Wi3DP: Experts Discuss Challenges and Trends in 3D Printing Sustainability

A virtual panel discussion and networking event by Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) gathered three industry experts and leaders to share their insights and experiences on sustainability trends in additive manufacturing (AM) and how they will impact the industry’s choice of materials, energy usage, and waste.

Hosted by AM-Cubed President and Founder, Kristin Mulherin, and supported by AM service company Link3D, the live event featured Ellen Jackowski, HP’s Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer; Sherry Handel, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA); and Cindy Deekitwong, Global Head of Marketing and Strategy for 3D Printing at Henkel Adhesive Technologies. The group touched on several hotly debated topics, like the lack of research on the environmental benefits and challenges of AM and how to generate a fully circular economy for the industry, underlying the importance of finding ways to enhance the already visible benefits of the technology.

Mulherin asked the experts to discuss how sustainability initiatives can respond to many of the challenges facing 3D printing. For Jackowski, companies need to start making more sustainable decisions that will help move the industry forward in a responsible manner. Adding that everyone in the industry, no matter what role they play, need to have what she likes to call “sustainability contact lenses,” meaning that, even if the job description does not involve sustainability, they need to figure out a way to make decisions that will have an impact on the carbon footprint, the community, or the health and safety of a manufactured product.

“We certainly don’t want to start seeing 3D printed parts bobbing around in the ocean like we see so many other things these days. We all need to continue to drive the energy efficiency of this business,” suggested Jackowski. “For example, when you plug those 3D printers in, they suck up a lot of energy, and that is certainly an area for innovation. So, I would say that whatever part of the 3D printing industry you are in, think about your impact on sustainability. It is also crucial to understand the implications of the materials we use, where we source them from, and how our customers use them in the most sustainable manner.”

Ellen Jackowski visiting an FSC-certified forest to see responsible forest management in action. (Image courtesy of HP)

The other panelists agreed that sustainable impact is about collaborative efforts, and having everyone involved in reinventing the company for sustainable impact. Deekitwong highlighted that the technology itself lends to more efficient designs that create less waste and eco-friendly supply chains, but she believes the industry should enhance sustainability efforts by reducing fuel consumption, working with suppliers to find biorenewable materials and collaborate with ecosystem partners and consumers to recycle end-of-life parts. Deekitwong shared how Henkel’s recycling initiatives led the company to collaborate with TerraCycle to upcycle garbage from used 3D printed parts, resins, and packaging.

For Handel, who is focused on promoting the inherently positive environmental benefits of AM within key industries and the public at large, the existing research does not provide enough good metrics in data. This is why AMGTA is commissioning academic research through life-cycle assessment (LCA), to quantify and provide data and metrics on what it takes to produce a particular part via both traditional and additive manufacturing processes. Eventually, this will help the industry better understand what the eco-footprint is, and reveal some areas that will make the industry even more sustainable in the future.

Handel then centered on one of AMGTA’s core projects that will help create a more circular economy by empowering companies to develop a global set of standards to properly and cost-effectively recycle powder condensate, a vaporized metal powder that collects on the chamber walls and in the filter unit during a build process.

“The powder condensate cannot be reused and is considered a hazardous waste by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It usually ends up in a landfill, so we want to find a way to repurpose it, recycle it, and publish a a set of standards in early 2021 that we can share with our member companies and industry to help mitigate this challenge,” indicated Handel.

Then, Mulherin shared an overview of the importance of avoiding greenwashing, an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company is environmentally friendly. For both Deekitwong and Jackowski, this point is crucial, especially since both Henkel and HP have over 50,000 employees, and need to convey the message to everyone that the company’s reputation could be destroyed with one wrong move. Jackowski further described how it could be easy for employees to make a judgment call that could lean toward greenwashing, but said HP is “very aware of the boundaries of greenwashing.”

Cindy Deekitwong. (Image courtesy of Henkel Adhesive Technologies)

Both companies have seemingly strong objectives in place. For Henkel, reducing carbon footprint in operations means a 65% reduction by 2025, 75% by 2030, and becoming “climate positive” in 2040. While HP’s awareness of its responsibility around creating a circular economy led to policies to use fully recyclable materials in 3D printers.

“Our eye is looking at how we set up this industry, and as we’ve transitioned, we have seen increased adoption during the pandemic because of the flexibility and speed that 3D printing offers. But I think there are a lot of opportunities to continue to innovate and, as we stand up this industry, as we all transform from traditional manufacturing to 3D, we need to think about it holistically and doing it right from the beginning,” said Jackowski.

