3D Printing News Briefs: June 27, 2019

In today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, we’re starting with a couple of stories from the recent Paris Air Show: TUSAS Engine Industries has invested in GE Additive technology, and ARMOR explained its AM materials partnership with Airbus. Moving on, Formlabs just hosted some live webinars, and PostProcess Technologies released a whitepaper on surface finishing metal 3D printed parts. Modix is sharing a lot of news, including four new 3D printer models, and finally, FormFutura has introduced sustainable packaging.

TEI Invests in GE Additive Technology

TUSAŞ Engine Industries, Inc. (TEI), founded in Turkey as a joint venture in 1985, has invested in GE Additive‘s direct metal laser melting (DMLM) technology. GE Additive announced at the recent Paris Air Show that TEI had purchased two of its M LINE factory systems and two M2 cusing machines. While the financial terms of the investment were not disclosed, the 3D printers will be installed at TEI’s Eskişehir headquarters, joining its current fleet of laser and Arcam EBM printers.

Professor Dr. Mahmut Faruk Akşit, President and CEO of TEI, said, “Today, we invest in TEI’s future by investing in additive manufacturing, ‘the future of manufacturing.’ Our longstanding partnership and collaboration with GE is now broadening with GE Additive’s machine portfolio.”

Armor and Airbus Partner Up for Aerospace 3D Printing

Air pipe prototype printed using the Kimya PLA HI (Photo: ProtoSpace Airbus)

Continuing with news from the Paris Air Show, ARMOR Group – a French multinational company – was also at the event, exhibiting its Kimya materials and a miniFactory printer, as well as its new aeronautics filament, PEI-9085. While there, ARMOR also met up with Airbus, which has frequently used 3D printing to create parts and prototypes, such as an air nozzle for the climate control system of its 330neo passenger cabin. The company has now requested ARMOR’s expertise in better qualifying its materials in order to standardize its own AM process.

“We have qualified the PLA-HI and PETG-S. We are currently testing more technical materials, such as the PETG Carbon before moving on to the PEI and PEEK. We have requested a specific preparation to make it easier to use them in our machines,” Marc Carré, who is responsible for innovation at Airbus ProtoSpace in Saint-Nazaire,

“We expect to be able to make prototypes quickly and of high quality in terms of tolerances, aesthetics and resistance.

“Thanks to ARMOR and its Kimya range and services, we have found a partner we can share our issues with and jointly find solutions. It is very important for us to be able to rely on a competent and responsive supplier.”

Webinars by Formlabs: Product Demo and Advanced Hybrid Workflows

Recently, Formlabs hosted a couple of informative webinars, and the first was a live product demonstration of its Form 3. 3D printing expert Faris Sheikh explained the technology behind the company’s Low Force Stereolithography (LFS) 3D printing, walked through the Form 3’s step-by-step-workflow, and participated in a live Q&A session with attendees. Speaking of workflows, Formlabs also held a webinar titled “Metal, Ceramic, and Silicone: Using 3D Printed Molds in Advanced Hybrid Workflows” that was led by Applications Engineering Lead Jennifer Milne.

“Hybrid workflows can help you reduce cost per part and scale to meet demand, while taking advantage of a wider range of materials in the production of end-use parts,” Formlabs wrote. “Tune in for some inspiration on new ways of working to advance your own process or to stay on top of trends and capabilities across the ever-growing range of printable materials.”

PostProcess Whitepaper on 3D Print Surface Finishing

PostProcess Technologies has released its new whitepaper, titled “Considerations for Optimizing Surface Finishing of 3D Printed Inconel 718.” The paper discusses a novel approach to help improve surface finish results by combining a patent-pending chemistry solution and software-driven automation. Using this new approach, PostProcess reports increased consistency and productivity, as well as decreased technician touch time. The whitepaper focuses on surface finishing 3D prints made with alloys and metals, but especially zeroes in on nickel superalloy Inconel 718, 3D printed with DMLS technology.

“With current surface finishing techniques used that are largely expensive, can require significant manual labor, or require the use of hazardous chemicals, this paper analyzes the benefits of a novel alternative method for post-printing the part’s surface,” PostProcess wrote. “Key considerations are reviewed including part density and hardness, corrosion (chemical) resistance, grain structure, as well as manufacturing factors including the impact of print technology and print orientation on the surface profile.”

You can download the new whitepaper here.

Modix Announces New 3D Printers, Reseller Program, and Executive

Israel-based Modix, which develops large-format 3D printers, has plenty of news to share – first, the company has come out with four new 3D printer models based on its modular design. The new models, which should be available as soon as Q3 2019, are the 1000 x 1000 x 600 mm Big-1000, the 600 x 600 x 1200 mm Big-120Z, the 1800 x 600 x 600 mm Big-180X, and the 400 x 400 x 600 mm Big-40. Additionally, the company has launched a reseller program, where resellers can offer Modix printers to current customers of smaller printers as the “best next 3D printer.” Finally, Modix has appointed 3D printing veteran John Van El as its new Chief Commercial Officer; he will help build up the company’s partner program.

“We are proud to have John with us,” said Modix CEO Shachar Gafni. “John brings aboard unique capabilities and experiences strengthening Modix’s current momentum on the path to become a global leader in the large scale 3D printing market.”

FormFutura Presents Recyclable Cardboard Packaging

Dutch filament supplier FormFutura wants to set an example for the rest of the industry by not only raising awareness about sustainability, but also by stepping up its own efforts. That’s why the company has moved completely to cardboard packaging – all of its filaments up to one kilogram will now be spooled onto fully recyclable cardboard spools, which will also come in cardboard boxes. All of FormFutura’s cardboard spools and boxes are manufactured in its home country of the Netherlands, which helps reduce its carbon footprint in terms of travel distance, and the material is also a natural drying agent, so it will better protect filament against humidity.

“Over the past couple of months we’ve been brainstorming a lot on how we can make FormFutura more sustainable and help renew our branding. As over this period we have received feedback from the market about helping to find a viable solution to the empty plastic spools, we started setting up a plan to reduce our carbon footprint through cardboard spools,” said Arnold Medenblik, the CEO of FormFutura. “But as we got to working on realizing rolling out cardboard spools, we’ve also expanded the scope of the project to include boxes and logistics.”

Because the company still has some warehoused stock on plastic spools, customers may receive both types of packaging during the transition.

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

3D Printing News Briefs: April 6, 2019

We’re starting off today’s 3D Printing News Briefs with a product launch announcement – 3YOURMIND launched the full version of its Agile MES software software this week at AMUG 2019. Moving on, Sintratec will present its latest SLS 3D printer at RAPID + TCT next month in Detroit, Tiamet3D has joined Ultimaker’s material alliance program, and Sciaky entered into an agreement with KTM Consultants. Xometry just announced some important certifications, and nScrypt is 3D printing titanium parts. Moving on to the world of art and theatre, the Zurich Opera House is 3D printing props, and artist Andrea Salvatori worked with WASP to create a 3D printed art collection.

