Airbus to help qualify GEFERTEC metal 3D printer for aerospace-grade production

GEFERTEC, the German developer and provider of 3DMP metal 3D printers and technology, is to deliver an industrial-scale arc403 machine to international aeronautics company Airbus.

Together with German private sector research organization the Bremen Institute for Applied Beam Technology (BIAS), Airbus is preparing the arc403’s 3DMP metal 3D printing process for use in the aerospace industry.

The advantages of 3DMP

3DMP is a wire-arc melting based metal additive manufacturing process capable of creating near-net-shape components.

The technique, according to GEFERTEC, promises to eradicate waste with “nearly 100% material utilization,” and cost savings of “up to 60% versus conventional manufacturing.”

In total, the company has four 3DMP machines in its portfolio:

– The arc603: a 3-axis machine capable of creating components up to 3 m³, with a maximum mass of 3000kg.
– The arc605: a 5-axis machine with a maximum capacity of up to 0.8 m³ and 500 kg mass.
– The arc405: 5-axis, 0.06 m³ capabilities and a maximum mass of 200 kg.
– And the arc403, the 3-axis machine which has just been installed by Airbus.

The process of producing a finished part with 3DMP follows 4 main steps: digital CAD/CAM design, manufacturing/3D printing, 3D scanning/metrology, and milling.

Inside a 3DMP 3D printer. Photo via GEFERTEC
Inside a 3DMP 3D printer. Photo via GEFERTEC

More eco-efficient flight

Airbus and BIAS’s arc403 3D printer has been provided by GEFERTEC as part of the Regis Project, under the German government’s Federal Aviation Research Programme (LuFo).

The purpose of LuFo is to support and help fund R&D efforts working toward more eco-efficient flight, following objectives set by the Advisory Council for Aviation Research and Innovation in Europe (ACARE) and the Flightpath 2050 vision set by the European Commission.

In the Regis Project, GEFERTEC’s 3DMP process will be qualified for production-level manufacturing in the aerospace industry by the year 2021.

The aerospace certification race

Other metal 3D printing technologies working for aerospace qualification include Norsk Titanium Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) method, which was used to make Boeing’s first structurally-supportive, additive-manufactured titanium part for a commercial airline. Though certified for installation aboard the 787 Dreamliner, the RPD 3D printed part was subject to a point design qualification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), relating only to that part’s specific geometry. The next step would be to achieve certification for design allowables using the RPD process.

Also in partnership with Boeing, and most recently with Lufthansa MRO division Lufthansa Technik, Swiss-listed technology group Oerlikon, has been demonstrating its commitment to create additive manufacturing standards for the aerospace industry.

And, in Singapore, competing aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing have committed to integrate 3D printing into military aircraft maintenance.

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Featured image shows the GEFERTEC 3DMP additive manufacturing process. Photo via GEFERTEC

A 3D printed artform: UWE researchers use six-axis robot arm to create new 3D printed textures and patterns

Researchers from the University of West England’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR), located in Bristol, UK, are working with a six-axis Mitsubishi Electric MELFA RV-Series articulated arm industrial robot to create a novel form of expressive 3D printing.

With its use of complex geometrical shapes, additive manufacturing has the ability to produce unique objects not easily made through traditional methods. Researchers at CFPR aims to further unlock the artistic capabilities of 3D printing by controlling extruder movements on a customized printing system.

“Conventionally 3D Printers are machines with three linear axis (XYZ) and fabrication occurs in fixed horizontal layers,” said Dr. Paul O’Dowd, Research Fellow at the CFPR.

“The Mitsubishi Electric robot arm is very dexterous, allowing the robot to manipulate materials from all directions [and]has both freedom of movement and a comprehensive set of expansion capabilities.”

A new 3D printing aesthetic

In 2015, Dr. O’Dowd, who specializes in creative electronics and engineering, began investigating the relationship between robotics and artforms.

“What i’m interested in is how robots can interact with the world, perceive the world, and make their own intelligent decisions and I think art, in particular, is interesting as it contains a lot of nuances.” 