Sherry Handel, Executive Director of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association. (Image courtesy of AMGTA)

A clear challenge for Handel is the lack of awareness of environmental management system certifications. AMGTA encourages member companies to get ISO 14001 certified, an international standard that helps set the framework for a company to benchmark where they are and help them improve environmental criteria over time, like energy use. But Handel said that “not everyone is going to be able to flip on a dime and hit the easy button to get things accomplished and starting somewhere is better than nothing,” which is why AMGTA suggests third party certifications, like the Green Business Bureau, taking companies on a pathway towards more environmentally sustainable practices.

Toward the end of the conversation, Mulherin suggested that organizations need to recognize that sustainability efforts will generate revenues, instead of simply costing the companies money. In fact, Jackowski indicated that customers are taking notice of a company’s sustainability initiatives, detailing how HP saw $1.6 billion in new sales in 2019 due to the company’s actions in sustainability, a 70% increase year over year.

“We are seeing a shift, an awakening of general consciousness in consumer behavior and purchase patterns surrounding sustainability, and we only expect it to get stronger. That provides financial motivation for everyone in this space to continue to accelerate what we are doing. Whatever part of the value chain you are in, you are going to start feeling it more: the pressure to go sustainable,” said Jackowski, who also emphasized HP’s continued commitment to sustainability since founders David Packard and Bill Hewlett created the company in 1939. “As it has evolved over the years, sustainability has gone from being founder-led to across the DNA of the company.”

The virtual event gathered a wide array of participants worldwide, most of them working in the AM industry and eager to learn about sustainable practices thriving in 3D printing. As with previous panels, this Women in 3D Printing event facilitated a networking experience both before and after the speakers virtually took the floor, with crowded tables and a lot of simultaneous chats about the importance of environmentally sound practices in additive.

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Industrial 3D Printing for High-Performance Parts

One of the most exciting aspects of exploring our platform at Shapeways is learning more about how users on all levels are innovating today, and how you might be able to expand your own concepts and designs further through 3D printing. There are a variety of different, affordable services and products offered; however, one of the most important facets that must always be considered — from Shapeways to the entire 3D printing space worldwide — is materials. You can modify printers and write new software all day long, but without a good selection of feedstocks to choose from, quality results are nearly impossible.

BASF (known as a worldwide leader in development and production of chemicals) began partnering with Shapeways this year in providing new materials through their BASF 3D Printing Solutions subsidiary. Our new Powered by Shapeways platform enables users to choose from BASF’s Forward AM materials, expanding accessibility and options for high-performance parts.

The new material portfolio includes ­­­­­Ultrasint TPU01, Ultrasint PP, Ultracur3D RG 35, and HP High Reusability PP.

Ultrasint TPU01

Ultrasint industrial grade powders are meant for 3D printing complex geometries that are accurate, strong, and durable. This thermoplastic polyurethane material is suitable for 3D printing functional end-use components, and is recommended if you require excellence in quality and flexibility for parts, along with the following features:

  • High level of detail
  • Good surface quality
  • Recyclability (Ultrasint TPU01 offers up to 80% reusability ratio)
  • Airtight parts (down to 1mm wall thickness)
  • UV resistance
  • Hydrolysis resistance

Approved for contact with skin, TPU01 is popular in automotive applications due to the open lattice structure encouraging both heating and cooling for interior parts like headrests or seats. Materials can be customized for individuals, and especially in areas typically experiencing heavier loads. Many of the best advantages of 3D printing technology can be used with TPU01 in particular, to include exponentially less time spent in development, production, and assembly time — along with elimination of tooling requirements and cost. Texture can be customized in terms of hardness/softness, and a variety of accompanying finishing options are offered too.

Another unique
benefit of TPU01 is that it can be used to 3D print protective gear for
the automotive industry; for instance, a protective glove was created for
workers at Jaguar Land Rover, offering support to prevent injuries due to
repetitive tasks. This type of gear is strong, yet lightweight and can be
completely customized for the wearer, including special modifications for the
job requirements of the individual. Again, this design is possible due to the
flexible lattice structure of the material. While it is flexible, hardness can
also be customized during the design process.

3D printing is employed in many footwear applications these days, and by users of widely varying experience and resource levels—from leading sports shoe companies to designers fabricating elegant flats or heels at their studios or from home workshops. Midsoles typically represent the 3D printed portion of shoes, with TPU01 allowing for consumer-specific customizations for greater comfort — designed around the wearer’s step, gait, pressure, and support — whether for sports, running, or other needs. Shoes can be made quickly, affordably, and on-demand.

TPU01 can also
be used to 3D print midsoles that are eco-friendly, requiring less material, as
well as offering improved aesthetics and performance. Personalized touches can
be applied afterward with a variety of different finishes and color choices.

Download the material data sheet from this page.