3YOURMIND Launched Agile Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Software

After spending five years providing order management systems to scale for some of the industry’s AM leaders, 3YOURMIND has finally moved its software solutions to a production environment with the launch of its Agile Manufacturing Execution System (MES) earlier this week at AMUG 2019. The software uses smart part prioritization, rapid scheduling, order tracking, and custom AM workflow creation to improve machine utilization and make production more efficient, and an Early Access Program (EAP) allowed the company to receive direct feedback on its Agile MES software from representatives at companies like EOS and Voestalpine. The next step will be working to finalize machine connectivity.

“For Agile Manufacturing, the Agile MES will need to both GET and PUSH data from all major AM machines and post-processing systems. We are already integrating the data from several vendors into our software and expect to support all major machines,” explained 3YOURMIND’s CEO Stephan Kühr. “Receiving and processing machine data allows us to provide the documentation that is needed for quality assurance and to increase the repeatability of additive manufacturing. Pushing data directly to machines will be the key to automating production.”

Sintratec Showcasing New SLS 3D Printer at RAPID + TCT

A few months ago, Swiss SLS 3D printer manufacturer Sintratec introduced its scalable, modular Sintratec S2. Now, the company will be presenting the printer in the US for the first time next month at RAPID + TCT in Detroit, which will also be Sintratec’s first time attending the massive event. What makes the Sintratec S2 stand out is its closed-loop workflow, as the complete system covers every process with its three modules: the Laser Sintering Station (LSS), the Material Core Unit (MCU), and the Material Handling Station (MHS). The 3D printer offers quick material changes, a 4K camera for print monitoring, improved ergonomics, and effective heat distribution through its cylindrical printing area and ring lamps.

“The Sintratec S2 will boost the design of applications and gives the user the opportunity to set foot in small series production as well. And that for an unusually attractive price-performance ratio,” said Sintratec CEO Dominik Solenicki.

“With the Sintratec S2 solution we will be opening new opportunities for companies of any size.”

The price for the Sintratec S2 starts at $39,900, and you can see it for yourself at Sintratec’s booth 1753 at RAPID + TCT from May 20-23.

Tiamet 3D Joins Ultimaker’s Material Alliance Program

Last year, Dutch 3D printing specialist Tiamet 3D, founded in late 2014, worked with Finland-based Carbodeon to develop the first nanodiamond-enhanced 3D printing filaments, which went on the market in September. Now the company has joined Ultimaker as a partner in its Material Alliance Program. Together, the two will offer end-users simple one click downloads of Tiamet’s ULTRA Diamond material profile, which is now available on Ultimaker’s Cura software. This collaboration is formally backed by Tiamet’s manufacturing partner Mitsubishi Chemical Performance Polymers (MCPP Netherlands).

Reid Larson, the Director and Co-Founder of Tiamet 3D, told us about some of the highlighted specs of its ULTRA Diamond material, including no additional nozzle wear, 6300 mpa stiffness, low moisture absorption and friction, improved thermal conductivity, and twice “the temperature resistance of normal PLA, Annealed goes to 125C HDT.” You can purchase one kg of ULTRA Diamond filament for €59.

Sciaky Increasing Sales Efforts Through New Agreement

In an effort to increase the sales efforts of its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) solutions in Australia, the Middle East, and New Zealand, Sciaky, Inc. has entered into an agreement with KTM Consultants, founded by metallurgist Trent Mackenzie in 2015. In terms of sheer work envelope, Sciaky’s massive EBAM systems are the industry’s most widely scalable metal 3D printing solution, able to produce parts ranging from 8 inches to 19 feet at gross deposition rates of up to 25 lbs of metal an hour. Additionally, its Interlayer Real-time Imaging and Sensing System (IRISS) is the metal 3D printing market’s only real-time adaptive control system capable of sensing and digitally self-adjusting its deposition.

“I was immediately drawn to Sciaky’s EBAM technology because of its unique and robust capabilities. Industrial manufacturers of large metal parts need to explore the significant advantages that technologies like EBAM offer. It is truly a game-changer,” said Mackenzie.

Xometry Announces New Industry Certifications

Digital manufacturing marketplace Xometry announced that it has just received ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100D certifications – some of the most rigorous, widely-recognized quality management designations in the industry. ISO 9001 helps organizations meet the needs and expectations of their customers in terms of quality management, while AS9100 meets customer demands in the exacting aerospace and defense industries. The company went through a major audit as part of the process, and its achievement definitely reflects how committed Xometry is to providing quality.

“We are thrilled to receive this designation. Our team members have a passion for providing great customer service while following the disciplines that give our customers peace of mind regarding on-time delivery, quality, and continuous improvement. It is yet another step towards achieving industry “best in class” status and being able to meet the expanded needs of our customers,” stated Xometry COO Peter Goguen.

nScrypt Develops Proprietary Method for 3D Printing Titanium

nScrypt 3D printed titanium gear, dogbone, and block

Florida manufacturer nScrypt, which develops high-precision Micro-Dispensing and Direct Digital Manufacturing equipment and solutions, is now focusing on repeatable 3D printing of metals for the medical, defense, and aerospace industries. The company has created a proprietary method for 3D printing titanium parts, which tests have shown display densities comparable to wrought parts. This method could easily work with other metals as well, such as copper, Inconel, and stainless steel, and nScrypt’s Factory in a Tool (FiT) systems can finish or polish areas with high tolerance features using its integrated precision nMill milling head. nScrypt’s Brandon Dickerson told us that the company expects to release more details on this later in 2019.

“The parts were printed with our SmartPump™ Micro-Dispensing tool head, which runs on any of our systems,” Dickerson told 3DPrint.com. “The parts shown in the photos were printed on our DDM (Direct Digital Manufacturing) system, also known as our Factory in a Tool (FiT) system, which can run 5 tool heads at the same time, including our Micro-Dispensing, Material Extrusion, micro-milling, and pick-and-place tool heads.  The parts were sintered after the build and the current densities are in the high 90% range.  We expect our system to appeal to customers who want to do Direct Digital Manufacturing and need strong metal parts, but cannot build them with a powder bed system (for example, if the geometry would trap powder inside) or prefer not to use a powder bed system (for example, if they want a cleaner system).”

