3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup, August 2, 2020

It’s another busy week in the 3D printing industry that’s packed full of webinars and virtual events, ranging in topics from medical materials and flexible electronics to polypropylene and market costs. There are four on Tuesday, August 4th, two on Wednesday, August 5th, and the week will end with the last KEX webinar on Thursday, August 6th.

ASTM’s AM General Personnel Certificate Program

Last week, the ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE) training course all about additive manufacturing safety.  Now, the AM CoE is starting its AM General Personnel Certificate course, which will begin August 4th and run through the 27th. One of its key focus areas is promoting AM adoption, and helping to fill the knowledge gap with training for the future AM workforce is a major way that the AM CoE is doing this. The online course is made up of eight modules covering all the general concepts of the AM process chain, and attendees will learn important technical knowledge that will allow them to earn a General AM Certificate after completing a multiple-choice exam.

“This course will feature 17 experts across the field of additive manufacturing to provide a comprehensive course covering all of the general concepts of the AM process chain to its attendees. The course will occur over the month of August consisting of two modules per week for four weeks. More information can be found in the course flyer.”

Online registration will open soon. This is not a free course—you can learn about the fees here.

Nexa3D & Henkel: Medical Materials Webinar

Nasal swabs

Recently, SLA 3D printer manufacturer Nexa3D and functional additive materials supplier Henkel announced that they were partnering up to commercialize the polypropylene-like xMED412, a durable, high-impact material that can be used to 3D print biocompatible medical and wearable devices; in fact, it’s already been cleared to print nasal swabs. Now, the two are holding a virtual leadership forum on “Advances and Breakthroughs in 3D Printed Medical Equipment and Device Materials,” like xMED412. Topics to be discussed will include new possibilities for 3D printing medical equipment and devices, the benefits of using AM to fabricate these products, and the advantages additive manufacturing has over medical materials made with traditional manufacturing. Panelists will engage with attendees after the discussion in a live Q&A session.

“3D printing has introduced all kinds of new possibilities for developing stronger and lightweighted equipment but we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. These past few months have driven the industry to new realms of creativity with the need to quickly deliver medical supplies, devices and materials. With new lightweight, sturdy materials designed to withstand impact, moisture and vibration, access to lower cost medical equipment is becoming more widely available thanks to 3D printing.”

Register here for the 45-minute virtual forum, which will take place on Tuesday, August 4th, at 1:30 pm EST.

SOLIDWORKS Design Solution Demonstration

Also on August 4th, at 11 am EST, Dassault Systèmes will be holding a brief demonstration of its 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS design solution. This demonstration of the platform’s capabilities will last just 22 minutes, and will teach attendees how to collaborate and stay connected to data while creating new designs with SOLIDWORKS when connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, exploring the latest tools available on the platform, and design a model using both parametric (3D Creator) and Sub-D modeling (3D Sculptor) tools with the help of complementary workflows.

“SOLIDWORKS is the design tool that has been trusted by engineers and designers around the world for decades. Part of the 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS portfolio, SOLIDWORKS is now connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform with cloud-based tools that enable everyone involved in product development to collaborate on real-time data. Doing so enables you to efficiently gain the insight needed to create revolutionary new products.”

You can register for the demonstration here.

NextFlex Innovation Days

The last August 4th event in this week’s roundup is NextFlex Innovation Days, the flagship showcase event for the consortium of academic institutions, companies, non-profits, and local and federal governments that make up NextFlex and are working to advance US manufacturing of flexible hybrid electronics (FHE). The event will run through Thursday, August 6th, and will include panel discussions on how FHEs are continuing to transform the world, including a panel featuring a special guest speaker from the US Senate. FHE innovations that will be highlighted during the event include a wearable biometrics monitor from Stretch Med, Inc., flexible skin-like sensors from Georgia Tech, a flexible UV sensor out of the NASA Ames Research Center, miniaturized gas sensors that GE Research integrated into wearables and drone formats, and Brewer Science’s integrated FHE solutions in a brewery application.

“This multi-day virtual event will feature over 50 customer, partner and member company presentations online available at no cost. If you watch live, you’ll have the chance to interact with presenters and flexible hybrid electronic (FHE) experts from the comfort of home via webinars and virtual labs, or you can watch video demonstrations at your availability.”

Register for NextFlex Innovation Days here.

Additive America & HP AM Webinar

HP is currently sponsoring a webinar series highlighting business in the AM industry that worked to transition their production processes in order to help fill the supply chain gap that’s been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This week’s episode, which will take place at 1:30 pm EST on Wednesday, August 5th, will feature a discussion with Additive America on “the lasting impact of COVID-19 on additive manufacturing.”

“Listen in on conversations with our customers to learn how they have adapted to the change in business climate, whether it be a shift in production workflow to address supply chain gaps, enabling a faster product development cycle to support changing customers’ needs, or bridge production.”

You can register for this webinar here.

Prodways, BASF, & Peridot Talk Polypropylene

Also on August 5th, Prodways, BASF, and full-service product development company Peridot Inc. will be holding a free webinar together called “Rethink Additive Manufacturing with Polypropylene.” Led by Lee Barbiasz from Prodways, Jeremy Vos from BASF, and Peridot owner Dave Hockemeyer, the webinar will focus on how PP 1200, a tough, chemically resistant, low density polypropylene enabled by BASF for selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing, is being used to bridge the gap between additive manufacturing and injection molding, as well as growing opportunities and applications in short run manufacturing. Hockemeyer was an early adopter of the material, and will share a variety of use cases for PP 1200. There will also be a chance for attendees to ask questions about the material.

“3D Printing with Polypropylene is here! After more than three decades, 3D printing technology has evolved the ability to 3D print polypropylene material. Polypropylene enables scalability in manufacturing, reduces barriers to entry in 3D printing and reduces manufacturing costs by 25-50%!”

You can register for the webinar, held on Wednesday, August 5th, from 1-1:45 pm EST, here.

KEX Knowledge Exchange on Market, Costs & Innovation

The last entry in this week’s roundup will take place on Thursday, August 6th. KEX Knowledge Exchange AG, a former spinoff of Fraunhofer IPT, held webinars in July about powder bed fusion technology and post-processing, and the last in its series will be an online seminar on Market, Costs & Innovation. Sebastian Pfestorf from KEX and Lea Eilert, the project and technology manager for the ACAM Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing, will be the speakers for this webinar.

“In this online seminar, you will learn:

  • Current AM market and industrial trends

  • What markets the technology has penetrated the most and why

  • How to go about implementing AM, including risks and uncertainties

You can register for the hour-long webinar here. It will take place on Thursday, August 6th, at 8 am EST.

Will you attend any of these events and webinars, or have news to share about future ones? Let us know! 

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Exactech Transitions from EBM to Laser 3D Printing Implants for Shoulders

Orthopedic implant device maker Exactech wants to scale up the production of its Equinoxe Stemless Shoulder implant by switching from electron beam metal additive manufacturing to direct metal 3D printing with high precision lasers. In an official statement released on July 21, 2020, the Florida-based company announced plans to transition all US stemless shoulder procedures to its laser-printed devices throughout the rest of the year.

