Trio Labs approaches MIM based binder jet 3D printing market

Trio Labs, a North Carolina-based start-up developing advanced manufacturing technology,  has introduced a new 3D printing method for high volume production.

With the aim of fundamentally changing manufacturing, the company’s Resin Infused Powder Lithography (RIPL) process boasts components with the same performance characteristics as CNC machining and Metal Injection Molding (MIM) at a reduced cost.

“Unlocking 3D printing technology for high volume production”

Founded in 2015, Trio Labs specializes in metal, digital, and additive manufacturing. The company’s team features entrepreneurs with decades of technical experience. As such, Cathy Eldridge, co-founder and COO of Trio Labs, previously acted as the manufacturing plant manager at Procter & Gamble, and CEO of AmeriCom Bank.

The aim of this business venture is to develop manufacturing technology that eliminates costs associated with tooling and increase the throughput of established high-volume production processes. The company states:

“We are unlocking 3D printing technology for high volume production. We understand the needs of high volume manufacturers, and we’re working to enable them to do more, do it better, and do it faster than ever before.”

Resin Infused Powder Lithography

In 2017, NC IDEA, a private foundation seeking to maximize North Carolina’s economic potential, awarded $300,000 in grants to six startups, including Trio Labs. This funding was given to further develop and commercialize the company’s RIPL technology. 

RIPL is a method for precision metal and ceramic fabrication. It is a binder jet 3D printing process, used within ExOne’s latest 3D printer, the X1 25PRO, as well as Desktop metal’s Studio System+, which utilizes materials used for Powder Injection Molding (PIM).

According to Trio Labs, materials such as stainless steel, carbon, bronze, copper, alumina, and zirconia can be produced with its technology at a lower cost and greater design flexibility in comparison with MIM.

“Existing technologies that operate at reasonable speed are limited in precision to about 50-micron resolution,” explains the company.

“Higher resolution systems are very slow. None of these systems can directly produce the surface finishes that are needed for end-use components, nor can they operate at the speeds needed for volume manufacturing.[We are] breaking past these barriers.”

Progressing precision metal additive manufacturing

Trio Lab’s RIPL method was developed with the contribution from trusted advisors such as Sundar Atre, an Endowed Chair of Manufacturing and Materials at the University of Louisville, Randall German, an expert in powder metallurgy and metal injection molding at San Diego State University, and Rick Simons, Former President and CEO at Hardinge Inc, international provider of metal-cutting solutions.

The team has built its first metal 3D printer prototype for RIPL and is continuing to test its capabilities.

Co-founders of Trio Labs Adam Steege and Cathy Eldridge. Photo via NC IDEA.

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Featured image shows the design a Resin Infused Powder Lithography 3D printer. Image via Trio Labs.

LLNL presents new class of 3D printed metamaterials that strengthen on demand

Combining 3D printing with a magnetic ink injection, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created a new class of metamaterial – engineered with behaviors outside their nature.

Like 4D printed objects, LLNL’s 3D printed lattices rely on the fourth element of time to become something “other” than their natural resting state. However, in contrast to its relatives, that often transform in response to temperatures or water, the change in LLNL’s new structures is almost instantaneous – they stiffen when a magnetic field is applied.

This unique class is the next step forward in metamaterials that can be tuned “on-the-fly” to achieve desired properties, and applied to make intuitive objects: e.g. armor that responds on impact; car seats that reduce whiplash; and next generation neck braces.

A 3D printed lattice injected with magnetic fluid. Image via Science Advances, supplementary materials/LLNL
A 3D printed lattice injected with magnetic fluid. Image via Science Advances, supplementary materials/LLNL

Harnessing the power of lattices

In the first stage of this development, the LLNL team performed a digital simulation of their metamaterial lattices. By doing so, the team could determine how the shape would respond to a magnetic field, and therefore optimize its structure for desired mechanical properties.

Mark Messner, former LLNL researcher and co-author of a study presenting the new metamaterial, explains, “The design space of possible lattice structures is huge, so the model and the optimization process helped us choose likely structures with favorable properties before [it was]printed, filled and tested the actual specimens, which is a lengthy process.”

After optimization, experimental lattices were 3D printed using a method of Large Area Projection Microstereolithography (LAPµSL). With microscale precision, LAPµSL enabled the team to create thin walls that could support injected fluid.

Lead author Julie Jackson Mancini explains, “In this paper we really wanted to focus on the new concept of metamaterials with tunable properties, and even though it’s a little more of a manual fabrication process,” i.e. with the injection of material, “it still highlights what can be done, and that’s what I think is really exciting.”

Materials with “on-the-fly” tunability 

The ink inside the LLNL lattice is a magnetorheological fluid, containing minute magnetic particles.

