INTAMSYS is a manufacturer of industrial 3D printers, bringing high temperature industrial 3D printing technology to more users; with competitive / affordable pricing and a flexible system which encourages users to use their preferred brands of filament, a rarity in the industrial market.
Last month I spoke with Charles Han, CEO of INTAMSYS to discuss their latest product announcements, the benefits of high temperature 3D printing and the requirements when making an industrial machine capable of printing high temperature thermoplastics.
Matt Tyson (3D Printing Solutions): INTAMSYS have gained considerable traction in the 3D printing industry over the past few years. How did INTAMSYS first start and how has the company developed since then?
Charles Han (CEO, INTAMSYS): INTAMSYS is a company that is founded by experienced engineers. Our team have a lot of experience in the high speed / high precision equipment development. We entered into the 3D Printing Industry with the idea to integrate our high speed / high precision technology into a 3d printer design. You know currently the limitation for 3D printing is speed and the precision.
Currently most of the 3D printing is used for R&D and prototyping, so we want to reduce the gap between production and the technology. That is our original idea. So we devote ourselves to high speed / high precision 3D printing technology innovation with new 3D printing process development.
The INTAMSYS range of 3D printers are called the FUNMAT series. What does FUNMAT mean?
Actually you know the FUNMAT means Functional material, it is an abbreviation of functional and material. It also clearly describes our objective; our printer is used for printing multiple functional materials.
Your most popular machine, the FUNMAT HT, has gained a lot of attention for bringing the functionality of PEEK 3D printing at an affordable price point. What are some of the applications for PEEK and how does PEEK compare in functionality to other industry-grade plastics?
In this market, most printers can only deal with PLA or ABS, but if the customer wants to print high temperature and functional materials, the price will increase very high so that limits the application of the material and printer. We found this difficult so our engineers focused on developing the new material 3D printing process and to make it more affordable.
You know in this market, a lot of the requirements are for the high functional materials like PEEK and PPSU. PEEK is very famous because of its high temperature endurance, it is also acid resistance and can be used in the medical industry because it is biocompatible. With automotive, aerospace and other industry applications like jigs and fixtures our idea is that we want to make the printing technology for high end materials more affordable for more customers.
To print reliably, PEEK also requires a very high extruder and bed temperature along with a heated chamber. How does the design process change when designing a printer that needs to consistently print at such high temperatures?
Most of the high end functional materials require high temperature environments. This presents a difficult design challenge. Also you know with the high temperature chamber, we had to innovate to avoid infringing on existing IP. In order to design a high temperature 3D printer, we perform a lot of thermal analysing and try to optimize the thermal design. We also carefully chose high temperature parts to make the 3D printer more reliable in that environment.
Does the active heating / advanced thermal system in the INTAMSYS printers offer advantages in print quality when printing more accessible engineering materials like ABS or PolyCarbonate?
Yes sure. Actually the high temperature functional materials are most difficult to print, but our machines print high temperature materials very well. Certainly materials like Nylon, ABS and PolyCarbonate can be printed full size without any warping or cracking. Because our printer has the heated chamber, it can release the internal stress so warping or cracking which appear from standard 3d printers don’t appear with our machine. So it can not only be used for functional materials like PEEK, it is also the perfect tool for engineering materials.
Are there differences in the thermal technology between each of the 3D printers you manufacture?
We have a series of high temperature 3D printers. Both the Pro HT and Pro can print bigger size but the Pro HT has an improved cooling system so it can achieve higher temperatures. With the improved cooling, the nozzle temperature can achieve over 450°C so it opens up more possibility for customers.
As part of the advanced thermal system, the FUNMAT HT and PRO HT maintain the internal chamber temperature after a print completed. Why is this important to maintain a high temperature until the user can remove their print?
There should be some time to make the internal bonding stronger. After the print is finished printing, the chamber temperature stays on, it is an annealing process.
While customer freedom is common in the prosumer 3D printing market, for various reasons there is a trend that many industrial brands use proprietary software and implement a chip or cartridge system in their machines. How important is that customer freedom when allowing users to use any brand of material of software?
We want to make our customers explore more possibilities, we don’t want to limit the freedom of our customers. So just like the material is open, the software is also open. You can tinker our printer very freely.
With the FUNMAT HT and Pro HT, what are some of the latest materials INTAMSYS are supporting?
Because of the design, the printer can print almost all plastics; just as you mentioned PEEK, Ultem, PolyCarbonate and other functional materials. We have added new materials like PEKK, PEEK with carbon fiber and PPSU. So the customer can certainly explore more possibilities and applications.
Last week INTAMSYS announced some new enhancements to the FUNMAT HT. What are some of the improvements in the new upcoming enhanced FUNMAT HT?
From December our FUNMAT HT will have more features, which will make it smarter and more easy to use. Main features like automatic levelling, a more high speed and high precision drive so we can achieve higher speeds. The enhanced machine will be available in December.
Could you explain in more detail the Auto-levelling process?
We have a sensor installed in the print head so during the levelling process we measure the surface of the build plate and perform some analyser so during printing it will automatically adjust the build plate and make the printing process more automatic, reducing manual tuning. It can also be operated in the higher temperature environment, so after you have heated the chamber you can start the automatic levelling.
Will customers still be able to level the bed manually?
Yes it is ok.
INTAMSYS also announced a brand new FUNMAT 3D Printer, could you discuss the details of this new machine.
The new model is called the FUNMAT PRO 410. It is a multiple functional material printer for industrial, educational and manufacturing. The build volume is 12 inch x 12 inch x 16 inch. Also the chamber temperature is 90°C, the nozzle temperature is 450°C and the bed will reach 160°C. The FUNMAT PRO features dual nozzle so to provide the ultimate dual material 3D printing solution. So with PLA we have a corresponding support material, with ABS, PolyCarbonate and Nylon we also have corresponding support material. We also have our own support material for Ultem and PEEK!
There have been many different approaches to dual extrusion, what approach was taken for the FUNMAT PRO 410?
The dual nozzles are next to each other, one is fixed while the other will lift to avoid grazing the part. Many printers have dual extruders but they are fixed so the idle nozzle scratches the part. With our extruder we avoid this.
Does the FUNMAT PRO 410 replace the current FUNMAT PRO or is it a new addition?
The FUNMAT PRO 410 is a new printer added to the current production line.
When will the FUNMAT PRO 410 be available?
The FUNMAT PRO 410 will be delivering March, 2019.
Finally what type of customers are currently purchasing and using the INTAMSYS machines?
Most of our customers are from industry, including automotive, aerospace and factories who use our printers to print tooling for jigs and fixtures. We also have applications in medical for implant research.