As the latest addition to the company’s extremities product line, the Stemless Shoulder, launched in 2018, is a bone conserving prosthesis designed for anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty. Comprised of a stemless cage, humeral head, and cage glenoid, the device offers intraoperative flexibility which is ideal for conserving the bone, said the company. Furthermore, to enhance the probability of biological fixation, it incorporated a laser 3D printed porous bone cage structure that allows bone-through growth, and without the need for a stem, there is more ease of implantation, reduced operating time, and blood loss. Exactech indicated that the innovative combination of 3D porous material and bone cage technology is what differentiates it from competing products on the market.

The new Equinoxe Stemless Shoulder uses laser-printed AM (Image courtesy of Exactech)

Currently, there is a growing trend towards minimally invasive orthopedic surgeries, like stemless shoulder implant procedures mainly led by experts in Germany and France. However, US surgeons also took notice of the benefits of using stemless implants to perform arthroplasties with less bone removal and fewer complications than more conventional anatomic shoulder prosthesis.

Driven by an upsurge in the aging population, longer life expectancy, and rising prevalence of arthritis, the global shoulder arthroplasty market is expected to reach $2.4 billion by 2023, and that includes increased demand for stemless shoulder implants, as forecasted by Koncept Analytics last year. In the US alone, over 53,000 people have shoulder replacement surgery each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and with only a handful of stemless shoulder implants cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2015 (including the Equinoxe Stemless Shoulder), there is a wide-open market opportunity for medical device manufacturers to exploit. Expecting to become a leading force in the stemless implant market, Exactech is switching technologies to deliver quick solutions for patients and surgeons.

“We have been incredibly pleased with our original EBM [electron beam melting] Stemless Shoulder implant and the early positive clinical feedback we received from our surgeon customers. The new laser-printed device is built on this solid foundation while also giving us the ability to ramp up production to serve even more patients, which drives us and fulfills our mission,” said Exactech Vice President of Extremities, Chris Roche.

Orthopedic surgeons Curtis Noel, of the Crystal Clinic in Akron, Ohio, and Stephanie Muh, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, were the first shoulder specialists to perform the surgeries with the Equinoxe Stemless Shoulder implant earlier this month. As a member of the design team, Noel expressed how proud he was to be one of the first to implant the laser-printed Stemless Shoulder, mainly due to the bone conserving design, along with its compatibility to the Equinoxe Shoulder Platform System.

Laser 3D printed porous structure designed to promote bone-through growth (Image courtesy of Exactech)

Muh described that “one of my favorite features of the Stemless implant is its bone cage structure that is designed to provide initial press-fit fixation while also allowing for bone-through growth. That intentional design element, along with the porous structure being designed to mimic the trabecular nature of cancellous bone, differentiates it from competitors.”

In order to design the Stemless Shoulder implant, Exactech engineering researchers collaborated with orthopedic surgeons that combined their knowledge, expertise, and background to come up with a final design structure that could be additively manufactured with optimized pore size, porosity, and count. The design team included Noel; shoulder and elbow surgery expert’s Felix Henry Savoie, from Tulane University, and Joseph Zuckerman from New York University (NYU)’s Langone Orthopaedic Hospital; Pierre-Henri Flurin, from the Clinique du Sport in Bordeaux-Mérignac, in France; Ryan Simovitch, the Director of the Shoulder Division at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Thomas Wright, Director of Interdisciplinary Center for Musculoskeletal Training at the University of Florida.

Pre-operative X-ray (left) and postoperative X-ray (right) showing the laser-printed Stemless Shoulder and Equinoxe Cage Glenoid. (Image courtesy of Stephanie Muh)

As a developer, and producer of innovative implants, instrumentation, and computer-assisted technologies for joint replacement surgery, Exactech targeted clinical evaluations of the Stemless Shoulder immediately after release and has been aggressively expanding and upgrading its product ever since. Just like other manufacturers of stemless implants, the goal here is to try to reproduce the native shoulder anatomy and minimize humeral bone removal. Recent studies. have outlined the numerous advantages – as well as a few disadvantages – of stemless shoulder implant arthroplasty, and although its use is still emerging outside of Europe, the implant is gaining ground with surgeons and patients and is expected to surpass stemmed implants by 2025.

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Joyson Safety 3D Prints Functional Airbag Housing Using Windform

Joyson Safety Systems, a leading provider of mobility safety components, systems and technology, recently developed its first functional 3D printed prototype of a Driver Air Bag (DAB) housing, using selective laser sintering (SLS) and Windform composite material from CRP Technology.

Image courtesy CRP Technology

Joyson Safety Systems already has a history of pioneering innovation in mobility safety solutions, such as airbags, seatbelts, safety electronics and more, for automotive and non-automotive markets. Worth noting is the fact that it was the first manufacturer to supply leading OEMs in North America and Europe with steering wheels with Hands on Detection (HOD) for autonomous driving. In this instance, the company’s Core Innovations team looked to quickly develop prototypes for its airbag housing and turned to additive manufacturing to explore new processes and materials.

Image courtesy CRP Technology

Traditionally, the airbag housing is produced using injection molding made up of a material that is polyamide with 40% glass fiber reinforcement, PA6-GF40. The DAB system, which needs to deploy in just 30-50 milliseconds to prevent injury to the driver, consists of the inflator, airbag cushion, cover and housing attached to the steering wheel. The performance of this system is essential, as a critical safety component of the vehicle that needs to have enough strength, impact resistance, and stability under heat and other diverse environmental conditions. Samer Ziadeh and Daniel Alt from the Core Innovations team explain the requirements for the DAB,

“It is to withstand a high amount of dynamic loads in addition to holding the inflator and the airbag cushion fixed in location during and after the deployment of the airbag system. This load is developed due to the pressure required to inflate the airbag, as a result the large stresses will directly be applied on the airbag system and more particularly on the DAB housing. The test procedures are normally conducted within a various range of temperatures between -35°C and 85°C.”

Image courtesy CRP Technology

In looking for the right material for the DAB, the team found CRP Technology’s patented Windform range of high performance SLS materials more than suitable for their requirements:

“…after running some market analysis in order to find out the most suitable material and process that could deliver the required performance, we came across the Windform TOP-LINE family of composite material and, specifically, the Windform SP. Windform SP brought our attention to the fact that it’s a material produced from polyamide PA grades, reinforced with Carbon fiber or fiber-glass, as a powder form material, and it has almost the required and even better performance for our application.”

Windform has emerged as a high performing SLS material which has been applied in sectors such as motorsports, as with Mercedes AMG Petronas, automotive, and aerospace, as with NASA. Windform materials not only meet the stringent requirements for use in aerospace or motorsports, but can also be CNC machined or post-processed with tooling equipment. CRP has become a leader in high-performance AM materials for SLS with Windform, applying its expertise in a range of proven applications from medical to UAVs, satellites to electric motorbikes.