Recognising the increased demand for high-quality 3D printing technologies, O’Dowd and colleagues from the UWE have connected an articulated arm industrial robot to a print generation system with the intentions of establishing a new aesthetic that surpasses the rigidity of the automated workflow of 3D printing.

An 3D printed object with a 'plucked' texture created through the robotic arm system. Photo via UWE.
An 3D printed object with a ‘plucked’ texture created through the robotic arm system. Photo via UWE.

According to the CFPR researchers, the main challenge of 3D printing stems from the controlled digital processes of fabrication; when an object is fabricated the shape must be broken down into a series of machine tool paths that gather material by building up layers.

As 3D printing is generally precise in terms of movement and the deposition of materials, it has been able to produce a wide range of previously unattainable structures which have been later used within industrial applications, such as construction. For example, previously, Overtec,3D printed individual complex layered components to be installed on buildings and shop floors.

An example of ‘lace’ like aesthetic created by modulated nozzle velocity. Image via UWE.

Material manipulation

To achieve new 3D printed artist forms, the project is using the robot arm to research technologies and techniques to sense and manipulate PLA materials in dynamic ways. The robot is operated by printer paths through proprietary software developed by the CFPR.

The CFPR research team has compared this project to a potter’s wheel, where the artist works in direct contact with clay, thus understanding the constraints of working the material.

“By pushing 3D printable materials to their limits, we have exposed unexpected properties in the materials,” added Dr. O’Dowd.

“For instance, plastic deposition can be manipulated whilst it is hot and pulled into hairs, or fine gauss, or woven. Ceramics can also be deposited so that the material composition is capable of self-glazing in a single firing (as opposed to multiple firing processes). These material states may have applications in wider industry.”

Dr. O’Dowd and the CFPR research team are now further developing their proprietary software to better interpret changing material properties. In addition, the team will conduct similar tests for developing artistic creations using ceramics and photo-cure resins.

Leaf-like lace patterns fabricated using the Mitsubishi Electric MELFA RV-Series articulated arm system. Image via UWE.
Leaf-like lace patterns fabricated using the Mitsubishi Electric MELFA RV-Series articulated arm system. Image via UWE. 

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Featured image shows an 3D printed object with a ‘plucked’ texture created through the robotic arm system. Photo via UWE.

OPM to establish 3D printed medical device operations in Asia

High performance additive manufacturing (HPAM) and material science company Oxford Performance Materials (OPM) has partnered with advanced material supplier JSR Corporation in Tokyo to launch medical & dental operations across Asia.

Under the new partnership, JSR has an exclusive regional license to provide and distribute OPM’s PEKK based 3D printing services and consumables.

The two entities will operate together as OPM Asia, and aim to reach across 14 different regions: Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and India.

A SpineFab® Vertebral Body Replacement (VBR) System 3D printed by OPM's Osteofab process. Photo via Oxford Performance Materials
A SpineFab® Vertebral Body Replacement (VBR) System 3D printed by OPM’s Osteofab process. Photo via Oxford Performance Materials

Certified 3D printed medical devices

OPM’s high performance polymer based PEKK operations are offered as the OXPEKK materials range, and the OsteoFab biomedical device 3D printing technology.

In recent years, OPM has been steadily gaining FDA certification for patient-specific 3D printed medical devices made from OXPEKK materials. Furthermore, hinting at the most recent move with JSR, OXPEKK technology attained Accreditation of Foreign Medical Device Manufacturer (FMDM) from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare back in March 2018.

OsteoFab, by contrast, is the engine used to 3D print medical devices from OXPEKK polymers. With this system, OPM strives to streamline the device production process, efficiently designing, manufacturing and marketing products for biomedical and dental markets.

The specific technology used for the process is selective laser sintering (SLS) on an EOSINT P800 system. Devices made using the technology have proven to improve the osseointegration (bone on growth) of alternative mass-manufactured medical implants.

