Rize Emerges With 3D Printer That Makes Easily Refined Parts

A startup’s struggle to stand out in a crowded industry can sometimes get a lift from a distinguishing product feature or the decision to focus on solving a specific problem.

That theory will be put to the test with Rize. Today the Boston-area 3D printing startup unveiled what it’s been working on for more than a year: a machine that the company says virtually eliminates the often messy and time-consuming work of refining a printed part (think cutting away excess material, sanding edges, and so on).

“The ability to have the part sooner than later—in many cases [in] half the time, without the hassle—is everybody’s dream,” says Rize president and CEO Frank Marangell.

Rize emerges at a time when various market reports continue to predict rapidly rising 3D printer sales worldwide over the next few years. But the falling stock prices of industry leaders like Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) and 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), along with a litany of disappointing 3D printer projects on crowdfunding websites, have produced a more sober outlook for the highly touted industry among some investors.

“Market dynamics are very tough in the 3D printing space right now,” Bolt co-founder and general partner Ben Einstein says in an e-mail message. “The 2013-2015 hype cycle really structurally damaged the industry as a whole, making it pretty tough for startups to get above the fold.”

Rize will give it a shot with its desktop 3D printers that it says produce “engineering- and medical-grade” thermoplastic parts that can be adorned with text and color images. The big questions are whether its technology can consistently work as advertised, and whether it can attract enough customers.

Marangell, a former executive with 3D printer manufacturers Objet and Stratasys, sees a big opportunity with Rize. He calls the need to clean up objects after printing, aka post processing, 3D printing’s “dirty little secret.” Some techniques produce parts within a structure of support materials that must be removed afterward. In many cases, Marangell says, removing the support materials can take hours of extra work, perhaps requiring a chemical bath to dissolve excess material, or sanding down the part, or other refinement methods.

“It can take almost as much time and sometimes more time than it takes to print” the part itself, Marangell says.

Rize says it developed a printer that requires less time and effort to fashion a usable part. The key to its process? As the printer builds the part layer by layer, “repelling ink” gets jetted between the part and the support materials. That ink basically “says support me, but don’t stick to me,” Marangell says.

After the part is printed, the support material “just pops right off” by hand, Marangell says—no filing or sanding necessary. (See demonstrations in the video below.)

The startup says its machines offer a cleaner and more environmentally friendly 3D printer that will save businesses time and money and enable them to print parts in labs or from a desk in the office.

Matthew Fiedler, co-founder and chief engineer of Texas-based industrial 3D printer maker Re:3D, thinks Rize’s technology could be useful in some situations, but he’s skeptical its pitch will resonate with everyone. That’s because support material isn’t required for a lot of 3D-printed parts, he says in an e-mail, “and with the advancements in software, combined with water soluble support material, I don’t see the compelling reason to purchase a proprietary solution for the problem of support material removal.”

Marangell, of course, sees things differently. “From our team’s experience, working with thousands of customers while at Objet, Stratasys, Z Corporation, and others, almost every part has support material that needs to be removed,” he says. “Our customers will be commercial and industrial users, who print more complex geometries that require supports.”

Rize has already gotten interest from companies like … Next Page »

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Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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