Undergoing a rapid developmental stage, the 3D printing has evolved into a range of technologies operating on the principle of additive manufacturing. Newer methods of 3D printing are constantly evolving to deliver unprecedented quality. The ultimate aim is to transition the 3D printing technology from the prototype manufacturing technology to the end-use product manufacturing technology.
In this article, we will dig deep into the patented NanoParticle Jetting™ (NPJ) Technology developed by Israel-based XJet Ltd., a provider of groundbreaking ceramic and metal additive manufacturing technologies and products.
XJet was founded in 2005 and is credited with the development of the patented NanoParticle Jetting™ (NPJ) technology. XJet offers an inkjet 3D printing technology which enables the easy production of parts with high throughput and high quality. XJet holds over 60 registered and pending patents of which NPJ is the most prolific invention.
Jetting works on a principle similar to two-dimensional inkjet printers. Material in the form of liquid droplets is dispensed from multiple printheads similar to those in an inkjet printer. The material is photosensitive polymer which hardens on exposure to UV light thereby building the part layer-by-layer.
In some of our previous articles we have explained about the Jetting technology.
NanoParticle Jetting™ Technology
NanoParticle Jetting is a unique technology which manufactures parts by jetting thousands of droplets of metal (or ceramic) nanoparticles from inkjet nozzles in super-thin layers almost as fine as 10 μm. These nanoparticles vary in size and shape and are randomly distributed on the build platform. Along with the material, a second soluble support material is also jetted in the same way.
The unique aspect of this technology is that both the materials are suspended in a liquid. So the nanoparticles are jetted along with the liquid and this liquid evaporates while being deposited in the build platform due to the extreme temperatures maintained in the build chamber (300OC). This leaves only the nanoparticles and a mechanically strong part. This part though is not yet ready. This is the ‘Green Part’ (similar to parts manufactured in Desktop Metal’s Studio printer). This part is then sintered to enhance the mechanical properties of the final part and thus completes the manufacturing process.
NanoParticle Jetting™ Process
The technology has eliminated the need for a vat of material and this has simplified the process of how the materials are loaded in the printer. The material is available in cartridges and it simply has to be loaded into the 3D printer. The printer then uses this material & the support material while jetting. Once the printing completes, the support structures are easily removed. After this the parts undergo a simple overnight sintering process to enhance its mechanical properties and make it suitable for end-use application.
Unique Benefits of NPJ Technology
- Design Freedom: NanoParticle Jetting technology offers design freedom due to its soluble support material.
- Absence of Vat: Since the material is directly in the liquid, there is no need of a separate vat of powder of resin material as in the case of other Jetting or Vat Photopolymerisation technologies.
- Ultrathin Layers: Since the technology uses nanoparticles, the products manufactured using the technology can have ultrathin layers.
- Highest Density: The Company claims to have the highest density as it uses stochastic nanoparticles.
- Speed: Since it is a continuous operations the print speed is comparatively fast. This gives is an unrivalled operational efficiency.
Drawbacks of NPJ Technology
- New Technology: It is a new technology and it is too early to use in part production
- High cost: The technology has high costs associated with it
- Small Material Library: Being new, the technology still has a limited number of compatible materials. The material library is very small for use in different applications.
The company claims that the patented technology features unprecedented levels of detailing, finish and accuracy, while delivering physical, geometric and operational advantages.
According to the company, “NanoParticle Jetting™ technology enables the additive manufacturing of ceramic and metal parts using multiple materials. Leveraging our robust inkjet technology enabled by our unique liquid dispersion methodology, we (XJet) are working to introduce a growing number of metal and ceramic build materials to anticipate evolving industry needs.”
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