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Photosensitive materials driving printing technologies

Issue: December 2018

The ability to use light to create no longer belongs to just painters and photographers. Plastics processors can do it, too. Printing technologies that employ photosensitive resins power new 3-D printers that target low-volume production and prototyping applications.


3D Systems recently released two new 3-D printers, the Figure 4 Standalone and the Figure 4 Production.

3D Systems’ Figure 4 Production printers feature a UV light-based curing process./3D Systems Corp.

The newest model of the two, the Figure 4 Standalone, came out in August and is designed for same-day functional prototyping and low-volume production at speeds of up to about 3.9 inches per hour. Both new printers deliver part accuracy and repeatability.

“With Figure 4, 3D Systems is delivering the fastest, most accurate 3-D printing technology available,” said Phil Schultz, senior VP and GM of on-demand manufacturing and plastics. “The combination of speed and accuracy complemented by a light-based UV curing process, which takes minutes versus [the] hours required by heat-based curing processes, enables ultra-fast throughput and time-to-part.”

3D Systems offers a portfolio of materials developed specifically for use on its Figure 4 digital light printers. They include:

The Figure 4 Standalone printer targets low-volume production and prototyping applications./3D Systems Corp.

• Figure 4 Tough-GRY 10 — a high-speed material for build speeds of up 3.9 inches per hour.

• Figure 4 Tough-GRY 15 — a strong, rigid material for production applications.

• Figure 4 Elast-BLK 10 — an elastomeric black material for design verification of flexible parts.

The Figure 4 Standalone is priced at $21,900, the company said. Also, it can reduce the cost of manufacturing parts in small volumes because it eliminates the need for tooling required for traditionally manufactured parts.

The build volume for the Figure 4 Standalone is 4.9 inches by 2.8 inches by 7.7 inches.

Both the Standalone and Production printers include 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint software, which provides support for editing and managing print projects.

The Figure 4 Production printer, which was introduced in April, is a fully automated, fully integrated production system.

While Figure 4 Standalone printers each have their own built-in controller, the Figure 4 Production system links several production cells to a single controller, which allows higher-volume production. Each cell can include as many as  four printers or a combination of printers and post-processing technology. Figure 4 Production systems can be configured according to each application. An automated system moves the parts from printers to post-processing to allow higher-volume production and reduce labor costs. Post-processing steps can include washing, drying and curing printed parts.

The Production printers include a larger build area than the Standalone printers and feature automated replenishment of build materials.

In addition, the Figure 4 Production printers work with more than 30 UV-curable materials, including engineering resins and custom

The Production model’s build volume is 4.9 inches by 2.8 inches by 13.6 inches.


Sharebot, an Italian company that produces 3-D printers, filament, resins and powders, recently introduced the Sharebot Rover 3-D printer.

The Sharebot Rover 3-D printer/Sharebot U.S./XponentialWorks

Sharebot Rover is a desktop liquid resin printer appropriate for producing 3-D models, samples and prototypes. The unit weighs only 33 pounds and measures 18.1 inches by 13.9 inches by 7.9 inches. It has a print area of about 2.5 inches by 4.5 inches by 3.9 inches. The printer has an X-Y resolution of 47 microns and applies layer thicknesses of 20-100 microns, the company said.

It uses LCD technology to print with photosensitive resins that change physical properties and become solid when exposed to light.

“Sharebot Rover prints with four different photosensitive resins, but our R&D department is about to launch other resins,” marketing and communications director Fabrizio Scalco said.

The company unveiled the printer at Technology Hub 2018, an Italian trade show held in May, but the company recently began shipping units, Scalco said. Sharebot has opened a U.S. showroom in Ventura, Calif. 

“Now, it’s effectively on the market,” he said.

The company already has sold numerous Rover units used in dental, jewelry, small carpentry, design and model building applications, he said.

Operators control the Sharebot Rover through the company’s Sharebox3D web interface. Users can monitor parameters that include elapsed printing time, total estimated printing time, layer technical specifications, total number of layers and completion percentage. The printer can connect to a computer with a Wi-Fi or LAN connection.

Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter



3D Systems Corp.,
Rock Hill, S.C., 803-326-3930, 

Sharebot U.S./XponentialWorks,

Ventura, Calif., 805-521-3505,