Impossible Objects launches pilot 3D printing machine

Impossible Objects’ composite-based additive manufacturing method (CBAM) enables companies to use a range of composite materials, including carbon fiber, Kevlar and, fiberglass together with PEEK and other high performance polymers.

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Impossible Objects (Northbrook, Ill.) has launched the Model One, its pilot 3D printing machine focused on high-volume manufacturing. Initial pilot program members include Jabil, a product solutions company, and select Fortune 500 customers.

The Model One is designed to 3D print functional parts, at scale, using a wide selection of materials. Impossible Objects’ composite-based additive manufacturing method (CBAM) enables companies to use a range of composite materials, including carbon fiber, Kevlar and, fiberglass together with PEEK and other high performance polymers, to build strong, lightweight parts. The initial applications include medical devices and tooling and parts in consumer electronics and in automotive manufacturing industries.

“We’ve seen tremendous interest from a range of companies who want the advantages of 3D printing for their high-volume manufacturing and for materials they cannot get elsewhere,” says Robert Swartz, chairman and founder of Impossible Objects. “Until now, there was no way to print functional parts with the mechanical and material properties at the scale these companies need. The Model One is just the beginning of what CBAM can do. Our CBAM technology has the potential to transform manufacturing as we know it.”

According to Impossible Objects, the Model One is able to create parts that can be up to 10x stronger than current 3D printers. Through a greater amount of material options, Impossible Objects enables companies to build truly functional parts, from high performance materials such as PEEK and carbon fiber. Because of the composite makeup, customers will be able to customize the part applications, whether to have heat and/or chemical resistant properties, stiffness or flexibility, or other attributes.

Impossible Objects has the potential to enable companies to build vital parts at production speeds 100x faster than current methods, the company stated. Further, users can make the same part for the prototype and mass production.

"Based on its combination of speed, strength and material sets, we believe Impossible Objects’ CBAM could become an enabling technology for high-volume manufacturing," says Greg Ojeda, senior director of AM ecosystem development and strategy at Jabil. “We’ve identified applications where Impossible Objects could deliver a competitive advantage and significant cost savings over conventional manufacturing processes. We are excited to take part in Impossible Objects’ pilot program and look forward to working with the Impossible Objects’ team.”

The Model One will become generally available to the public by early 2018. Companies interested to be considered earlier for the pilot program can email Impossible Objects. 

In Impossible Objects’ CBAM process, conventional thermal inkjet heads are used to "print" designs on sheets of composites, like carbon fiber, Kevlar or fiberglass. Each sheet is then flooded with a polymer powder, such as nylon or PEEK, causing the powder to stick where inkjet fluid has been deposited on the sheets. Excess powder is vacuumed off and the sheets are stacked, compressed and heated. The polymer powder melts and bonds the sheets together. The uncoated fibers are then mechanically or chemically removed, and what remains is a durable, lightweight object.