Image courtesy CRP Technology

This application is a first for Joyson Safety Systems in producing, in a short period, a functional prototype of a DAB housing using SLS with composite materials.

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Rice Researchers 3D Print with Lasers and Sugar to Build Complex Vascular Networks

A team of researchers from Rice University has uncovered a promising strategy to generate vascular networks, one of the most daunting structures in the human body. Using powdered sugar and selective laser sintering, the researchers were able to build large structures from complex, branching, and intricate sugar networks that dissolve to create pathways for blood in lab-grown tissue.

This is the team’s latest effort to build complex vascular networks for engineered tissues to show that they could keep densely packed cells alive for two weeks. The findings of their study—published in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal—prove that developing new technologies and materials to mimic and recapitulate the complex hierarchical networks of vessels gets them closer to providing oxygen and nutrients to a sufficient number of cells to get a meaningful long-term therapeutic function.

“One of the biggest hurdles to engineering clinically relevant tissues is packing a large tissue structure with hundreds of millions of living cells,” said study lead author Ian Kinstlinger, a bioengineering graduate student at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. “Delivering enough oxygen and nutrients to all the cells across that large volume of tissue becomes a monumental challenge. Nature solved this problem through the evolution of complex vascular networks, which weave through our tissues and organs in patterns reminiscent of tree limbs. The vessels simultaneously become smaller in thickness but greater in number as they branch away from a central trunk, allowing oxygen and nutrients to be efficiently delivered to cells throughout the body.”

Overcoming the complications of 3D printing vascularization has remained a critical challenge in tissue engineering for decades, as only a handful of 3D printing processes have come close to mimic the in vivo conditions needed to generate blood vessels. Without them, the future of bioprinted organs and tissues for transplantation will remain elusive. Many organs have uniquely intricate vessels, like the kidney, which is highly vascularized and normally receives a fifth of the cardiac output, or the liver, in charge of receiving over 30% of the blood flow from the heart. By far, kidney transplantation is the most common type of organ transplantation worldwide, followed by transplants of the liver, making it crucial for regenerative medicine experts to tackle vascularization.

Ian Kinstlinger with a blood vessel template he 3D printed from powdered sugar (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

In the last few years, extrusion-based 3D printing techniques have been developed for vascular tissue engineering, however, the authors of this study considered that the method presented certain challenges, which led them to use a customized open-source, modified laser cutter to 3D print the sugar templates in the lab of study co-author Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice.

Miller began work on the laser-sintering approach shortly after joining Rice in 2013. The 3D printing process fuses minute grains of powder into solid 3D objects, making possible some complex and detailed structures. In contrast to more common extrusion 3D printing, where melted strands of material are deposited through a nozzle, laser sintering works by gently melting and fusing small regions in a packed bed of dry powder. According to Miller, “both extrusion and laser sintering build 3D shapes one 2D layer at a time, but the laser method enables the generation of structures that would otherwise be prone to collapse if extruded.”

“There are certain architectures—such as overhanging structures, branched networks and multivascular networks—which you really can’t do well with extrusion printing,” said Miller, who demonstrated the concept of sugar templating with a 3D extrusion printer during his postdoctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania. “Selective laser sintering gives us far more control in all three dimensions, allowing us to easily access complex topologies while still preserving the utility of the sugar material.”

Assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University, Jordan Miller (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Generating new 3D printing processes and biomaterials for vascularization is among the top priorities for the researchers at Miller’s Bioengineering Lab at Rice. The lab has a rich history of using sugar to construct vascular network templates. Miller has described in the past how sugar is biocompatible with the human body, structurally strong, and overall, a great material that could be 3D printed in the shape of blood vessel networks. His original inspiration for the project was an intricate dessert, even going as far as suggesting that “the 3D printing process we developed here is like making a very precise creme brulee.”

To make tissues, Kinstlinger chose a special blend of sugars to print the templates and then filled the volume around the printed sugar network with a mixture of cells in a liquid gel. Within minutes, the gel became semisolid and the sugar dissolved and flushed away to leave an open passageway for nutrients and oxygen. Clearly, sugar was a great choice for the team, providing an opportunity to create blood vessel templates because it is durable when dry, and it rapidly dissolves in water without damaging nearby cells.

A sample of blood vessel templates that Rice University bioengineers 3D printed using a special blend of powdered sugars. (Credit: B. Martin/Rice University)

In order to create the treelike vascular architectures in the study, the researchers developed a computational algorithm in collaboration with Nervous System, a design studio that uses computer simulation to make unique art, jewelry, and housewares that are inspired by patterns found in nature. After creating tissues patterned with these computationally generated vascular architectures, the team demonstrated the seeding of endothelial cells inside the channels and focused on studying the survival and function of cells grown in the surrounding tissue, which included rodent liver cells called hepatocytes.

The hepatocyte experiments were conducted in collaboration with the University of Washington (UW)’s bioengineer and study co-author Kelly Stevens, whose research group specializes in studying these delicate cells, which are notoriously difficult to maintain outside the body.

“This method could be used with a much wider range of material cocktails than many other bioprinting technologies. This makes it incredibly versatile,” explained Stevens, an assistant professor of bioengineering in the UW College of Engineering, assistant professor of pathology in the UW School of Medicine and an investigator at the UW Medicine Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine.

The results from the study allowed the team to continue their work towards creating translationally relevant engineered tissue. Using sugar as a special ingredient and selective laser sintering techniques could help advance the field towards mimicking the function of vascular networks in the body, to finally deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to all the cells across a large volume of tissue.

Miller considered that along with the team they were able to prove that “perfusion through 3D vascular networks allows us to sustain these large liverlike tissues. While there are still long-standing challenges associated with maintaining hepatocyte function, the ability to both generate large volumes of tissue and sustain the cells in those volumes for sufficient time to assess their function is an exciting step forward.”

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Japan’s Septem Sells Fully 3D-Printed Jewelry and Accessories

Adding visual sophistication to any design, 3D printing has become an enabler for innovative artists and designers to creatively challenge traditional jewelry and accessories. To that end, the fashion industry has been working with the technology for many years, reducing time to market and costs, but mainly for developing pieces that would be extremely difficult to make any other way. The combination of symmetry, details, and designs available is endless, opening up an entirely different market for new companies. One of them is Septem, an online 3D-printed fashion platform that connects fashion designers, who already use 3D printing technology to develop their products, with a wide customer base, mainly in Japan. Septem has just added a new collection of 3D-printed modern jewelry to its growing product base, and it is showcasing the designs in its platform like artwork.

Focusing exclusively on fully 3D-printed designs, Akiko Ide, president and CEO of the Tokyo-based company FRev Co., created Septem. The company avoids any and all complicated trade procedures by 3D printing all the products it sells on a made-to-order basis in Japan, which translates to zero imports. Septem requires the designers to send their 3D printable design data instead of the manufactured product. Then it 3D prints the jewelry on-demand.