Zurich Opera House 3D Printing Props with German RepRap

Finished tutu for “The Nutcracker”, which was produced with the help of the x400 3D printer

Switzerland’s largest cultural institution, the Zurich Opera House, puts on over 300 performances a year, but the behind-the-scenes magic happens in the studios and workshops, where the props and costumes are made. The opera house uses the x400 3D printer from German RepRap, with assistance from Swiss reseller KVT- Fastening, to support its creative work by fabricating props and molds. This affords the institution more creativity and flexibility, as they can design objects to their exacting needs in 3D modeling programs, which also helps save on time and money. The opera house currently uses PLA, which is easy to handle, offers a variety of colors, and is flame retardant – very important in a theatrical setting.

“Often, the wishes and ideas of costume and stage designers are very diverse and sometimes extraordinary. It often happens that props are not available in the way designers have it in their minds. This is where the 3D printer is perfect for,” said Andreas Gatzka, director of theater sculpture at the Zurich Opera House.

“There are a lot of great benefits. Special wishes of stage and costume designers can be realized quickly as well as a short-term change of the objects, for example larger, smaller, longer, shorter, or whatever is needed.”

3D Printed Art Collection

Artist Andrea Salvatori 3D printed the eye-catching pieces for his new collection, titled Ikebana Rock’n’Roll, using the Delta WASP 40100 Clay 3D printer – designed by WASP to be used by ceramic and clay artists. The collection just opened on stage at THE POOL NYC in Milan last week, and will be available to view until May 31st. With these 3D printed vases, Salvatori wanted to use “a miscellany of ceramic insertions” to mess with the high quality shapes 3D printing can achieve by adding asymmetry.

“The process of depositing the material and setting the spheres is a central theme in the Ikebana Rock’n’Roll collection, to the point of convincing Salvatori to name the works “Composition 40100”, as if they originated from a musical dialogue of the most varied tones. The artist upsets the algorithm reiterated slavishly by the machine with imperfect musical accents, the result from time to time of spontaneous actions and reasoned processes,” WASP wrote in a blog post.

“The ikebanes, proposed by Andrea Salvatori in the exhibition, transcend the experimental limits of an abstract investigation, representing a concrete territory in which 3D printing and ceramic art co-exist synergistically. The Master challenges the confrontation with the public, becoming also in this sector, precursor of a new genre in which WASP feels itself fully represented.”

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

GE News: Subsidiary AP&C Purchased New Land, GE Aviation Helping Airbus 3D Print Parts for RACER Aircraft

L-R: City of Saint-Eustache Mayor Pierre Charron and AP&C President and CEO Alain Dupont

GE Additive‘s Canadian subsidiary, Advanced Powders & Coatings (AP&C), which produces and distributes metal powders for 3D printing, has been operating out of the Innopark Albatros in Saint-Eustache, Quebec since 2016. But last week, AP&C announced that it had purchased an additional piece of land at the location. This new location, just outside Montreal, is where the company will be concentrating its expansion activities in an effort to support its growth plans.

“We are thrilled to work with the dynamic Ville de Saint-Eustache team! Our firm is currently enjoying rapid growth and we need more space for our projects, along with a good location for drawing fresh talent. Innoparc Albatros meets both of these urgent needs,” said AP&C CEO Alain Dupont. “It is clear that AP&C’s future is right here in Québec and, in particular, Saint-Eustache!”

This past Friday at the Saint-Eustache Town Hall, Dupont and Saint-Eustache Mayor Pierre Charron concluded the sale of the new, almost 40,000 square meter plot in the presence of Town Clerk Mark Tourangeau and notary Jean-Luc Pagé. AP&C already employs roughly 100 people at its Allée du golf facility in the Innoparc Albatros business district, but with this new addition, the company will be able to increase the amount of high added-value jobs in the area.

“We are extremely proud that AP&C, the flagship of its industry, has decided to multiply its activities in Innoparc Albatros, thereby making big contributions to Saint-Eustache’s economy,” said Mayor Charron. “Innovation breeds more innovation and we are confident that AP&C’s increased presence will bring new businesses to our techno-park and encourage other hitech firms to come here.”

This new space will be a big help, as the company, which mainly serves the biomedical and aerospace sectors, distributes its powder products in over 40 nations.

But this expansion isn’t the only news GE is sharing. Speaking of aerospace, a new GE Reports has come out regarding the next-generation RACER helicopter hybrid by Airbus, which is the concept aircraft for the European Union’s Clean Sky 2 project.

“The future of flight is an ever-evolving topic ranging from new supersonic passenger jets to hybrid helicopter-like aircraft that fly more like a plane,” Yari M. Bovalino wrote in GE Reports.

“One recent example of such a flying machine is Airbus’ RACER.”

According to Airbus, the RACER, or “rapid and cost-effective rotorcraft,” can hit a cruising speed of over 400 km an hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. The RACER combines an airplane’s speed and distance capabilities with the helicopter’s versatility; i.e., it can take off and land vertically and also hover. This aircraft could bring about greener, faster, and less expensive air travel, which fits right in with the EU’s project goal of lowering the impact of aviation on the environment.

Over 600 entities in 27 countries are working together to develop more “environmentally benign” aircraft technology as part of the Clean Sky aviation banner. The goal is to lower nitrous oxide emissions by 80%, fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 50%, and external noise by 50%, when compared to their levels in the year 2000. Clean Sky is looking at the big picture to make a real difference, and working on things like improving wing aerodynamics.

The RACER has a body like a helicopter, with a large rotor on top, but rather than a tail rotor, it has two skeletal wings, each with a backwards-facing propeller. One wing moves clockwise while the other moves counterclockwise, and the propellors work with the RACER’s low-drag wings to help it pick up speed while also maintaining lift.

For a long time, aviation engineers have been looking for that special flight vehicle that’s fast, cost-effective, and agile at the same time…and it looks like the RACER is checking all of those boxes.

Tomasz Krysinski, head of research and innovation at Airbus Helicopters, said, “The RACER is 50 percent faster than a traditional helicopter, but has lower costs, and brings together several new technologies.”

In order to obtain the necessary technology to get the RACER flying, Airbus turned to England-based GE Aviation Integrated Systems and Avio Aero, an Italian GE Aviation company. The two are working on building the components and subsystems for the hybrid aircraft, such as the transmission system for the wing and rotor propellers and the RACER’s cradles, which connect the wings to the gearboxes.

While traditional helicopter cradles were made with heavy parts that had been pre-made and were not cost-effective, the RACER’s cradles will be made with 3D printed casting molds, which helped lower cost, part count, and weight.

 Paul Mandry, the engineering program leader for GE Aviation, said, “This is the first time we’ve ever designed such a complex cast component.”

The RACER also has some other new components that Airbus Helicopters and Avio Aero designed together, such as 3D printed heat exchangers for the transmission based on the experience that engineers gained while developing GE’s Catalyst engine. Because the craft is more lightweight, it will also save Airbus money on fuel costs over its lifetime, and will be much more environmentally friendly.

