Betatype reengineers 3D printed electrical generator housing for Safran Electrical & Power

The Buckinghamshire, UK, site of Safran Electrical & Power, a French aeronautical electrical company, develops landing systems for commercial and military aircrafts. With over 90 years of experience, the company and its subsidiaries have tested, serviced, and installed generation systems for Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Considering the increasing use of additive manufacturing in the aerospace sector, Safran Electrical & Power, sought out Betatype, UK-based developers of additive manufacturing software, to help meet the demand of customers requesting distinct metal 3D printed parts.

Specifically, Safran Electrical & Power’s Power Division team were tasked with improving the design of an electrical generator housing. Dr. Mark Craig, the Materials, Special Processes & Composites Company Expert, at Safran Electrical & Power stated:

“We came across Betatype in a search for 3D printing specialists and it was clear after our initial discussions that they had the knowledge and skill-set we were looking for to add value in our new part production programme.”

Betatype’s design optimization platform

Betatype’s technologies have been previously used to design and re-engineer a metal 3D printed engine shell as well as a 3D printed aluminum alloy heat exchanger. Its innovative production processes begin with Arch, an open file format that simplifies the handling of complex CAD files.

Then its data processing platform, Engine, processes the design for production in a powder bed fusion system. Finally, the optimal movements of a laser are assessed within Betatype’s platform to the produce fine details of a part. With this platform, the Power Division team obtained an electrical generator housing with an improved, lightweight design with higher strength and increased stiffness.

The redesigned electrical generator housing. Clip via Betatype.
The redesigned electrical generator housing. Clip via Betatype.

Ultra-high density lattice structures

A first for the company, Betatype used an ultra-high density lattice, between a sandwich structure, which included over 10 million elements. Sarat Babu, CEO at Betatype  explained, “We knew creating a more complex, higher density lattice structure was the key to achieving what Safran was looking for in the part.”

“Applying our technology and multi-scale approach, we were able to control the scan path and exposure settings down to each element of the sandwich structure’s design. By pushing the AM process of laser powder bed fusion well beyond its standard processes, we created the ultra-high density lattice structure required.”

As a result of Betatype’s successful proof of concept, Safran’s generator housing design combined the design of several complex machined components into one part. In doing this, Betatype was able to significantly reduce the overall part count and manufacturing times, which positively affected the costs of the housing.

Safran is now using Betatype’s platforms for other housings components.

The redesigned electrical generator housing which includes integrated lattice structures. Clip via Betatype.

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Featured image shows the redesigned electrical generator housing which includes integrated lattice structures. Clip via Betatype. 

3D printing news Sliced: 3D Systems, Optomec, Luxexcel, Local Motors

Today in Sliced, our regular 3D printing news digest, we feature new 3D printing university courses, fiber-reinforced filament, cutting edge additive manufacturing research, the future of 3D printed electronics and an autonomous vehicle challenge.

Read on for the latest news form 3D Systems, the University of Plymouth, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Optomec, Luxexcel, Local Motors and more.

3D printing skin, ligaments and implants

The 3D Systems NextDent 5100 3D printer has been won the 2018 “Best of Class Technology Award” from stem cell immunotherapy developer Cellerant. Dr. Lou Shuman, a member of the jury for the prize, said “The Cellerant Best of Class Technology Award continues to highlight the innovative dental technologies that will help shape the future of our profession.”

Christina Salas, Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, has been $150,000 grant to support 3D printed ligament research.

A project at the University of Plymouth in the UK is evaluating the 3D printing potential of materials made from plants and seaweed sourced in Cornwall. The project is part of the £10 million Agritech Cornwall fund, and is seeking to use the materials to develop skin cultures.

Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) is using Carbon 3D printers for medical device development.

And American medical device manufacturing company Nexxt Spine has commenced the MATRIXX Trial – clinically evaluating its 3D printed lumbar implant relative to those made from PEEK.

