It’s not every day we get to cover a new 3D printing technology. Companies release software upgrades and new hardware models, but a new technology on the market is something of a special event. That’s why we’re excited to be exploring a new additive technology developed by Axtra3D called Hybrid PhotoSynthesis (HPS), said to “transcend the limits of SLA, DLP and LCD.”
Before we dive into the details about the company’s patented process and its HPS-based solution— Lumia X1—let’s get to know Axtra3D a bit better. Founded in 2021 by AM veteran Gianni Zitelli and technical leader Praveen Tummala, Axtra3D is based in Charlotte, North Carolina and runs an R&D facility in Vicenza, Italy. The company launched with the aim of commercializing its Hybrid PhotoSynthesis technology and making photopolymerization more viable for high-throughput production.
Within just a year of its launch, the young company had already progressed remarkably: raising $6.25 million in a Series A funding round in late 2022 and unveiling its X1 Series printers to the AM industry at Formnext 2022. Today, the company has 12 patents under its belt and has started shipments of its first 3D printers. Just last month, the company also signed a partnership agreement with 3D printer reseller Nota3D to distribute the Lumia X1. In short, Axtra3D has come a long way in a short time.
Axtra3D’s rapid progress has been driven by the company’s mission to introduce a technology that settles—for once and for all—the trade-offs between stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP). In other words, it has developed a photopolymerization process that delivers on scale, surface quality, production speed, and reliability.
Overcoming the limitations of SLA and DLP
While both SLA and DLP technologies have advanced over the years, each technology still has its limitations. In general, SLA offers excellent resolution and print quality, but suffers when it comes to print speed and throughput. DLP, on the other hand, has the opposite problem, providing a means for high-throughput production but has limited resolution.
So how has Axtra3D managed to solve the challenges of both SLA and DLP? It comes down to its suite of patented technologies: Hybrid PhotoSynthesis (HPS), TruLayer Technology and the Intelli-Cartridge.
Hybrid PhotoSynthesis is a light engine technology that combines SLA’s laser process with a DLP image generator. In this co-axial system, both light sources operate simultaneously, curing resin using the same wavelength and image plane. In the HPS process, the light projector cures the majority of the layer, while the laser simultaneously cures the contours of the layer with a high degree of precision. With this dual approach, users can achieve SLA-grade resolutions (in the range of 45 microns) while taking advantage of the speed of light projection.
On top of its HPS process, Axtra3D has also developed a patented feature that accelerates printing throughput by reducing inter-layer delays. This feature, called TruLayer Technology, consists of three sensors embedded into a glass plate below the printer’s membrane. TruLayer allows for the rapid detachment of the print layer from the vat membrane, speeding up the time between each layer. According to Axtra3D, this innovation accelerates printing speed twofold without compromising print quality and precision.
The company’s unique platform also accounts for the different scales of printed objects as well as the wide variety of different materials that will be used by its customers. Thanks to TruLayer Technology, even large cross-sections can be quickly removed from the membrane, while a “vat membrane of enduring quality” offers superior durability and can handle even highly viscous resin materials.
Paul Spoliansky, CRO of Axtra3D, says of the TruLayer Technology: “We’re able to eliminate the standard wait times and only wait as long we we need to, because we actually have live feedback from those sensors. When we turn that technology on, we [start] seeing that we’re able to double the speed of major competitors in the space.”
Last but certainly not least is Axtra3D’s Intelli-Cartridge, a resin management system with many automated functions, such as dosing, stirring, heating, and filtering. The Intelli-Cartridge essentially streamlines resin management for the user by increasing how much resin the printer can hold (up to eight liters), automatically dispensing resin into the vat, consistently stirring and heating the material, and ultimately removing and filtering extra resin for future use. This automated capability makes large-scale prints and higher volume production runs more viable for users.
Introducing the Lumia X1
All three technologies come together in Axtra3D’s flagship product: the Lumia X1 3D printer. Engineered for lights-out production, the Lumia X1 offers scale, resolution and speed for a range of applications, including prototyping, tooling, and production parts.
In terms of scale, the machine has a build volume of 249 x 140 x 495 mm, rivaling (and even surpassing) the size of many 4K DLP systems. At the same time, it offers higher resolution printing capabilities in the range of 45 microns. Axtra3D says its system is therefore 2.5 times larger on average than competing resin systems with the equivalent resolution.
The system is also notable for its printing speed, enabled both by the hybrid photopolymerization approach and the company’s TruLayer technology, which minimizes downtime between each layer. Other features integrated into the Lumia X1 include a 4K chamber camera for detailed views of the prints, a large and user-friendly interface, and safety systems like ventilation, magnetic interlock system, UV-shielded window and an emergency stop button.
The industrial system is available either with a closed or open materials configuration, enabling users to take advantage of the machine’s high resolution and scale with a wide range of resins, including unfilled and filled resins of varying viscosities (including ceramic-filled resins). The company says: “As more 3D printing materials become available, the Lumia X1 is well positioned to offer access to the widest variety of these ‘future’ materials.”
Bringing something new to the table
As we said, a big part of Axtra3D’s goal is to bring something new to the table, which offers AM adopters a greater range of benefits than existing technologies. “Industry experts know that new and innovative technology doesn’t come around that often, contrary to what most 3D printing OEMs say,” the company says. “We feel that many rapid prototyping labs and service bureaus have been waiting for something truly new and disruptive. This is it. It’s here.”
Axtra3D is also trying to differentiate itself in other ways, not only by offering a technology that is totally open for both parameters and materials, but also through the services it offers. In the company’s words, it wants to “disrupt the status quo” of field service by providing 24/7 support, with request response times within 60 minutes. The company is also planning to integrate augmented reality (AR) into its maintenance services, so that technical issues can be solved remotely.
Ultimately, for a company that has been on the scene for just two years, Axtra3D is making a fairly big impact. The company’s hybrid approach to photopolymerization could open up the technology to more users and for more industrial-scale applications, as manufacturers can benefit from rapid print speeds and higher quality finishes (reducing post-processing requirements). If you’re interested in learning more about its Hybrid PhotoSynthesis technology or seeing the results of its high-res capabilities, you can contact the company for a live demo or request a sample part.