Like a “dancing” iron filing experiment, when a magnetic field is applied to this lattice, the particles realign, making the structure stiff and supportive of added weight.

This newfound strength is demonstrated through a test in which a 10g weight is added to the top of the lattice. As the magnet beneath the lattice is moved away, the structure gradually gives way, and eventually drops the weight.

Demonstration showing a 3D printing magnetic metamaterial lattice, and its response to the removal of a magnetic field. Image via Science Advance, supplementary materials/LLNL
Demonstration showing a 3D printing magnetic metamaterial lattice, and its response to the removal of a magnetic field. Image via Science Advance, supplementary materials/LLNL

“What’s really important,” explains Mancini, “is it’s not just an on and off response, by adjusting the magnetic field strength applied we can get a wide range of mechanical properties,”

“The idea of on-the-fly, remote tunability opens the door to a lot of applications.”

Future development

The next steps for the LLNL metamaterial team is to develop a means of integrating the ink-injection stage of lattice fabrication, and to increase the size of objects that can be 3D printed.

Results of the lab’s most recent study, “Field responsive mechanical metamaterials” are published online in Science Advances journal. It’s co-authors are listed as Julie A. JacksonMark C. MessnerNikola A. Dudukovic, William L. SmithLogan BekkerBryan MoranAlexandra M. GolobicAndrew J. PascallEric B. DuossKenneth J. Loh, and Christopher M. Spadaccini.

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Featured image shows LLNL’s new class of magnetic metamaterial. Photo via Science Advances/LLNL

Scientists explore 3D bioprinting to treat astronauts on extraterrestrial missions

At the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands, a two-day workshop on 3D bioprinting was held. The ESTEC is European Space Agency’s (ESA) primary research and test center for space technology. 

The event brought together bioprinting experts to discuss the possibility of using 3D bioprinting and regenerative medicine for medical treatment of astronauts on extraterrestrial missions.

Tommaso Ghidini, ESA’s Head of the Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division, said, “For the first time in Europe, all the relevant experts have come together to discuss applying 3D bioprinting and regenerative medicine for space.”

Participants at the ESA 3D bioprinting workshop. Image via ESA–G. Porter
Participants at the ESA 3D bioprinting workshop. Image via ESA–G. Porter

HUMEX

ESA’s latest project 3D Printing of Living Tissue for Space Exploration will be conducted under OHB System, a German space and industrial technology company, who has worked with ESA before. Dresden University of Technology will also collaborate on the project. The project will be funded under ESA basic activities, which includes technological research and studies on future projects.

The project is not the first attempt by ESA to explore viable interplanetary habitat options. In 2000, the agency sponsored the HUMEX study, also known as a Study on the Survivability and Adaptation of Humans to Long-Duration Exploratory Missions.

HUMEX study focuses on the health-related issues including survivability and adaptation of astronauts undertaking long-duration mission beyond the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The LEO is defined as an Earth-center orbit with altitudes between 160 to 2,000 km. Most of the man-made objects such as satellites are in the LEO.

The study reports the effects of cosmic radiation, reduced gravity on Mars and Moon, gravity changes during launch, and related psychological health issues. The findings of HUMEX are a guide for ESA researchers taking part in future projects related to interplanetary travel and habitat.

HUMEX, a Study on the Survivability and Adaptation of Humans to Long-Duration Exploratory Missions. Image via ESTEC
HUMEX, a Study on the Survivability and Adaptation of Humans to Long-Duration Exploratory Missions. Image via ESTEC

3D bioprinting in space

3D bioprinting has made its mark in the field of medicine. The technology has been used to bioprint ligament and tendons from stem cellsstudy diseases like Alzheimer’s, and for 3D printing scaffolds in regenerative medicine.  

In our ‘The Future of 3D printing’ series guest article, Professor Gordon Wallace also talked about 3D bioprinting stem cellsand what the technology will be like in 2022.

The latest ESA project intends to advance 3D bioprinting to the level where it becomes possible to 3D print skin, bones and organs.

However, the issues highlighted in HUMEX are complicated, and space beyond Earth is alien and hostile and presents different challenges. As Sandra Podhajsky, a researcher from OHB System’s Life Sciences explained, “Compared to today’s low-Earth-orbiting crews, long distance missions to far away destinations will face very different challenges.”

For example, some of the space mission scenarios sketched in the HUMEX study include, one hundred and eighty days stay on the Moon with a crew size of four. A thousand-day long mission to Mars, of which four hundred days will be spent on the red planet. And a five hundred day trip to Mars of which thirty days will be spent on the planet. 

