Nearly a year ago, Redwood City, Calif.–based startup Carbon (then Carbon3D) upended any remaining notions of 3D printing as slow, expensive, or limited in usefulness when it simultaneously debuted its Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) printer on the TED stage and on the cover of the journal Science. Yesterday, the company announced that its CLIP printers are available to the public through four 3D-printing service bureaus and contract manufacturers: C.Ideas, based in Crystal Lake, Ill.; Sculpteo in San Francisco and Paris; the Technology House, headquartered in Streetsboro, Ohio; and WestStar Precision in Apex, N.C.
The four printing providers join a coveted group of companies in Carbon’s early customer program, which also includes Ford Motor Co., Johnson & Johnson, and special effects company Legacy Effects. “These new customers are key drivers of innovation and production across industries,” Carbon CEO and co-founder Joseph DeSimone said in a press release.
The CLIP printers have a maximum build size of 3.2 inches by 5.7 inches by 12 inches, and seven material options. The polymer-based resins range from elastomeric polyurethane—a pliable, flexible plastic that can recover its shape if bent or twisted—to strong and temperature-resistant polyurethane, suitable for industrial applications, such as automobile parts, as well as rigid objects like architectural models. C.Ideas, for one, offers multiple finish options for CLIP-printed objects, including primed-and-paint-ready, and painted to match a provided sample or a Pantone swatch.
CLIP technology can reportedly print 25 times to 100 times faster than typical 3D printing methods, such as SLA (stereolithography) and SLS (selective laser sintering), according to Carbon. CLIP uses what it calls a “tunable photochemical process” that essentially projects, in ultraviolet light, a movie comprising cross-sections of the desired object upward into a liquid resin bath. As layers of liquid resin solidify from the UV exposure, the printer’s build-platform rises, pulling the continuously growing object from the bath. The continuity is possible due to a critical oxygen- and light-permeable window in the bath that maintains an uncured resin interface onto which newly printed layers can glom onto the already printed component. (Read more about how CLIP works in ARCHITECT’s past coverage.) The streamlined process, likened to scenes from Terminator 2, cuts down print time and enables extremely high-resolution, smooth objects.
While similar 3D printing technologies have been debuted by other companies, such as Gizmo 3D Printers in Australia and Nexa3D headquartered in London and Rome, Carbon has the backing of several giant technology and venture capital companies, such as Autodesk and Google Ventures, all of which translates into hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.