Lada Legina’s Cosmo Earring Nylon (Credit: Septem)

Using 3D printing technology to disrupt both the trade and fashion industry with build-to-order manufacturing is at the core of the company, as it seeks to revolutionize fashion. Furthermore, Septem avoids inventory, mass producing items, as well as mass disposal. This goes in line with the company’s desire to make sustainable jewelry and fashion products. By producing everything made to order, the amount of waste may be drastically reduced, leading to a balance between supply and demand. The result is a collaboration with an environment in peril due to long-term trends toward pollution, excessive water consumption and some of the worst carbon emissions from manufacturing.

Launched late last year, the platform already commercializes the work of five well-established designers from different corners of the world, including Australia, Italy, and Sweden, and has just announced a new collection to its growing portfolio.

The clean curved lines of Lada Legina‘s colored jewelry are a futuristic vision. They are vibrant, versatile, and striking and seem to be a perfect fit for the Japanese fashion platform that boasts its 3D-printed, bespoke designs. The California-based designer’s exclusive new Cosmogony collection of 3D-printed earrings, bracelets, and eyeglasses is the latest addition to Septem and can be purchased from the online platform for delivery not just in Japan, but anywhere in the world.

The brand new jewelry faithfully expresses Legina’s design concept of “preserving the heritage of handcrafting traditions by bringing them into the present.” She described her original inspiration as “spanning from the colors of nature over the patterns and embroidery of traditional Ukrainian costumes.” Although her designs are unmistakably modern, using 3D printing makes the jewelry pieces stand out due to the complex textures being manufactured.

Lada Legina’s Orchid flower earring (Credit: Septem)

A big part of Legina’s work in the United States involves 3D printing designs from organic, biodegradable, and recyclable materials, such as recycled coffee grounds or wild harvest algae, resulting in cost-effective and affordable jewelry without the environmental footprint of traditional fast fashion production—considered one of the major polluting industries in the world. However, in order to make the most of Legina’s delicate designs, Septem has changed the materials she usually works with and is 3D printing all of the new pieces using nylon and acrylic materials. Albeit, they have maintained and repeated the design process to realize its original form.

According to Septem, in the Cosmogony collection, Legina is exploring new design ideas and fusing traditional handwork with contemporary innovative techniques. Moreover, the company describes that, behind the glamorous, attention-demanding accessories, and dramatic glitter, lay deeper ideas about the evolution of jewelry design, fashion, aesthetics, and spiritual life.

Throughout its product line, Septem presents a sleek foundation for jewelry and accessories, allowing customers to select from a range of colors, eco-friendly materials, and prices. In the case of Legina’s new designs, they take on a variety of hues, like vivid reds and blues, starting at USD$97 (¥10,400). Her large earring designs are quite unique, distinguished, and are only worn in one ear. This includes exotic flower designs—like the Orchid Flower nylon earring—to perfectly fitting moon earrings that curve around the ear for a dramatic effect, and although there are just a few models to choose from, there are many colors available. The most expensive pieces of the collection include two versions of Legina’s UltraGlasses in nylon, priced at $267 and $315. They stand out due to the undulated multi-layered laces that make up the eyeglasses, enabling the user to peek into the world through complex web designs.

Legina’s work shares the online platform with architect Stefania Dinea’s wearable jewelry; industrial designer Marta Cherednik’s delicate pieces; as well as San Fransisco designer Betty Chang’s geometrically shaped handbags and accessories; Italian product designer Alberto Ghirardello’s aesthetically pleasing jewelry, and technical high-performance apparel designer Edward Harber’s sculptural high-end designs.

Edward Harber’s Atomic Cuff SUB 1 (Credit: Septem)

Although, currently, the platform sells work from known international designers with experience in 3D printing fashion, the company plans to increase the number of registered Asian designers in the future.

Experts have used 3D printing in fashion for almost 15 years to create modern, functional apparel and accessories, unlocking the commercial viability of the technology in the fashion industry. The versatility of 3D printing also means designers can save time cutting and joining pieces by 3D printing entire single designs at a time, eliminating some of the most time-consuming steps of the traditional jewelry-making process and drastically reducing costs, especially for low production volumes, leading the way for bespoke designs made with new and sustainable materials. The advantages of adopting 3D printing for producing jewelry and accessories are countless and we can surely expect more designers will find their way to 3D printed fashion online platforms like Septem in the near future.

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3D Printing Webinar & Virtual Event Roundup, May 31, 2020

With so many events going virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there’s also been an increase in the number of webinars that companies in the additive manufacturing industry are holding. To make things easier for our readers, since there’s so much online content to choose from these days, 3DPrint.com is compiling all of these available webinars, and the virtual events, into a weekly roundup for you, starting today.

Freeman Technology Webinar

Characterization Tools for Evaluating Polymer Powders for Laser Sintering Webinar

This Tuesday, June 2nd, UK-based Freeman Technology, a Micromeritics company that creates systems for measuring the flow properties of powder materials, will host a webinar at 9 am ET titled “Characterization Tools for Evaluating Polymer Powders for Laser Sintering.” Enrico Gallino, Senior Engineer – Material Specialist at Ricoh UK Products Ltd, will speak about evaluating an AM powder characterization methodology, and will also discuss the results of screening the relevant properties, such as flowability, shape, and thermal properties, of a variety of materials.

“As additive manufacturing (AM) technology transitions from the fabrication of prototypes to serial production of end-use parts, the understanding of the powder properties needed to reliably produce parts of acceptable quality becomes critical,” the webinar site states.

“Achieving the optimal quality for parts does not only depend on setting the right process parameters. Material feedstock also plays an important role when aiming for high performance products. In the case of selective laser sintering, polymer powders are used as a raw material. Therefore, controlling the quality and correctly characterizing the particles used in the process is a key step to successfully apply polymer AM techniques and also to expand the range of material that can be process with this technology.”

Click here to register.

Dassault Systèmes Webinar

Dassault Systèmes be will holding a live webinar on Thursday, June 4th at 10 am ET, titled “Intuitive 3D Designs with CATIA® and SOLIDWORKS® on Mobile Devices.” Participants will have the chance to learn how beneficial flexible design workflows can be when delivering products to market, faster, across many different industries. There will be a live demonstration, using tablets and PCs, on how combining CATIA and SOLIDWORKS on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will allow your business to add engineering details with simple parametric modeling, create organic surfaces with subdivision (Sub-D) modeling, generate complex patterns and shapes quickly, optimize and evolve designs using an algorithmic approach, and more – all from your own device. The demonstration will be followed by a live Q&A session.

“Discover our portfolio of ready-to-go online Design and Engineering applications in action, which enable you to design from your laptop, your smartphone or tablet! Enjoy increased agility without compromising best-in-class design and engineering capabilities,” the webinar site states.