Ultrasint PP nat 01

A polypropylene material suitable for rapid prototyping as well as large-volume production of smaller parts, Ultrasint PP is a popular and affordable plastic with good market recognition. This material yields parts with excellent quality, balanced mechanical properties, and liquid, hydrolysis, and chemical resistance.

Ultrasint PP is
meant for production of smaller components like fluid reservoirs,
interior and exterior automotive parts, air ducts and piping, clips, covers,
hinges, and more. Parts like sensor covers can be made for critical aerospace
applications also, with prototypes fabricated from the same material and
process as the functional part. Live-hinge and snap-fit “barb” fittings can be 3D
printed too, with options for color and surface.

Download the material data sheet from this page.

Ultracur RG 35

Ultracur RG 35 is a highly reactive photopolymer suitable for a variety of parts used for multiple purposes, to include:

  • Connectors
  • Snappers
  • End-use components

Recommended for parts that require rigidity, Ultracur RG 35
offers excellent resolution in printing, low shrinkage, accuracy, and both
speed and ease in production. 

Download the material data sheet from this page.

HP High Reusability PP

A material specialized for use in HP’s production-grade Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers, HP High Reusability PP is suitable for making parts that are chemically resistant like piping and fluid systems, as well as automotive parts for the interior, exterior, and under the hood.

Download the material data sheet from this page.

Here at Shapeways, we have always offered a rich foundation for providing a wide range of materials suitable for industrial use. And while there are certainly no rules within the 3D printing realm about using (as well as continually developing) and experimenting with materials, our partnership with BASF has yielded a treasure trove of quality materials for the automotive industry, as well as for critical applications used in aerospace, architecture, and medicine. Recently, our team has also focused on offering 3D printing for robotics and drone applications.

Whether you are a busy designer or an engineer hoping to have a prototype or functional part 3D printed quickly, you will find an inspiring range of materials available at Shapeways. Without having to invest in industrial printers or materials on your own, you can benefit from our long-term experience and investment in proprietary, advanced technology.

learn more

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3D Printing Unicorn Desktop Metal to Go Public After Reverse Merger Deal

After becoming one of the fastest-growing 3D printing startups, Desktop Metal announced plans to go public following a reverse merger deal with blank check company Trine Acquisitions. The Boston-based metal 3D printing systems manufacturer revealed that the combined companies will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol “DM” and are expected to have an estimated post-transaction equity value of up to $2.5 billion.

2020 has seen a surge of company’s opting to go public through special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger deals. During the first half of the year, there have been 79 SPAC IPOs that have raised gross proceeds of $32 billion, according to SPACInsider, a sharp increase from last year’s 59 SPAC IPO’s and gross proceeds of $13.6 billion. In fact, Desktop Metal follows in the steps of space tourism startup Virgin Galactic and electric car maker Nikola Corp, drawn to SPAC listings to go public without the risk and complexity of a traditional IPO.

Since coming out of stealth mode in 2017, Desktop Metal has managed to raise over $438 million in funding, becoming one of the fastest companies in US history to achieve unicorn status. Claiming to reinvent the way design and manufacturing teams 3D print metal and continuous carbon fiber parts, the company aims to create the world’s fastest metal 3D printers. Its broad product portfolio already includes an office-friendly metal 3D printing system for low volume production, as well as new mid-volume manufacturing and continuous fiber composite printers, both of which are expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2020.

With a valuation of $1.5 billion, Desktop Metal is the first major Massachusetts-based 3D printing company to go public. Locally, Desktop Metal competitors include fellow 3D printing technology unicorn Formlabs in Somerville and continuous carbon fiber manufacturing company Markforged in Watertown.

“We are at a major inflection point in the adoption of additive manufacturing, and Desktop Metal is leading the way in this transformation,” said Ric Fulop, Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Desktop Metal. “Our solutions are designed for both massive throughput and ease of use, enabling organizations of all sizes to make parts faster, more cost effectively, and with higher levels of complexity and sustainability than ever before. We are energized to make our debut as a publicly traded company and begin our partnership with Trine, which will provide the resources to accelerate our go-to-market efforts and enhance our relentless efforts in R&D.”

Desktop Metal’s Shop System, an additive manufacturing solution targeted at the machine shop market and designed for mid-volume production of customer-ready metal parts. (Image courtesy of Business Wire)

According to Desktop Metal, the deal will generate up to $575 million in gross proceeds, comprised of Trine’s $300 million of cash held in trust, and $275 million from fully committed common stock PIPE (private investment in public equity) at $10.00 per share. The move is expected to provide, what the company considers, an opportunity to build the “first $10 billion additive 2.0 company,” part of an emerging wave of next-generation additive manufacturing (AM) technologies expected to unlock throughput, repeatability and competitive part costs. With solutions featuring key innovations across printers, materials, and software, Desktop Metal anticipates this new trend to pull AM into direct competition with conventional processes used to manufacture $12 trillion in goods every year.

