Manufacturing Today - May/June 2017 - 25
Additive Manufacturing SPECIAL SECTION
the ability to print hundreds of materials from tough polycarbonates to
flexible nylons. The company's customers vary from Apple to Google, to
Lawrence-Livermore Labs, who use
their printers for both prototyping
Rutter's vision of 3D printing as a
production tool, rather than a consumer product that sits on a store
shelf, became the foundation of not
only the Series 1, but of all the company's products.
"The biggest limitation at the time
was getting something that didn't
cost $20,000, but still had a decent
build volume," Rutter says. "In addition, I have a background as a technician, so one of the things we focused
on early was how to build a machine
that allowed customers to upgrade or
fix something if they wanted to, without needing any special tools. So, the
goal was always to have a product that
people could easily fix or alter to meet
their needs, without dismantling half
the machine to reach components."
Ultimately, Rutter and his team
came up with an open modular design. "That was the biggest thing that
frustrated me about other people's
machines," Rutter says. "The design
had not been taken into consideration of how you actually assemble this product, and once you have
done that, how do you un-assemble
it if need be? That philosophy became
stronger as we tried to build a machine intended for people that would
be running it, who are the engineers
and not designers."
Rutter adds that the company's
engineering customers have pushed
Type A Machines to think about
throughput and yields, leading to increased ease of use and reliability. Additionally, it got the company thinking
about parallelizing the printing pro-
cess leading them to the Print Pod: the
industry's first parallel-production
printing solution scalable up to 60
Centrally managed via touch-screen,
each printer can be allocated specific
print jobs or all printers can be allocated to one job to increase turnaround.
In addition, each printer can produce several objects simultaneously
on the same platform.
"The Print Pod is a scalable system
that holds six machines per rack,"
Rutter explains. "It focuses on increasing operator efficiency in managing print jobs across many printers. We believe this is the future of
production because it's not just one
fast machine, but many fast machines
Type A Machines has "never been
interested" in doing things the way
that the rest of the industry does, Rutter claims.
"We have always believed that there
has to be a better way," he explains.
"It's not about reinventing the wheel,
but finding an elegant solution to
things. For example, from an economic point of view, if you make cheap
machines you can have more of them
but their reliability becomes garbage.
Or if the machines are too expensive,
then you can't buy enough of them to
do what you need."
As an example, Rutter cites an
aerospace customer that, after trying
and failing with a number of popular
brands, was referred to Type A Machines by a materials manufacturer.
MAY/JUNE 2017 manufacturing-today.com