At Purdue University, Indiana, Professor Jeffrey Rhoads, assistant professor Emre Gunduz and colleagues have been leading research into 3D printed propellants, pyrotechnics and solid rocket fuel. Termed “energetic materials”, this focus has led the group to launch their own faculty spin off company, Next Offset Solutions Inc., focusing on overcoming emerging challenges in national security, defense, and energy.
“It’s like the Play-Doh press of the 21st century,” explains Professor Rhoads.
“We have shown that we can print these energetic materials without voids, which is key. Voids are bad in energetic materials because they typically lead to inconsistent, sometimes catastrophic, burns.”
As explained by Purdue PhD candidate Monique McClain, the university is renowned for its excellent propulsion program, encompassing several centers of excellence for advances in aerospace. Previously, this program has overseen the development of FDM 3D printed reactive material, and inkjet 3D printed “functional materials” which are both projects of new company Next Offset Solutions Inc.
Published online in November 2017, the group’s inkjet project succeeded in 3D printing thermite, a non-explosive pyrotechnic metal powder commonly used by the military in hand grenades used to partially destroy equipment, and stealth operations.
With high-viscosity 3D printing, the group unlocks a new potential method for fabricating some of the most challenging energetic materials.
High viscosity 3D printing
Viscous materials are incredibly challenging to process via 3D printing. This, explains assistant professor Gunduz, is due to friction, “It’s hard to print those kinds of materials, especially at very high rates, and high resolution because of issues with the nozzles. You can’t really push them through […] The problem there is the friction.”
The group’s high viscosity 3D printing methods works to dispel the friction between a thick material paste and its extrusion nozzle. This is achieved by adding an ultrasonic probe to the nozzle which vibrates, separating the material from the walls of the nozzle and allowing it to “snake” through.
According to Gunduz, “The results were really striking because its a new diagnostic. Nobody has characterized a viscous flow in a channel like this.”
The path to commercialization
As a proof of concept, the team successfully 3D printed a range of viscous materials using this method, including a metal-polymer composite, clay, and fondant icing. With potential cross-industry applications, in electronics, biomedical devices, pharmaceuticals and explosives, the method has now been patented, and the team continues to investigate new potential materials.
Through Next Offset Solutions, the method is offered as part of the company’s R&D capabilities. Still in the early stages, its vision is “To serve as a recognized, trusted authority capable of solving the emergent technical challenges of the national security and defense sectors.”
S-Squared 3D Printers (SQ3D), a 3D printer manufacturing and service company based in New York, has introduced its patent-pending Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS).
Capable of constructing homes, roads, bridges, and commercial buildings, the specialized ARCS 3D printer is said to outperform traditional construction by reducing both time and cost up to 70%. The company states:
“Our mission is to revolutionize the construction industry forever. This kind of outside-the-box thinking and solutions will reduce environmental impact, cut overhead costs, save lives and prevent injuries.”
Leveraging the capabilities of this technology, engineers from SQ3D have developed a safe, effective, and eco-friendly way to build, solving the increasingly complex demand of current construction.
ARCS is capable of printing cement structures ranging from 500 square feet to over 1 million square feet. These 3D printed structures are mold and fire resistant and built to withstand severe weather. The system takes an estimated six hours to set up. Furthermore, the buildings created with ARCS are said to have a structural integrity that can last a century and require little maintenance.
According to SQ3D, OSHA instructors have praised this machine for its potential to reduce some of the most common injuries associated with construction. Moreover, the ARCS will be utilized in several construction projects to be announced in the near future.
The environmental impact of 3D printed houses
With the ability to use natural materials, 3D printed houses and structures have become a sustainable and cost-effective option within construction. The Italian manufacturer behind DeltaWASP 3D printers, WASP, have recently demonstrated the potential for 3D printed sustainable housing with the release of its new construction system used to accelerate the development of the eco-friendly village of Shamballa.
The 3D Printing Industry Awards return for their third year.
As in previous years, a two stage process is used to decide the winners.
First, readers are invited to make nominations in each of the categories below.
In the second stage, shortlists are draw up based upon nominations received and readers are invited to vote for the winners.
We will announce the winners at our black-tie event in London on Thursday June 6th 2019. A limited number of tickets are available for the event, please contact us for more information.