Partial gravity is potential health hazards for Astronauts in space. Here, Jack Schmitt, a NASA astronaut looses balance on the Moon. Image via NASA
Partial gravity is potential health hazards for Astronauts in space. Here, Jack Schmitt, a NASA astronaut looses balance on the Moon. Image via NASA

Tackling problems of beyond-Earth 3D bioprinting

In view of the scenarios mentioned in the HUMEX study, getting medical attention to the traveling crew is nearly impossible. As Podhajsky explained, “In the event of a medical emergency a rapid return home will not be feasible. Instead, patients will have to be treated on the spot. Thus we are evaluating the feasibility and added value of implementing different 3D printing technologies and bioprinted tissues into future exploration missions.”

Another problem is performing medical surgery, as access to equipment and personnel will not be handy in space. Telemedicine, i.e. communication of medical instructions via IT and telecommunications technology, will not be possible due to the communication delay on deep space mssions.

To overcome this difficulty, a possible solution which employs robotic surgeons equipped with Artificial Intelligence was discussed, at the two-day workshop.

Furthermore, beyond the scientific and technological aspect, legal and regulatory issues were also explored. Bioprinting products will need to be controlled by regulatory bodies, like the American FDA, as well as space regulation bodies.

Tommaso Ghidini explained,  “We’re asking what astronauts would need in the short, medium and long term, and what steps are needed to mature 3D bioprinting to a level where it can be useful in space. We’re defining a development roadmap and timeline, with the aim that this group becomes a scientific working group in future, pushing progress on.”

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Featured image shows an artist’s rendition of a Moon base. Image via ESA

ExOne Introduces new X1 25 PRO 3D Printer as highest performing binder jetting machine

ExOne, a global provider of binder jetting 3D printing systems, services, and materials, has released its latest system, the X1 25 PRO at Formnext.

The X1 25 PRO enables a larger build volume and the equivalent powder metallurgy capabilities powders from ExOne’s INNOVENT+ . The platform is also designed to focus on the Metal Injection Molding (MIM), powder metallurgy, and mechanical engineering market applications.

Our X1 25 PRO is the first of two machines that we are introducing by the end of the first half of 2019, utilizing our state-of-the-art patent-pending MIM powder processing machine technologies,” said Rick Lucas, Chief Technology Officer at ExOne.

“We believe these new production machines will be the most flexible and highest performing binder jetting machines in the market.”

The X1 25PRO 3D printer. Photo via ExOne.
The X1 25PRO 3D printer. Photo via ExOne.

The X1 25 PRO system

According to Jared Helfrich, Chief Commercial Officer at ExOne, the X1 25 Pro can produce prints using very fine MIM powders of nine microns. The technology is based on the process settings from the INNOVENT+ additive manufacturing system, however, with a larger volumetric output.

The system uses a wide range of MIM powders including 136L, 304 L, and 17-4PH stainless steels; Inconel 718 and 625; M2 and H11 tool steels; cobalt chrome; copper; and tungsten carbide cobalt. It combines these powders with a binder to print a green part, that is then sintered leaving a fully dense part.

With this system, the company aims to accelerate the production of industrial metal components with high resolution, tight tolerances, and improved surface finishes.

3D printed carbon CARBOPRINT from ExOne and SGL Group.
3D printed carbon CARBOPRINT from ExOne and SGL Group.

The INNOVENT platform

ExOne’s INNOVENT platform relies on a printhead to dispense micro-droplets of specially-engineered binder into very thin layers of powdered metal. The INNOVENT+  system, in particular, is designed for testing purposes and larger scale prototyping or series production. The printer’s build volume measures at 65mm x 160mm x 65mm and is part of a larger system that includes an oven and furnace.

Furthermore, ExOne’s systems are made with material capabilities that encourage development from educational and research institutions. Such materials include engineered sand, bronze, stainless steel, tungsten, titanium, and single-crystal, aerospace materials.

ExOne is currently taking orders for the X1 25PRO system. The 3D printer will also be showcased at the RAPID + TCT show in Detroit on next year.

A 3D binder jetting print head. Photo via ExOne
A 3D binder jetting print head. Photo via ExOne

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Featured image shows the X1 25PRO 3D printer. Photo via ExOne.

3D printing news Sliced: CERN, HP Foundation, APWORKS, Phrozen, Etch-a-Sketch

Today in Sliced – what to 3D print for Christmas; UK hospitals call for more 3D printing in healthcare; a bioprinter is launched into space; and all the latest business deals from APWORKS, Sigma Labs, XJet, Sculpteo and more.

