Objet Alaris30

28 November 2008

Objet Geometries had a busy summer with the launch of the impressive Connex500, a multi-material building machine, but now the entry-level RP market gets a boost with the desktop bound Alaris30. Al Dean reports.

Product Alaris30
Company name Objet Geometries
Price On application

Objet Geometries has been doing some incredible things of late. Just over a year ago the company delivered the Connex500, the first rapid prototyping machine capable of building parts in multiple materials (see DEVELOP3D July/August 2008 p50). Now it has turned its attention to the entry-level RP market with a machine that not only lowers the cost of entry into its range but brings much needed competition to the sector.

The Alaris30 is an incredibly small form factor machine (compared to both Objet’s existing products and its competition) and is based on the company’s PolyJet technology, which produces models out of photocurable resin. Objet received a Red Dot award for its Connex500 machine and it’s clear that the company places great stock in industrial design. The Alaris30 looks every part the futurist technology that RP is when you explain it to the uninitiated (ever seen the layperson’s face when you introduce them to it them? It’s fantastic) but that fancy design belies the complexity of what’s inside.

Considering that the machine measures just 825 x 620 x 590mm, it manages to pack in an effective build envelope of around 294 x 196 x 150mm in size. Along with the build chamber, you have space to accommodate the two print heads that deposit the build and support material, which are fed by a maximum of four 1Kg material cartridges. These are split 50/50 between build and support material (two for each) and that means that the machine can keep running for a rather impressive 36 hours without any form of human intervention to swap material packs.

To set-up a build, models are exported from your CAD system of choice (Objet has a nice little booklet that details how best to optimise this) and loaded into the Objet Studio application. Here, models are arranged to fit best within the build chamber to maximise the use of space and to ensure that parts are oriented to give you the required results.

One downside of the Alaris30, and this goes for all of the Objet machines, is that you can’t stack the build chamber. The Objet support material is stable and reliable and there’s potential to build many more parts, particularly if you’re working with narrow components. That said, this is a minor issue and I have been reliably informed that its possible with a bit of clever thinking.

Once your data is ready it is then communicated to the machine over its network connection and assuming the hardware is ready, building starts.

In terms of speed, the machine can operate at around 8mm per hour for a width of around 64mm so the build time can vary by resolution and size of the parts (both on the platform bed and the height). Because the machine has four cartridges and can auto-swap, the build chamber can be pretty much stacked out with parts.

Once the parts are finished, a water jet is required to remove the support material. Objet supplies a bespoke station for doing this and while it kind of goes against the ‘office-friendly’ positioning of the machine, I’m sure most organisations can find somewhere to stick such a device for a quick clean up of their prototypes.

Model quality

The Alaris30 produces some very nice models indeed – as do all the Objet machines. The combination of high resolution printing, incredibly fine layer thickness and a good solid all-round material means that there are many applications for the parts.

Objet is doing some incredible things with its technology and it’s good to see that it’s also extending the reach and capability of its product range by addressing the mass market

Whether you’re using them for ergonomic or aesthetic review, consumer testing or fit and form functions, it’ll do a nice job within the limits of the material. Models can be painted and treated to achieve a closer match with the production intent (which is why it uses a white material).

Alongside this, the resolution of the models means that it can be used in some prototype tooling applications (such as the production of key mats and the like), is perfect for vacuum casting and RIM master models and is strong enough in many cases for vacuum forming.

Conclusion

The Alaris30 is a nicely packaged up machine, one that would be at home in many design offices and the results, as you can see, speak for themselves. Objet is doing some incredible things with its technology and it’s good to see that it’s also extending the reach and capability of its product range by addressing the mass market.

One of the main criticisms of the Alaris30 machine is in terms of materials. It only supports one of Vero’s many materials, the most generically applicable VeroWhite FullCure830. This is white and has a nicely rounded set of specifications and characteristics but it’s a shame you can’t take advantage of the wide selection of materials that Objet has on offer in its other products.

I understand the need to try and sell the large-scale machines, but if you’re trying to extend the reach of these systems by introducing a desktop machine, then you should be able to give people options in terms of the materials that are available.

In terms of pricing, Objet doesn’t want us to discuss them, which, regular readers will know, irritates me beyond belief. Here you have a fantastic entry-level RP machine, one that fits on a desktop, produces beautifully detailed models, but we can’t tell you how much it will set you back. However, if you’re interested in the Alaris30 – and you should be if you’re in the market for an in-house prototyping machine – then give Objet or one of its sales partners a call and find out the cost for yourself.

Comments on this article:

Very good article.  I just want to comment that you actually can stack the build chamber in an Objet machine.  You wouldn’t think so beings the technology anchors all parts to the build tray using a carpet layer, but it can be successfully performed in a pinch.  What you do is stack the parts in the actual CAD file.  I suggest spacing them at least 1mm apart and directly above other parts.  You can’t jet material into thin air, so any part stacked in the CAD file that may exist hanging in mid air with no part under it is going to have a tall amount of unnecessarily wasted support structure placed under it, all the way down to the build tray.  When stacking parts this way, the support structure setting must be changed to HEAVY grid in order to create a solid platform for the stacked parts.  The slowest build time on 3D printers is in Z (up & down) due to specific build layer thicknesses for optimal resolution, so stacking creates a longer build time.

Posted by Rob Kiser on Thursday 15 2010 at 10:49 PM

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