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How Phrozen is Breaking into FDM | Interview with Ray Wu, Phrozen CEO

Peyton Shelton

Peyton Shelton

Marketing and Brand Manager

I'm joined today by the CEO of Phrozen Ray Wu, and we are going to be talking about Arco and Phrozen and everything to do with the launch of this new printer and the Kickstarter. How are you doing today, Ray? 

Yeah, pretty good. Yeah. 

I'm super excited to be here in Taiwan and to talk to you about this printer and your company. But before we do that, I just want to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself to our audience and the world for anyone who may not be familiar with you and Phrozen. 

Okay. Actually Phrozen was a startup company founded in 2016. It is founded by me. I'm Ray Wu and my partner, Alex Lee. And we are both engineers and back ten years ago,

There's a big hype for 3D printing industry, right? So at the time we're talking always about—my partner and I say, Hey, can we do something about 3d printers? And then maybe after a short survey we think, well, maybe we can start to do some engineering stuff with 3D printers. My colleague is a mechanical engineer, and for me, I'm material science engineer.

So we try to find a technology to dive into it. Phrozen itself, is a word we created by me and my partner. It's a combination word of photon and Frozen it’s kind of from the mechanics from the resin 3d printer. We use photon to cure the resin. We pick these two words and make a Phrozen.

So why'd we choose Phrozen? Because at that time, ten years ago, when we just do the 3D printing, there is an animation very popular in the United States in Disney called Frozen. So I thought that could be a good idea if we put a name called Phrozen and everyone already knows these words and then they know we are doing the resin 3D printers.

So that's where Phrozen comes from. And all most people know is that it is a company doing LCD 3D printer. But to be more specific, we are the first one to do the Mono-LCD 3D printer.

LCD 3D printer used to print very slow, but we are the first one to make it print three times faster by developing the Mono-LCD. We spend a lot of time and money and investment working with LCD manufacturers, trying to define the LCD that is suitable for 3D printing, not only for display, but for 3D printing itself. 

Phrozen actually is a engineering oriented company focusing on high quality resin printer using Mono-LCD technology. Yeah, yeah. So obviously we are from an FDM background.

Yeah. We don't deal with resin 3D printing. Yes. And so a lot of our audience as well, they may not be familiar with all the different kinds of resin 3D printers or 3D printing technologies. Yeah. Could you just really briefly explain when you're talking about LCD resin, 3D printing and 3d printing technology, what does that mean and what does that entail for resins?

For resin 3D printer, it's a it's like, are you using a resin as a raw materials. And this resin when it is exposed to the light you will cure into the solid parts. And why we call LCD 3D printer, DLP 3D printer or SLA is because the difference of the light source and we are using LCD as a light source. And LCDs will project patterned light.

Yeah. And you will cure resin in the print pattern you want by curing the pattern, layer by layer you can accumulate a 3D object very quickly.

So for resin 3D printer itself, since it's using light to cure the resin so it can have very high accuracy and you can print a print very high details, but the limitation is they can pretty only small objects.

So you have all this experience, these years of experience in resin and your LCD 3D printing. What inspired your move to go into FDM? They are both additive manufacturing and 3D printing, but they're very different spaces. So what inspired this expansion into FDM? 

Okay, actually this is from the feedback from our customers, as you may know, LCD 3D printer, or we can say resin 3D printer, it can only print, you can print high detail parts, but you can only print a small part. 

And our users always say, "Hey Ray, I need a larger print. High details, you can choose different material. For example, I want a PC-ABS, Nylon, something like that. Can you make this?" And I say, for resins it's totally different. And for the larger print as well?

We're using the LCD. There are some mechanical problems, so you cannot print, you cannot always print large print. In resin for large print, it's only about 20 centimeters. It's large, but apparently it's not large enough. So when we are trying to solve these users problems and we think about FDM.

When people talking about resin and FDM printer, they always say it's in competition, something like that. But in during our conversation with our users, we think it's kind of a technologies that it can be combined, it can be integrated and fulfill a customer's real need for production or prototyping. So at a time when we think about FDM, maybe we can give it a try. We want to join the market start from 2020.

Maybe we start very early. Yeah, we want to do FDM, but at that time we don't have we don't have—it's just an idea and why we really trying to dive into this market development is back in 2022 because too many people want a large printers. 

Yeah that's something we are very familiar with at Slice is people want bigger printers. They want huge printers. We work with some companies we have some customers that have printers the size of whole rooms and they're huge and they're making chairs and furniture and insanely large things.

I'm very amazed when I go to Formnext in Germany, right? 

I see lots of people are printing, I think in Europe and United States are printing large stuffs, but in Taiwan, in Taiwan, Asia, we only print small one. But we when we go there, we say, large printer is popular. 