“With its growing app portfolio and secure cloud technology, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables you to manage all facets of your product development process while reducing infrastructure costs, IT overhead, software maintenance and complexity. All 3DEXPERIENCE solutions work together seamlessly making data management, sharing and collaboration easy.”

Click here to register.

3DHEALS 2020 Global Summit

The 3DHEALS conference is going virtual this year, as the 3DHEALS 2020 Global Summit runs from 11 am-9:30 pm ET June 5th and 6th. Offering powerful networking and effective programming on a global stage, this popular bioprinting conference – sponsored by Whova and Zoom – brings together influencers and audiences from over nine countries, offering opportunities and insights that can be beneficial to stakeholders. With over 70 speakers, more than four workshops, startup events, simulated in-conference experience, an interview series hosted by Dr. Jenny Chen, and more, this is one you won’t want to miss.

“3DHEALS2020 is designed to cater to a wide range of professionals, ranging from healthcare early adopter, manufacturers, engineers, legal professionals and policymakers, C-Level executives, entrepreneurs, investors, and more. We aim to create an effective program that maximizes the attendee’s experiences and decreases the barriers in communication among stakeholders,” the event site states.

Click here to register.

Will you attend these events and webinars, or have news to share about future ones? Let us know! Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the comments below.

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SLM Solutions Webinar: “We Want to Give our Customers the Freedom to Innovate”

A new webinar series by 3D metal printer manufacturer SLM Solutions showcases its system’s ability to empower customers to grow in the ever-evolving additive manufacturing (AM) marketplace. For many 3D printing companies, webinars are turning into a fundamental tool to create awareness about new developments and to identify customer needs. For the German-based top metal 3D printing supplier, this new series of webinars can draw in users in search of cost-efficient, fast, and reliable Selective Laser Melting (SLM, DMLS, Powder Bed Fusion) 3D printers for part production, which is the core development at SLM Solutions.

During the hour-long educational talk through the advantages of true open architecture in AM, the Director of Industrialization Strategy for SLM Solutions Americas, Thomas Haymond, explores the company’s goal: building a system that grows with the user. By opening up the system’s architecture, SLM Solutions wants to prove that customers will never outgrow the machines and instead be able to adapt their businesses, reduce their learning curve, and innovate from day one. 

Defined by Haymond as a system that allows for full user access, where there are no closed doors, and essentially everything about the system and its inherent variables is fully discoverable, open-architecture systems are unquestionably important to the company. So, what are the key elements? Haymond defined four:

  1. Powder variety
  2. Open process parameters
  3. Freedom to control variables
  4. Customized development

Certainly, many metal 3D printing manufacturers offer open access to certain aspects of their systems, however, SLM Solutions claims that its product is different and unique because there are no additional requirements associated with it. 

“The initial variable of powder variability is an open architecture element we recognize and we will support you with. Empowering the user to understand this intricate knowledge expedites their evolution and turns them into power users of additive manufacturing technology,” asserted Haymond. “By providing the ability to utilize an unlimited variety of raw materials, opening the doors on all of our parameter configurations, and educating the customer on how to transform all facets of built strategy parameters, we are enabling them to apply the SLM technology in whatever direction they choose.”

Achieving a successful build is heavily dependant on the powder being used, which according to Haymond, is arguably one of the most important system-level variables. In fact, he considers that the first key element of an open architecture system is the ability to vary the raw material, emphasizing the importance of powder quality and variety. That is why SLM Solutions offers a wide assortment of materials, from the traditional to the rather exotic more advanced AM powders, as well as a few new aluminum alloys which they have yet to release.

“So, why is powder critical to success? Powder specifications are critical to succesfull builds. We understand that there is a need for material diversity as this industry is constantly growing and establishing new applications. In the old additive manufacturing world, it was about processing properties and performance; but in the metal additive manufacturing world, powder drives processing, drives properties and ultimately drives performance, something we call P4.”

One of the big perks of SLM Solutions systems is that they work with external powders. Haymond described that there are no fees, penalties, or stigma associated with sourcing raw materials for their SLM systems. However, he indicated that “while we do permit these external powder use we do so with a number of recommendations with respect to powder quality and powder specifications that are critical to building quality and success.”

When customers choose to source powder externally the company claims they will walk them through the three basic requirements, that is flowability, moisture content, and particle size distribution.

SLM Solutions manufacturing headquarters in Lübeck, Germany (Credit: SLM Solutions)

To encourage user development, SLM Solutions said they develop and provide parameters for each of its released materials. The open process parameters are the materials and parts in specific settings that can be varied and impact a user’s build quality. Haymond indicated that there is no need to actively edit any of these available parameter settings, but they are open in case a customer wishes to do alter them in pursuit of a specific development objective. 

“When you purchase one of our systems, you are guaranteed to have access to all build strategies that we have released. Furthermore, the software that we have developed around parameter modification and material development is a very detailed sweep that allows our customers to explore the intricacies of the build strategies that we have released. It is designed to provide the user with as much functionality, information, sensor feedback, and flexibility that is really possible. Both SLM solutions software, that is the Build Processor and the Material Development Module (MDM), facilitate the variation of every available parameter in a very user-friendly fashion, as we strive to provide the most comprehensive software for our customers.” 

Haymond suggested that this access essentially allows users to understand the logic behind the systems’ parameter structure, and learn how to create similar constructs for themselves in pursuit of their growth with SLM Solutions machines, and within the AM industry itself.

“Additionally, through providing this unparalleled level of access we are enabling significant cost and time savings for the development of new materials or the development of new exposure strategies for established materials.”

SLM Solutions machines (Credit: SLM Solutions)

There is no real limit to the number of combinations for a given material family. And SLM Solutions makes it unnecessary to edit the variables because the parameters they claim to provide for any given material are deemed to produce ideal mechanical and physical properties for a wide range of geometries. Yet, like in the previous two elements of open-architecture systems, the company believes that having the freedom to control variables will enhance the user’s experience, allowing them to innovate and grow with the system and technology. 

All the variables are modified with the Build Processor. Haymond explained that they “found many of our customers begin their path to custom development with the use of a new material not currently offered with an optimized parameter set.” So SLM has developed a unique tool within the built processor software, the MDM, which facilitates the automatic varying of individual parameters and will also automatically assign the matrix of parameters across the given build platform. Haymond proposes that users who have experienced a new material development will appreciate that they will no longer have to laboriously and tediously create each individual parameter set and type it in by hand and then assign it to the parts. Instead, the MDM software eliminates all this time consuming and error-prone activities.

“Essentially the MDM allows the user the ability to perform a systematic analysis of the part parameter variation. It is an incredibly useful tool, mostly focused around the editing of the basic parameters. The software is designed to utilize the user-specific rules to create matrices of every parameter setting. So once customers decide which parameters they wish to study and establish their relative boundary conditions the rule editor can be utilized to build the matrix.”

One of the primary tenants of open architecture philosophy means altering and modifying all parameter variables, which will eventually lead to customized development. That’s the goal for SLM Solutions: providing capability of complete customization gives the user freedom.