A MATRIXX 3D printed cervical interbody cage. Photo via Nexxt Spine
A MATRIXX 3D printed cervical interbody cage. Photo via Nexxt Spine

Building a 3D printing skilled workforce

Gujarat Technological University (GTU) in Ahmedabad, India, is to start offering a course in 3D printing, through a partnership with the US Institute of 3D Technology. Outlining the initiative Navin Sheth, Vice Chancellor of GTU, said, “Our mission is to prepare Indian youth for the ongoing technological revolution […] USi3DT will offer various certificate programmes to GTU students; the mobile 3D printers will also come from the US. Our students and faculty will get hands-on experience of the nuances of 3D printing technology.”

Elsewhere in education, the U.S. National Science Foundation has granted $20 million to NH BioMade, a specialty 3D bioprinting lab at the University of New Hampshire (UNH).  U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said:

“This funding will be used to establish a new facility to research and assemble state-of-the-art biomaterials and will support the hiring of 11 new faculty researchers across our state,”

“From orthopedics to trauma treatment, these new compounds have the potential to revolutionize surgical and other life-saving procedures.”

Optomec, Luxexcel, WATT and 3D Printhuset surpass milestones

LMD and electronics additive manufacturing company Optomec, headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has launched an EMEA Operations Center in Switzerland. The center will be located at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology Empa, an affiliate of ETH Zürich.

Following $13.9 million in series C funding and the appointment of a new CEO, 3D printed optical lens company Luxexcel has opened a Customer Demonstration Lab in Atlanta, Georgia, housing a complete Luxexcel VisionPlatform™.

WATT Fuel Cell Corporation has fulfilled the first commercial orders for its Imperium Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system, which is made using 3D printing. Multiple shipments of the system have been delivered to motorhome manufacturer Erwin Hymer Group North America to be used aboard the E-Trek autonomous RV.

Danish 3D printing reseller, service provider and developer 3D Printhuset has launched new company solely for 3D printing in construction. COBOD International will now handle all matters related to the BOD 2 3D construction printer, and Building On Demand (BOD) architectural projects.

Interior and exterior of The Bod 3D printed office. Photos via 3D Printhuset.
Interior and exterior of The BOD 3D printed office. Photos via 3D Printhuset.

Open source and fiber reinforced materials

The Ultimaker global material alliance has introduced profiles for DSM and Owens Corning filaments to its 3D printers. To support the use of Owens Corning and others’ fiber reinforced feedstock, the company has also introduced the print core CC Red 0.6 head.

Carbon fiber reinforced material is now available for the Small Area Additive Manufacturing (SAAM) system from Cincinnati Incorporated.

And Lulzbot 3D printer manufacturer Aleph Objects is now selling IC3D open source PETg filament.

Sample PETg 3D prints. Photo via IC3D
Sample PETg 3D prints. Photo via IC3D

An AV challenge the future of 3D printed electronics 

According to Mike Newton, head of the Cyberfacturing Center at micro-dispensing and 3D printer manufacturer nScrypt, direct digital manufacturing will one day mean that electronics can be produced within a single tool. Speaking at the 2018 Electronics Packaging Symposium, Newton said, “direct digital manufacturing is done today, but mostly in a 2.5D approach on a single plane. The next generation is 2.5D printing conformally on complex structures, which will be followed by true 3D printing.” Newton’s statement echoes sentiments posed by Simon Fried, CBO and co-founder of PCB 3D printing company Nano Dimension, in relation to non-planar electronics.

And finally, newly-formed LM Industries, parent company of low-volume vehicle manufacturer Local Motors, has launched its autonomous fleet challenge. Open to applicants in Phoenix and Sacramento this first challenge is seeking for inventive pitches to win a 3 month trial of the company’s 30% 3D printed Olli bus.

The 3D printed autonomous vehicle Olli at IMTS 2018. Photo by Michael Petch.
The 3D printed autonomous vehicle Olli at IMTS 2018. Photo by Michael Petch.

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Featured image shows Sliced logo over Makerbot 3D printed miniature Olli buses. Photo via Local Motors

SLM Solutions aids DIN Committee to accelerate additive manufacturing materials standardization

SLM Solutions Group, a German manufacturer of metal 3D printers, is to support the German Institute for Standardization (DIN), who has founded the Additive Manufacturing Steering Committee in the DIN Standards Committee Technology of Materials.