When consulted, 3DPrint.com’s own Executive Editor and Vice President of Consulting at SmarTech Analysis, Joris Peels, considered the deal to be an aggressive valuation when outlined against the current capabilities, technologies, growth and installed base of the firm. Peels explained that at present, he does not think that the transaction is commensurate with revenues or the perceived quality of its offering.

The expert further suggested that “the firm has consistently overstated capabilities. It has also had significant issues with deploying its technology in the field. Competition from firms such as Markforged, HP, and GE will expand the binder jet market considerably, but also offer alternatives to Desktop Metal. New startups such as One Click Metal, Laser Melting Innovations, Aconity3D and ValCUN can also provide alternative solutions. The low-cost metal market is set for rapid growth. These are the types of systems that we could expect in many a machine shop and factory in the years to come. The opportunity is for over 750,000 deployments worldwide, dwarfing the current market. The battle for dominance in this exciting space will yet see more market entrants arrive and we are in the initial stages of a very exciting time.”

Desktop Metal’s Production System is designed to be the fastest way to 3D print metal parts at scale. (Image courtesy of Business Wire)

During a conference call on August 26, 2020 – just after news of Desktop Metal’s SPAC transaction were revealed – legendary technology investor and operator Leo Hindery, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Trine Acquisitions, said that Desktop Metal will be the “only pure-play opportunity available to public market investors in the additive manufacturing 2.0 space.”

Emphasizing his belief that the company is in the process of revolutionizing the industry, and developing a technology that will be a significant step in replacing mass manufacturing base, which has become antiquated, Hindery said this deal will become pivotal to transforming the products and industries that will drive the economy into the 21st century, including electric vehicles, 5G communications, digital supply chains, and space flight.

Both company CEOs suggested that the AM industry is slated to realize explosive growth over the next decade, reaching over ten times the 2019 market size, estimated to surge from $12 billion to $146 billion by 2030 as it shifts from prototyping to mass production.

Desktop Metal printers are used in the automotive industry. (Image courtesy of Desktop Metal)

To better understand the future of the AM metal industry, 3DPrint.com turned to Scott Dunham, SmarTech’s Vice President of Research, who reported on the market conditions today, stating that nothing changes in business without significant pain first.

“The metal additive manufacturing market in 2020 is feeling a combination of ongoing growing pains with difficulties in the sales environment now intensified due to economic effects from COVID-19. General manufacturing companies facing similar challenges, however, and now are faced with the choice of continuing on with the status quo in light of the pandemic exposing weaknesses in their supply chains, or making serious changes to address those weaknesses in the future. Both choices are fraught with risks,” Dunham suggests. “Metal additive manufacturing market stakeholders are hopeful this scenario may catalyze the industry back to strong growth as companies arrive at a decision to invest in new technologies and further develop their capabilities in concert with AM leaders to arrive better prepared for future challenges.”

Despite the current impasse, Dunham insists that the additive industry will ultimately benefit from a renewed push for cost savings, supply chain independence and agility, and a desire for faster manufacturing. Suggesting that not all will make it through the next two years in metal AM, but those which do will likely build the future of manufacturing that experts have anticipated for some time.

Desktop Metal’s innovative 3D printing metal systems used from prototyping through mass production. (Image courtesy of Desktop Metal)

In a quest to speed up technology development Desktop Metal is moving fast. The proposed business combination is expected to be completed by November 2020 and has already been approved by the boards of directors of the two companies. Once finalized, Desktop Metal will have post-deal cash on hand that will enable accelerated growth and product development efforts, especially as a large portion of the $575 million in gross proceeds from the deal will be dedicated to continuous product innovation and to pursue targeted acquisition opportunities.

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Additive Manufacturing Strategies Super Early Bird Registration Ends August 26

As detailed in a previous post, the Additive Manufacturing Strategies (AMS) event, hosted by 3DPrint.com and SmarTech Analysis, has moved online for 2021. The February 2021 AMS is several months away, but those considering attending the online four-day event should consider the super early bird registration price of $59 that ends at midnight on 26 August.  AMS 2021 offers subject specific days: bioprinting, medical/dental, software/automation and metals/new materials.  One can register for a specific day or, of course, the entire conference. To register or to learn more, click here.