Sigma Labs partners with Fraunhofer, CERN integrates AM automation

3D printing quality assurance software provider Sigma Labs has confirmed an R&D agreement with the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Additive Manufacturing Technologies (IAPT). Dating back to Formnext 2018, this collaboration will, according to Sigma Labs CEO John Rice, “[…] test and validate the use of the [Sigma Labs] PrintRite3D system to identify and quantify machine and process inconsistencies as well as flag defect thermal signatures during the laser melting process, and correlate them to CT scan results.”

Elsewhere in R&D, automated depowdering units from post processing specialist Solukon Maschinenbau GmbH are now in use at CERN on selectively melted parts.

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Photo via CERN
The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Photo via CERN

What should I 3D print?

Electronics magazine and marketplace Elektor has announced the 2018 Anet Global 3D Printing Competition, giving two lucky winners the opportunity to win a trip to Shenzhen, China. To enter Anet 3D printer owners have been asked to share the “most impressive,” “largest,” “smallest,” and “funniest” 3D printing applications in videos online. Entries remain open until 5:00 pm GMT+8 on January 15, 2019, with 580 prizes across first, second, third and fourth places up for grabs.

Considering a homemade Christmas this year? Potent Printables designer Ali has posted a design to beat them all: the Cell Phone Etch-a-Sketch.

The .stl files for this super stocking filler are available to download for free via Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory.

New 3D printing opportunities open in Africa

Through its HP LIFE program, the HP Foundation has agreed to provide training to 100,000 students across Africa over the next three years. As of January 2018, the program now includes a 3D printing course that will help participants realize entrepreneurial opportunities with the technology.

And Rhodes University, South Africa, has helped acquire a 3D printer for local DD Siwisa Primary School through the GE Additive Education Program. Though based at the school, the 3D printer will remain an open resource for others to use.

Stefan Ritt joins 3YOURMIND, APWORKS partners with Barnes Group

In 3D printing business, Badr Al Olama, head of Abu Dhabi investor and industrial network Mubadala Aerospace, has pointed to 3D printing as one of its primary areas of investment as it focuses on Industry 4.0.

3D printed orthosis and prosthesis company Mecuris is considering expansion in the U.S. through new offices in Pittsburgh.

Additive manufacturing system distributor AB Universal has become an official reseller of XJet’s Carmel 3D printer in Russia.

Engineering consultancy firm Barnes Group Advisors has entered into a strategic partnership with APWORKS. A subsidiary of Airbus, APWORKS is the developer of Scalmalloy material. This partnership, according to Joachim Zettler, Managing Director at APWORKS will help to “rapidly implement our North American expansion strategy.”

Body of the Airbus APWorks Lightrider motorcycle, 3D printed using Scalmalloy - a brand name scandium alloy material. Photo via APWorks
Body of the Airbus APWorks Lightrider motorcycle, 3D printed using Scalmalloy – a brand name scandium alloy material. Photo via APWorks

Stefan Ritt, former VP of Global Marketing and Communications at SLM Solutions, has joined PLM software company 3YOURMIND as the Head of Global Marketing.

3D printing and prototyping service bureau GoProto, Inc. is expanding into the Asia Pacific region with the launch of a new facility in Melbourne Australia.

3D printing service bureau Sculpteo has confirmed a partnership with aerospace and transportation company Bombardier.

And Singapore based R&D company Bralco Advanced Materials has signed an agreement with AK Steel International B.V. Together the companies plan to develop specialty metal components for key industries.

3D printed healthcare on land and now in space

As of December 3 2018, Russia’s 3D Bioprinting Solutions has now reportedly installed its FABION 3D bioprinter aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The machine was sent to replace a 3D bioprinter of the same name which was incinerated in the failure of the Soyuz MS-10 spaceflight in October 2018.

And  NHS Wales is seeking funding to increase adoption of 3D printing across its hospitals. The move takes example from Morriston Hospital in Swansea that has been implementing the technology since 1999, and recently worked with Renishaw to produce 3D printed rib implants for a patient who suffered from cancer. Andrew Goodall , chief executive of NHS Wales, commented, “It’s imperative to our NHS’s continuing success that it moves with the times to improve the health and prosperity of the people of Wales.”

The 3D printed titanium rib implant. Photo via Morriston Hospital
A Renishaw 3D printed titanium rib implant. Photo via Morriston Hospital

nTopology Element update and new DLP crowdfunder 

nTopology has updated its Element generative design software offering its usage on a three tier access basis. The company states “As a part of our ongoing strategy and growth, we will be revamping the Element product offering […] Element Free will no longer be supported or upgraded. The different tiers available will be Element Basic, Advanced, and Pro. Element will still be available and free to education users.”

And finally, a new LCD DLP 3D printer is available on Kickstarter. Named the Phrozen Transform, the machine is made by Taiwanese 3D printer manufacturer Phrozen, “frozen” + “photon,” and has already gained 168 backers with 46 days still to go.

