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Editor’s Pick: 3Z MAX 3D Printer Builds Casts and Molds

Dear Desktop Engineering Reader:

Aerospace and automotive designers, jewelers, toy-makers, and mold-makers … what characteristic do these callings have in common that slugs such as moi miss until it’s been hammered home? Artistry. Any lug with gumption can, oh, sketch out something that passes as a car bra, but only an engineer-artist (enginartist?) could have designed the grille on a ’53 Buick Skylark. And perhaps nothing has had a greater liberating effect on the cast- and mold-making enginartist as the addition of 3D printing to manufacturing technologies. Solidscape recently announced a new 3D printer, the 3Z MAX, that illustrates this point.

In a nutshell, the 3Z MAX is a 3D printer for lost-wax casting/investment casting and mold-making applications. That is, the 3Z MAX creates high-precision wax patterns to be cast in metal or pressed into ceramics. The company says that the 3Z MAX supports a higher throughput for bulkier precision designs. Based on its nearly $50k price tag, this 3D printer seems targeted at small- and medium-size outfits, although I wouldn’t rule out any organization getting serious value out of it.

So what are some of the values you get out of 3Z MAX? Start with its being desktop-sized and that it uses non-toxic wax and wax-blend build and support materials, so you will not freak out the overly sensitive type in the next cubicle. Wax, as you probably know, can build highly detailed parts with all sorts of tricky geometries. Still, you gotta check out the lion ring in today’s write-up to see an example of what highly detailed can mean. The materials offer fast burn out, leave no ash or residue behind, and no thermal expansion to mess up the mold from the onset.

This brings in the key underlying technology. The 3Z MAX is an additive manufacturing device. It wax-jets wee droplets of material onto the build plate, building up parts layer after layer. This process leverages Smooth Curvature Printing (SCP) technology; all Solidscape printers do. SCP is a tag that defines a motion control algorithm as well as the operations of printheads used to jet build and support materials simultaneously. The takeaway for our purposes here is that SCP enables the 3Z MAX to move the printhead around dynamically while making curves. At the end of your build, that capability means you can get intricate geometries with smooth surfaces that need little if any hand finishing. And eliminating that step alone translates into higher productivity for you.

Other features of the 3Z MAX include an icon-based LCD panel on the unit for engaging with it on the spot and all sorts of network connections, including wireless, to access the printer remotely. The supplied Windows-based software, 3Z Works, not only generates an STL or SLC file from your models but it automatically generates support structures. You can also use 3Z Works to see and manage files, job start-ups, and job status from your desk. Resolution and accuracy numbers are listed in today’s Pick of the Week write-up, they sound pretty good.

In the world of cast- and mold-making, enginartists are the difference between yet another shop and the go-to people. The 3Z MAX sounds like something that can take creativity and innovation to another level in the right hands. Go to today’s Pick of the Week write-up from the link over there and see for yourself.

Thanks, Pal. — Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood
Editor at Large, Desktop Engineering

Read today’s pick of the week write-up.

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About Anthony J. Lockwood

Anthony J. Lockwood is Desktop Engineering's Editor-at-Large. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.