Earlier this year Stratasys set up a new company, Evolve Additive Solutions, to develop a new approach to 3D printing called Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process, or STEP. Evolve has now chosen to work with Kodak and its Nexpress electrophotographic printers.
Thus Kodak will supply imaging systems, parts and consumables based on its Nexpress platform. Kodak has also licensed relevant intellectual property to Evolve and the companies have signed Joint Development Agreements for equipment and materials though the expectation is that this collaboration will also include manufacturing, service and support. Evolve will use a Kodak-developed toner manufacturing process to make the part toners for the Evolve system.
Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions, explained: “The selection of the Kodak systems and technology for STEP allows us to deliver to the market a highly-reliable solution, based on a proven engine that is recognized as one of the most productive printing systems in the world. By working with Kodak, we have a technology and a collaborative relationship that will not only allow us to get to market quickly, but we will have the throughput expansion to grow as we push STEP capabilities into the future.”
Evolve says that the STEP technology will sit alongside traditional manufacturing processes, such as injection molding on the manufacturing floor, though in truth this also applies to quite a few 3D printing technologies including Stratasys’ FDM printers.
Evolve has already shipped an early version of its STEP system under an alpha development program, with both Evolve and Kodak supporting this installation. However, the STEP technology will not be ready for a commercial release until 2020, though we will no doubt get a further update at this month’s Formnext show in Frankfurt, Germany.
John O’Grady, president of Kodak’s Print Systems Division, commented: “Having worked closely with the talented staff of engineers working on the STEP technology for several years, we are confident Evolve will help change the way the organizations approach production of plastic parts for manufacturing.”
This is an interesting move given that Kodak has licensed its brand name for 3D printing to another company, suggesting that it had lost interest in this area though this announcement clearly puts Kodak back into the additive manufacturing business.