Dr. Dieter Schwarze, Director of Scientific and Technology Research at SLM Solutions, is expected to steer the committee as Deputy Director, with the aim of increasing standardization work in additive manufacturing. “SLM Solutions places great value on uniform norms and standards,” said Dr. Schwarze.

“Our SLM machines are extremely robust and stable. Together with our technological experience, this makes us the right partner to help shape the future of additive manufacturing in series production, from greater occupational safety and cost savings to improved component quality and safety.”

Dr. Dieter Schwarze, Director of Scientific and Technology Research at SLM Solutions. Photo via SLM Solutions.
Dr. Dieter Schwarze, Director of Scientific and Technology Research at SLM Solutions. Photo via SLM Solutions.

Addressing the hurdles of metal manufacturing

Previously, Jim Fendrick, Senior VP of SLM Solutions NA, told 3D Printing Industry, “Metal additive manufacturing still faces many hurdles. Qualification certainly creates a bottle-neck in the industry, as there are still no clear standards across the board and several organizations are working on such standards today. But at the moment, it still creates a barrier for many.”

The Additive Manufacturing Steering Committee was established earlier this year to accelerate the commercial viability of metal 3D printing. This objective takes into account economic feasibility, technological relevancy, scientific insights, legal developments, financial conditions, and the harmonization of technical rules across Europe and worldwide for such additive manufacturing processes.  

In addition, the committee is cooperating with other standards committees within DIN to analyze the mechanical properties of metallic additive manufacturing materials for the aerospace sector.

SLM Solutions 3D printed titanium aircraft component in the build chamber.
SLM Solutions 3D printed titanium aircraft component in the build chamber.

Standards for aerospace metal 3D printing

Standards are vital within metal-based 3D printing as they enable manufacturers to innovate materials, processes, and product innovation, particularly in advanced industries such as aerospace.

Earlier this year, SAE International issued four new standards relating to laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) powered additive manufacturing. The LPBF documents are designed to support the certification of metal 3D printed parts for use in aircraft and space exploration vehicles, and are officially supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Following this, America Makes, and its partner the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published the Standardization Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing (Version 2.0) which lists 93 “gaps” in appropriate standards and specifications for 3D printing and its related processes.

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Featured image shows a metal tire mold segment 3D printed by SLM Solutions. Photo via SLM Solutions.

The Virtual Foundry filament for 3D printing metal on an FDM system

The Virtual Foundry, LLC (TVF) m​akes the first, and only open market FDM/FFF pure metal 3D printing solution. Filamet™ is a composite 3D printing filament that works with nearly all existing 3D printers and sinters with simple atmosphere furnaces that have been commercially available for decades.

The materials and supporting technology developed by The Virtual Foundry allow rapid real-world metal prototypes and easily scalable short-run manufacturing systems. Other forthcoming FFF/FDM closed-market metal printing solutions are limited to the hardware sold by those manufacturers, tightly limiting your options. The TVF’s open-market approach, means that print size is only limited by your 3D printer and furnace. Each of these are readily available in a wide range of sizes and formats.

The Virtual Foundry Stainless Steel 316L Filamet.
The Virtual Foundry Stainless Steel 316L Filamet.

The metal powders that make up Filamet™ are encased in a PLA compliant binder, making it far safer and much less expensive than existing laser-based metal 3D printing solutions. As a result using Filamet™ requires no special handling equipment. Also, Filamet™ debinds with only the heat (no solvents) used during the sintering process, completely avoiding separate debinding hardware and processes.

As companies race to bring their products to market first, TVF serves as a critical partner in a process that provides efficiencies in time, effort and cost. The Virtual Foundries’ open-market strategy detaches the printing materials from the printing and processing hardware allowing greater numbers of less costly equipment, lower cost and infinite flexibility.

Over the past few years TVF has pioneered open market 3D metal printing and provides full cycle additive manufacturing solutions including processing equipment. The Virtual Foundry’s flagship product, Filamet™, works in any open source (FFF/FDM) 3D Printer. The opportunities are endless and printing metal on the desktop in this manner is only restricted by the capability of the FDM printer selected. This creates a logical path to multiple printers for large scale additive manufacturing.

The Virtual Foundry is on a mission of growth and expansion. The 4th quarter of 2018 will see substantial investment in upgrading manufacturing equipment, extensive QA process implementation and the addition of materials scientists developing new materials.

