USA-based NXT Factory has announced completion of the development phase for its proprietary quantum laser sintering (QLS) technology.
NXT Factory is employing QLS in the first of its industrial-grade 3D printing system—the NXF1. The company believes the technology has the potential to replace injection molding, affording a means of creating high-quality thermoplastic parts more quickly and cost-effectively.
The key differentiator between QLS and traditional laser sintering (LS) technologies is a light engine that converts a single 1070 nm laser beam into several million micro beams at no loss of power, covering the entire build area and making it possible to scale but not compromise on accuracy or print speed.
How it works is that the laser beam travels through beam shaping optics that prepare it for entry into a high-power projector. Once inside the projector, the beam is multiplexed and all available power is harnessed into a full imaged slice of an entire print layer cross-section, all in under one second.
Jakub Graczyk and Tomasz Cieszyński—former chief executive officer (CEO) and former chief technology officer (CTO) of Sand Made, respectively—joined Avi Reichental, former president and CEO of 3D Systems, in establishing NXT Factory two years ago. They initially intended to create a low-cost LS printer but decided that too many of these existed already. Inspired by HP's Jet Fusion 3D printers, they instead set about developing a factory-floor ready, high-speed thermoplastic printer in a new LS technology category.
According to NXT Factory’s founders, the obstacle preventing today’s thermoplastic 3D printing technologies achieving the holy grail of displacing injection molding is ‘their inability to deliver scalable energy and precise imagery to the material fast enough’. SLS printers’ speed and part costs are considered ideal for prototyping but unfavorable for production; and although fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers’ part costs are closer to injection molding, they are slower than SLS printers.
The company’s light engine enables a reduction in exposure time and exponential increase in energy delivered to the material each second. It is therefore believed that QLS is set to lead the way in transitioning additive manufacturing (AM) to the production floor at the required scale, speed and quality.
NXT Factory is said to be making every endeavor to ensure that the NXF1 exploits fundamental Industry 4.0 capabilities, such as big data, cloud computing and sensoring. The company is using deep-learning algorithms to make real-time predictive and prescriptive choices that optimize the build performance and deliver the best available parameters.
Avi Reichental, founder and executive chairman of NXT Factory, said: “We challenged ourselves with the question, can you really take the single laser beam and shape it into an entire cross section of a layer? Or simply put, can you sinter an entire x, y slice at once really fast? […] We conducted tireless bench research and carried out dozens of experiments. Today, after eighteen months of bootstrapped research and development, we concluded that not only is it achievable but our technology has the potential to de-bottleneck energy delivery in the [laser sintering] process with truly open-ended potential to scale into mass production.’
Tomasz Cieszyński, founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of NXT Factory, added: ‘We have built an actual prototype and it gives us confidence, that it’s not just a theoretical engineering exercise, we have actually proved it, again and again.’
NXT Factory’s founders are available and looking to form strategic partnerships at formnext powered by tct, taking place in Frankfurt, Germany, on 14-17 November, 2017.