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Reviewing the Carbon L1 Large Format 3D Printer

We recently added Carbon’s new L1 large format 3D printers to our fleet in our Carbon Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) micro-factory. Join Staff Application & Design Engineer Alex Pille for a peek under the hood of this new machine.

Video transcript

Fast Radius is a full service manufacturing partner focused on bringing new innovative solutions to our customers.

Since 2017, we’ve had Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology in house which has enabled us to build a strong partnership with Carbon as well as a highly capable and repeatable process for producing parts.

Carbon recently released a large format L1 printer, and we were excited to add it to our fleet and increase our production capabilities for our customers.

We’re one of the few manufacturers to have the L1 available, so we wanted to give you a peek under the hood to check out this new technology.

Build volume

The first area we want to focus on is how the build volume for the L1 stacks up against the M2, which is the previous generation Carbon printer.

M2 vs L1 empty

Here you can see the platforms for both the L1 and M2. The L1 platform is larger in comparison to the M2.

Resolution

The next area for comparison is the resolution of the two printers. The L1 is a little over double the resolution of the M2 for the XY direction and identical for the Z direction. When looking at the resolution values.

Build volume values

The smaller the value the more precise the printer.  So with the L1, we lose a little accuracy so that we can gain a larger XY printing area.

Materials

Carbon has done a great job of developing the L1 platform to accommodate its growing list of engineering-grade materials. A few that we use at Fast Radius on a regular basis are EPX 82, RPU 70, RPU 130, and EPU 41.

Machine capabilities

At Fast Radius we are always tracking and monitoring our manufacturing systems to better understand their capabilities over time. When bringing in a new platform like the L1, we perform a series of studies to benchmark the machine’s capabilities.

The first area we always look into is the variation of the printer itself. For this study we put together a build platform with equidistant spacing of our calibration test plaques. We ran this build a series of times to capture short term build-to-build variation of the printing platform. To get a better understanding of the variation we saw, we put together this heat map which is overlaid onto the L1 platform.

Platform variation analysis

For your reference, the darker the color the further from nominal the measured values were and the lighter the color the closer the values were to nominal. We did this analysis for both the XY and Z directions. You can see variation across the platform but all within the standard capability specified by Carbon. This information is essential to understanding variation stackup in our processes as well as having baseline information for our process control tracking.

Another study that we performed was on Z-height dimension accuracy so that we could better understand variation as the build gets taller in the Z direction. We designed a test plaque that was made up of five zones of equal height. We then found the variation for this system. We learned that as the build gets taller, we need to accommodate for more shrinkage in the Z-Axis. This insight helps us scale large parts correctly so that they meet dimensional requirements given to us by our customers.

Z Height measurement graph

Ideal Applications

The Carbon L1 platform ultimately uses the same DLS technology as the M2 platform, so it’s well-suited for many of the same applications. Where the L1 really stands out is for applications that require scaling to meet changes in demand and large parts that couldn’t be made on a smaller platform.

With one customer, we were able to match their demand and scale to the L1 platform as production volumes increased and transition back to the M2 platform as production orders decreased.

M2 vs L1

When we transitioned to the L1 platform from the M2 we were able to increase our production throughput by 350% to meet demand during its peak order season. This ability to switch between the two platforms allows us to reduce physical inventory and better match our customers’ variable demand cycles as needed.

The size of the L1 is also a huge advantage for some applications. We recently helped Digital Aerolus produce new shrouds using LOCTITE IND405 clear material for their new Aertos 130IR drone. Before having the L1, the size of these shrouds would push us to use other technologies that would either have poor surface finish or reduced material properties. For this application, the L1 enabled us to deliver on both attributes and help Digital Aerolus bring their product to market faster.

Aertos130IR

Operationalizing the Carbon L1

The L1 platform is unlike any printer out in the market today. Not just because of its size but because of how much technology is packed into it. One of the first documents that Carbon gives to new customers is a comprehensive checklist of all the facility and equipment requirements to fully operationalize the platform. Simply put, this is not a desktop printer and requires significant space and facility investment to ensure a smooth rollout. Lucky for us here at Fast Radius, we’ve specifically designed our micro-factory to handle these requirements, and we built our factory so that we can scale and grow our fleet as needed. In addition to our physical and digital infrastructure, we’ve also built out a quality system that is tailored towards additive manufacturing while keeping with our AS9100D & ISO 9001 certifications.

So that’s the Carbon L1. If you think you have an application that would be a good fit for the L1, the M2, or any other technology, contact us at Fast Radius. We’ll be happy to help make your project possible.

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