TVF manufactures and sells Filamet™, 3D printing accessories, and sintering furnaces. They continue to develop new materials and research new methods of metal fabrication. Currently available materials include Stainless Steel 316L, Copper, Tungsten, Bronze and Iron filaments with 15+ more materials available by Special Order. They also develop custom solutions from a wide range of materials from any element or compound that can be sintered. Upcoming materials include everything from sand, glass and various refractories to high performance ceramics like zirconium oxide.

Standard furnaces range from 100mm x 100mm x 100mm (3.9” x 3.9” x 3.9”) to 400mm x 300mm x 300mm (15.7″ x 11.8” x 11.8”). They will also have any size and shape sintering furnace custom made by request, some as large as 1 Cubic Meter. Standard systems start at around $11,000.

More information about The Virtual Foundry is available online.

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Featured image shows a component 3D printed on an FDM machine in Stainless Steel 316L Filamet. Photo via Virtual Foundry

Q&A: Petar Stefanov, co-founder and CTO Spectroplast silicone 3D printing startup

Spectroplast AG is a Swiss silicone 3D printing service bureau. A startup and spin-out of ETH Zürich, Switzerland’s federal institute of technology, the company was founded in 2017.

With a patented material technology, Spectroplast uses SLA and DLP 3D printing to produce functional silicone parts with a quality comparable to, and exceeding, those made with injection molding.

Petar Stefanov, a graduate of the Department of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at ETH Zürich, is co-founder of Spectroplast, and the company’s CTO. In this Q&A for 3D Printing Industry, Stefanov discusses proprietary materials, high-defintion 3D printing and how Spectroplast is addressing an important market niche.

3D Printing Industry: Why 3D printed silicone? Where do you see the demand?

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: Today, additive manufacturing is a well-known technology for materializing rigid objects such as metals, ceramics or plastics. But, when looking at what materials nature is employing, we realize that nature unbosoms an entire cosmos of soft materials that transform, morph, and self-heal.

It is precisely these soft materials that are not accessible to AM yet. Hence, we developed a silicone additive manufacturing platform to foster industrial implementation. With the world’s first high precision silicone AM technology, we can expand the range of printable materials from rigid to stretchable materials.

The demand for an alternative manufacturing process for silicone components is evident. The current market gap of 7-10% of the silicone components market consists mainly of rejected orders of low volume products and products with complex shapes, which are impossible to mold. Additive manufacturing is the perfect alternative manufacturing technology to bridge this gap. We then see a lot of new market potential for customized medical and life-enhancing products, starting at earphones and hearing aids to medical implants.

Silicone 3D printed hearing aid/ear models. Photo via Spectroplast
Silicone 3D printed hearing aid/ear models. Photo via Spectroplast

3D Printing Industry: What is unique about the service/materials provided by Spectroplast?

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: Our materials are compatible with SLA or DLP 3D printing technologies. This implies that silicone objects can now be directly fabricated with very high precision, straight out of a printer.

Conventionally, silicone components are fabricated by injection molding or casting that require molds, making the process lengthy and expensive. Direct fabrication allows circumventing the use of molds completely, cutting costs and lead time.

In addition, as we can use industry standard silicones, we most often develop the material jointly with the customer to exactly meet their requirements. So we not only produce customized products, but also use custom-tailored materials. In addition, we have developed silicones that cover a wide range of stiffness that we are expanding on a continuous basis.

Flexible 3D printed silicones. Photo via Spectroplast
Flexible 3D printed silicones. Photo via Spectroplast

3D Printing Industry: Was the formation of Spectroplast in response to any industry trends?

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: Given the described market gap to be met by additive manufacturing, founding Spectroplast AG was a natural response to meet current and future market trends.

We believe that 3D printing has the potential to shift focus from rapid prototyping to mass customization of functional products. We are very excited to introduce industrial-scale silicone additive manufacturing to many existing industries. In addition to this, we are excited to addressing new markets, for example in the wearables and hearables, soft robotics and customized healthcare industries.

3D Printing Industry: Is 3D printing at Spectroplast performed by a proprietary or existing technology/machine? 

