Tools & Technologies

By Melody Ablola

New Valence Robotics’ NVPro 3-D printer can help additive
manufacturing operate 24-7 in collaborative, multiple-user
environments.

Open the box for an automated factory

What a tantalizing phrase for an industrial engineer, "automated factory in a box."

So let's take a virtual peek inside the NVPro box and get further insight into the unique capabilities of New Valence Robotics' automated 3-D printer, which the company claims will revolutionize the additive manufacturing industry.

The printer has a decent build envelope of 7.9 by 7.4 by 9.4 inches but still a compact overall dimension of 30 by 22 by 23 inches. This printer offers flexibility for most small-medium print jobs using all field flow fractionation (FFF) polymers/composites, appropriate for customers ranging from the experienced practitioner to smaller educational concerns to private users.

The NVPro is strong. The U.S.-made printer has an aircraft-grade aluminum frame offering solid strength and reliability. The build quality allows the printer to take on ambitious projects that require nozzle temperatures up to 500 degrees Celsius and bed temperatures of up to 250 degrees Celsius. This allows users to print with high-performing materials and lets them print with confidence that the tests, parts and all the creative and wacky products won't warp or lose quality with consecutive prints.

The NVPro 3-D printer is smart. As they say, brains matter. The NVPro offers the first automated part ejection in the industry (U.S. patent No. 9,289,946, to be exact) that is paired with NVCloud software. That integration allows users to easily and remotely print parts at any time and from any device. After a part is complete, automatic ejection allows for the next print to commence, making the NVPro uniquely suited for continuous 24-7 operation in multipleuser environments. Since users aren't required at the print or production location, companies no longer have to pay engineers to maintain print production.

After all, you wouldn't pay an engineer to feed paper into a printer, so why pay one to feed material into a 3-D printer. The advantages include increased production of prototypes or parts with seamless interaction between users.

In fact, New Valence Robotics' production process uses the NVPro to print its next iteration of printers. This saves the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in heavy capital expenditures from buying molds, molding machines and manufacturing capacity. New Valence officials even use the phrase "truly lights out manufacturing" to describe their process, which involves 10 engineers sharing equipment and working collaboratively.

Many in manufacturing tout 3-D printing as the future. Industry 4.0 enabled 3-D printing solutions are a great fit for large industrial companies that need affordable and reliable additive manufacturing solutions across their business. NVPro makes printing easy and allows print jobs to be controlled from anywhere, potentially for unprecedented economies of scale in implementations with multinational supply chains.

Melody Ablola is an industrial and systems engineer and associate logistics consultant at Arup. She is currently an IISE Young Professionals member in the San Francisco Bay area.

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