The OsteoFab® Patient Specific Cranial Device (OPSCD) from Oxford Performance Materials.
An OsteoFab® Patient Specific Cranial Device (OPSCD). Photo via Oxford Performance Materials.

A multi-billion dollar opportunity 

OPM founder and CEO Scott DeFelice will also serve as CEO of OPM Asia in this new partnership with JSR. OPM Chief Business Development Officer Bernard Plishtin and a representative of JSR will join DeFelise on company’s board of directors.

Commenting on the strategic decision, DeFelice says, “Asia’s healthcare industry is growing rapidly, and with that growth comes increased demand for medical innovation that delivers improved clinical effectiveness to more people with superior economics.”

Additionally, “…JSR will be a strong, influential partner to OPM,”

“We are extremely pleased that JSR has decided to finance the OPM Asia enterprise and work with us to establish the OPM technology platform throughout Japan and the wider region.”

According to Frost & Sullivan market research, Asia’s healthcare industry in expected to grow 11.1% to $517 billion by 2019.

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Featured image shows a 3D printed skull with an OXPEKK cranial implant. Photo via Oxford Performance Materials

Prodways posts €27 million revenue, 88% growth for first half of year

More 3D printing financial news with the publication new financial results from France’s Prodways Group. Acquisitions and on demand part manufacturing are behind strong growth at the French company.

The 3D printer manufacturer and service provider’s latest financial results show the company generated €27.6 million in revenue for the first half of the financial year. This is an 88.1% increase on the comparative figure of €14.6 for 2017.

Prodways’ results are also included in the financial returns of parent company Group Gorgé. At  Groupe Gorgé total revenue was €143.2 million, a 4.1% increase compared to the first half of 2017, driven by what the company describes as “the excellent performance of the 3D Printing division.”

(in € millions) H1 2018 H1 2017 Change Q2 2018 Q2 2017 Change
Systems 16.0 7.5 +113.8% 8.2 3.5 +131.1%
Products 11.9 7.4 +59.3% 6.1 3.7 +63.8%
Structure & disposals (0.3) (0.3) n/a (0.2) (0.1) n/a
Consolidated revenue 27.6 14.6 +88.1% 14.1 7.2 +95.4%


Prodways revenue is reported under two divisions, Systems and Products. In the Systems division total revenue was €16 million, up from the comparative of €7.5 million. Revenue in Systems relates to 3D design software, 3D printers and related materials. Prodways says, “The division has benefited from the good performance of the software business which contributed over the period. Machine sales were driven by the acceleration of sales of the Prodways ProMaker LD-10 dedicated to the dental market.”

The ProMaker LD-10 was shortlisted by our readers as the Enterprise 3D Printer of the year in the 2018 3D Printing Industry Awards.

Prodways ProMaker L5000. Photo by Michael Petch.
The Prodways ProMaker L5000. Photo by Michael Petch.

Prodways’ Products division includes on demand part manufacturing and 3D medical applications, specifically in the dental, podiatry and audiology markets. Here revenue saw a 59.3% increase, reaching €11.9 million.

Performance was primarily driven by large orders of on demand 3D printed parts. “The American service bureau VARIA 3D, previously 45%-held by Prodways Group and 70%-held since the end of the first quarter, contributed around €100,000 of revenue in the second quarter,” said the company.

“In the medical sector, dental remained stable. In contrast, the podiatry applications are still in deficit but are experiencing exceptional growth of almost 200% with the ramp-up of the Scientifeet 3D-printing solution for orthopedic and comfort insoles. Lastly, growth was significantly strengthened by the integration of Interson Protac, acquired during the third quarter of 2017.”

Updated revenue guidance and comment Solidscape acquisition

Prodways acquisition of Solidscape from Stratasys earlier this month is not included in the most recent financial statements. For the full financial year ending 2019 it is expected Solidscape will generate revenue in excess of $10 million, with over half the total coming from materials and supplies.

Solidscape is active in the jewelry market and the recent purchase is expected to give Prodways access to a new market for their 3D printing resins. Discussing the takeover Prodways said the integrated business presents a “comprehensive and unmatched offer on the investment casting and jewelry market.”