Features of the Phrozen Transform 3D printer. Image via Phrozen
Features of the Phrozen Transform 3D printer. Image via Phrozen

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Featured image shows Sliced logo over Potent Printables’  3D printed Cell Phone Etch-a-Sketch. Original photo via Potent Printables

TUM’s NavVis raises $35.5 million for digital twin platform

NavVis, a software company deriving from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has raised a total of $35.5 million to accelerate its digital twin platform.

Integrating its 3D scanning hardware, NavVis M6, and 3D visualization software, NavVis IndoorViewer, this platform provides a virtual workspace which for collaboration and  insights that “drive strategic decision-making as well as day-to-day operations.”

The Series C funding round was led by Digital+ Partners and included Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc. (KKE), MIG, Target Partners, and BayBG.

NavVis founders (L-R): Robert Huitl, Sebastian Hilsenbeck, Felix Reinshagen, and Georg Schroth. Photo via NavVis.
NavVis founders (L-R): Robert Huitl, Sebastian Hilsenbeck, Felix Reinshagen, and Georg Schroth. Photo via NavVis.

Digital twin technology

Digital twin technology enables intangible replicas of physical assets, processes, and devices. Based on the Internet of Things (IoT), a digital twin encompasses a network of connected devices exchanging data.

GE Global Research is currently developing digital twin models of metal 3D printed parts for the U.S Navy to accelerate the production of mission-critical equipment. Furthermore, according to KPMG, a growing amount of manufacturers are integrating its suppliers and customers into a demand-driven supply chain through digital twin concepts.

A virtual workspace

Founded in 2013, NavVis has identified two critical challenges experienced by enterprises seeking to implement digital twin technology. This includes scanning large industrial facilities to capture information and processing data and making it accessible to the workforce.

As a result, NavVis is has developed its technology to provide easy access, immersive 3D visualization and interactive features for efficient factory operations. Felix Reinshagen, NavVis co-founder and CEO said:

“The major German automotive manufacturers, who served as early adopters, paved the way for our digital twin technology to transform how enterprises will operate in the future. As a result, we are now experiencing a tremendous surge in demand for our well-established and trail tested platform.”

“Our mission is now to empower every enterprise with the easiest and most powerful way to build and operate their own digital twin to the fullest potential.”

The new funds will be used to accelerate international growth and product development through the NavVis developer API and mobile SDK, which has been used by SAP and Autodesk.


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Featured image shows NavVis founders Robert Huitl, Sebastian Hilsenbeck, Felix Reinshagen, and Georg Schroth. Photo via NavVis.

WiDE 3D printed prosthetic customization receives CE marking

Latvian 3D software company, WiDE, has received a CE mark for its software that helps users to quickly iterate 3D printed prosthesis in new sizes. The standards marking allows WiDE to distribute its software in the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

With this new assurance, WiDE hopes to stay in pursuit of its goal to make 3D printing in healthcare, simpler and easier for everyone.

Founded in 2015, the WiDE wants to make prosthetic customization for 3D printing easily available. Image via WiDE
Founded in 2015, the WiDE wants to make prosthetic customization for 3D printing easily available. Image via WiDE

WiDE prosthetic customization 

WiDE software makes it easier for users to customize prosthesis and orthosis (support braces for joints) for 3D printing. By simplifying the user experience, the company wants to make 3D printing of prosthetics widely available, and create an environment where assistive device can be manufactured in a matter of hours. 

To do this, WiDE software ‘wraps’ a digital template of prosthetic around the 3D scan of the patients arm or leg. This makes it easier for the user to make further adjustments to the model.

The complications of other CAD software is eradicated, as WiDE software offers a simple set of tools to customize a prosthetic in a digital environment. Furthermore, WiDE prepares the file for 3D printing, so there is no need for a separate slicer software. 

Regulation and CE marking of medical 3D software

The application of medical software is wide-ranging. For example, Materialise’s Mimics innovation suite is used for 3D printing anatomical models for assistance in surgery. Furthermore, recently, it was reported that Adaptiiv Medical Technologies 3D software for 3D printed bolus will be used to treat cancer in veteran patients.

In the U.S medical software are categorized as medical devices and require certification, regulated by the FDA. Whereas, in Europe, a ‘CE Marking’ ensures that the medical device is fit to be sold in the European single market.  

In order to obtain the CE Marking, a manufacturer must ensure that its product is in compliance with the requirements of European health, safety, and environmental protection guidelines, stated in the Product Directives and Harmonized Standards. These technical standards are set by European agencies such as the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENLEC).