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HP and Dyndrite Partner to Create Next Generation 3D Printing Solutions

Seattle startup Dyndrite announced a strategic new partnership with Hewlett Packard (HP) to license Dyndrite’s geometric kernel technology and power the next generation cloud and edge-based digital manufacturing solutions. By combining HP’s end-to-end manufacturing management expertise with Dyndrite’s cutting edge additive technology, HP is hoping to deliver a software platform capable of powering the additive manufacturing (AM) factories of the future.

In 2019, 26-year old Harshil Goel’s company Dyndrite emerged out of stealth mode to reveal the world’s first GPU-native geometry engine, the Dyndrite Accelerated Geometry Kernel (AGK). Since geometry kernels were first introduced decades ago, they have been a crucial component in advancing 3D CAD/CAM/CAx software. Still, the company claimed this software have not kept pace with changing computational architectures, modern manufacturing technologies, and modern design needs. In order to address this challenge, Goel teamed up with veteran mathematicians, computer scientists, and mechanical engineers to develop a new solution that could level the playing field so that the manufacturing hardware no longer surpassed the software, facilitating the AM industry to reach its potential.

“The promise of 3D printing is to deliver unique parts and tools not possible through traditional methods, and do so on an industrial and global scale. For this to happen the industry must evolve and Dyndrite’s mission is to accelerate this change,” said Goel, now CEO of Dyndrite. “HP is a clear leader in industrial 3D printing and this collaboration speeds the game-changing impact our technology brings to the AM community at large. We applaud HP’s vision and look forward to a long and fruitful partnership for years to come.”

The new alliance builds on HP’s focus on expanding its software and data platform to help customers fully realize the transformative power of 3D printing technology. Through the development of new solutions that leverage the Dyndrite kernel, HP expects to improve efficiency, enhance performance and quality, enable mass-personalization, automate complex workflows, and create scalability and extensibility for continued partner and customer innovation. The ultimate goal for both companies is to change how the software works in the AM industries, driving new performance and functionality.

In that sense, Dyndrite claims that its fully native GPU Kernel easily handles additive specific computations such as lattice, support, and slice generation, in some cases reducing compute times from hours or days to minutes or seconds. For heavy use cases, the Dyndrite kernel is naturally scalable with access to additional GPU nodes, whether locally or in the cloud and provides both C++ and English-readable Python APIs, making application development accessible to a wide variety of users, including non-programmers such as students, mathematicians, and mechanical engineers. Probably what most interests HP is providing developers and original equipment manufacturer (OEM)s with a tool capable of representing all current geometry types, including higher-order geometries such as splines (NURBs), surface tessellations, volumetric data, tetrahedra, and voxels, allowing the development of next-generation applications and devices.

Using Dyndrite solution for additive manufacturing (Image courtesy of Dyndrite Corporation)

“Innovations in software, data intelligence, and workflow automation are key to unlocking the full potential of additive manufacturing,” said Ryan Palmer, Global Head of Software, Data and Automation of HP 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing. “We are committed to advancing our digital manufacturing platform capabilities and this strategic collaboration with Dyndrite is an exciting next step on the journey.”

Building upon HP’s leading position as a behemoth technology firm, the company has acquired and partnered with dozens of companies to broaden its ecosystem and accelerate innovation and speed product development and supply chain efficiencies. HP also supports numerous 3D printing and digital manufacturing open standards to ensure data interoperability and choice for customers.

As a global provider of industrial-grade 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions, HP offers systems, software, services, and materials science innovation to its customers. These solutions already include numerous software and data innovations, like its HP 3D Process Control and HP 3D Center software offerings.

Dyndrite’s new GPU-powered, python-scriptable, additive manufacturing build processor at work (Image courtesy of Dyndrite Corporation)

The new HP and Dyndrite partnership builds on a relationship that first began when HP became one of the inaugural members of the Dyndrite Developer Council, a group of leading 3D printing systems, software, and solutions providers. Along with Aconity3D, EOS, NVIDIA, Plural Additive Manufacturing, and Renishaw, HP was chartered with steering the future direction of the company’s roadmap. The driving force behind Goel’s venture is advancing the design and manufacturing software tools used today, which he said were built more than 30 years ago and are becoming bottlenecks to today’s creativity and productivity. Especially when compared to the manufacturing hardware that over the past few years has given rise to new design philosophies and a whole new paradigm of manufacturing production.

In this sense, Dyndrite is creating next-generation software for the design, manufacturing and additive marketplace, with the goal to dramatically increase the workflow and efficiency of AM technologies. With Dyndrite joining HP’s global ecosystem, HP advances 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions, improving the overall experience for its customers and moving the industry forward.