“The expected synergies, and particularly the marketing of small MOVINGLight machines through Solidscape network of more than 50 international distributors, should enable the new subsidiary to post double-digit EBITDA by 2020.”

In addition to the latest financial results, Prodways has also updated full year revenue guidance for 2018. The previous target €50 million has now increased to above €53 million. This new target “does not take into account the impact of Solidscape or other projected acquisition.” 3D Printing Industry now offers a database to track 3D printing M&A activity.

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3DLOOK raises $1 million in seed funding to advance 3D body scanning technology

3DLOOK, a California-based body scanning technology startup, has raised $1 million in an investment seed round to develop its Scanning Artificial Intelligence for Apparel (SAIA) 3D body scanning technology.

“This new funding round gives us the opportunity to expedite our aggressive technology and product roadmap and continue to hire the best experts in the fields of computer vision, deep learning and 3D,” said Vadim Rogovskiy CEO and Co-Founder of 3DLOOK.

“The apparel industry is finally embracing the importance of 3D to the entire product lifecycle. 3DLOOK will be the standard for mobile body capture. We’re ready to change the world.”


The perfect fit

Founded in 2016, 3DLOOK has developed the SAIA technology to revolutionize the online shopping experience. Using advanced computer vision algorithms, complex 3D geometry, and neural networks, SAIA enables accurate human body measurement from two photos taken on a mobile device.

Unlike the KODAK Full Body 3D Scanner, a mobile scanning booth for 3D printing full-colour figurines, or 3Dcopysystems’ Big Alice scanning system, SAIA technology does not require any external hardware to conduct full-body 3D scans.

The measurement data gathered from the 3D scans are used within “fit profiles” which create 3D models of an individual to better understand how garments will fit them.

“Additionally, the company collects the database of human body measurements so that brands could build better clothing for all types of body and solve fit and return problems. It will not only allow stores to sell more apparel, it will allow people get the quality apparel,” added Rogovskiy.

3DLOOK have partnered with Koviem, a New-York based bespoke suiting start-up, to advance its SAIA technology. Koviem has since reported a 20% increase in revenue from using the SAIA solution.

The software will be released out of beta in this fall under the name SAIA Perfect Fit.

A customized 3D model created using SAIA technology. Image via 3DLOOK.
A customized 3D model created using SAIA technology. Image via 3DLOOK.

An e-commerce growth strategy

The 3DLOOK team has raised $400,000 to date which brings its total investments to $1.4 million.The recently closed $1 million seed investment round included uVentures, an investment firm based in Houston, Texas, 500 Startups, a global venture capital seed fund headquartered in Silicon Valley, and several angel investors.

“We are thrilled to provide a boost to their ambitious growth strategy,” stated Enis Hulli, Venture Partner at 500 Startups. “Return rates are the ticking time bomb of e-commerce and those numbers escalate each year as online shopping numbers take a greater share of total retail.

“Younger demographics are using their bedrooms as dressing rooms. The fit is a big, big problem and 3DLOOK’s products are very timely.”

The new investment will also accelerate the release of 3DLOOK’s secondary product, SAIA 3D, which captures a maximum of 29 body measurements and generates accurate 3D body models.3DLOOK Co-Founders (left to right): Alex Arapovd, Vadim Rogovskiy, and Ivan Makeev.

3DLOOK Co-Founders (left to right): Alex Arapovd, Vadim Rogovskiy, and Ivan Makeev.

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Featured image shows a customized 3D model created using SAIA technology. Image via 3DLOOK.

On demand manufacturing service 3DCompare launches Instant Pricing Tool

3DCompare, a UK based on demand digital manufacturing service, has launched a new Instant Pricing Tool.

Alex Ziff, 3DCompare CEO, explained to 3D Printing Industry, “Over the last few months, we at 3DCompare.com have been very busy listening to partners on how to improve the platform so it can work more for the needs of our On-Demand Manufacturing partners.”