Once the product is tested for conformity to standards, and technical documents are drafted, the CE symbol is affixed to the device and the EU Declaration of Conformity is drawn up. The CE symbol certifies the product to be legally marketed in the EEA countries.

Example of CE Marking on an electronic device. Image via Wikipedia
Example of CE Marking on an electronic device. Image via Wikipedia

3D printed prosthetics 

Among the uses of 3D printed technology is the production of 3D printed prosthetics. Earlier this year, the Northwell Health developed ‘The Fin’, a leg prosthetic which can be worn on land and water. More than this, global charities like e-NABLE, has provided low-cost 3D printed prosthetics to people in need.

It was also reported that Syria Relief sought funding for 3D printing prosthetics. The charity considered 3D printing to be the most efficient way to meet the demand of prosthetics in the war zone.

But, despite the availability of 3D printers, modeling and customization of prosthetics require technical skills. This puts a limitation on where and when 3D printed prosthetics can be produced. 

WiDE software aims to bridge the gap between lack of skills and the need rapid modeling and customization of 3D prosthetics for 3D printing. Speaking in ourguest article series WiDE founder Janis Jatnieks said of the Future of 3D Printing, “We will see patients feelings, and fears battled with the help of creative and involving designs that are smartly tailored to fit patients and that also adhere to their lifestyles and daily activities,”

“The future assistive devices will look stylish, they will catch an eye and make the wearer feel empowered to face the world and challenge their disability. It is likely that future assistive device users will have several units where one will be fitted to the dress worn to an Opera, but others made for school and even for doing household chores.”

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Featured image shows an example of 3D printed prosthetics. Image via WiDE

Additive manufacturing stakeholders unite under GKN Aersopace £32M technology center

A new GKN Aerospace Global Technology Center (GTC), with additive manufacturing front and center of its strategy, is to be launched in 2020 with the collaboration of 15 household names from across the industry.

Based in Bristol, the center has been funded using £15 million from the UK Government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, and £17 million committed by GKN Aerospace itself. According to Hans Büthker, Chief Executive of GKN Aerospace, the facility and its ecosystem is a testament to the national engineering and technology roadmap. On launch it will host 300 engineers, and span a facility of 10,000 square meters.

Digital render of the forthcoming Global Technology Center. Image via GKN Aerospace
Digital render of the forthcoming Global Technology Center. Image via GKN Aerospace

The GTC is a great example of the UK’s industrial strategy at its best: with industry and the Government coming together to invest in the technology of the future,” says Büthker.

Greg Clark, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, adds:

“GKN Aerospace’s new Global Technology Centre further strengthens our aerospace heritage and engineering expertise, and will keep the UK at the forefront of the latest technologies and manufacturing processes for the next-generation of aircraft.”

The Wing of Tomorrow

As seen at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow, GKN Aerospace has invested a lot in 3D printing. According to the company, 3D printed components can be found in six crucial areas of an aircraft, representing “the largest range of flying Additive Manufacturing (AM) parts and the broadest suite of AM technologies globally.” One of these flight-critical areas is the wing, which is incidentally the primary focus of the new GTC.

In partnership with , the facility in Bristol will be GKN Aerospace’s base for its work on the “Wing of Tomorrow” program. This program seeks the best materials, manufacturing processes, assembly techniques and technologies to expedite wing production and reduce costs. In addition to additive manufacturing, the GTC will explore the application of composite materials, advanced assembly and industry 4.0 processes as part of its core goals.

Büthker adds, “The GTC will ensure we continue to develop new technologies that deliver for our customers, making aircraft more sustainable and economical.”

Artist impression of a future strong wall and floor test area for wings in an Airbus Wing Integration Centre . Image via Airbus
Artist impression of a future strong wall and floor test area for wings in an Airbus Wing Integration Centre . Image via Airbus

Complete with a manufacturing ecosystem 

Already the GKN has generated a strong ecosystem of partners to work together at the GTC. At present, the list covers:

– The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) near Sheffield, South Yorkshire, a Northern Powerhouse area.

Additive Industries B.V., the Dutch manufacturer of the MetalFab1 industrial metal 3D printer.

– Engineering simulation software developer ANSYS UK Limited

– Digital transformation consultancy ATS Applied Tech Systems Limited

– Bristol’s Centre for Modelling & Simulation

Digital Catapult, a UK agency supporting early stage digital technologies.

– Robot arm developer KUKA Industries UK Limited

– Coventry’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC)

Award winning 3D software provider Materialise UK Limited

– The National Composites Centre

– Specialized design company PXL Realm

Thales UK Limited, a localized branch of global aerospace and defense company Thales Group

– The University of Bath

University of Bristol

University of Sheffield

In relation to these partners, Büthker concludes, “The GTC will continue to foster such collaboration across the entire UK Aerospace ecosystem and we look forward to working with the British Government in the years to come.”