The 3D Printing Industry Awards are the largest annual survey of industry. We want to hear from our readers about who is leading the industry, the breakthrough innovations and the people behind the technology.
Please use the form below to make your nominations.
“We’ve experienced firsthand the tremendous progress that additive manufacturing has made over the past decade, and we’re quickly approaching another important milestone in 3D printing’s rapid ascent into industrial manufacturing space,” said Vicki Holt, President and CEO at Protolabs.
“My hope is that ADAPT will not only evolve additive manufacturing as a viable digital manufacturing solution for prototyping, but also end-use production. We are thrilled to be a founding member of ADAPT to help make that a reality.”
The ADAPT center
The ADAPT center was established by John Hart, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the MIT Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. The aim of the center is to accelerate the implementation of additive manufacturing and to “invent its future.”
“AM — and the path toward a responsive, digital manufacturing infrastructure both within and between organizations — requires multidisciplinary expertise at the cutting edge of mechanical engineering, computer science, materials, and other fields,” explained Professor Hart.
“I am thrilled to launch ADAPT to accelerate MIT’s efforts toward enabling the next generation of production technologies, wherein AM is a cornerstone.”
Within the facility, MIT experts and consortium partners are developing and critically assessing the status of 3D printing from robotics, advanced materials, to computational intelligence. The ADAPT center is also seeking to develop model-based decision tools and open strategic frameworks, as well as an academic-industry network.
As well as the ADAPT consortium, earlier this year, Protolabs joined the GE AdditiveManufacturing Partner Network (MPN) to further advance and democratize access to industrial-grade additive manufacturing technologies and materials.
Make your nominations for the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards here.
The Liquid Propulsion Lab (LPL) at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering has been quietly working on a fleet of 3D printed rocket engines. Made entirely on campus in Los Angeles, the most recent test firing was conducted by the group in the Mojave Desert, and produced 600 pounds of thrust.
Though relatively small as far as thrusters go, this engine (named James) is a necessary development step in the group’s pursuit of more powerful engines, and is leading students to dream jobs in some of the most well-established aerospace companies and and challenging startups in the industry.
Launching into space
These days, rocket engine development seems incomplete without the application of additive manufacturing techniques. This is due, in part, the challenge of making lighter, more eco-friendly engines, requirements needed to make the kit more efficient, compliant, and more cost-effective for manufacturers and customers.
By way of some explanation Jordan Noone, USC Viterbi alumni, former lead of the USC Rocket Propulsion Lab, and CTO and co-founder of 3D printing-powered space exploration technology startup Relativity Space, says, “Traditional manufacturing relies on fixed tooling – think of casting molds or forging equipment. This makes it slow and expensive to modify a design,”
“With printing, you can make those changes in software and go straight to printing your new design.”
The “most powerful” student-built engine
At USC Viterbi, the James engine and its bigger brother Balerion, are 3D printed using Inconel 718, a high strength superalloy, typically processed in powdered form. After printing, it is then finished on-site in the university’s machine shop.
The Balerion engine in particular has been produced in the lab’s collaboration with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. It weighs one ton in total, and is capable of 2,250 pounds of thrust. With these specifications, it is believed to be one of the most powerful student-built engines in the world, and is due to be tested as part of flight vehicle in spring 2019. During this test, two Balerion engines will be challenged with launching a payload to 20,000 feet, half the height of commercial airplane flights.
Building a 3D printing savvy workforce
Built on the success of such projects the USC Viterbi LPL has seen its students join SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, Firefly Space Systems, Vector Space and Generation Orbit on graduation.
Jan Fessl, co-lead engineer of LPL and USC Viterbi masters student, is responsible for helping to build the team’s workforce. He says, “The main goal of the lab is to create an environment that people can grow themselves and then be able to get their dream job,”
“If you build up the process, the results are going to come by itself.”
3D printing, CNC carving and laser engraving – the ZMorph VX makes some bold claims about its capabilities. This multiple function desktop system was launched by its Polish namesake manufacturer, ZMorph, at TCT 2017. Now 3D Printing Industry engineers have been given the chance to put it to the test.
