The Truth a Z Corp 3d Printer (powder process) Prototypes

Z Corp’s rapid prototyping (3d printing) technology has been around for years. In earlier years the powder was often referred as starch. Since it’s inception, Z Corp has invested millions of dollars into the research and development of finer, white, stronger materials. In addition, EMS, Inc. and many others have experimented with different infiltrates from epoxies to cyanoacrylates (super glues). The results are AWESOME.

Today, Z Corp 3d printers offer the FASTEST and more AFFORDABLE way to generate a 3d physical model from a 3d conceptual CAD rendering.

Z Corp printers, such as the Z450 and Z650 offer integrated semi-automated post processing units and their is no use of support material. The end result is a great looking 24 bit color part often in fraction of the amount of time it would take to build similar parts on FDM, SLA, or SLS technologies.

Here is a video showing FDM Rapid Prototyping Right Before Your Eyes! - YouTube
Here is one for 3DP - YouTube

Enough with the product placement posts.

In all honestly, this is not intended to be any type of commercial. What I am trying to do here is educate those who are new to 3d printing and don’t know what it is as well as update those who saw it back in the early 90’s.

I actually wanted to put more specs and what not, but did not want to come off the wrong way. Sorry in advance for anyone who may take an unliking. I am new here and just trying to contribute.

I know there are many new you vibrant IDs out there who are being exposed to an overwhelming variety of options when trying to figure out how to create a physical prototype. I don’t see anything wrong with posting info about the ZCorp (process) and info about the epoxy (material).

-Also 1 note I forgot to add in the 1st post. The material for Zcorp is NOT a Plastic, it is a PLASTER composite.

To be clear, we do welcome all to the boards, including those who are experts in fields related to design such as yourself. Please just keep in mind not to have the posts be too self-promotional and more informative, then all will be OK.

Thanks and we look forward to the info you can bring, as long as it is on-topic, useful and not pure advertising.

Thanks,

R

I printed on z corp printers quite a lot.
True is that it is fast and somewhat affordable which makes it perfect for schools.

On the other hand, it is incredibly messy and you need a special room for it. That powder is absolutely everywhere.
The other, and in my opinion bigger, drawback is that you can’t print thin wall thicknesses and details since it is super brittle when you have to dig it out of the powder. Also be warned, it will warp after it has been bonded.

It is ok for some stuff and volume printing but it is not good for anything delicate.
I have mostly used it to make molds for casting (glass, ceramic, plastics and such).

Out of curiosity, what printer did you use and when was the last time? True, the older printers you had to manually get the parts out by hand. Also you are correct, they can not match the detail of say an objet printer, which prints at about .0006".

One thing I should left everyone know, I am not in printer sales, but I have worked with different printers since I was an intern application engineer back in 2005. I’ve had parts made on FDM, objet, SLA, SLS, and 3DP and they each have their strengths and weaknesses. 3DP is no silver bullet, but one thing I wanted to do is bring everyone up to speed on is the technological advancements.

See the powders have become finer and when you infiltrate with epoxy instead of superglue you avoid those warped parts. The old superglue method created a chemical reaction with the moisture from the part resulting in heat. The heat is what caused the thin parts to warp. Once the chemical reaction is complete, those parts became resistant to warping, but using epoxy instead of superglue is a better technique IMO.

Also the new machines have automatic post processing units. Basically they suck the majority of the surrounding powder away from the parts so you don’t have to dig for them. At the same time that powder is run through a mesh which sifts the powder so it’s all self contained and you don’t end up with messy offices.

I have a ZCorp 310. At first, my parts would warp, but then I started baking them to get all the moisture out of the part before I apply infiltrant. Two hours at 150F, apply infiltrant, then back in the oven for another 2 hours. I think the flexibility of the ZCorp printers is its best attribute. ZCast for castings. Zp15 for elastomer/rubber parts. ZP150 for plastic parts. All from the same printer.

The good: Much less expensive to run than other machines. Much faster than other machines. Pretty decent surface finish that can easily be filled and sanded to a smooth finish. Very reliable.

The bad: Rigid parts are too brittle for snap fit features. Screw bosses are problematic. The previous mentioned warping issue depending on part geometry. A certain amount of mess. On complex large parts, post-processing can take a lot of labor.

With regards to the automated removal, that just seems to be a vacuum next to the build area. The process of recycling the powder from the vacuum is messy and lengthy. Ideally, you have enough virgin powder to reduce the amount of time you pulling the vacuum sack.

I’m not sure which powder you are refering to. From what I could gather, there is a plaster powder (zp40?) and a vinyl powder (zp30?)

Full disclosure: I’ve run a 310 for a couple of years now. I’ve also researched new machines as they’ve come out (V-Flash, FDM machines, Objet, some others).

Your right the automation is essentially a vacuum, but it is not just connected to the build area. There is a whole assembly of hoses connect to the build tray, post processing area and overflow. Depending on which mode the printer is going through, the hoses rotate on a gear and align themselves to the vacuum. Basically if you run it overnight, you come in the morning and up to 80% of the powder has already been removed through the tiny holes at the bottom of the build tray. That powder automatically is run through a wire mesh that sifts it and puts it back in the hopper (there is no vacuum sack).

It’s easiest to see at 2:12

mh, I have not used a machine that has the vacuum but I would assume that this means you can’t pack the built so that pieces are being printed on top of each other, since they would collapse as the powder is sucked out, right?
That would “suck” (hey ooh).

that was the huge advantage of the Z print, that you could print a huge amount in one go…
I had a quite a few times that the weight of the powder would crush pieces inside the bed.

Excellent point, they say it’s so easy middle school students can operate it, but yes you have to have some common sense/street smarts. You wouldn’t want to stack certain geometries too high, ie: cylinders on their side. They would obviously roll over if the bed wasn’t already filled with them. Although if it was say an iphone on top of an iphone, you’d be in good shape since an iphone is robust and without hardly any undercuts. Either way, you can turn off the auto-depowder feature with a click of a button.

I think Z Corps idea was to reduce the amount of time to “operate” the machine and just make it more user friendly.

I was printing some parts last week that would sometimes crush under the powder weight. I got two out of four out of the bed. The bad part was that I was burning an hour or two trying to get them out. That’s a lot of manual labor to spend on an unusable part.

emstampa: oh yeah, I forgot the newer beds have holes in them. Nice that it auto-filters the powder back to the hopper. Wish I had gone for a bigger machine. Oh well.

@ A2P, what are you talking about when you say ZP150 for plastic parts? I have seen someone else advertising Z Corp as plastic. Is there something I am missing? Do you have pic/videos of this plastic material?

I have a whole supply room of ZP150 and it doesn’t look like plastic to me…