BCN3D Announces New Company, Supernova, to Run VLM Business

Published on January 31, 2024 by Madeleine P.

Back in 2022, leading IDEX 3D printer manufacturer BCN3D made waves when the company announced the new Viscous Lithography Manufacturing (VLM) technology. However, since then, we have heard little about the groundbreaking process. That changed today when BCN3D held a press conference to announce officially that the part of the company dedicated to the development and adoption of VLM technology will be separating into a separate entity, named Supernova.

What was exceptional about VLM in comparison to other resin 3D printing technologies is its use of highly viscous resins rather than ones with a lower viscosity. The lithography-based AM technique works by using a transparent film to transfer the resins to a build platform, where they are then cured. Supposedly, it has a number of advantages over the conventional resin processes, including DLP, SLA and MSLA, as it can handle resins with up to 100 times higher viscosity allowing for superior mechanical properties and performance. In the press conference, Supernova even noted that end-use parts made with the process could be compared to those made with powder 3D printing or injection molding.

A rendering of the VLM solution

Indeed, the technology made such a stir that today there are over 500 companies in the Technology Adoption Program as well as ongoing partnerships with Puma, Saint Gobain, Orbea, Hutchison, and Prodrive, according to BCN3D. But the company seemingly found it difficult to work on both the main IDEX FDM business, including the Omega i60 which started being shipped in September 2023, and the VLM department. This decision was thus made to separate the two to allow VLM to grow and allow it to develop and come to market, with BCN3D noting the decision will ensure that “each has its own space to flourish in the long term.” 

Supernova will be headed by CEO and co-founder Roger Antunez, who, prior to this, was a general manager focusing on VLM at BCN3D. Also joining him will be fellow co-founder Marta Mico who was formerly the VLM Head of Business Development at BCN3D and now will be Head of Business at Supernova. Leading the technology development will be Eric Pallares, the former CTO of BCN3D, joining Supernova as a Distinguished Technologist.

Antunez expanded more on the hopes of the new company in the press conference, stating, “The ambition is to elevate projects through advanced technologies, we want to develop breakthrough new technology and research, pushing the boundaries of what AM has to offer to the world. One of the drawbacks with AM is that the technologies are strong in some ways and weak in others and are often unbalanced because of this. We are lucky at Supernova to be able to work on the innovative VLM process and to further grow with customers.”

What Can We Expect From Supernova?

Supernova is expected to be based in both Austin, Texas and Barcelona, Spain, with the ultimate mission to deliver parts at scale and at cost. Thus hitting many of the main manufacturing pillars: high-quality results, productivity and cost-effectiveness when it comes to cost per part. Furthermore, Antunez noted that, over the next year, the company will be focused on continuing to develop the technology and materials along with their customers.

The co-founders of Supernova

What will that entail?  Well, though the company could not give an exact date, Antunez noted that efforts are being focused right now on product ecosystem development.  More specifically, for this machine, the idea will be to have a complete and integrated solution with automated workflow, allowing minimum interaction from the side of the operator.  This includes an automated washing solution to remove uncured resin that uses optimized cleaning agents, agitation, ultrasonic and heating. Then there is another step with post-curing, involving a combination of UV light exposure and thermal annealing to achieve a higher performance. The solution will be a closed ecosystem, with the machine and post-processing equipment sold together, retailing at below $100,000 dollars.

Supernova also boasts an impressive material portfolio including polymers (including elastomeric and rigid), silicons and epoxies as well as ceramics and metals. Multi-material printing will also be available with VLM, a relative rarity with many vat photopolymerization methods, though of course possible with material jetting. These materials in particular are expected to help push the technology to new heights as Supernova targets new sectors.

Defense, space and transportation seem to be major targets for the new company. Although, thanks to the viscosity of the resins used for VLM, it has also been mentioned that healthcare could be a goal. That is because these materials may avoid some of the problems we have been seeing with resin 3D printing in recent years, which have called into question the true biocompatibility of many resins.

It remains to be seen what exactly the impact of this announcement will be on not just BCN3D, but on the industry as a whole. In any case, we will look forward to future developments from Supernova as it continues its expected expansion over the course of 2024. You can find out more on the newly launched website HERE or you can watch the announcement below:

What do you think of the announcement of Supernova? What do you think will be the next milestones for the company? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*All Photo Credits: Supernova

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