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: The main competence of Spectroplast is to develop new materials and make them accessible to additive manufacturing, as well as the processing of said materials with different additive manufacturing technologies.

We have protected intellectual property both on the materials, as well as on the process side. Currently, we use commercially available SLA machines for manufacturing. It is important that we tailor our materials to be compatible with the most prominent platforms to allow for speedy upscaling of our production capacity.

Colored, 3D printed skulls. Photo via Spectroplast
Colored, 3D printed skulls. Photo via Spectroplast

3D Printing Industry: What are your goals for the future of Spectroplast?

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: Our mission is to bring industrial-scale silicone additive manufacturing to the mass market. We are thrilled to address emerging customer requirements in high-value industries, such as aerospace and healthcare, and also very excited about making the technology accessible to everyone else.

Current applications range from very specialized industries in the field of soft robotics or damping applications, to the current automotive and aerospace industry, and to something as regular as the food and beverages sector that makes use of, for example, baking and cooking accessories.

We also envision a direct application of silicone AM in the entertainment industry for artistic and animatronic applications, for toys for children and adults.

A future rollout will target industries with life-enhancing and customized medical applications. This includes customized headphones and wearables, patient-specific hearing aids, customized shoe soles and similar outerwear or external products. In the future, we see applications in the field of fully customized healthcare products and patient-tailored medical implants.

We envision Spectroplast as the go-to player for additive manufacturing of soft and elastomeric materials and production of customized products in existing and new markets.

3D Printing Industry: Are you seeking partners within a particular industry?

Petar Stefanov, Spectroplast: Any partnerships within the mentioned industries, where silicone AM can provide innovative solutions and bring added value to the customer, are of highest interest to Spectroplast. For example, the silicone liquid injection molding industry is one of conventional practice where, already today, many manufacturing pain points can be overcome by silicone AM, while cutting costs and time. Therefore, we are seeking for established partners in various market sectors to jointly address the existing market gap as well as emerging markets.

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Featured image shows a flexible, 3D printed silicone lattice. Photo via Spectroplast

Precision ADM and Additive Minds complete Validation Master Plan for metal 3D printing

Canadian advanced manufacturing service bureau Precision ADM, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has completed a Validation Master Plan for additive manufacturing.

Compiled with the help of Additive Minds, the consultancy branch of leading additive manufacturing provider EOS, the plan and a supporting white paper has been developed for the company’s M290 3D printers.

“We recognize the importance of applying quality metrics to the Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) process,” says Martin Petrak, CEO of Precision ADM.

“EOS Additive Minds and their great expertise helped us to overcome the challenges of validation in AM,”

“Together we analyzed the potential risks and we have invested in designing and completing a robust end-to-end validation of our metal additive process, so that we can assure our customers of reliable, repeatable manufacturing results.”

DMLS expertise

Precision ADM’s additive manufacturing expertise is in direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). This service is performed at the company by a fleet of EOS M 290 machines and a quad-laser EOS M 400-4.

At the facility, DMLS is coupled with design, testing and multi-axis machining services, covering all key application markets: medical, aerospace, industrial and defense.

For medical in particular, Precision ADM has machines dedicated to 3D printing using cobalt chrome and titanium. As of October 2017, Precision ADM’s medical manufacturing system is also ISO certified, ensuring the quality of 3D print “non-active” orthopedic implants and non-implantable instruments.

A fleet of EOS M 290 machines. Photo via Precision ADM
A fleet of EOS M 290 machines. Photo via Precision ADM

Meeting medical and aerospace standards

The Validation Master Plan created by Precision ADM and Additive Minds is specifically for the facility’s titanium additive manufacturing lines. Accordingly, the plan outlines comprehensive testing for “validating mechanical, metallurgical, and chemical properties of specified standard reference parts” to drive quality control.

In the course of its completion, over 5,000 data points were collected. Through analysis, the facility now has standard validation procedure in place for: Installation Qualification, Operational Qualification and Baseline Performance Qualification.

All points of the Validation Master Plan have also been made to align with standards respective to certain industries.