In order to take the RACER on its maiden flight in 2020, Airbus is planning to start assembling the first prototype later this year.

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

UMaine Composites Center Helping Boatbuilders Incorporate Large-Scale 3D Printing with Wood-Filled Materials

This week, the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) awarded the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (UMaine Composites Center) a $500,000 grant to form a technology cluster with a very specific purpose – help boatbuilders in Maine gain a competitive advantage in the industry by incorporating large-scale 3D printing with economical wood-filled plastic materials.

L-R: Chris Moran of Compounding Solutions; Kohl Shaw of the UMaine Composites Center; Camerin Seigars of the UMaine Composites Center; Joe Wilson of Compounding Solutions; Nate Thompson of Hodgdon Yachts; James Anderson, UMaine Composites Center senior program manager; Burr Shaw of The Hinckley Company; Kevin Burns of Back Cove/Sabre Yachts; Josh Moore of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding; Kevin Houghton of Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding; and Habib Dagher, UMaine Composites Center executive director. [Image: the Advanced Structures and Composites Center]

While small and even medium-sized boatbuilders can run into difficulties with the amount of lead time and money it takes to make traditional boat molds and marine tools, UMaine Composites Center researchers say that 3D printing can be used to lower the production time by up to 75%. But even though some companies in the boat and ship industry are using 3D printing, widespread adoption is still slow due to expensive 3D printers and feedstock materials.

That’s why MTI awarded the grant – so the UMaine Composites Center can set up a technology cluster to combine the expertise of marine industry leaders and researchers in order to continue developing and commercializing the technology so boatbuilders in the state can start reaping the benefits.

“The combination of additive manufacturing and cost-effective, bio-filled materials is a potential game-changer for Maine’s boatbuilding industry by reducing the cost of marine tooling by as much as 50 percent. Maine boatbuilders cannot absorb the cost of acquiring a large-scale 3D printer and testing new feedstock materials,” said James Anderson, Senior Research and Development Program Manager at the UMaine Composites Center. “The UMaine Composites Center and the Maine boatbuilding industry share a tradition of innovation. We have the tools and knowledge to help Maine boatbuilders increase productivity, reduce costs and, ultimately, continue their tradition of excellence in the boatbuilding industry.”

Habib Dagher, the center’s executive director, said that for the last 18 years, the center has been busily developing technologies to extrude plastics filled with nanocellulose fibers and wood cellulose; these plastic materials can contain up to 50% wood fiber by weight.

With the help of MTI’s grant, the UMaine Composites Center will address how expensive large-scale 3D printing is, and help to lower the cost, by creating a range of economical wood-filled materials for applications in composite tooling.

“Now, we will use these same stronger and stiffer plastics in very large 3D printers to develop 20- to 100-foot boat molds and other boat parts for Maine boatbuilders. By 3D printing plastics with 50 percent wood, we aim to produce boat molds much faster and cheaper than today’s traditional methods,” said Dagher. “As we learn, we will be working with boatbuilders to incorporate 3D printing in their production process for larger boat parts and, eventually, the boats themselves.”

By using wood-based fillers to 3D print boat molds and parts, the materials’ toughness and stiffness will go up, while the cost will go down. In addition, the materials will help improve recyclability and lower the impact on the environment. The university is also working other companies in Maine to develop a local supply chain for its bio-filled materials, so it’s likely that boatbuilding will not be the only industry to benefit from these research and development efforts.

The consortium put together by the UMaine Composites Center will collectively design and 3D print boat molds and marine tools for testing and evaluation purposes. Also, as part of the 3D printing adoption and commercialization process, the consortium will be putting together a training course for area boatbuilders.

To form the technology cluster of UMaine engineers and researchers, and Maine boatbuilders, the UMaine Composites Center’s $500,000 grant from MTI will be matched by an additional $500,00 from the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center. Boatbuilders in the cluster will include Back Cove Yachts in Rockland, Compounding Solutions in Lewiston, Custom Composite Technologies in Bath, Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Hinckley Yachts in Trenton, Hodgdon Yachts in Boothbay, Kenway Composites in Augusta, Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Rockland, and Sabre Yachts in Raymond.

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

[Source: Boothbay Register]

3D Printing News Briefs: September 14, 2018

We’re bringing you the latest 3D printing business news in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, plus a little 3D printed art to round things out. FATHOM is partnering with SOLIDWORKS software reseller GoEngineer, while L’Oréal is working with INITIAL, a Prodways Group company. Kickstarter and Autodesk are releasing a new open source 3D printing test, and 3D LifePrints has renewed its collaboration with the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. Fargo 3D Printing has formed a new spin-off business, a metal 3D printed parts bureau has purchased an EBAM system from Sciaky, and 3D Systems’ SLA technology is being used to deliver customized dental solutions. Finally, we take a look at some fun and creative 3D printed artwork.

FATHOM and GoEngineer Announce Strategic Partnership

SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software and Stratasys 3D printer reseller GoEngineer has announced a new strategic agreement with 3D printing company FATHOM. GoEngineer has purchased FATHOM’s 3D printing equipment reseller business, so that FATHOM can focus solely on its digital manufacturing services. Thanks to the agreement, the two partners will be able to scale their respective businesses in different, but significant ways, leveraging their strengths in order to create a large product development ecosystem of hardware, software, engineering, design, manufacturing, and training solutions that customers can use to drive innovation.

Michelle Mihevc, the Co-founder and Principal at FATHOM, said, “It’s exciting for our industry because both FATHOM and GoEngineer are uniquely positioned to meet the ever-increasing demand for advanced tools and services that enhance and accelerate a company’s product development and production processes.”

L’Oréal and INITIAL Increasing Development of 3D Printed Thermoplastic Parts

The cosmetics industry has a constant challenge in quickly marketing new products to meet the many specific demands of customers. That’s why L’Oréal is teaming up with INITIAL, a Prodways Group subsidiary – the two are ramping up development of 3D printed thermoplastic parts. More specifically, INITIAL’s new solution, 3D Molding, uses 3D printing to make plastic injection molds for “final material” parts at less cost and in record time. Recently, L’Oréal needed 14 resin test molds, along with 20 injection molding test runs and several hundred molded parts. By using Prodways’ patented MOVINGLight 3D printing technology and PLASTCure Rigid 10500 resin, the company was able to achieve accurate 3D prints in just two weeks.

“We produce the 3D Printing mould and the final material parts are then directly injection-moulded,” said Yvon Gallet, INITIAL’s Chairman. “With our 3D printing and injection expertise, we were best placed to develop this unique solution. It is aimed at designers in the development phase and complements our traditional machining and injection solutions. It is an innovative alternative that meets the needs of manufacturers, like L’Oréal, that could benefit from this technological advance to reduce their time to market.”