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Featured image shows an airplane assembly. Photo via GKN Aerospace

Carfulan Group open house showcases precision machinery, Stratasys and XJet 3D printers

3D Printing Industry was invited to the Carfulan Group open house event in Derby, UK on 4 December. The Carfulan Group is a reseller and service provider comprising three precision measurement (metrology) and one 3D printing company.

At the event were manufacturing experts, potential customers, and local academics, who came to see the variety of manufacturing technology in the showroom.

In September, the Carfulan Group signed a distribution agreement with XJet for the Carmel 3D printers. One of these printers, the Carmel 1400 was also the highlight of the Carfulan open house.

The event brought Dror Danai, XJet’s CBO and Haim Levi, VP Manufacturing and Defense markets of the company to England. I sat down with them to learn more about XJet and why the Israeli company has chosen Carfulan.

Later, I also spoke to SYS Systems’ Sales Manager, Robert Thompson, to learn more about the Carfulan group, and how each company in the group compliments the other.

The Carfulan Group open house event. Photo courtesy of Umair Iftikhar
The Carfulan Group open house event. Photo courtesy of Umair Iftikhar

The Carfulan Group

The Carfulan Group was founded 30 years ago when the owners brought the American company OGP on board. The Group now comprises OGP UK, a multi-sensor measurement equipment provider, Zoller, a presetting and measuring company, and an Italian non-contact machinery and quality control machinery supplier, Vicivision. A supplier of Stratasys 3D printers SYS Systems has been part of Carfulan for the past ten years. All these companies are based in Derby.

Robert Thompson explained, how often companies have an OGP system for metrology “and in the R&D facility … an Objet machine or a Stratasys machine. It’s such a crossover in what we do.”

Furthermore, Carfulan has its own engineers who perform maintenance and repair on the machines provided by partner companies. Thompson said this ensures the independence of the partner in the Group from each other.

The Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer, one of the systems sold by SYS Systems. Image via Stratasys.
The Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D printer, one of the systems sold by SYS Systems. Image via Stratasys.

NanoParticle Jetting technology 

Early in the event, Danai gave a presentation on XJet’s Nano Particle Jetting (NPJ) technology.

XJet’s Carmel printers use metal and ceramic inks for 3D printing. The ink is made by XJet from metal and ceramic powders. The powders are processed to ensure that all the particles are of a uniform size. The ink is jetted onto the build plate through tiny nozzles in a liquid form. The binding liquid evaporates at a high temperature and the particles firmly bond with each other to make the 3D printed part.

One of the benefits of that Carmel systems over powder 3D printing is relatively short post-processing times. A part produced in the Carmel 1400 can be taken out and sintered and be ready for use.

Furthermore, with the recently introduced a soluble support material, post-processing becomes even faster.

The XJet Carmel 1400 NanoParticle Jetting system. Image via XJet
The XJet Carmel 1400 NanoParticle Jetting system. Image via XJet

The start-up nation

In the wider technology world, Israel is well known for the number of start-ups per capita. In 3D printing, the country is, of course, the home of one of the oldest enterprises in the industry – Stratasys.

Recently, more 3D printing companies like Nano Dimension, Massivit, MODIX, Objet (now a part of Stratasys) and XJet itself, have made their appearance on the market.

I wondered about this trend in Israel, which is a relatively small country by area and population. Danai explained that the “thing about the Israeli growth is that Israelis, since the early days but much more since the 80s realize that the Israeli market is very tiny.” And due to this, there is an outward-looking mindset among the Israeli entrepreneurs. Israeli entrepreneurs look to other countries for customers.

Danai continued “An Israeli pioneer or entrepreneur looks at the Israeli market, as a market that is good for testing the technology, but it’s never the end market. In our presentation, we always talk about Europe, the U.S, and Asia.”

Despite the technological advances Israel is small and still largely agricultural, Danai added. Haim Levi even joked that due to lack of natural resources (out of total area of the country only two percent is water) in Israel the country produces thinkers and pioneers.

Choosing a distribution partner

I enquired of Danai about the attraction of England for a metal 3D printing out of Israel. Danai began, “England was a natural choice for being a pioneer, also when start distributing we want to make sure that business model makes sense to partners, and there is no better place than England … which is one of the biggest markets in Europe and one of the biggest economies in the world.”

Furthermore, Danai commented that the English language is also a part of the choice, which makes business negotiations easier. And adding to this is the mutual understanding of business ethics between the Israelis and the British.

The Carfulan Group was chosen because it is considered an industry expert in sales. Danai said, “We want to be associated with companies like Carfulan, who have a high quality of showroom, engineers and salespeople, good feedback from our friends at Stratasys who worked with them for many years. Everything adds up to a level of comfort and trust that allows us to start here.”