SLM Solutions machines at work (Credit: SLM Solutions)

As the AM world develops, SLM Solutions asserted that they will continue to develop and release material and process parameter combinations. Even more so, Haymond stated that the “needs of our customers can sometimes outpace our efforts, and rather than forcing our customers to wait for us we choose to empower them to continually strive for the rise of metal AM, using our machines as their vessels.”

“Essentially, it all boils down to providing the capability that the user needs to customize the development. We feel that we want to provide an open architecture to allow customers to grow because this is such a new industry with so much potential, and we are still in the infancy of its development, furthermore, without the flexibility of open architecture, you’ll be forever catching up to market trends. Instead, we want to empower our customers to be the trendsetters.”

High-quality SLM additive manufacturing machines have high costs, especially if parts aren’t optimized or designed for the process. SLM Solutions’ approach to creating true open architecture manufacturing systems expects to offer customers full access to every aspect of the system and its inherent variables, enabling them to optimize their systems. As discussed in the webinar, providing accessibility to control variables and parameters can take the users to new levels. 

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The Full-Color Voxel Woman: 3D Printing the Complexity of Human Anatomy

Creating anatomical 3D models with cutting edge technology can forever change the way anatomy and medicine are illustrated. At Victoria University of Wellington (Victoria), in New Zealand, students are quickly learning new ways to give life to clinical data. Moving data from the 2D world to a tangible, highly detailed, and precise 3D printed anatomical model could significantly change the clinical field; revamping everything, from medical education to clinical practice.

Focused on bringing her creative designs to life, Ana Morris, a post-graduate student at the School of Design Innovation at Victoria, managed to 3D print a full-color, anatomically accurate, and high fidelity voxel human using the Visible Female dataset and a bitmap-based additive manufacturing workflow.

The result of the work, part of Morris’ master’s thesis, is visually astounding and the woman replicated within this new kind of anatomical model is almost palpable. It was created using serially sectioned cryosection images of a female cadaver produced by researchers working on the National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project (VHP).

Ana Morris (Credit: Victoria University of Wellington)

Using a Stratasys J750 3D printer, Morris was able to replicate in an entirely novel way the body of a woman who, as a result of morbid obesity, died of heart disease. Victoria’s School of Design Innovation has been working with Stratasys printers since 2004, and this J750 machine used to create lifelike anatomical models with standard or complex pathologies for device testing, surgical training, and patient-specific simulation, provides the color, flexibility, and transparency in 14-micron droplets.

The VHP project realized as a full-color exploratory model (Credit: Ana Morris/Victoria University of Wellington)

Working alongside lecturers Bernard Guy and Ross Stevens of the School of Design Innovation, Morris was granted free access to use the sophisticated Stratasys machine. Just like all her classmates, she was encouraged to “learn at the edge” and “exploit her creative thinking,” as Guy described during an interview with 3DPrint.com.

“This particular piece is a component of a larger project by Ana [Morris] that works with data that doctors use all the time – like MRI and CT scans. It provides an example of how industrial designers at Victoria take data and convert it into a physical object, and also how to advance scientific thinking, serving as a catalyst that can transform research,” said Guy.

“We have the advantage of talking to anesthesiologists and surgeons all the time, who have recently suggested that this voxel human piece would be a fantastic exemplar as a visual aid for patients, to show them what’s inside the body and what can happen during a procedure, without being scary or too scientific.”

The full data set from the VHP is now publicly available, allowing Morris the opportunity to volumetrically reconstruct the dataset in a new way.  Originally conducted in the 1990s by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to obtain serially sectioned images of human cadavers for medical research advancements, the VHP became a common reference point for the study of human anatomy

Anatomical medical modeling using traditional mesh-based workflows can be time-consuming. Data loss and segmentation artifacts, due to multiple post-processing steps, can cause anatomically inaccurate 3D prints. Morris stated that, when using current segmentation workflows, each mesh (STL file) is restricted to one color and density. However, her study takes advantage of a high-resolution multi-material 3D printer that allows for control over every material droplet (also referred to as a “voxel”).

Guy and Stevens believe that “3D printing with voxels is a little bit like looking at tiny dust particles in the sun; it’s that sort of detail that we are working with, tiny little particles. Our big question is now, what do people want to see in a physical object with this level of detail? We don’t want to keep printing more superfluous products”.

The natomically accurate 3D printed model of the Visible Female, a woman who died of heart disease caused by obesity (Credit: Ana Morris/Victoria University of Wellington)

“There are plenty of virtual reconstructions, but I don’t think the human anatomy has ever been printed like this before,” Morris suggested to 3DPrint.com. “Moreover, a model like this highlights the potential of what could come next and will hopefully spark ideas of what could be done. For example, the model could serve as a visual communication tool used in a setting between a doctor and patient, removing all the clinical jargon, helping patients have a more comprehensive understanding of the human body.”

Morris’s workflow can bypass the conversion steps of traditional segmentation workflows, resulting in the preservation of cadaveric anatomy in its true color. Furthermore, because of the time saved using a bitmap-based 3D printing approach, Morris’ workflow has the potential to save money when compared to traditional medical modeling workflows. The highly accurate model was produced with gradated color including details at 14-micron resolution which, according to Morris, is impossible to achieve using STL file formats.

The four-step process starts with data acquisition. In this case, the Visible Female dataset, which is then volumetrically reconstructed to create a virtual model. From here, the data is scaled-down and resliced at the printer’s native printer z resolution. It is finally 3D printed and post-processed.

The detail that can be seen in the 3D printed Visible Female shown in this research is unprecedented. A total of 5,102 images were processed and sent for printing on the Stratasys J750 to complete the Visible Female 3D print, resulting in 24 individual 3D prints stacked on top of each other to form the full 3D printed Visible Female. 

Morris claimed that all the print parts vary in slice thickness, as they wanted to show that bitmap-based printing can produce both thin slices and thick blocks. For demonstration purposes, thick blocks were used to show more detailed areas of anatomy such as the hand and chest regions, and thinner slices were used to show detail through areas such as the thigh.

Model of the Visible Female (Credit: Ana Morris/Victoria University of Wellington)

Guy recalls that unlike anything previously seen in 3D printed anatomical models, this project shows the body of a person in extreme detail. “With 3D printing, we see a lot of stereotypical body forms; while here, we are witnessing a person who has grown up, lived their life, and passed away, so it is a very real cadaver, almost as a synthetic cadaver, or synthetic mummification. It shows a very real shape and form, and that’s the part of the study we wanted to focus on.” 

Morris described that when images are deposited sequentially on top of each other using the Stratasys J750 3D printer, it can construct a tangible 3D model. Inspired by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research where a bitmap-based 3D printing workflow allows the ability to engineer different material combinations at a 14-micron resolution by fusing different material droplets.  Advantages recorded around bitmap-based 3D printing have acknowledged that in its strength lies its accuracy, limitless manufacturing possibilities, and the production of complex material combinations at a microscale.