By satisfying FDA 21 CFR 820 and ISO 13485 standards, Precision ADM moves toward FDA and ISO certification of 3D printed medical implants. And by meeting AS 9100 requirements, the plan is fulfilling aerospace industry standards.

Michael Kowal, Application Development Consultant for EOS Additive Minds, comments “Precision ADM now has the production capabilities and the documentation in place so that a medical or aerospace customer can focus on their final part, having confidence that they will get high-quality parts that fulfill all current industry regulations.”

A metal 3D printed hip cup. Photo via Precision ADM
A metal 3D printed hip cup. Photo via Precision ADM

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Featured image shows the Validation Master Plan. Photo via Precision ADM

LINK3D partners with Aachen Center to promote AM in Europe

LINK3D, a New York-based 3D printing workflow software provider, has partnered with the German AM R&D hub Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing (ACAM) to promote AM industry in Germany and Europe.

LINK3D will build a showroom to demonstrate the capabilities of its AMES & Additive Workflow Software to ACAM partners such as the Fraunhofer Society, a conglomeration of 69 research institutes across Germany.

On the partnership, CEO of LINK3D, Shane Fox, said, “it’s an honor to be collaborating with an organization like ACAM and Fraunhofer as they have an extensive knowledge and experience around additive manufacturing. We believe this collaboration will introduce new technologies that the industry has never seen.”

The Link3D Digital Factory user interface where parts are designed and produced. Image via Link3D.
The LINK3D Digital Factory user interface where parts are designed and produced. Image via LINK3D.

Streamlined 3D printing

A live demonstration will be held for LINK3D’s automation workflow system. The invitees will be able to familiarise themselves with the software and see how it handles: order submission processes, quoting and cost tracking, production scheduling, customer feedback, and data analytics.

A training center is also planned as part of the project, where employees of the training partners can learn how to optimize manufacturing operations with LINK3D.

Since the founding of its Digital Factory in 2017, LINK3D has become one of the leaders in the workflow management software for AM. Most recently, the company added Production Planning System (PPS) to optimize its Digital Factory.  

“Aachen is the cradle of laser-based metal AM technologies – we won’t forget this heritage – but a large part of the AM future will be decided in the digital world.”  

Managing Partner of ACAM, Johannes Schleifenbaum said further, “we will support this with the formation of a ‘digital additive enterprise’, where customers can holistically experience the disruptive power of AM. We are very glad that LINK3D will be at our side on this journey!”

Data analytics generated through the PPS. Image via LINK3D.
Data analytics generated through LINK3D’s PPS. Image via LINK3D.

On-demand 3D printing

In recent times, many AM companies have realized the importance of real-time and cloud-based technologies.

This year, Xometry raised $25 million in funding and acquired MakeTime. The company also added HOOPS communicator to its instant quoting engine.

Earlier this month, the nano-scale 3D printing service provider, BMF Material Technology (Guangdong, China) partnered with cloud-based software Onshape, to provide its customer with real-time CAD support.

In a similar venture, 3YOURMIND, an AM workflow company, and 3D Center announced the launch of an online 3D printing platform.

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Featured image shows data analytics generated through LINK3D’s PPS. Image via LINK3D

UCD opens $25.7 million advanced manufacturing research center with 3D printing focus

The I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Center for 3D printing and digital technologies has been opened at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland.

The facility has been created at a cost of €22.2 million ($25.7 million) provided by the government-backed Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and industry stakeholders.

Commenting on the launch Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said, “Innovation is at the core of the Government’s science strategy and is exemplified by the visionary technologies being developed here in I-Form,”

“It is crucial that Ireland continues to deliver impactful research outcomes in advanced manufacturing.”

Digitization, simulation and analytics

Research at the I-FORM Center is sorted into three platforms: Digitization of Additive Manufacturing, Additive Manufacturing Process and Simulation, and Advanced Analytics and Engineer Feedback. Furthermore, the focus under these umbrella platforms can be split into the five following Spokes:

– Material development
– Process Monitoring
– Additive manufacturing for production
– Smart integrated device and tooling
– Digital Process Engineering

The I-Form center's research focuses. Image via I-Form
The I-Form center’s research focuses. Image via I-Form

So far, over 31 companies have pledged to work with the I-Form including Michigan headquartered medical technology firm Stryker, that has an expertise in 3D printed spinal implants.