According to its core claims, the ZMorph VX is of robust construction and designed for prolonged use. Its multiple toolheads, including a paste extruder and dual extruder, should be easily transferable, and the free ZMorph Academy course should enable users to learn how to operate each one effectively. Though a multitool machine, with CNC PRO and Laser PRO toolheads, the VX promises uncompromising FFF 3D printing quality. Each of these claims have been taken into account throughout testing the machine, and serve as the basis for our review.
The ZMorph VX out of the box
After the five minutes taken to unpack the ZMorph VX, and a further three to attach the spool holder, the machine can be considered as “ready to go.” A concise, quick setup guide is provided in the box detailing each of its five modes of operation, and the customer is also referred to the ZMorph Knowledge Base and ZMorph Academy for extra help and how-tos.
The spool holder has an efficient design and is capable of holding up to four rolls of filament at the same time, only two of these spools, it should be noted, can be extruded simultaneously when the appropriate toolhead is attached.
Each of the toolheads is mounted by a single screw. When exchanging toolheads, this simple construction enables each head to be changed within one minute, as stated by the company in its advertising. It is also easy to switch between functions via the in-built touchscreen panel, which is powered by ZMorph Voxelizer software.
Calibration can be completed both automatically and manually on the VX. In tests we found that auto calibration was more than suitable for every task.
Straight into 3D printing
The first test our engineers performed was, of course, an assessment of the ZMorph VX’s 3D print quality. For this purpose, first with a single extruder, we tried five different models:
– A ZMorph pyramid sample print (PLA silver) – A 3D Benchy in two different sizes (PLA silver and white)Complex flower vase (PLA silver) – Large detailed house model (PLA silver) – 3D Torture test (PLA white)
Put briefly, across all test prints, the ZMorph VX worked very well. The sample triangle was 3D printed with fine features, despite the fact that it is a challenging printout for some 3D printers due to its extensive details.
Similarly, both 3D Benchy’s were 3D printed without fault. Though of varying sizes, and using a different filament to the ZMorph triangle, the test Benchys were produced at a high quality without any stringing across difficult areas like the windows.
In the vase, a slightly more complex model, the walls were of a good quality, but some stringing could be noticed on the inside. It should be noted however, that the stringing was nothing unusual, and was most likely due to the small size of the object. A test of stamina, the large house model, which took 20 hours to complete, also printed well.
And, in the final torture test, the ZMorph VX proved that it can handle overhangs, bridges, hinges and floating strings with ease.
Dual extrusion on the ZMorph VX
A similar design to the single extruder, the dual extruder on the ZMorph X has two feeders and two inlets, which lead to a single nozzle. The feeders on this nozzle are open, a welcome feature of the head as it is handy for spotting any clogging. The heating element with the nozzle assembly is modular too, which also helps to just heat up the needed area during a clog.
In a test of dual extrusion capabilities, the team used ZMorph’s Voxelizer to add a basic text 3D Printing Industry (3DPI) logo to the side of a miniature rocket part.
The combination process in Voxelizer was quick and straightforward. Preprogrammed blending options for the two filaments where also clear and easy to understand, i.e. separate, 5050, gradient and texture.
Both sample parts 3D printed using the dual extruder were of a decent quality though the surface finish was not of the same quality when compared to single extrusion 3D prints. Adding text/images to the face of dual 3D printed objects is in fact better served by larger objects, allowing the pictures and characters to become more defined.
Laser engraving, CNC carving, paste extrusion
Now, onto the extra features of the Zmorph VX multiool 3D printer. For laser engraving CNC carving and paste extrusion, first the print bed had to be replaced with the CNC worktable.
Due to the simple, magnetic design of both platforms, the exchange was easy to do. With this construction, planar aligning was also very easy, and calibration process was acceptable.
For the engraving test, we effectively reproduced the ZMorph logo from the sample files provided by the company. In a further test, the team also succeeded in converting a .jpeg image into our own engraving .gcode using a tutorial from ZMorph Academy.
Overall we were impressed by the quality of the engraving, especially considering features were very close together in the tests.
For CNC carving, five types of cutter tip were provided, each easily mountable within the toolhead.
For carving, we used a 6mm thick piece of plywood provided by the company, and tested the sample “Rocket Holder” file downloaded from ZMorph Academy. At 75% and 125% speed, were were decently impressed by the results.