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US Air Force 3D Prints Part for $2.2 Billion Stealth Bomber

The mission of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-2 Program Office is to ensure the B-2 Spirit bomber jets stay relevant and in-flight through the early 2030s until replaced by its stealthier new version, the B-21s. To extend the life of the deadly aircraft and keep the existing B-2 bomber fleet ready and active for future missions, aerospace engineers at the B-2 Program Office turned to additive manufacturing. The technology was used to create a permanent protective cover that prevents the unintentional activation of the airframe mounted accessory drive (AMAD) decouple switch, which controls the connection of the engines to the hydraulic and generator power of the aircraft.

Each one of the 20 B-2 aircraft has a four-switch panel AMAD that sits on the left side of the two-person cockpit. When all switches are activated simultaneously, the crew has no choice but to eject as the aircraft will be without electrical and hydraulic power. In 2018, a B-2 jet was forced to make an emergency landing in Colorado Springs after the crew flipped one of the switches, forcing the B-2 Program Office to come up with an innovative solution to solve the critical issue.

At the time, B-2 pilot and commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, John J. Nichols, turned to a team of students at Knob Noster High School, also in Missouri, that designed and 3D printed prototype AMAD panel covers in 72 hours at $1.25 a piece. Now, the B-2 Program Office has come up with 20 new additively manufactured covers that cost approximately $4,000 and will be delivered to the fleet in late 2020 or early 2021.

Students from the Knob Noster High School robotics team designed a protective panel that covers four switches in the cockpit of the B-2 Stealth Bomber (Image courtesy of US Air Force/ Sgt. Kayla White)

“Additive manufacturing is the way of the future,” said Roger Tyler, an aerospace engineer with the B-2 Program Office. “The B-2 is a low volume fleet. There’s only 20 of them, so anytime something needs to be done on the aircraft, cost can be an issue. But with additive manufacturing, we can design something and have it printed within a week and keep costs to a minimum.”

The development of the covers was aided by the Additive Manufacturing Design Rule Book, which was created by the Product Support Engineering Division, part of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC). According to Jason McDuffie, Chief of the Air Force Metals Technology Office (MTO), the rule book provides design guidelines and lessons learned in the additive manufacturing field, specifically the use of direct metal laser melting and fuse deposition modeling technologies, and has been applied to help create a variety of important parts for the Air Force.

3D printed protective cover for the airframe mounted accessory drive decouple switch in B-2 aircraft (Image courtesy of US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center)

“This part [AMAD cover] is unique, and there was never a commercial equivalent to it, so we had to develop it in-house,” Tyler added. “Additive manufacturing allowed us to rapidly prototype designs, and through multiple iterations, the optimum design for the pilots and maintainers were created. We have completed the airworthiness determination and are currently in the final stages to get the covers implemented on the B-2 fleet, which will be the first additively manufactured part to be approved and installed on the B-2.”

The B-2 stealth bomber (Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman/US Air Force)

Originally created to evade radar detection and attack without warning from the Soviet Union’s command and control centers during the Cold War, no B-2’s have ever actually flown over Russian aerospace. Even so, over its 31-year life span, the B-2 Spirit bomber has been a veteran of several conflict operations, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the war in Kosovo, where it took out 33 percent of the Serbian targets in eight weeks. Described by its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, as “practically indestructible”, the B-2 can fly 6,000 miles without the need to refuel, and the capacity to haul in excess of 20 tons of weapons in any weather completely undetected.

At $2.2 billion per aircraft, it is one of the most expensive warplanes ever made, capable of delivering large and precision-guided weaponry, both conventional and nuclear. Yet, up until now, the B-2 has only been used to drop non-nuclear bombs. For decades, experts have warned against deploying mission bombers with nuclear weapons that might trigger an accidental nuclear war, and this comes as no surprise, with nine nuclear-armed states possessing an estimated 13,400 weapons, the risk always remains latent – even more so with sophisticated bombers like B-2 that cannot be detected.

The B-2 stealth bomber (Image courtesy of Northrop Grumman/US Air Force)

As the world’s only known stealth bomber, the aircraft continues to be a display of military force for the U.S., especially amid escalating tensions with countries like North Korea, China, and Russia. Recently, the B-2 Spirit bombers were deployed in the South China Sea amid a military exercise drill with troops practicing how to seize back the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam from an “invading” force; most likely as a response to China stepping up defensive military operations and exercises around Taiwan. In spite of its many years in the US Air Force fleet, the B-2 continues to be one of the most feared aircraft ever built, which is why sustainment modifications today remain an important aspect of the B-2 program, from coming up with cost-effective ways to repair and maintain the jets to teaming up with Northrop Grumman to ensure the units remain mission capable.

