SBIR Phase I: High Speed Electrophotographic 3D Printing System

Period of Performance: 01/01/2015 - 06/30/2015

$150K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Xactiv, Inc.
71 Perinton Parkway
Fairport, NY 14450
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is that it will propel additive manufacturing into customized healthcare products, reduce environmental impact for manufacturing, and increase efficiency of supply chain fulfillment. This will in turn result in the creation of lower cost for unique and small batch parts thereby reducing overall cost in these critical areas. Presently very slow print speed is a universal concern for 3D printing processes. By substantially speeding up the 3D process and reducing the amount of waste, the economic break-even point, where the cost of 3D printing equals the cost of plastic injection molding, is reached for a much smaller number of parts. The system cost is also expected to be similar or less than the system cost of present 3D systems while the materials cost is comparable to present methods since very similar powdered thermoplastic materials are used. The extremely high process speeds achievable with this innovative technology, coupled with the fact that this approach will work with full color thermoplastic materials, makes this a potential game changer for additive manufacturing. This project uses the technology found in office laser printers. This technology has never been used before in rapid prototyping systems. There have been previous attempts to harness laser printing technology but they have all found it difficult to make parts thicker than about a quarter inch. This project is a radical innovation in the application of the technology in that it separates two critical functions, transfer and consolidation, that have always been combined in previous attempts to use the technology. This innovation enables much greater control of both functions in a way that resolves the problem of building thicker parts by making the process look much more like that used in a laser printer. The innovation also allows the 3D printing of parts to be up to five times faster than any existing method. The anticipated technical result is to build multi-layer blocks of material quickly and uniformly layer by layer. The process does also include the capability to support parts during build. This is accomplished by using a second laser printer engine that creates an image of support powder that is transferred with the build layer image. The support layer can be dissolved away after the part is built.