What challenges did you face in making this expansion, in developing, kind of, Arco, making this move from resin to FDM technology?

Oh okay. Actually, when doing the resin 3D printer, we are very familiar with motor control and some mechanical design. Actually, it's shared technology with FDM. So basically when building this printer, we don't really find any difficulties in technology wise. And we at the beginning we use Klipper base code to try to make it's system and I think we put out a prototype in just about six months.

We got a prototype and it works pretty well. So I think the challenges I don't think is from the technology, but the problem is the variation of the standard. You know, in 2022 there, our competitor carry out a very good product. You can print a multicolor, print a very fast speed, and with very consistent output. 

Yeah, but at that time we got our prototype and we are very happy its: "Ah, the prototype is working well, it's working, working quite cool."

And then when we see our competitors product, I say, “Wow, they change the standard of the industry. The standard just raised a lot to carry out a good product.”

Because of this product, people expect to see if you're a newcomer to this market, people expect you to perform better outstanding than this product. So at that time we decided, okay, we cannot sell our prototype, we need to redesign everything in this part.

So, even so we started our FDM project back in 2021, 2020, we because of this, standard change. We tried to, we actually we designed everything and tried to catch up with the new standard. So I think that's the most challenging part for Phrozen.

I think that shows a real commitment to your customers, though, that you were willing to start over. Was that a difficult decision to stop and start over? 

Actually, it's a difficult decision because we almost finish our BOM (Bill of Materials). We are ready to go, ready to do the mass production, but you know, Phrozen actually, we hope that this brand can bring a good printing quality products to our customers.

And I hope this brand can continuously bring the good product, outstanding product to our customers. So at that time, if we feel that, "Oh this product cannot fulfill our customers need." We will directly postpone our project and see how we can improve. Actually, we do this many times in our companies before. So Phrozen Arco, it's just one of it.

How do you see Arco fitting into your overall product lineup and strategy moving forward?

Yeah, I think we can see we can see from three specifications. Ones for the printing speed. For resin 3D printer, actually we focus on fast printing for FDM we call Arco a fast printer, but compared with the resin printer it still is not as fast as resin printers. So it's a kind of if we want a fast prototyping, we choose resin.

But for Arco, we are focusing on our second aspect it's the print volume, build volume. You can print Arco is 30 centimeter squared, you can have 30 centimeter in squares printing areas. I think that's what we focus. It's a large area of printer in our product line. Yeah. And also aspect is about the variety of the materials. 

For just as I said, the resins you can only choose acrylate materials and the properties is just layered. But for FDM you can choose a lot of materials from the PLA, ABS, to up high temperature material like a Nylon, or rigid material like a carbon fiber filled composite materials. So for FDM, actually we are focusing more on the material variety. For Arco itself, it will be a large printer with multiple material selections.

We can provide different materials to our customers. That's our focus. 

When we're looking at the market today and all the options that you have with FDM 3D printers specifically, how does Arco differentiate itself? What makes it unique? 

Okay, so first for Phrozen Arco, actually it's a large multi-color FDM and 3D printer with a special printhead design and also sturdy gantry.

And most importantly it's fixed CoreXY. So when you separate all these topics. It's simple, it's no difference. But when we combine these topics together, it's a difficult task. 

When a backer receives the printer for the first time, is there anything that they're going to immediately notice that you're excited for when they unbox the printer?

I think it's the sturdy mechanical design of the printer. You can see nowadays all the printer are very slender. It's a thin aluminum chassis, something like that, but for Arco, everything is strong, sturdy. So you can you can slap on this printer and say, wow, this high quality metal printer. Yeah. I think that will be the first impression for this printer.

What are your long term goals and aspirations for Arco? What do you envision for the machine and how do you think it's going to impact the FDM space and then the 3D printing industry as a whole?

Yeah, actually we start from the CoreXY structure and it is our first step. And for FDM, actually, just as I say, we focus on more selections about the materials. So we will try to build up a sturdy, sturdy printer with the kind of heating chamber and something like that. In the future, we hope we can build a printer that can take different kind of engineering plastics, for example.

Like a Nylon. Nylon is the basic one. You can also print a high temperature Nylon, and the most important maybe some Sulfone, Polysulfone material or PEEK materials. I think, I hope in a long way, in the long run, Phrozen Arco series can carry as many materials as possible and fulfill the customer's need. 

Yeah, but for short term, Arco is our first step. We hope we can work with the community and try to see what else we can do for the short term. But in the long run, material selection is our first priority. 

Do you feel any added pressure coming from the world of resin and you've built a reputation as Phrozen? 