The U.S. Air Force often requires low-cost creative ways to replace parts on many of its aircraft. As such, it has already launched numerous research initiatives into additively manufacturing parts, from creating 3D printed replacement parts for F-35 fighter jets to saving thousands of dollars by using 3D printing to make cup handles and modify standard-issue gas masks. The latest 3D printed protective cover could become a great solution for an underlying problem that has already caused some havoc to B-2 pilots. For high operating cost aircraft like the B-2 (at a reported $122,000 per flight hour), repairs can be equally costly, but in-house production technologies like additive manufacturing can help aerospace engineers tasked with maintaining decades-old jets up to date and working as stealthily as they did 30 years ago.

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What’s In A Technology Name?

The good news is that a technology by any other name might perform as sweet, to riff off of Juliet’s centuries-old question — but we still have to ask: what’s in a name?

This question comes up all the time when
talking about manufacturing processes used today, especially those newer to
shop floors like 3D printing. (Or is that additive manufacturing…or rapid

Let’s start at the beginning. This technology suite traces its current roots back to the 1980s when processes like stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) were being developed. These technologies found their initial usage in prototyping applications, achieving faster results than traditional processes. As these and other layer-by-layer approaches developed and matured over the last few decades, applications evolved as well, including into end-use production.

Throughout this briefly laid out history, we
see several stages of evolution in both process and usage. At each stage, a
different name has been appropriate, growing along with the fledgling industry
surrounding these technologies. Now that we’re in 2020, though, and have four
decades of experience in this maturing manufacturing area, we’re able to take a
step back and look at what the best terminology is to use today.

Printing or Additive Manufacturing?

A question that comes up a lot is simple:
“What’s the difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing?”

At the simplest level of response, these terms
are often used interchangeably. Use either phrasing and anyone in the industry
will understand what you mean. But of course, there are ways to be more
accurate in discussing these processes, and more precise in nomenclature.

3D printing is the process of actually
building up a part, as a step in the overall additive manufacturing workflow.
Additive manufacturing itself can be seen to encompass the total process: CAD
design to slicing to 3D printing to post-processing to finished product. Rapid
prototyping would then be an application, rather than referring to the process

That’s one way of looking at it, and
understanding what is meant when any of these terms are bandied about.

Another way is in terms of the user. Additive
manufacturing is recognized as a more industrial term, and tends to encompass
expensive professional machinery being used in applications from prototyping to
end-use product production. 3D printing can refer to the process of
layer-by-layer building of an object, or more generally to refer to any usage
of this technology, from hobbyists using inexpensive desktop systems to
professionals using industrial equipment. Rapid prototyping was one of the
first terms used for these technologies, which in the 1980s were geared toward
the rapid production of prototypes and for a few decades so dominated usage
that this application was synonymous with the tech itself.

These conversations are ongoing, and opinions among experts are still fairly varied. When, for example, in working to understand viewpoints on the terminology of technology, I turned to industry professionals, responses extended from ease of understanding to familiarity of phrasing.

That conversation was perhaps best summed up by industry veteran Rachel Park, long-time journalist and currently a principal at PYL Associates, who said of 3D printing (3DP) and additive manufacturing (AM):

“3DP versus AM will not be resolved any time
soon, and like many others here, I often use them interchangeably depending on
application, audience and process being used. On that – I have noticed that
process names (re the 7 categories identified by ASTM) are being used more
frequently, to differentiate capabilities and applications for manufacturing /

Printing Technologies

That leads into an important conversation in
its own right, as the different 3D printing processes each have their own
terminology to take into account.

Industry expert Terry Wohlers, Founder of independent consulting firm Wohlers Associates, which puts out the annual Wohlers Report, recently discussed the importance of terminology through the lens of industry standard phrasing. He brings up several key points in this Wohlers Talk piece, chief among them the very availability of industry standards.

ASTM International, which defines standards in
a number of industries including additive manufacturing, has been publishing
terms for AM to serve as recognized standards. The first version, as Wohlers
points out, was published in 2009 as the ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for
Additive Manufacturing Technologies defined 26 terms. That work was
foundational for the current ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard Terminology for Additive

As laid out from that standard in Wohlers
Talk, the presently recognized seven AM processes include:

  • Material extrusion—an additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice
  • Material jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited
  • Binder jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials
  • Sheet lamination—an additive manufacturing process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part
  • Vat photopolymerization—an additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion—an additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed
  • Directed energy deposition—an additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited

Different companies, of course, refer to
technologies that fall under these umbrellas by proprietary names. Think of the
ongoing conversation regarding FFF v. FDM (that is, the common term Fused
Filament Fabrication versus the trademarked Fused Deposition Modeling), both of
which effectively refer to the same process and are in fact classified as
material extrusion.