White Label Instant Pricing Tool

The 3DCompare site offers users access to a global network of 3D printing service providers and promises the “best price for 3D printing.” The newly launched White Label Instant Pricing Tool (IPT) is aimed at manufacturers who want to harness on demand or low volume manufacturing, currently via 3D printing bureaus.

Ziff said, “We offer a free starter pack of our IPT as we help partners increase their revenue and cut down the time giving quotes to their customers. After speaking to our current partners they’re in need of a great tool, at a great price.”

3DCompare sees the IPT as addressing the needs of a variety of enterprises and potentially hobbyists, for example those with Etsy stores or those who need access to bridge manufacturing. “The reason for us releasing a White label Instant Pricing Tool (IPT) for the On-Demand Manufacturing market is we believe that there is a gap in the market for a low-price high-end tool like this so that any one from a large enterprise to small businesses and hobbyists looking to get up and running can benefit to drive growth,” explained Ziff.

The tool is designed to be integrated into a customers existing website and also link to any customer relationship management (CRM) software in use.

Digital manufacturing services

The Instant Pricing Tool joins the two other services previously available from 3DCompare. The 3DCompare B2B Marketplace Platform and CRM & CMS for Manufacturing tools. The digital manufacturing service also has one of the largest online databases of 3D printing materials.

3DCompare tells us that since launching earlier this year they have received approximately 15,000 quote requests and are still seeking selected partners to join their growing network.

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Markforged cleared of IP infringement, Desktop Metal awaits countersuit

Markforged, the manufacturer of Mark series carbon fiber 3D printers and the Metal X, has been cleared of patent infringement allegations claimed by rival company Desktop Metal in March 2018.

The case was brought in front of a 12-person federal jury in Boston on Monday 9th July 2018. After three weeks on trial, the jury reached the verdict around 10am on Friday 27th July.

Greg Mark, Markforged CEO, and Ric Fulop, CEO of Desktop Metal, have yet to publish any formal comment on the matter. The case has now moved on to counter claims filed by Markforged in response to Desktop Metal’s initial complaints.

The Metal X 3D printer from Markforged. Photo via Markforged
The Metal X 3D printer from Markforged. Photo via Markforged

Desktop Metal and Markforged: It’s complicated

The history between Desktop Metal and Markforged runs deep with both companies are headquartered in Massachusetts. There are also professional links between the companies’ employees.

According to Desktop Metal’s claims, the intellectual property (IP) relating to the company’s patented release layer for 3D printed parts was allegedly stolen by a Mr. Matiu Parangi. Mr. Parangi worked as a technician at the company in 2016, and is the brother of Abraham Parangi, Director of Technology & Creative at Markforged.

Furthermore, before founding Desktop Metal, Fulop worked as an adviser for Markforged. And so the potential crossovers between the two companies could be deemed “complicated.”

A part 3D printed on a Desktop Metal Studio System with the contentious release layer still intact. Photo via Desktop Metal
A part 3D printed on a Desktop Metal Studio System with the contentious release layer still intact. Photo via Desktop Metal

Enter the countersuit

During the most recent trial, U.S. District Judge William G. Young denied Desktop Metal’s motion for an injunction against Markforged which would have put a temporary halt to delivery of its Metal X 3D printer.

When brought before the jury Markforged called its CEO to give testimony. Desktop Metal declined to call Fulop to the stand.

In light of the initial claims, Mark released a statement categorically denying the accusation, and announced that he would be filing a countersuit against the competitor.

This case is now scheduled to be seen before a jury in September 2018. Fulop and Desktop Metal will be on trial concerning, according to Law360 that has closely followed the case, liability for trade secret misappropriation and breach of corporate opportunity.

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Featured image shows Markforged booth at Formnext 2017. Photo by Beau Jackson

Allevi partners with Made In Space for first zero gravity tissue 3D printer

Allevi, the 3D bioprinting company formerly known as BioBots, has announced a partnership with U.S. microgravity 3D printer developer Made In Space. Together, the two companies are to work on the Allevi ZeroG, a 3D bioprinter capable of working in low-gravity conditions.