“Students at Victoria are aiming to mimic anatomy using synthetic materials,” described Guy. This is part of their ability to craft and shape voxels with medical data. The challenge that many professors and students at the School of Design Innovation are undertaking is to show another level of detail, gradients, density, color, and heterogeneous material combinations to fulfill growing demand from the medical field.

“We are at a time when healthcare professionals are not sure what is achievable, but they also don’t know what question to ask and our job is to show them what we can do,” suggested Guy.

For Morris, the aim of this project was to explore the bitmap-based 3D printing technique and the capabilities of the Stratasys J750 3D printer. “After this, we could expand into densities and biomechanics, which are more complicated areas,” she said.

According to Morris, “having control over every 14-micron material droplet means that materials can be engineered to produce models with varying colors and densities,” and even more interesting is how this “manufacturing workflow could be used for a variety of different medical applications where bioimaging datasets are needed to create tangible anatomical models.” 

Finding a balance between science, creativity, and art is one of Morris’s strong points and what led her to carry out this endeavor, something she described as a way to “humanize and democratize information about our anatomy and clinical vocabulary through design.” Indeed, her bitmap-based additive manufacturing model has helped to show the Visible Female in an unprecedented way. 

Display of sections of the Visible Human (Credit: Ana Morris/Victoria University of Wellington)

After presenting this research at the 3D Technologies in Medicine 2019 Conference in Melbourne last year, Morris and Guy expect that future research will involve looking at medical datasets to print models that are soft and hard altogether. They expect to work on the complexity of 3D color and movement to display the dynamics of the body using the sophisticated and new Stratasys 750 Digital Anatomy Printer (DAP).

“Anatomical models today are a weird snapshot in time, so I want models that mimic the complexity of a body in movement, such as tissue movement in breathing. The desire is to get as close as we can to anatomy, by mimicking the reaction of the different parts of the body when it moves, as opposed to static anatomical models that are falsely imitating reality,” explained Guy. “And now thanks to Ana’s method, we can move forward, knowing that if we are really sharp, we can make a difference.”

Full-color serially sectioned images of the Visible Female (Credit: Ana Morris/Victoria University of Wellington)

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HP’s Partner Network Teams Up to Battle COVID-19 with Simple Designs & 3D Printed Innovations

Normally, this is the time of year when we’re fielding a constant flood of press releases, firming up travel plans, and starting to set interview schedules for the annual 3D printing extravaganza that is RAPID + TCT. But SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus, has changed all that. On top of nearly all major additive manufacturing shows in the near future (and the Tokyo Olympics) being canceled, the pandemic is wreaking havoc elsewhere as well.

Field ventilator that includes parts made with HP’s MJF 3D printing.

According to the World Health Organization, there are currently close to 400,000 cases of the disease around the world, with that number rising every day, and we’ve all added the phrase “social distancing” to our vocabulary. On a personal note, I’m a frequent theatre volunteer, and the shows I was working on have either been postponed or canceled. Last night, I delivered groceries (though not toilet paper) to my 94-year-old grandparents since they’re not supposed to leave the house, waved to my mother from six feet away, and I’ve participated in numerous Zoom conferences and FaceTime calls with friends over the past week, since Ohio is under a “stay at home” order.

Image: Huffington Post

But, as the above quote from beloved American TV personality Fred Rogers says, you can always find people who are helping during the hard times. HP Inc. is one of those helpers: the company, along with its digital manufacturing community, is mobilizing its 3D printing experience, technology, production capacity, and teams to help find solutions for the worldwide battle against COVID-19.

“HP and our digital manufacturing partners are working non-stop in the battle against this unprecedented virus,” stated HP’s President and CEO Enrique Lores. “We are collaborating across borders and industries to identify the parts most in need, validate the designs, and begin 3D printing them. Our deepest appreciation goes to our employees, partners, customers, and members of our community for their tireless efforts to support the medical professionals making a difference on the front lines.”

HP’s worldwide network of digital manufacturing and production partners has stepped up to the plate to create and deliver 3D printed critical parts during this pandemic to help support the global health community, and more than 1,000 parts have been delivered to local hospitals already. The company’s 3D R&D centers in Washington, Oregon, California, and Spain are banding together, working with partners all around the world to ramp up production of these parts in order to help the healthcare sector meet the urgent needs of its many patients, and contain the spread of COVID-19, through 3D printing.

Face shield 3D printed with HP’s MJF.

Because HP’s network of manufacturing partners is global, these 3D printed parts should be available to hospitals in any region in the world. The company is working with industry, health, and government agencies to make sure that the approach is effective and synchronized, and its partners are making many of their validated 3D design files available for download free of charge here. The available designs consist of parts that don’t require complex assembly, so that production can keep up its accelerated pace.

There are several important applications that have already been finalized for industrial 3D printing, such as respirator parts and nasal swabs. Another is a face shield, which is one of the personal protection items in high demand at the moment. A critical component of these shields are 3D printable brackets that help ensure a comfortable fit.

Thousands of 3D printed mask adjusters were delivered in China and Spain.

Hospital staff are often required to wear face masks for extended periods of time now. A 3D printed mask adjuster features a clasp that helps provide the wearer with some relief from ear pain caused by wearing their masks for so long.

One of the most germ-infested items in any hospital, home, or workplace is the door handle – just think how many different people have touched it in a 24-hour period! On second thought, maybe don’t think about it. But a 3D printed adapter makes it possible to easily open doors with your elbows: a hands-free option that obviously keeps things much cleaner.

3D printed door handle designed by Materialise.

Plenty of other 3D printed applications to help contain COVID-19 are currently in the testing and validation phase, and production for these should start in the coming days and weeks. One such example is the FFP3 face mask, which helps protect medical providers as they treat a higher volume of patients. HP is currently validating multiple hospital-grade 3D printable face masks, and they should be available soon.

3D printed field ventilator part.

A simplified design that requires 3D printed parts for a field ventilator is also being validated. The mechanical bag valve mask (BVM) was designed to provide short-term emergency ventilation to patients with COVID-19, and while it’s definitely an important application, the design makes the device simple yet strong, which helps speed up the production and assembly process.

3D designers who are interested in helping fight COVID-19 can visit this HP website to contribute ideas and applications. If you, or someone you know, would like to order parts that can help in the pandemic battle, or require support with application development, requests can be submitted here. Be safe, be smart, and stay healthy!

Discuss this news and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

(Images: HP, unless otherwise noted)

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Lynnette Kucsma: “Our Next Food Printer Will Use Lasers to Cook Food”

Lynette Kucsma (Image: Natural Machines)

3D printing technology could challenge the way we eat in the future, making recipes trivial and letting the imagination run wild. It will basically disrupt the kitchen. When Paul Bocuse, one of the most celebrated French chefs of all time, reshaped the style of cooking at restaurants, many weren’t happy. Bringing fresh ingredients, unusual combinations and a great sense of creativity to the way Michelin-star institutions delivered their classic food concoctions would break the way professional cooking was done in restaurants forever. Food 3D printing is also working for a possible future cooking revolution along the same lines Bocuse did, with fresh produce, unconventional combinations, and creations that work beyond what any recipe could ever put forth, in an automated process. 3D printing in the food industry is also changing how hospital patients eat, as well as the way nutrition should be delivered in meals.

