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Startup Spotlight - Carbon3D

Carbon 3D are bringing 3D printing to the masses

8Oct

Just six months ago, a five-year-old girl was given a few days to live.

The girl in question - Mia Gonzalez - was suffering from a rare heart condition, which doctors at the time believed was inoperable. Fast forward to the present, and she’s thankfully made a complete recovery. This wasn’t a case of misdiagnosis, but a shining example of how impactful 3D printing can be to medical science. The surgeon operating on Mia was able to replicate her heart with a 3D model, and locate where the problem lay. This allowed the surgeon to repair the issue, and ultimately save her life.

When stories like this emerge, it only goes to further highlight the impact that 3D printing is going to have on society. But for 3D printing to truly fulfil its potential, it needs to move away from its 2D foundation. MakerBot - which Wired magazine describes as ‘an inkjet printer that spits out plastic instead of ink’ - has proven a worthy interim solution, but Carbon3D is set to take the industry a step further.

The company promises to bring a ‘fresh perspective’ to the challenges facing 3D printing, and believes that its technology - Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) - can both quicken and improve the quality of prints. As Carbon 3D state on their website: ‘current 3D printing technology is really just 2D printing, over and over again’. CLIP technology ‘grows parts instead of printing them on layer by layer’ and has been used by a Hollywood special effects company and Ford to improve their manufacturing processes.

American automotive company, Ford, has labs dedicated to manufacturing. 3D printing is central to the research that goes on there, but key challenges - including the fact that the products created by traditional printers are not isotropic and therefore not durable enough for their vehicles - continue to rear their head. Ford’s cars must also be designed to withstand varying temperatures, and the prints produced by MakerBot’s just aren’t capable of meeting these demands.

In 2014, Ford switched to CLIP technology, and they’ve already used it to produce a elastomer grommet - a component designed to protect the wiring on the inside of a car door when it opens and closes - and a damping bumper. Not only were these products durable, they were also produced in a fraction of the time it would have taken using previous methods. Ellen Lee - a team leader at Ford’s manufacturing lab - stated: ‘Carbon3D’s CLIP technology is allowing our engineers to shorten their design iteration time and reach a final-part more quickly, which is exciting because it means higher quality and more cost effective products for our customers,’

CLIP technology can also print a number of materials that a typical 3D printer cannot. And with a new round of funding bringing in $100 million in August, it is expected that Carbon3D will be in a position to use their product’s versatility in a number of different industries. According to Forbes, this means that the company is now worth approximately $1 billion.

Carbon3D’s technology represents a step forward for 3D printing. And with current technology already capable of saving a child’s life, the implications of an update could be far reaching.

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