3D printing in space

Made in Space is the company behind the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) – the first 3D printer on the International Space Station (ISS). The AMP is capable of 3D printing engineering-grade plastics in low-gravity environments, producing tools and other classified equipment.

Building on the success of this system, Made In Space has since moved on the development of a NASA-backed metal 3D printer for Mars, and a means of converting asteroids into spacecraft.

The company has also set a Guinness World Record for the “longest 3D printed non-assembled piece” produced in the development of its Archinaut satellite 3D printer.

Model of the Made In Space satellite making Archinaut. Photo via Made In Space
Model of the Made In Space satellite making Archinaut. Photo via Made In Space

Allevi 3D bioprinting on earth

Allevi’s aims as a biotechnology company are to make 3D tissue engineering easier, and more accessible to research labs.

The Allevi 1 is the company’s most recent release. A single-extrusion system, the Allevi 1 reportedly provides ““the smallest footprint, widest material capabilities and best price tag of any 3D bioprinter on the market.”

The company’s other systems include the Allevi 2 dual extrusion bioprinter and the Allevi 6, which has 6 printheads.

Zero gravity tissue engineering 

According to Allevi, the forthcoming ZeroG 3D bioprinter will “allow scientists […] to simultaneously run experiments both on the ground and in space to observe biological differences that occur with and without gravity.”

The 3D bioprinter will work with living materials, such as human stem cells and, presumably, a range of gravity-resistant hydrogels/materials created to sustain cell life.

Additionally, Allevi is hopeful that the ZeroG will build the foundations for a technology that can 3D print regenerative therapies for injuries sustained by astronauts in deep space.

Artist's rendering of the forthcoming ZeroG 3D bioprinter. Image via Allevi
Artist’s rendering of the forthcoming ZeroG 3D bioprinter. Image via Allevi

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Featured image shows the “Build Above” motto from the Made In Space homepage. Image via Made In Space

Clinicians use 3D printed breast phantoms for safer and faster cancer diagnosis methods

Researchers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maryland have developed a new 3D printing software tool that aids in the creation of patient-specific 3D printed breast phantoms.

Breast phantoms are frequently used in place of breast tissue as test beds for mammography devices to ensure optimized breast cancer detection and treatment. Cancer Research UK estimates that more than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years; this diagnosis relies on the performance capabilities of mammography systems.

According to the research published in the Journal of Medical Imaging:

“With the introduced open-source software, researchers can easily create a collection of printed phantoms that reproduce the anatomic variability of real breasts, including varying densities, heterogeneous structures, architectural distortions, and benign and malignant lesions.”

Standard types of breast phantoms used in mammography research. Photo via Kyoto Kagaku.
Standard types of breast phantoms used in mammography research. Photo via Kyoto Kagaku.

The 3D Mammoreplicator

Lead researcher of the 3D printed breast phantoms study, Andreu Badal, Physicist at the FDA suggests that although typical phantoms enable clinicians to avoid exposing patients to unnecessary mammography radiation, its predetermined shape does not accurately represent the composition of patients’ breasts.

Considering this hindrance, Badal and researchers from the University of Maryland (UMD) developed an open-source program – the mammoreplicator – which converts standard 2D mammograms into accurate 3D virtual model replicas.

The 3D models can then be fabricated into a physical phantom, demonstrated by FDA researchers with the use of three mammograms drawn from the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) Cancer Genome Atlas.

Using the Stratasys Objet260 Connex3, the research team printed one of three breast phantoms in an estimated ten hours. The 3D printed models were composed of Tango Black Plus, PolyJet photopolymers, i.e. VeroMagenta, and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), an acrylic glass material. In addition, each model required approximately $220 worth of raw materials.

After comparing mammograms from the 3D printed breast phantoms, the researchers found that both new and original mammograms scored similar on their structural similarity quality assessment index. The results of their research also found that the texture of the glandular and adipose tissues – found in the breast – were well-replicated in the 3D printed phantom mammograms.

