovation—and for those who see the potential for on-the-go production parts. Until this point, they’ve had to make sacrifices throughout the process, from file to usable part. Whether for speed or ease of use, safety or strength, cleanliness or software complexity, they simply couldn’t have it all, regardless of whether they used a desktop or large, expensive machine operating in a lab.
I compare 3D printing to the change that occurred with 2D document printing, where the printer lab used to be separate from the office, but now it’s possible to have 2D printers on your desktop. That’s where I see the opportunity… putting the system directly on an engineer’s or designer’s desk instead of in a lab will help streamline the printing process. This type of thinking could increase efficiency and have a system at the chairside of a dentist to make dental drill guides or orthodontic alignment tools.
Additive-manufacturing labs will benefit from more desktop systems, too, because this type of technology will help alleviate its workload, increasing the lab’s productivity.
What type of technology will be successful in this evolution?
Technology that eliminates the sacrifices I mentioned earlier will be well-positioned for success. The ultimate goal is the ability to 3D-print injection-molded-quality parts on demand, quickly, easily, affordably, and safely. That means 3D-printing parts with the same part strength, surface finish, resolution, material properties, and color as injection-molded parts. 3D printers need to be robust, reliable systems to provide faster total 3D-printing turnaround time and ease-of-use, as well as the ability to exist as comfortably and safely in the office as they can in additive-manufacturing lab environments.
An important feature for commercial-class desktop 3D-printing platforms is the ability to change materials. While some printers today can do this layer by layer, users should be able to change materials at the voxel or 3D-pixel level. This will enable injection-molded-like parts, as well as a number of other capabilities and applications, including the elimination of post-processing. Eliminating post-processing will enable parts to be delivered in less than half the time it takes today. That, in addition to cutting out harmful chemicals and toxic emissions, will provide efficiency of location and confidence in part reliability.
These advances will unlock the technology for new markets, and drive the next wave of creativity and advancement in product design and manufacturing.
What should engineers know about using 3D printing for prototyping?
Today’s post-processing methods leave 3D-printed parts sitting for hours, if not days, before they can be evaluated, tested, improved, and used. Parts available for immediate use after printing right in the office can reduce the time between iterations and testing, and help reduce limitations. Printing in the office without post-processing can update a prototype for a critical meeting tomorrow morning, or send ideas to a desktop overseas for a same-day evaluation.
Another important factor is the software. Being user-friendly is an obvious buzzword, but it is imperative. Perhaps less obvious is to find software that allows engineers to print imperfect files. This can help expedite interactions.
What should engineers know about using 3D printing for production parts?
Engineers can print custom tools, fixtures, or jigs on demand. This could save hours if no post-processing is necessary, and potentially weeks versus traditional manufacturing methods. No matter what product is manufactured, tools, fixtures, and jigs are the glue that holds the manufacturing process together. To avoid costly production delays and defects, new and customized tools must be introduced as they’re needed. To do this, engineers need stronger, engineering-grade thermoplastics for parts.
However, strength isn’t the only property to consider. The melting temperatures and viscosity will affect how fast and easy the material is able to print. These properties, and more, will allow tooling to be stronger and print faster to start production faster, reduce defects that occur during manufacturing, increase accuracy, cut costs, and streamline manufacturing. This means 3D printing must produce short-run and customized tooling, fixtures, and jigs on demand, even before a sample or prototype product is available.
Most 3D-printing technologies are unable to create parts that are as strong in the Z axis, due to the weak bonds between each layer of material. In fact, typical fused-deposition-modeling (FDM) parts lose around 40% of their Z strength. Engineers should look for processes and materials that retain much of their isotropic properties, which means that the material have almost the same strength in all directions (X, Y, and Z).
What material capabilities are possible with 3D printing?
With the ability of some 3D-printing technologies to jet a specific additive at each voxel (3D pixel) of extruded thermoplastic, the characteristic of the material can vary. It’s possible, for example, to bind thermoplastic filament with functional inks. With the ability to change materials anywhere in the 3D space, it is possible to jet a release ink between the part and its support for easy support removal, or 3D-print detailed text, images, and full color onto parts.
You can imagine other functional materials as well, such as conductive, thermo-insulating, and thermo-conducting inks. You can create active smart sensors in order to have a 3D-printed part that actually has active materials in it. You can even create a battery within a 3D-printed structure.
One specific application that comes to mind is the ability to change the mechanical properties of the plastic by coating it with a flexible additive to produce comfortable but effective hearing aids. Many of the world’s hearing aids today are 3D-printed with stereolithography (SLA) technology, which limits the structure of the device to one material property. With multi-jetting, it is possible to 3D-print hearing aids with a rigid interior channel for sound to bounce through the hearing canal, while the exterior is coated in soft, flexible material for a comfortable fit within a wearer’s ear.
Are there specific industries that will benefit most from 3D-printing technology?
Transforming how products are designed, 3D printing spans a broad range of industries for those who see the potential for on-the-go production parts, and those who produce a limited quantity of customized end-use parts. For many industries, 3D printing hasn’t been viable or optimized because it wasn’t robust enough for the application. It wasn’t safe enough to use on the desktop in an office largely because the time and hassles of post-processing severely limited its use and effectiveness.
A completely hassle-free, office-safe, and affordable commercial-quality 3D-printing solution that produces a usable injection-molded-quality part faster than any other method will be ideal for a wide variety of commercial applications across a growing number of markets to improve designs.
Can you tell us what’s ahead for Rize and the APD platform?
We are entering beta in September with some well-known companies, including Reebok. Gary Rabinovitz, Additive Manufacturing Lab Manager at Reebok, first saw our technology at the Additive Manufacturing User Group (AMUG) meeting last year. Gary recently visited Rize to see our facility, the printer, and meet the team. He said, “We run our 3D printers 24/7 to create the parts central to Reebok’s innovation, and, unfortunately, post-processing has been a necessary but laborious and time-consuming process. An easy-to-use, zero post-processing 3D printer would dramatically improve workflow, enabling us to deliver parts as much as 50% faster while reducing the cost of labor, materials, and equipment."