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New Dimension of Printing

Ethereal Machines, a Bengaluru-based start-up, has created a compact and affordable 5D printer that combines additive and subtractive manufacturing. 


Once considered an element of science fiction, the ability to do three-dimensional (3D) printing—producing material objects on-demand via computers—has become the latest trend in real-time production and small-scale manufacturing. 3D printing has been used in recent years to create car parts, smartphone cases, fashion accessories, medical equipment and even artificial body parts.

Ethereal Machines, a Bengaluru-based start-up, is now taking 3D printing technology to new heights with its Halo 5D printer. Since being founded in 2014, the company has strived to help lessen the capital costs of machineries and improve the user-friendliness of 3D printing technologies.

Ethereal Halo was named a Best of Innovation Awards Honoree in the 3D printing category at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, one of the world’s largest technology trade shows. This sparked a huge industry buzz and excitement over the possibilities of more affordable 3D printing.

 

How it works

3D printing refers to the process wherein material is fabricated under computer control to create a three-dimensional object. In additive manufacturing, computers are used to generate successive layers of material to gradually produce a 3D object. Subtractive manufacturing, on the other hand, uses computer components to carve an object from a solid material through a series of automated lasers or cutters.

The Ethereal Halo printer combines 3D printing and computer numerical control (CNC) technology, creating a revolutionary hybrid of additive and subtractive manufacturing methods. While most 3D printers typically operate on three axes—X, Y and Z axes—the Halo adds A and C axes—two additional rotational dimensions. This is why Ethereal Machines refers to its new Halo as 5-axis, or “5D,” printer. With five axes, the printer head and the bed are able to move simultaneously, enabling new printing geometries and flexibility nearly impossible with 3D printers.

Halo is priced at around $25,000 (Rs. 16.5 lakhs approximately), which is about 40 to 60 percent cheaper than other similar 5-axis machines available in the market. It is also more compact in size than any other 5-axis printer, the result of the Ethereal Machines’ team working for over a year to develop the Halo 5D printer. “What I am most proud of in the evolution of the machine is the extent to which we have been able to shrink down a technology that is huge to the size of one’s desktop,” says Kaushik Mudda, co-founder of Ethereal Machine. With a total surface area of only 900 millimeters x 900 millimeters, Halo can bring the manufacturing power of a factory right to an entrepreneur’s desk.

 

CES award

For over 50 years, CES (formely known as The International Consumer Electronics Show) has been the premier showcase for breakout consumer technologies. Here, innovators from all over the world unveil their technologies to the global marketplace.

“The most significant takeaway from CES 2018 is that we need to keep up and continue the pace of work we have been at over the last 1.5 years,” says Mudda. “Given the number of innovators and hustlers that show up at events like CES 2018, it inspires everyone at Ethereal Machines to stay on top of our game and continue innovating in our space. We are now all the more determined to live up to the expectations that people have from Ethereal Machines after winning the Best of Innovation honor.”

Ethereal Machines is now quickly moving forward with its mission to help small-scale and mid-scale entrepreneurs get affordable manufacturing equipment. In addition to Halo, the company has also launched Ethereal Pentagram (a 5-axis CNC machine), Ethereal Ray (a dual-extruder 3D printer) and Ethereal Concrete 3D Printer (an automated concrete laying machine). “We are currently inspired by the idea of generative design and are working in that direction,” says Mudda. “In the future, we want our machine systems to be able to decide what kind of manufacturing processes —subtractive or additive, 3-axis or 5-axis— and what kind of material needs to be employed, all from the design the user inputs to the system.”


Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.