3D printed breast mammography phantoms. Image via Andreu Badal.
3D printed breast mammography phantoms. Image via Andreu Badal.

3D printed breast cancer detector

Last year, the University of Twente (UT) in the Netherlands developed the 3D printed Stormram 4 robot, which is designed specifically for the collection of cells used for biopsy.

The Stormram 4, can be used directly within the magnetic chamber of an MRI scanner to provide a rate of precision impossible to achieve by hand. In addition, it is made using a high-resolution polyjet 3D printer and has been developed as a proof-of-concept for market development.

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Featured image shows 3D printed breast mammography phantoms. Image via Andreu Badal.

Volkswagen credits 3D printing for record breaking electric car

The Volkswagen I.D. R prototype electric racecar has smashed records at the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) with thanks, in part, to 3D printing.

Given only 8 months to produce car for the renowned “Race to the Clouds”, the engineering team at Volkswagen had to apply their initiative to the process in order to save valuable time.

Dr. Benjamin Ahrenholz, Head of Calculations/Simulations at Volkswagen Motorsport, states, “We gained a lot of time by using 3D printing,”

“We made about 2,000 individual parts for the wind tunnel model in the 3D printer, sometimes with several printers working at the same time.”

1:2 scale development model of the Volkswagen I.D. R car. Photo via Volkswagen
1:2 scale development model of the Volkswagen I.D. R car. Photo via Volkswagen

Electric record breaking speeds

The PPIHC is an annual hill climb challenge that has taken place in Colorado since 1916. A range of divisions and vehicles classes can take part in the challenge, including vintage cars, sidecars, motorcycles and heavyweight vehicles.

The Volkswagen I.D. R is classed under the 4-wheel Unlimited and alternative fuel divisions. In Unlimited, the PPIHC states, “Anything goes […] as long as [the vehicle]passes safety inspection and meets The Broadmoor PPIHC’s general rules.”

The previous Unlimited record was set in 2013 by Sébastien Loeb, in a Peugeot 208 T16 at a time of 8:13.878. The Volkswagen outstrips this record with a recorded time of 7:57.148, driven by 4 time PPIHC winner Romain Dumas.

As an aside, the car also beats Blake Fuller’s 2016 record for an electric vehicle in a Tesla S P90D (11:48.264) though the Tesla is a production class rather than modified like the I.D. R.

A team effort

The success of the I.D. R is credited, along with Dumas’ driving, to its development. A 1:2 scale model of the car produced for wind tunnel testing was a crucial part in finalizing the vehicle design. It helped the team determine the most aerodynamic shape for the car, and reduce any unnecessary weight.

It also significantly reduced the cost of prototyping. Typically, Volkswagen would have had to shell out on injection molded carbon fiber components – of a much greater cost than those 3D printed in plastic.

To meet the same specifications of end-use parts, the 3D printed components had to have an edge length of no greater than 50 cm.

3D printed parts that made it into the final vehicle model are auxiliary components, e.g. brackets for cables and switches.

A lamellar upper cover on the front wheelhouses - example of a 3D printed test part. Photo via Volkswagen
A lamellar upper cover on the front wheelhouses – example of a 3D printed test part. Photo via Volkswagen

An “unstoppable force”

Simulation software company ANSYS, that is also incredibly active in additive manufacturing, had a hand in the virtual testing stage of the development I.D. R.

Shane Emswiler, vice president and general manager at ANSYS, comments, “Together, Volkswagen and ANSYS achieved the perfect combination of energy management, electric propulsion and aerodynamics to set the record at Pikes Peak,”

“Dumas’ world-class driving, Volkswagen’s groundbreaking vehicle design and ANSYS’ industry leading multiphysics solutions created an unstoppable force on the track.”

In total, Dr. Ahrenholz’s notes dictate that several hundred different chassis configurations were tried and tested throughout the whole project.

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Featured image shows the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak in full livery testing in Colorado. Photo via ANSYS, Inc.