Kickstarter and Autodesk Releasing Open Source 3D Printing Calibration Test

Prints of the test file from Cubibot and Robo printers.

The evidence speaks for itself – Kickstarter is a great place for 3D printing. The popular crowdfunding site requires that 3D printer creators demonstrate the functionality of their systems through various means, but it can be hard to compare the performance of different machines, because not everyone shows off the same test prints, like the 3D Benchy. So Kickstarter is working at Autodesk to address this lack of a common standard for assessing FDM 3D printer performance, and will soon be releasing a new open source 3D printer test for Kickstarter creators, developed by Autodesk research scientist Andreas Bastian.

“We believe this test procedure will support greater transparency in our community,” Zach Dunham wrote in a Kickstarter blog post. “We started with FDM printers because they’re the most common model on Kickstarter. Our goal over time is to expand this calibration test to other printing technologies like stereolithography. Though this test is optional for creators to share on their project pages, electing to do so opens a frank conversation about quality. And backers of any 3D printer project can share images of their own tests by posting them with the hashtag #FDMtest.”

Creators can download the single, consolidated STL file and instructions to test their 3D printers’ alignment, dimensional accuracy, and resolution on Github.

3D LifePrints and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Renew Collaboration

The Alder Hey Children’s Hospital has signed a long-term collaboration agreement with 3D LifePrints, a UK-based medical 3D printing company and a founding member of the hospital’s Innovation Hub. The company has had an embedded 3D printing facility at the 1,000 square meter underground co-creation space since 2015, and was supported by the hospital for its first two years there, showcasing the impact of its work and establishing its unique 3D printed offerings. Under the agreement, the company will continue supplying the hospital with its specialized 3D printing services.

“I am really proud of this milestone in our ongoing partnership. Incubating a start-up company in a hospital, to the point where they have series A funding, a multi-year contract with the NHS and diffusion to other medical centres around the country is an enormous vindication of what the Innovation hub was set up for,” said Iain Hennessey, Clinical Director and a paediatric surgeon at Alder Hey. “I couldn’t be more pleased to see 3DLP help integrate this emerging technology into clinical practice.”

Fargo 3D Printing Forms 3D Printer Repair Business

North Dakota-based Fargo 3D Printing has formed a new business out of its 3D printer repair segment, called Fargo 3D Printer Repair. While its parent company continues to focus on multiple aspects of the industry, the five-person repair team at the new Fargo 3D Printer Repair can devote 100% of its time to providing 3D printer repair and service to individuals, schools, OEMs, and businesses. The new spin-off company currently provides production-scale warranty servicing, maintenance, and repair services for multiple OEM 3D printing companies across North America; service and repair requests can be made through an intuitive form on its website.

“We don’t sell any 3D printers ourselves, so we are able to remain brand impartial when recommending and performing 3D printer repairs,” said John Olhoft, the CEO of Fargo 3D Printer Repair, who started working in the original shop as a repair technician. “Original Equipment Manufacturers like that they can trust us to provide high quality repairs with a quick turnaround, and not push a competing brand on their customers.”

Sciaky Providing EBAM System to Metal 3D Printing Bureau

Metal 3D printing solutions provider Sciaky will provide one of its Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) systems to Michigan-based FAMAero (Future Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace), a privately-owned metal 3D printed parts bureau. According to Sciaky, this custom EBAM system will be the largest production metal 3D printer in the world, with a 146″ x 62″ 62″ nominal part envelope that will be able to produce metal parts over 12 feet in length. FAMAero will use the massive new EBAM system to provide metal 3D printing services to customers in the aerospace, defense, oil & gas, and sea exploration industries.

Don Doyle, President of FAMAero, said, “FAMAero is entering the market as the first private, dedicated parts bureau in North America for large-scale 3D printed metal parts. Our Factory as a Service concept, combined with Sciaky’s industry-leading EBAM® technology, will provide manufacturers a new avenue to significantly slash time and cost on the production of critical parts, while offering the largest build platform and selection of exotic metals to choose from in the 3D parts service market.”

Creating Customized Dental Solutions with 3D Systems’ SLA 3D Printing

In order to make over 320,000 invisible dental aligners in a single day, Align Technology uses SLA 3D printing from 3D Systems. The company’s technology allows Align to create the unique aligner forms so that they are customized to each individual patient’s dental data. So far, Align has treated nearly 6 million patients, but using 3D printing technology is helping the growth of its business accelerate.

“What makes Align’s mass customization so unique is not only are we producing millions of parts every month, but each one of these parts that we produce is unique,” said Srini Kaza, the Vice President of Advanced Technology for Align Technology. “And this is really, as far as I know, the only true example of mass production using 3D printing.”

Ben Fearnley Uses SLA 3D Printing to Bring Artwork to Life

Sculptmojis

SLA 3D printing isn’t just good for use in dental applications, however. Ben Fearnley, a designer, illustrator, and 3D artist based out of New York City, uses the technology to, as he told 3DPrint.com, “bring my work to life from the 3D world to the real world.”

One interesting piece of 3D printed art Fearnley creates is Good Vibes Only Typography – script style typography lettering sculptures modeled in Cinema 4D and 3D printed on his Form 2. But my personal favorite are his Sculptmojis, which look pretty much exactly how they sound. These pieces, which are a combination of traditional sculpture art forms and modern emojis, originally began as a digital art project, and have now been brought to amusing, quirky life through 3D printing. You can purchase Fearnley’s unique 3D printed artwork here.

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3D Printing News Briefs: September 4, 2018

In the first 3D Printing News Briefs for this month, we’re starting with some education and business, followed by some how-to videos and a couple of things to ponder. PrintLab’s curriculum is going global, while the province of Victoria in Australia has invested in 3D printing. A Ukrainian company has introduced a new type of metal 3D printing, and you can learn how to cast concrete 3D printed molds and make an etched glass build surface for your 3D printer by checking out two new YouTube videos. There could be even more uses for construction 3D printing than previously thought, and a thermal view of a model being 3D printed on an Ultimaker begs an important question.

PrintLab Portal Available in Polish

3D printing curriculum provider PrintLab, based in the UK, set up an online portal in January, called PrintLab Classroom, to help teachers better integrate 3D printing into their lesson plans. Now that the English version of the learning platform has been successfully launched, PrintLab is working to offer the curriculum portal in multiple languages. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Polish 3D technology and education supplier Paxer, a new PrintLab reseller, the platform is available in Polish, with translations in Spanish and Chinese in the works.

“After a great deal of initial interest and success, we are very pleased to be able to offer our curriculum to Polish students and educators. Our mission has always been to prepare the next generation for their future careers by addressing the widening skills gap and we are now able to do this across multiple regions. Our focus is on finding partners that share our belief and vision and in Paxer, we have found a motivated team that has technology in education at its core,” said Nick Mayor, Co-Founder at PrintLab.