Though based at UCD, the center also has academic partners in Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Institute of Technology Sligo, the NUI Galway, Waterford Institute of Technology and Maynooth University.

In other recent news, I-Form founding academic partner TCD recently became home a $4.9 million (€4.3 million) 3D bioprinting facility, created by Dublin’s AMBER research facility and multinational medical device and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.

“we are changing how things are made”

The I-Form’s official launch was presided over by Ireland’s Minister for Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan, SFI Director General Professor Mark Ferguson, VP for Research at UCD Professor Orla Freely, and I-Form Center Director Professor Denis Dowling.

“Through our research into digital solutions for materials processing technologies, we are changing how things are made,” concluded Professor Dowling.

“[…] I-Form will drive regional development through industry collaborations in areas of advanced manufacturing and digital technologies for Industry 4.0.”

From left to right: UCD Professor Orla Freely, SFI Director General Prof Mark Ferguson, Ireland's Minister for Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan and I-Form Centre Director Prof Denis Dowling. Photo via SFI
The I-Form Center’s official opening. From left to right: UCD Professor Orla Freely, SFI Director General Prof Mark Ferguson, Ireland’s Minister for Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan and I-Form Centre Director Prof Denis Dowling. Photo via SFI

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Featured image shows, from left to right: UCD Professor Orla Freely, SFI Director General Prof Mark Ferguson, Ireland’s Minister for Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan and I-Form Centre Director Prof Denis Dowling. Photo via SFI

Interview: Aurora Labs on bringing metal 3D printing to the masses

3D Printing Industry sat down with Nathan Henry, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Aurora Labs, to learn more about its new Rapid Manufacturing Technology (RMT) and its ability to compete within conventional manufacturing.  

At the forefront of metal 3D printing technology is Australia’s Aurora Labs, who is exhibiting its latest system, the large-format Alpha 3D printer.

3D Printing Industry: What has drawn Aurora Labs to make such significant investments in metal 3D printing?

Nathan Henry: Aurora Labs looks at metal 3D printing and sees two fundamental problems; the first is that it’s very expensive, which is a barrier for utilization, and the other is that it’s very slow. So, we’ve come up with two different solutions which is the prosumer unit  – the S-Titanium Pro which uses DMLM and DMLS technologies and is used commonly in R&D applications.

The Alpha 3D printer, which we’re calling the RMT, is not necessarily the successor the S-Titanium Pro. This is being developed with a focus on addressing the need to make things at a speed that makes it economic. This brings down the amortization costs and opens up a much wider market within additive manufacturing and makes it viable to compete with things like casting and subtractively manufactured parts with CNC.

The large format Alpha 3D printer which will be released on a smaller scale as the RMP1 later this year. Photo by Tia Vialva.
The large format Alpha 3D printer which will be released on a smaller scale as the RMP1 later this year. Photo by Tia Vialva.

3D Printing Industry: So, the recent tests of RMT for 3D printing complex parts demonstrates the competitive capabilities of your systems?

Nathan Henry: Well, as you saw, RMT is currently very high volume but the speed at which it prints [662g/h or 15.88 kg per day], for us it’s still too slow. Where expecting to at least double that speed in our smaller machine which is going to be the RMP1 and that is going to be 450 in diameter with a 450 bed. This will produce around 30 kilos an hour. It’s going to be in a different class.

We truly don’t see ourselves as a competitor to the rest of the companies here [at TCT], in some areas yes, but were actually competing with the metal manufacturing market – so again, casting and subtractive manufacturing, which has always been our aim.

3D Printing Industry: How else do you intend to compete with conventional manufacturers?

Nathan Henry: We know that to effectively do this, the other part of what we’re doing is certification. Certification is the key to utilization. If you don’t have certification all you have is an expensive paperweight. So, we’ve been working with DNV GL to set up a system where we can print a part, check what its doing as its printed, and then get out a part that requires minimal validation to be a certified component.

We’re not there yet, but we’re moving in that direction. Well be able to identify any flaws as its printed and either stop the print because there’ll be a layer by layer and accumulative tolerance. If it fails either of these our system will scrap the part. We’re customising that now and setting up the infrastructure within our developing closed machines.  