Do you feel pressure to perform in a way that maybe if you were just a new startup on the scene? Do you feel a sense of pressure that you have to live up to expectations even though it's your first time doing FDM? 

Yeah, definitely.

It's a lot of pressure when we step from resin to FDM. For FDM it's totally, totally different because since 2008, maybe from the FDM Open Source Community has already showed up in 2008. Yeah, so and so for FDM market that already a lot of experts was using different kind of FDMs and different kind of suppliers and they are all well experienced and they know a lot about the printer itself.

Maybe some users are better than us. And also there are already a lot of suppliers. They can provide a stable enough, high quality, enough products for FDM.

But for Phrozen, it's our first FDM printer. 

They have put a very high expectation on these products and also high standards. So far for us, Phrozen actually we feel very pressured. And anyway, it's just like, you know, just like what we do for all of our projects. But we are not afraid of pressure, but we need time.

Something that I think differentiates Arco from some of the other similar offerings on the market today is the fact that it uses open source firmware compared to some that use closed source firmware. 

What led to that decision? 

Okay. So for the firmware itself, actually there are already some open source code layer like Klipper. Actually I think that's important. They already do a very good job on this part. I believe we don't, we cannot build a better firmware, better than Klipper's, so we just use the Klipper directly. We don't try to hide anything. Oh, it's our own self developed firmware or something like that. We don't do that. We just say it's from Klipper. 

That's for the firmware part, but for slicer, actually for multicolor, when you look back on the market for multicolored 3D printer, there are only one or two sections

Also, some technology is patent protected, so we are trying to avoid that, avoid the violation of a patent and also try to develop a multicolor printhead. We want to build a multicolored printhead. So we want to avoid the patent and we also want to design our own. We need to do some special design.

So integrating the slicer with our hardware movements is pretty important. So at this point, I will say for slicer, it is it is necessary to develop our own slicer so that we can optimize the printer. 

Obviously, I am not normally in Taiwan, so we're here because of a special occasion and we are celebrating our collaboration and upcoming co-branded GammaMaster Nozzle for the Kickstarter campaign for Arco.

And so as a part of this partnership and collaboration, I just want to know what actually attracted Phrozen to Slice Engineering, what brought the two companies together and what do we have to look forward to in the future? 

Okay, so first of all, welcome to Taiwan. I hope you enjoy the trip. Okay. So when we're talking about Slice Engineering actually, I met your company back in 2023 at RAPID + TCT in United States.

At that time I'm very surprised about when I see your booth I see lots of people surrounding and in your booths talking about nozzles, hotends, and you are explaining with a very professional, in a very professional way. 

You also show your simulation results and detailed technology data. I think, it will be cool if we can collaborate with you in terms in our field and maybe we can make our printer have a better quality, we can have a better user experience for our users.

Yeah. So we talk with your colleagues about some collaboration. Your colleague recommended me to use the GammaMaster nozzles. And at the beginning and we, we just tried it.

And also, we got a special coating, you know, when doing a FDM printing. We are afraid of changing the nozzle. Yeah. So we hope if we can install the nozzle and then we can print continuously without any problems. And I say that's a bit if we come straight, can bring us.

So that's why I proposed to your colleagues, to Slice Engineering and say, Hey, we are doing the FDM next year, the Phrozen Arcos project to see can we do some collaboration, especially focus on GammaMasters Nozzle? 

Yeah, after, I hope we will have a professional product and we and Slice Engineering is a professional company. We hope Phrozen and Slice Engineering, we can do some collaboration and bring our users a very nice experience in the FDM 3D printing. 

What has been the experience of you and your team with GammaMaster so far on the Arco specifically, how has it how has its performance been on Arco? 

Well, it's perfect. Yeah. I will say at the beginning it's hard to integrate it with to our printer at the very beginning but soon we solved the problem and once it installed in our printers actually it's nonstop. We print a lot of materials from TPU, from carbon fiber filaments.

We print a lot of materials without any problems. I like this product. It's perfect. 

If you have anything else that you want to say before we wrap up here about Arco or Phrozen or Kickstarter or anything like that, the floor is yours.

Actually Phrozen Arco is a long journey for us and it is finally on Kickstarter campaign.

It's live now and as of today, actually we still got we got a lot of feedbacks from our communities and we are trying to integrate everything on our printers and try to do a demo and try to respond to your questions. If you've got any thoughts on this printer, please share your comments in our community. 

We will try our best to get back to you. And this campaign will be ending April 7th and we are still a little step away from the 1.8 million.

That is our stretch goal target. Yeah, if you want to if you want to win the Phrozen Arco with the GammaMaster nozzles, please sponsor us. Back this project and we will send all of this together to you and get you the very good experience in FDM 3D printing. Thank you.

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