“The aim is to inspire students and teachers around the world to adopt technology into lessons. We have started with Polish, however that is just the beginning. Spanish and Chinese translation is currently being undertaken which is part of our plan of inspiring minds on a global scale and providing teachers worldwide with comprehensive lesson packages, developed alongside teachers.”

New Virtual 3D Printing Hub in Victoria

The manufacturing industry in Victoria, the second most populous state in Australia, contributes $27.7 billion to the Victorian economy. Now, businesses there will be able to connect with additive manufacturing technology and produce products more easily and quickly, thanks to a new dedicated virtual hub. Ben Carroll, the Minister for Industry and Employment, joined Member for Carrum, Sonya Kilkenny, at the Carrum Downs facility of 3D printing company Objective3D to make the announcement this week. The hub, supported by $2 million from the Victorian Government and delivered by Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Limited – a national body representing manufacturing technology suppliers and users – should improve access for local companies to the state’s 3D printing infrastructure.

Carroll said, “3D printing is a game changer for manufacturing – which is why we’re backing the technology so more local companies can reap the benefits.

“This new hub will help local manufactures innovate, become more productive and excel in future industries.”

xBeam Metal 3D Printing

Ukrainian company NVO Chervona Hvilya has a new form of metal 3D printing it calls xBeam, which it says “was born to make the best features of Additive Manufacturing available for wide industrial community and to prove that definition of Additive manufacturing as the Third Industrial Revolution is reality.” The company has spent roughly four decades developing electron beam technologies for multiple applications, and its exclusive xBeam technology was born from this experience.

With xBeam, the company says you won’t have to decide between high productivity, accuracy, and a defect-free metal structure – its patented solution delivers all three. xBeam is based on the ability of a gas-discharge electron beam gun to generate a hollow, conical beam, which can offer “unique physical conditions for precisely controllable metal deposition and forming of desired metal structure in produced 3D metal part.”

Using 3D Printed Molds to Create Cast Concrete Products

Industrial designer Rob Chesney, the founder of New Zealand-based bespoke design and fabrication studio Further Fabrication, recently published a tutorial on the studio’s YouTube channel about creating cast concrete objects and products with 3D printed molds and no silicone at all. For the purposes of the video, Chesney used 3D printed molds for faceted candle holders.

“In the first half of this video we’re gonna deal with the design and the creation of the molds using the computer and 3D printing,” Chesney said. “In the second half we’ll show you how you go about casting products with some tips and tricks thrown in there along the way.”

To learn how to make your own cast concrete candle holder with a 3D printed mold, check out the Further Fabrication video:

Etched Glass Build Plate

Another new video tutorial, this time by YouTube user MrDabrudda, shows viewers how to make an etched glass build surface for a 3D printer. What’s even better, the plate does not require you to use tape, a glue stick, or even hairspray to get your prints to adhere to it.

“So I’m tired of having to respray the hairspray on my glass bed for my 3D printer, so what I’m doing is taking a 180 grit diamond stone and a tub of water, and I’m going around on here and roughing this up,” MrDabrudda said.

To learn the rest of the process, check out the rest of the video:

Construction 3D Printing Uses

A 3D printed Volvo CE workshop tool

While there are still those who may think that construction 3D printing is all hype, that’s not the case. Sure, maybe it’s not possible to create a fully 3D printed house in a day in every country in the world, but we’re already able to create large-scale, 3D printed objects, with impressive lifespans and tensile strengths, out of a multitude of materials. There are also other applications in construction 3D printing than just houses. Caterpillar has long been interested in 3D printing, and thanks to its early work in research engineering cells, prototyping, and 3D printing tools for the assembly line, it’s now moved into commercial production of nearly 100 components; however, all but one were made of polymers.

“We’ve made a lot of progress with this technology, but not to the point where we are comfortable putting it into, for example, safety equipment or the manufacture of large metal parts, although we are doing a lot of research in that area,” said Don Jones, Caterpillar’s General Manager, Global Parts Strategy and Transformation.

Another OEM with developed 3D printing capabilities is Volvo CE, which stands for Construction Equipment. As of right now, the company has 3D printed spare parts such as plastic coverings, cab elements, and sections of air conditioning units.

“It’s especially good for older machines where the parts that have worn out are no longer made efficiently in traditional production methods,” said Jasenko Lagumdzija, Volvo CE’s manager of Business Support. “Producing new parts by 3D printing cuts down on time and costs, so it’s an efficient way of helping customers.”

Can Thermal Imaging Improve 3D Printing Results?

Usually when I think of thermal imaging, the movie Predator immediately comes to mind – the alien creature tracked its human prey by their body heat signatures. But this technology can also be applied to 3D printing. About two years ago, CNC machine manufacturing company Thermwood Corporation added real-time thermographic imaging as a standard feature on its LSAM (Large Scale Additive Manufacturing) systems. This imaging makes it far easier to adjust and control the entire 3D printing process, which will result in excellent 3D printed structures as a result.

Using thermal imaging can help create high-quality, large tools that are solid and void-free enough to maintain a vacuum, without any necessary surface coating or sealing. To ensure good prints, the temperature of the print surface needs to be controlled, which is tricky to do. But thermal imaging can help operators remain in the optimal range of temperatures. Thermwood seems to be ahead of the times with its thermal imaging capabilities.

A new video was recently posted by YouTube user Julian Danzer showing a large BFR winged rear section model being fabricated on an Ultimaker 3D printer; the video switches about 30 seconds in to a thermal view of the print job. The quality isn’t great, but it makes me think – should all 3D printers come standard with FLIR cameras now? If thermal imaging can really help improve the results of 3D prints, my answer is yes. What do you think?

Discuss these stories and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

Sand 3D Printing Used to Create Smart Slab Ceiling for ETH Zurich’s DFAB House

Last year, a project began, led by ETH Zurich and centered around the fabrication of a multi-story house called the DFAB House. The structure would showcase multiple technologies being developed at the university, including a 3D sand printing technique. Now the team has completed what is known as the Smart Slab, a panel that will be the DFAB House’s ceiling. At its thinnest point, the Smart Slab is only 20 mm thick, but it’s strong, and while it wasn’t 3D printed directly, the mold for the slab was made from a 3D sand printer, making it the first full-scale architectural project to use 3D sand printing for its formwork.

The ceiling is 80 meters squared, weighs 15 tonnes and consists of 11 concrete segments that connect the lower floor with the two-story timber space above. One advantage of using 3D printing for the mold instead of using a direct layer-by-layer concrete process is that high performant fiber-reinforced concrete can be used, and it can be fabricated with millmeter precision.