And finally, attaching the partially 3D printed paste extruder, we achieved the successful guided extrusion of a thick chocolate icing. A handy addition for consistently decorating cakes, or experimentation with gels.
A multilayered “M” initial was achieved at layer height 3 mm, path width 3 mm, travel speed 120 mm/s and print speed 5 mm/s.
The all in one tool for workshops, schools and FabLabs
Based on our internal testing, the ZMorph VX is indeed a brilliant multitool 3D printer, which performed very well across all functions, especially for 3D printing. All prints demonstrated good layer adhesion, and the ability to pick out fine detail in chosen objects. Generally, the process also made it easy to remove supports, and the ZMorph VX produced a near perfect Torture Test proving its ability to overcome the breadth of 3D printer challenges, i.e. overhangs bridges, hinges and floating strings.
With the ability to reference ZMorph Academy for free, we were able to conduct our tests with ease, and found instructions incredibly clear and to the point. Simple tool mounting, the integrated touch screen, and Zmorph’s Voxelizer all contributed to an enjoyable, and intuitive user experience. It has a very sturdy frame, and could conceivably be used time and again over a long period of time. In addition, the machine’s multitool features, CNC carving, laser engraving and paste extrusion, all performed well, indicating the ZMorph VX’s capability as an all in one workshop tool.
The ZMorph VX would be a welcome addition to a classroom, FabLab, or the workbench of an in house engineering/design department. Buy the ZMorph VX here.
The International Data Corporation (IDC) has released ten predictions that will significantly impact the 3D printing market over the next three to five years.
As a result of its worldwide research, one of IDC forecasts attributes ongoing trade wars and manufacturing automation to a 40% drive in additive manufacturing implementation by discrete manufacturers worldwide by 2021.
Furthermore, the IDC analysts believe that by 2022, 75% of all new 3D printers will support new materials with properties like gel and rubber, thus driving $2 billion in new spending related to 3D printed products.
The race to innovation
Headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts, IDC employs more than 1,100 analysts located in over 50 countries. With 49% of its analysts active in emerging markets, the company boasts global, regional and local expertise on technology and industry trends and conducts primary demand-side research with more than 350,000 end users surveyed annually.
The IDC FutureScape: Worldwide 3D Printing 2019 Predictions, headed by Keith Kmetz, the Program Vice President of IDC’s Imaging, Printing & Document Solutions programs, offers guidance for managing the forecasted future of additive manufacturing regarding IT investments and implementation strategies.
The future of additive manufacturing
The IDC 3D printing predictions have been categorized under different themes as seen from the graph below; the forecasts are also numbered for identification. The first (1) prediction states that by 2021, 40% of the top 2,000 manufacturers will utilize 3D printing combined with intelligent machine tools to optimize material usage, thus reducing waste by at least 25%.
The second (2) claims that despite rapid ongoing advances in 3D bioprinting, patient-specific durable medical devices will account for 80% of the commercial healthcare 3D printing market in 2023. As previously mentioned, analysts predict that (3) trade wars and automation will have driven more than 40% of discrete manufacturers towards 3D printing by 2021.
Furthermore, within the healthcare sector, (4) by 2022, 75% of all new 3D printers will support new materials with properties like gel and rubber, thus driving $2 billion in new spending related to 3D printed products.
Moreover, it is estimated that (5) by 2021, 30% of electronics manufacturers worldwide will have incorporated 3D printed electronics and 4D printing to address the demand of stretchable and flexible electronics amid growing IoT adoption. Before 2023,(6) 50% of industrial and professional 3D prints will be influenced by generative design, topology optimization, and marketplace software.
Within advanced industries, (7) by 2020, 3D printing advances will have driven more than 50% of aerospace manufacturers worldwide to partner with industry-standards development groups to formalize the use of 3D printing. Also within software developments, (8) by 2024, 35% of 3D printer CAD files will be protected by blockchain as companies look for decentralized low-cost options to protect digital IP from theft and loss.
Looking at the consumer markets, it is believed that by 2021 (9), every major international footwear manufacturer will produce, market, and sell an athletics shoe line that is nearly 100% 3D printed. Finally, the tenth prediction (10) forecasts that by 2022, 20% of 3D printer equipment manufacturers will have adopted an “as a service” model as the primary avenue to reach customers and maximize their market potential.
Make your nominations for the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards here.