The first component printed using LFT. Photo via Aurora Labs.
The first component printed using RMT. Photo via Aurora Labs.

3D Printing Industry: Do you see yourself developing other powders in the future

Nathan Henry: We’ve developed a lab quantity of powders but we’re working on a commercial quantity of metal powders which we’re having some success with. All indications point to a spheroidized powder; hopefully we’ll be able to ramp that up at first to a tonne a day, but we’re aiming to reach 5 tonnes a day per machine.

3D Printing Industry: When will the RMP1 be commercially available?

Nathan Henry:The beta’s of the RMP1 will be done for around Christmas time this year, but it’s going to be very close. We’ve just proven the technology, which took longer than expected but now that that’s done as well as most of the mechanical work, it’s just the packaging to put it into its final form for our industry partners. They’ll be rolling out shortly after that.

It’s exciting as we really see it as the tipping point where people will be able to use AM for real manufacturing. Because it hasn’t really been used outside of extremely high value parts. And where hoping to shift that – which is why were making more powders as well. Because availability of more reasonably priced powders means that there will no longer be a need for stainless steel materials costing $45 dollars a kilo, when it should be $6-10 a kilo.

Our new machine and our developing materials will be competitive because of its flexibility and in the quality of the final part when compared to conventional manufacturing.

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Featured image shows the RMP1 metal additive manufacturing process. Clip via Aurora Labs.

GE Transportation to introduce 250 3D printed locomotive parts by 2025

According to reports in UK rail industry authority the Railway Gazette GE is looking to apply additive manufacturing to components for its locomotives. If all goes according to plan, this could mean that in the next seven years GE Transportation will have an inventory of up to 250 3D printed train components.

A pilot initiative for 3D printing at GE Transport is underway as part of its Brilliant Factory model, combined with analytics and lean manufacturing in a Digital Thread.

The GE Brilliant Factory 

Based partly in the cloud, GE’s Brilliant Factory is a digital platform that collects Big Data from the production line. Machine performance, part inspection and other key metrics are loaded into this system, which allows operators to identify points for improvement and make processes more effective.

3D printing fits into this model as it facilitates lean manufacturing, or less wastage. For example, broken machine components can be fixed using on-site 3D printing, cutting the cost and lead times of third-party replacement. Furthermore, additive manufacturing techniques only use the amount of material required to make a part, unlike CNC machining which relies on cutting away surplus metal/plastic. So in some cases, additive manufacturing is the most cost-effective option.

Lean manufacturing at GE also follows a mixed-model moving assembly line which can be reconfigured as necessary to meet changes in demand – a so-called “Smart Factory” concept.

GE Transportation in Grove City, Pennsylvania, is a showcase facility for the GE Brilliant Factory model. According to 2016 data, the Grove City site had seen a 10 – 20% reduction in unplanned downtime since introducing the platform.

Cleaner, more efficient engines

Dominique Malenfant, Vice President of Global Technologies and CTO of GE Transportation, says that 3D binder jetting is proving of interest to GE’s locomotive segment. However, the company does of course have access to GE Additive, which specializes in selective laser melting (SLM) and electron beam melting (EBM) technologies through Concept Laser and Arcam.

Making cleaner, low-emission and more efficient engines is a key pursuit at GE Transportation. A decade since launch, the company’s Evolution Series of Diesel-Electric locomotives recently surpassed the 10,000th order milestone. According to the company, the Evolution Series Tier 4 engine, the latest generation in this line, “enables a 70 percent reduction in emissions, which is achieved by recirculating exhaust gases back into the engine through a next generation cooling system.”

At present, however, additive manufacturing has not been confirmed as a part of GE Transportation’s engine production process.

GE Aviation’s LEAP engines, containing a 3D printed fuel nozzle, recently reached the 14,000 order mark. And GE Power has broken its own energy efficiency record with thanks, in part, to additively manufactured components.

The GE LEAP Fuel Nozzle. Photo via GE Additive

Through 2019, GE Transportation plans to conduct a pilot run of additive manufacturing for locomotive components.

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Featured image shows locomotives outside GE Transportation, Fort Worth, Texas. Photo via GE Reports