The Smart Slab was developed by the research group of Benjamin Dillenburger, Assistant Professor for Digital Building Technologies at ETH Zurich. The group developed a new software to create the formwork elements; the software is able to record and coordinate all parameters relevant to production. The team entered basic data such as room dimensions as well as a scan of the curved wall that will support the ceiling. This allowed them to adapt the geometry of the slab so that at each point it was applied only as thick as structurally necessary to support the force flow.

“We didn’t draw the slab; we programmed it,” said Mania Aghaei Meibodi, Smart Slab project lead and senior researcher in Dillenburger’s group. “It would not have been possible to coordinate all these aspects with analogue planning, particularly with such precision.”

The ceiling is composed of ribs of different sizes. The main ribs carry the loads, while the smaller filigree ribs are primarily for acoustics and aesthetic appeal. The lighting and sprinkler systems are integrated directly into the slab structure; they were coordinated with the planning software as well.

Several partners worked on the Smart Slab after its design had been exported from the computer. One industry partner produced the 3D printed sand formworks, which were divided into pallet-sized sections for easier printing and transport. Another partner fabricated the timber formwork through CNC machining, which gives shape to the upper part of the Smart Slab and leaves hollow areas that reduce weight and create space for electrical cables. A third partner brought together the two types of formwork, spraying the fiber-reinforced concrete onto the sand formwork to produce the lower concrete shell and casting the remaining concrete into the timber formwork.

The 11 individual concrete segments were transported to be building site after hardening for two weeks. A crane placed the concrete elements onto the load-bearing wall, where the prestressing took place. Steel cables were pulled lengthwise and crosswise through the concrete support and into the channels already inserted in the formwork. Tensioning the cables significantly increases the system’s load capacity.

“It was spectacular to see on the construction site how seamlessly our elements fitted with each other and with the existing components of the DFAB House,” said Dillenburger. “We owe this in part to the outstanding interdisciplinary collaboration with our partners. The meticulous work that we had invested into planning completely paid off.”

ETH Zurich has become well-known for its work with advanced 3D printing and robotics research. The university has developed numerous new digital fabrication technologies, several of which are being utilized in the construction of the DFAB House. The house is being constructed at Empa and Eawag‘s NEST research and innovation facility. You can learn more about the DFAB House here.

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[Images: ETH Zurich]

Nano Dimension and Mayku Announce New Strategic and Distribution 3D Printing Partnerships

Israeli additive electronics provider Nano Dimension announced in April that it would be expanding its coverage in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, and today has made good on that announcement. The award-winning company has officially entered the Chinese market now, thanks to its strategic partnership with top 3D printer distributor the AURORA Group.

The AURORA Group is the majority shareholder of 3D software and 3D printer provider General Integration Technology (GIT), which recently purchased and installed a DragonFly 2020 Pro PCB 3D printer from Nano Dimension for its Taiwan showroom. In addition to this new partnership, AURORA has also purchased a second DragonFly 2020 Pro.

“China is one of the world’s largest and most important electronics manufacturing and design markets, and establishing the correct foothold in the market is key for Nano Dimension. AURORA has years of operating experience in the manufacturing sector, and with its extensive resources and unique network of 1,500 offices, 300,000 customers, including more than 3,000 customers in electronics industries, we believe it is very well positioned to give us fast market access to realize the full potential of the DragonFly 2020 Pro in China,” said Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension. “We look forward to developing the Chinese market together by leveraging AURORA’s significant presence.”

As a result of the partnership, AURORA will market and sell the DragonFly 2020 Pro to customers in China, which will help grow Nano Dimension’s market coverage in APAC.

“Providing our customers with the very latest in high-quality, innovative 3D printing solutions is key to the success of our company,” said Daniel Chi, GM of 3D Business Unit, AURORA Group. “Forming a strategic relationship with Nano Dimension helps us expand our offering to now include capabilities for 3D printing electronics. The Nano Dimension DragonFly 2020 Pro is a groundbreaking technology that opens unimagined possibilities for electronics designers and manufacturers.”

A January 2018 market research report from the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows that the quickly growing Chinese 3D printing market is leading Asia. 3D printing in the country benefits from both industrial and private consumer investments and government support, so partnering with AURORA for additional APAC coverage is a smart move on Nano Dimension’s part.

“This is an important moment for our recently established Hong Kong office,” said Nano Dimension’s APAC Director Gilad Reshef. “We are proud to partner with AURORA as our leading partner in China. The partnership with AURORA deepens AURORA’s exposure to additive manufacturing by expanding into 3D-printing electronics, paving the way for new markets and applications.”

This news from Nano Dimension and AURORA isn’t the only newly announced 3D printing partnership. London startup Mayku has just released its innovative desktop vacuum former, the FormBox, for sale in the UK and the US, with help from its own new partner – 3D printing specialist GoPrint3D.

The FormBox

“We’re really excited about it as we think a lot of 3D printer owners will want one to complement their existing 3D printer,” GoPrint3D’s David Whitehouse told 3DPrint.com.

A drone case being removed from the mold.

GoPrint3D, which is also a distributor for EnvisionTEC and learnbylayers, was launched six years ago as a part of Express Group Ltd, which has provided 2D printer repair and spare parts to the UK for three decades. The company sells, repairs, and hires 3D printers, in addition to providing professional services.

“We were so impressed when we first saw the FormBox that we immediately backed it on Kickstarter,” explained Jo Young, Managing Director at GoPrint3D. “Now we are a partner as well as a backer. It’s the perfect accessory to 3D printers like the Form 2 so we are delighted to add it to our range.”

In 2016, Mayku crushed its original $50,000 Kickstarter campaign goal for the FormBox by over 1,000%. The desktop vacuum forming machine, which can be powered by a vacuum cleaner, lets makers and designers create items in all sorts of materials, ranging from concrete, ice, and plaster to soap, chocolate, and wax, and others as well.

The machine is user-friendly, and fast as well – able to make molds in just minutes without having to rely on any additional software or digital model manipulation.


“Vacuum forming was previously something found in makerspaces and in schools due to their cost and size,” explained Ben Redford, Mayku’s Co-Founder and CPO. “We are thrilled to have the support of the 3D printing industry and have been blown away with what makers have been designing.”

The FormBox is a complementary new hardware addition for 3D printer owners. Users can easily vacuum form a 3D print using the FormBox, which can then be used as a mold for fast replication in multiple materials that are not able to be directly 3D printed at this time.

GoPrint3D now has the FormBox in stock and available for purchase for a price of £499 excluding VAT.

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Metal 3D Printing and Classic Foundry Techniques: Friends or Foes?

