At the RAPID 2016 show in Orlando, Fla., EnvisionTEC unveiled its Selective Lamination Composites Object Manufacturing (SLCOM 1) machine. According to the company, the machine is the first and only disruptive industrial-scale, composites 3D printer, and is capable of manufacturing parts in materials like nylon, PEEK, polycarbonate, fiberglass and carbon fiber.

“[The printer] represents a paradigm shift for manufacturing, especially where demanding mechanical and environmental properties can only be delivered from woven composites,” said Al Siblani, CEO of EnvisionTEC.

In an interview with Sarah Webster, Editor-in-Chief of SME’s Advanced Manufacturing Media, Siblani said the decrease in carbon fiber and fiberglass prices was a big part of what made the development of technology viable. He added that the printer is capable of producing lightweight parts with high strength, high stiffness and an infinite shelf life – which would have a major impact on the composites industry.

“We’re looking for a material that is really a breakthrough that would take 3D printing into the next phase where automotive and aerospace can benefit drastically from it,” Siblani said.

SLCOM technology allows for the building of composite parts using layer-by-layer laminated thermoplastic composite fabric sheets from a roll.  The SLCOM 1 will be capable of building objects up to 24″ x 30″ with a 24″ height. Composites in the SLCOM 1 can be tailored for exceptional toughness, environmental resistance, vibration dampening, low flammability characteristics, high wear resistance and high strength to weight ratio.

“It is exciting to consider the extensive range of new applications that the SLCOM 3D printing technology will open up.  EnvisionTEC has long been a pioneer in 3D printing innovations and we believe that this entry into the composites space will propel industrial 3D printing to a host of new applications,” said Siblani.

SLCOM 1 is not the first time EnvisionTEC has introduced the first-of-type product to the market. Back in 2002, the company developed and commercialized the first digital light processing (DLP) 3D printer.