In-Vision: Many users wonder if it’s worth it to invest in more expensive, higher-grade projection equipment that uses industrial chipsets, or if display-grade DMD might work just as well. How do industrial-grade chipsets differ from display/projection grade?
Jeff: The basic technology is very similar, but industrial-grade chipsets have some additional capabilities. First, we can optimize them to handle different wavelengths of light. For example, we can modify the system to accommodate UV or infrared, to minimize reflection loss and maximize output—such as applying a coating to allow optimal light in and out with as little loss as possible.
Second, we can add features to enable high-speed control of the pixels with hardware triggers. For example, you can signal the DMD to operate dynamically based on a closed feedback loop. That’s the case in machine vision, where you have a camera that’s looking at the part where the patterned light is projected, and the camera sends back signals to the system that trigger the DMD and tell it what to do. The ability to program these hardware triggers and high-speed digital patterns really set the industrial chips apart. In 3D printing and lithography, we’re very close to being able to adjust the parameters to account for any misalignment in real time, to sort of custom build on the fly.
In-Vision: What are the advantages to industrial-grade chips in 3D printing?
Jeff: Overall, industrial-grade chips offer a better combination of performance and ROI in high-precision or production-grade use. They offer longer life, higher reliability and support a wider range of wavelengths, unlike display, which only handles RGB wavelengths for visible light. They’re more robust and they last longer in industrial, high-volume applications. They might cost a bit more, but they also offer more capabilities and don’t need to be replaced as often, so they’re a better investment in terms of total cost of ownership for commercial and industrial-grade applications.
For 3D printing specifically, they offer high programmability, for when you want to trigger a dynamic function, and because they can handle a wider variety of wavelengths, you can print with a wider range of materials, like polymers, resins or powders. And again, they’re much more reliable. Some competing technologies can’t handle the flux density or power levels required for certain applications, so they need to be replaced frequently. LCD, for example, requires a frequent change out, so much so that they provide a backup panel with the system for redundancy, but we don’t want to go that route. Instead, we built a chipset that can last through the production lifecycle.