For Lynette Kucsma, the passionate mind behind the food 3D printing machine Foodini, there is no turning back. She believes that in the next 10 to 15 years, this technology will change the way people look at food. Foodini, developed by Natural Machines, is a 3D food printing kitchen appliance that enables personalized food, healthier eating, improved kitchen efficiency, and less food waste. Anyone can print using their own real, natural, fresh ingredients; customize foods, nutrition, and presentations, and printing just the amount they need and nothing more.

Lobster dish (Image: Natural Machines)

Co-founded by Kucsma and Emilio Sepulveda, who is also the CEO of the company, Natural Machines sought out to create food tech that would empower healthy eating, allowing people to control the food that goes into the 3D printer, the Foodini. To understand the success behind the technology and what lies ahead for the company, 3DPrint.com spoke to Kucsma.

“Our vision is that the 3D food printer will become a common kitchen appliance, much like a microwave or an oven,” suggested the entrepreneur and CMO at Natural Machines. “When people think about 3D food printing they imagine fancy foods and designs, which the machine can do of course, but it works for everything else too. Its helps to get rid of the preservatives but also to follow in the macrotrends for people that want to eat healthier and know more about what is in their food. Also, by using available fresh ingredients, people can become less reliant on packaged goods, which is something we have become so accustomed to buying.”

3D printed food is in a whole new industry, and Natural Machines has been around for seven years. But for Kucsma, it is not a long time in the scoop of an industry. The company, however, is growing, with global sales, and offices in New York City, Milan, Beijing, and headquarters in Barcelona. Their main markets are in Europe, North America, and Asia. Their core customer base includes restaurants and chefs, like the Torres brothers in Barcelona who currently own two Foodini devices and handle over 100 dishes every day; food service providers; food manufacturers; education industry; researchers; nutrition experts, and health companies. 

“Of course, with 3D printed food, we are talking about professional kitchens: some of the chefs do prep ingredients and dishes in advance, other restaurants print in front of their customers and use it as more of a showpiece as well, while others use it in the kitchen and you never even imagine you were eating 3D printed food.” 

Foodini machines in a restaurant (Image: Natural Machines)

Kucsma explained that from a tech perspective, they are basically using deposition printing, however, they didn’t just take a 3D printer off the shelf and then manipulate it to handle food, instead, the device was created from scratch because they needed it to be food grade safe. The Foodini is extrusion-based and comes with five nozzles of varying sizes and five stainless steel capsules, along with other accessories. Foods can be made into a paste and easily printed, like doughs, chocolate, chicken, and so much more. Even ground beef can be turned into burgers. The capsules can hold “endless types of different textures” explained Kucsma.

She also suggests that “the technology is slightly different in the sense that we don’t use standard slicing software or one print speed. Typically with 3D printers that use plastic or metal, you are working with one ingredient and one print speed, but we don’t do that. Instead, we are optimizing for the ingredients you are printing, and customizing it thanks to the different nozzle sizes available.” 

Natural Machines is involved in several active projects, from encouraging younger generations to act in favor of food sustainability to new technologically advanced and nutritionally balanced food products in innovative formats. Along with the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, they use Foodini to print appealing and flavorful creations to serve patients on dysphagia diets or other conditions that require consistency-modified diets.

Foodini dysphagia print series: a printed plate made up of steak, potatoes, and vegetables for patients with nutrition problems due to health or swallowing problems (Image: Natural Machines)

Foodini is also used by a number of research and development companies pursuing innovative advances in food and food production solutions. With institutes training the next generation of hospitality and culinary arts professionals to use the machine as an example of evolution in culinary practices.

More recently the company became a partner in Europe’s EIT Food consortium and is working on an oncology project called ONCOFOOD, which provides new innovative food solutions for cancer patients considering nutritional requirements and sensory alterations, promoting the pleasure of eating and preventing malnutrition.

“Helping cancer patients who have trouble swallowing, either temporarily or long term, due to their treatment. We are taking foods and making them look much more realistic and presentable because basically what patients are eating today is a blob mash, so imagine eating that for every meal and every day? The colors and flavor of the food profiles may change but anyone would quickly get bored with that. However, when we print those foods, whether we take a chicken breast and puree it to print it in the shape of a drumstick, or if we take carrots and puree them to print stacked carrots, we are sure that people will enjoy them, and this has been proven. We can even do fun shapes for younger patients, which is helping them eat more, better as well as with their recovery,” said Kucsma.

Foodini technology today does all the work to create what the user wants, however, pizzas, cookies, and other foods still need to be cooked in an oven. So the next step for Natural Machines is a Foodini 3D printer that will add a cooking function, and the company recently announced how they are doing it. Their next food 3D printer will be called the Foodini Pro, and although the release date is not yet set in stone, the machine will use lasers to cook.

Cooking with lasers in FoodiniPro (Image: Natural Machines)

According to Kucsma, the brand new development will be much more efficient and focused on regular consumers instead of just targeting professional kitchen users and researching institutions.

“We began working on this new technology six years ago, and we are now announcing how we are doing it, which means that it won’t be available this year and it’s hard to put an actual date, but we are thinking it might be a couple of years before we begin selling them.”

Having a Foodini at home is quite an adventure for Kucsma, who described the experience of 3D printing food with her kids as an incredible challenge to her own creativity. “I tried printing everything for my kids, from spinach quiche dinosaurs to guacamole shaped as Gaudi’s multicolored salamander known as “the dragon”, which we had recently seen at the Park Güell (Barcelona),” described Kucsma, whose two children inspire a lot of her 3D cooking projects.

Guacamole salamander (Image: Natural Machines)

At Natural Machines, they develop everything, from the software to the hardware. Plus, the machine works as Internet of Things (IoT) device. Kucsma said that “even today there are some pieces of hardware that don’t necessarily function because we didn’t write the software for it yet, but we wanted to build them in the hardware so that when we do get the software done, we can push it out.”

A lot of the challenges for the company are part of the education process. Their goal is not just to sell the device, but to educate people on why 3D printing is so useful. Still, the founders know that there is no such thing as an overnight success, knowing that it takes time to get the technology in place.

Even though Foodini machines began selling in 2018, the company has found a way to quickly capture the interest of the food industry as well as researchers and food consortiums. The extraordinary designs, presentations and nutritious dishes that can be made with this machine are endless. Just like 3D printing is disrupting industries everywhere, it is now the turn of food specialists to incorporate Foodini as part of the next generation in the food evolution. 

Spinach quiche dinosaur plate (Image: Natural Machines)

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