3D Printing ProcessesAdvanced MaterialsMaterials

PrintFoam develops new foam printing system

Utilizing novel optical patterning techniques and discarding vat-based techniques

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PrintFoam is a company that spun out of MIT in 2016 with the aim to create lighter and less expensive 3D printed parts by leveraging the power of foamed materials – catering to the demand for lightweight structured materials in an ever-increasingly 3D printed world.

PrintFoam’s proprietary resins have been around for a couple of years now and have demonstrated notable performance boosts in many applications where you might expect to find traditional foam solutions. Seeing these developments, other 3D printing companies have started to take notice. But, to date, existing printing platforms have been too slow in fully utilizing this unique resin technology.

PrintFoam develops new foam printing system. Utilizing novel optical patterning techniques and discarding vat-based techniques.
Pearlson (center) with summer interns Kennard Johnston (left) and Jemaris (right) Martes Villalobos

PrintFoam brings this technology to new markets with the development of the first printer hardware that specializes in the industrial-scale printing of foams.

According to Mathew Pearlson, principal, and co-founder of Print Foam, the ‘ah-ha moment’ came when he realized the need to skip traditional vat-based printing techniques popularized by companies such as FormLabs, Carbon, and Desktop Metal. “By using a combination of novel optical patterning techniques, along with ditching a standard vat printing process, we realized it would be possible to produce plywood-sized sheets of 3D printed foam in a matter of minutes.”

By speeding up the production time, from hours to minutes, PrintFoam was able enter a plethora of new markets previously inaccessible with large, architecturally sized panels.

“It really is remarkable, and I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Dr. David Walker, Co-Founder of Azul 3D and the Executive Chairperson of the Photopolymer Additive Manufacturing Alliance. “Everyone in the field is attempting to mimic the behavior of traditional foams using plastic lattices produced by computational models. These models keep telling engineers to generate lattices with smaller struts and smaller unit-cells… In essence, the computer is screaming at the engineer to stop what they’re doing and use a foam for the application. As a community, we haven’t been listening and acting on this.”

PrintFoam develops new foam printing system. Utilizing novel optical patterning techniques and discarding vat-based techniques.
An agriculture drone nose cone (left) made out of Styrafoam and made from the foam 3-D printing process (right)

Engineered from the ground up to meet the needs of its customers, the new system is expected to disrupt manufacturing with a scale and speed that counts. According to Pearlson, “The new PrintFoam system extends our ability to provide comprehensive solutions to our customers who are looking for ways to print a lot of material quickly without sacrificing resolution.”

The technology is in limited beta-access right now, but the venture is actively accepting a limited number of new partnerships. PrintFoam is already working with customers to explore novel approaches to noise mitigation, carbon sequestration, concrete construction, and more.

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746 composites AM companies individually surveyed and studied. Core composites AM market generated over $785 million in 2023. Market expected to grow to $7.8 billion by 2033 at 25.8% CAGR. This new...

Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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