Robert Thompson of SYS Systems elaborated “We have already got a well established 3D printing business, which straight away gives us people to talk about the XJet technology, but also within the other divisions of our Group, there may be somebody who uses Zoller pre-setting machine on a system to make ceramic parts, well if they are making ceramic parts they really need to know about XJet.”

The Spark MVP, a non-contact video measurement machine, at the OGP stand. Photo courtesy of Umair Iftikhar
The Spark MVP, a non-contact video measurement machine, at the OGP stand. Photo courtesy of Umair Iftikhar

Turnkey Manufacturing partners

Danai also said that Xjet has formed an agreement with a “turnkey manufacturing partners”. These partners will be responsible for manufacturing mechanical parts and machine assembly. But the core aspects of XJet 3D printers, such as the ink and printer heads will still be provided by XJet.

The reason behind the strategy of outsourcing is that the company believes that there are people more expert on this than XJet. And the strategy frees up XJet resources to focus on research and development, and sales.

Moving forward

Haim Levi, XJet’s VP Manufacturing and Defense markets, talked about the installation of the Carmel systems. Levi said that by the end of this year there will be seven XJet systems installed worldwide.

Furthermore, the sales of these seven systems were selective. The partners were chosen by XJet. The company needed partners that would share their expertise and their knowledge and feedback from direct use of the 3D printers.

Through this strategy of “selective sales” XJet will develop further knowledge of their own machine. This tactic will also help XJet develop new 3D printers in the future.

Danai said that in the coming years, XJet will explore multi-material jetting with multiple heads. Parts printed in four or five different materials in one go. Danai concluded, “metal and ceramics give us enough work to do for a decade or two, there are so many metals and so many ceramics.”

XJet will soon have a total of 120 employees and move to a bigger headquarters, a sign of the company’s recent growth.

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Featured image shows the Carfulan Group showroom. Photo courtesy of Umair Iftikhar

Formlabs debuts High Temp Resin for 3D printed parts with high thermal stability

Formlabs, a Massachusetts-based 3D printer manufacturer has introduced its latest material formulation, High Temp Resin, for the Form 2 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer.

Designed to print detailed, precise prototypes with high-temperature resistance, High Temp Resin offers an improved elongation to decrease brittleness as well as a heat deflection temperature (HDT) of 238°C (at 0.45 MPa), the highest among Formlabs resins.

3D printed parts using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.
3D printed parts using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.

High Temp Resin

Formlabs first soft-launched High Temp Resin last year for engineers and product designers to better understand its applications, strengths, and opportunities to improve. The company saw a variety of professionals use its latest material formulation within the functional testing of prototype parts prone to come into contact with heat.

Materials commonly used within rapid prototyping can deform at higher temperatures. This material enables the production of fully dense, watertight parts with low absorption that can withstand direct contact with hot liquid or steam.

Furthermore, High Temp Resin supports print resolutions of 100, 50, and 25 microns. According to Formlabs, in some cases, engineers have bought their first Form 2 specifically to access this resin.

3D printed parts using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.
3D printed parts using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.

Optimized production with High Temp Resin

The Google Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab has used High Temp Resin to overcome several pre-production additive manufacturing challenges. The ATAP team needed to quickly produce hundreds of prototype PCBs to validate an overmolded wearable device.

Using High Temp Resin, which demonstrates high thermal stability, they reduced turnaround time for the crucial component by 85% while saving over $100,000.

“You might shoot hundreds and hundreds, thousands of shots, to dial this in,” said David Beardsley, Model Shop Manager at Google ATAP. “The problem is when you’re doing that with live electronics that have real boards that have been stuffed with real electronics and then sent off to the overmolder and then brought back, you’ve got this whole supply chain.”

“Had we not had the Form 2 [and High Temp Resin], we would not have been able to pull this off. When we did move to a full product cycle, we were sure that was going to work.”

Google ATAP Formlabs display of wearable parts. Photo via Formlabs.
Google ATAP Formlabs display of electronic wearable parts using High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.

Moreover, New York-based OXO, a producer of consumer goods, utilized High Temp Resin to prototype functional parts that needed to come into contact with boiling water during the design process for its Barista Brain 9 Cup Coffee Maker.

In addition, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield integrated High Temp Resin to rapidly test washers and brackets for different sensor configurations that can withstand the high temperatures of welding.

The new formulation, High Temp Resin, is shipping now at a price of £204.

A 3D printed part using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.
A 3D printed part using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.

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Featured image shows 3D printed parts using Formlabs High Temp Resin. Photo via Formlabs.