On 12th July 2018, UK headquartered supplier of inkjet printheads Xaar PLC and leading 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys confirmed that they were going into business with a new company called Xaar 3D Limited.
Through Xaar 3D Limited, the companies are working together to bring Xaar’s High Speed Sintering (HSS) 3D printing technology to the market. In this article, I speak to Professor Neil Hopkinson, inventor of the HSS process and Director of 3D Printing at Xaar, and Chuck Cadena, Head of Global Public Relations at Stratasys to learn more about the agreement between these two companies.
An impressive 3D printing technology
Patented in 2003, HSS is an industrial polymer 3D printing process, developed with the intention of rivaling possible print-times of currently available machines.
A binder-jet based method, HSS works by jetting a light-reactive liquid onto a powder bed that cures on exposure to an infrared lamp. As discussed by Hopkinson in a tour of Xaar’s 3D printing HQ in Nottingham, the alternative laser-based 3D printing process “is almost like using a biro to color in a wall. It’s not an effective route to do that.”
“[And so, we thought] how can we find a more effective, time and cost efficient means of converting this powder in laser sintering into a part. And that’s the answer – to take the laser out.”
In the original Xaar 3D Limited press release from last week Scott Crump, co-founder and current Chief Innovation Officer of Stratsys, has been “impressed with the Xaar team’s achievements to date.”
Reiterating this point, a Cadena told 3D Printing Industry, “Stratasys sees potential to leverage High Speed Sintering technology to enhance our portfolio of solutions for manufacturers,”
“We believe the new company could leverage Xaar’s knowledge of High Speed Sintering and our market and applications knowledge.”
When asked to comment on whether Stratasys use Xaar’s printhead in its machines, Cadena added, “Unfortunately, Stratasys is unable to comment publicly on its suppliers.”
Stratasys “makes sense”
The license for commercial development of HSS has been given non exclusively to Xaar by Loughborough University, where Hopkinson invented the process, and the method’s materials partner Evonik. “However,” Hopkinson explains, “through Xaar 3D Ltd Stratasys has exclusive access to myself (the original inventor of high speed sintering) and the team who have worked on the process since 2003.”
Though tight-lipped about the exact details of the agreement, the inventor does dig a little deeper with regard to Stratasys’ contribution. “It is clear that the technical expertise and capabilities developed at Xaar can be best commercialized in partnership with Stratasys,” says Hopkinson, “It therefore make sense for Xaar and Stratasys to commit to developing High Speed Sintering together with a new business that is focused on this technology.”
Furthermore, “Stratasys bring commitment via financial investment and also the highest level of experience and expertise in bringing Additive Manufacturing technologies to market,”
“Whilst we are unable to disclose the actual figure that has been invested, what we can say is that both companies have invested sufficient cash to manage the business at least until Xaar 3D Ltd becomes profitable.”
Official announcements of commercial availability of the HSS 3D printers will be made in due course.
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Featured image shows Professor Neil Hopkinson, Director of 3D Printing at Xaar, holding a couple manifold part 3D printed using HSS. Photo by Beau Jackson