The first question that is often asked when a new technology is introduced is: what of the old way of doing things? Sometimes the answer is that it fades into oblivion — think: fortran and floppy disks — other times it falls out of use in mainstream society but becomes the domain of a small, especially devoted community, like calligraphy or pedal loom weaving. And in other cases, it simply shifts its focus and allows itself to flower as it removes extra ‘noise’ from the workflow. John Phillip Sousa wondered if the invention of the phonograph might cause human beings to lose their vocal chords as they would no longer have to sing any song they wished to hear, and an equally pessimistic (although slightly more realistic) group worried that the Kindle would eradicate books altogether.

What has happened is that humanity has access to more music than ever and book production may see a fall in the print of throwaway paperbacks, but there appears to be no reason to fear that beautiful books will be eliminated from publication. One new technology that is causing both concern and overinflated speculation is the introduction of metal 3D printing. The question is: what impact will this technology have on traditional foundries? Foundry work is not inherently antithetical to 3D printing as many have, in fact, been using 3D printing to create molds for years now and have found the technology to be quite helpful in their production.

Beyond the printing of 3D molds, metal 3D printing is demonstrating a capacity for directly creating metal objects that is improving with each passing project. Voxeljet, which recently produced a new design for aircraft doors using 3D metal printing, doesn’t think that this signals the end of the classic foundry, however. Instead, they see it as something akin to a separate track of printing. What made the doors they produced such a good candidate for 3D printing was the need for a precise internal geometry, something impossible to be produced in a foundry. So rather than stealing work from a foundry, they were doing work that otherwise would not have been performed at all. And there are other reasons not to see metal 3D printing as a threat to foundry work, as voxeljet explained in a statement:

“3D metal printing, such as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), currently only competes with foundries in a relatively small segment. The build spaces of DMLS systems are ideally suited to smaller components. And 3D-printed components for aerospace require time-consuming certification, which metal casting has had for decades already. Direct 3D metal printing is also relatively expensive. This is not only due to the high cost of metal powder, but also the high cost of 3D printers and the comparatively slow building speeds.”

In addition to these factors, the products of 3D printing in metal require hand finishing which is labor intensive. All of these factors lead up to an average cost for 3D printed metal pieces that hovers around $160 per pound for aluminum, and $215 per pound for stainless steel, whereas pure cast steel has a price point of about $15 per pound. However, with the introduction of less expensive machinery, greater build bed sizes, and a more experienced workforce, the input prices for 3D printed metal are bound to come down. And so the question arises: will there be a change as the costs associated with metal 3D printing fall?

This uncertainty necessarily creates a degree of concern among those whose businesses and livelihoods depend upon a demand for foundry work. Rather than viewing the technology as an enemy to be shut out, perhaps the best solution is for foundries to get ahead of the game and embrace the tech, integrate it into their workflows and determine for themselves what makes sense to leave to a 3D printer and what can still only be produced at the hands of skilled foundry workers. As Ingo Edere, CEO at voxeljet, stated:

“3D sand and plastic printing are a perfect alternative for foundries, both in terms of cost, as well as the printable complexity. Foundries can manufacture equally complex components without having to change the process chain. Foundries do not have to purchase their own 3D printing systems as there are service providers worldwide supplying 3D sand or plastic printing.”

Clearly, a company such as voxeljet believes in the efficacy of this technology and its firm place as part of the landscape of future production. However, just because something can be 3D printed, doesn’t always mean that it should be, and discerning artisans and clients alike are the ones who will ultimately have to determine where that line lies.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

 

ETH Zurich Students Cast Elaborate Metal Architectural Structures with 3D Printed Molds

The innovative researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland are becoming quite well-known for their advanced design and construction techniques, especially when it comes to their work with molds. 3D printed molds can be used to help fabricate everything from jewelry and chess pieces to medical implants and wind turbines, but a group of masters students from the university’s Architecture and Digital Fabrication course are currently interested in creating 3D printed molds for the architecture field.

Together with ETH Zurich senior researcher Mania Aghaei Meibodi, they have developed a new method for casting complex metal architectural structures using 3D printed molds.

Aghaei Meibodi, who researches how 3D printing can help create bespoke metal building elements, said, “Cast metal parts have a long tradition in architecture due to their extraordinary structural properties and possible 3D form.

“Today the amount of manual labour involved, especially in the mould-making process makes them too expensive.

“With our approach using 3D-printed moulds, we make it possible and affordable again to fabricate bespoke structural metal parts — parts with unseen richness of detail and geometric complexity.

“This approach can unlock an entirely new vocabulary of shapes for metal structures in architecture, previously unavailable with traditional mould-making systems.”

The one-off aluminum structure created by the Digital Building Technologies (DBT) group, called Deep Facade, is the first metal facade to be cast in 3D printed molds. Standing six meters high and four meters wide, the structure features ribbons of metal organically looped in a way that resembles the human brain’s cerebral cortex folds, and is a follow-up to a project by last year’s students called the Digital Metal Pavilion.

Aghaei Meibodi told Dezeen that the aluminum Digital Metal Pavilion, a space-frame structure made up of 240 non-repetitive joints, was the very first architectural structure to use 3D printed molds.

It only took a week to make these joints, which Aghaei Meibodi, who also chairs the DBT group, explained is 80 times faster than the more conventional processes used to fabricate complex metal parts. Using 3D printing for this type of application is obviously a far more cost-effective way to produce complex structures and forms for custom architectural projects.



It is possible to 3D print metal directly, but it’s not always the best option – it can be expensive, and can only be used with a limited range of metals with limited material properties. That’s why the DBT group uses 3D printed sand molds in casting molten metal.

Aghaei Meibodi explained, “In this synergy we benefit from the geometric freedom offered by 3D printing and the structural stability of cast metal.”

The Deep Facade structure is made of 26 articulated panels. A differential growth algorithm, which replicates the development of some living organisms, was used to fabricate the structure, which features some sections that would have been too fragile to make with concrete or sandstone.

Topology optimization, which allows for designers to take advantage of the geometrical freedoms made possible through additive manufacturing, also came into play in the DBT group’s creative process.

“Computational techniques such as topology optimisation allow designers to design lightweight parts, but the parts optimised with this technique are often difficult to manufacture through traditional methods.

“Our proposed fabrication approach doesn’t encounter the same limits as traditional manufacturing methods and can go further with shape optimisation thanks to the ability of 3D printing to print complex moulds that could be used to fabricate more efficient structures,” said Aghaei Meibodi.

Aghaei Meibodi is hopeful that her student group’s new method can one day be applied to a unique, large-scale project.

“With this new approach of casting metal, one can imagine a return of 3D detailing and 3D articulation, perhaps a fusing of ornament and structure,” she said.

“My dream application of it would be in the building envelope and interior structure of large spaces as large-span supporting structures.”

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[Images via Dezeen]