Seeking to differentiate may lead many a
company to brand copiously; why say the standard “material extrusion” when they
could tout FFF, which as an acronym may sound more intriguing — or, if that
branding is from Stratasys, why not further herald FDM, which is trademarked
and is one of the original 3D printing technologies invented decades ago.
There’s certainly something to be said for standing apart from the crowd by
owning a process name.

Still, it absolutely comes across clearly to
everyone what sort of process is up for discussion when the term is universal;
material extrusion will convey just what’s meant quite neatly, and without any
potential confusion.

Naturally we must include a disclaimer that
while these seven ISO/ASTM recognized processes cover most of what we see in 3D
printing, they do not cover every technology. Significant R&D is ongoing
around the world, with efforts to create wholly new 3D printing technologies
abounding. Most of even these new processes will still fall generally under one
of these categories, but some will be new unto themselves. This is why
standards creation is so important, as these experts regularly discuss and
evaluate new processes that may need to be added.

In A Name?

So ultimately, what is in a name?

Everything, when it comes to clarity,
legality, and precision. Certainly it never hurts to be precise when sharing
information about industrial technologies.

At the same time, if you say “additive manufacturing” to someone unfamiliar with today’s advanced production processes, it’s perfectly fine to clarify that you mean “3D printing”, which may be more easily understood. There’s a time and place for full accuracy, but as always the most important part of communication is establishing understanding.

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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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3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup, July 19, 2020

A variety of topics will be covered in this week’s webinar and virtual event roundup, including additive manufacturing in aerospace, CAMWorks, product management, post-processing, and more. Read on to learn more about, and register for, these online opportunities.

AM in Aerospace Virtual Panel

On Tuesday, July 21st, Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) will host the third event, “Additive Manufacturing for Aerospace”, in its virtual panel series. Sponsored by AlphaSTAR and Link3D, the panel will focus on how AM is used in the aerospace industry. Moderated by AM-Cubed founder Kristin Mulherin, the speakers are Anna Tomzynska, Director and Additive Manufacturing Chief Engineer for Boeing; Deb Whitis, GE Aviation Chief Engineer; and Eliana Fu, Senior Engineer, Additive Technologies, at Relativity Space.

Pre-registration will begin at 11 am EST, with a welcome speech at 11:25. The hour-long panel will begin at 11:30, with plenty of time for live Q&A, and there will be a virtual networking reception at 12:30. Register for the virtual panel here.

3DEO Webinar – Why I Switched From CNC Machining

Also on July 21st, metal 3D printing company 3DEO is hosting a live webinar, entitled “Why I Switched From CNC Machining: An Engineer’s Perspective on Transitioning to Metal 3D Printing.” The webinar, which starts at 1 pm EST, will feature 3DEO Applications Engineer Julien Cohen, who will explain the major differences between metal 3D printing and CNC machining. The following topics will be covered:

  • Compare CNC machining and 3DEO’s proprietary metal 3D printing process

  • Understand the value metal 3D printing offers engineers in design and flexibility

  • Learn about the pros and cons of each process and when metal 3D printing makes sense

  • Discover three real-world case studies of 3DEO winning versus CNC machining

  • See 3DEO’s process for going from first articles to production

You can register for the webinar on 3DEO’s website.

Free CAMWorks Webinar Series

To make sure professionals in the CAM industry have easy access to educational and training materials during the COVID-19 crisis, a free CAMWorks webinar series has been launched. Each session will give attendees the opportunity to increase their CAM skills, learning about more advanced features that can help maintain business operations. SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks: Getting Started” is on Tuesday, July 21st, at 10:30 am EST, and will be a training session on using the integrated CNC programming system SOLIDWORKS CAM Standard. It will also provide an introduction to the Technology Database (TechDB), which can automate the CNC programming process. “SOLIDWORKS CAM for Designers: A Path to Better Designs” will also take place on July 21st, at 2 pm EST, and will focus on how to use SOLIDWORKS CAM to reduce cost, improve design, and make it easier to manufacture parts.

You’ll need to attend the “Getting Started” webinar before attending “SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks: Getting Started with the TechDB” on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:30 am EST. This is a more in-depth training session for using the TechDB included in SOLIDWORKS CAM and CAMWorks. The final webinar in the series is “The Future of Manufacturing in the COVID Era,” also held on July 23rd, at 2 pm EST. This session will help attendees learn how to automate part programming to stay productive and competitive during and after the pandemic.

Protolabs Webinar: HP’s Multi Jet Fusion

On Wednesday, July 22nd, at 2 pm EST, Protolabs will be hosting a webinar with HP, called “Tips and Tricks to Leverage Multi Jet Fusion in your Product Development Cycle.” One of the company’s Applications Engineers, Joe Cretella, and Brent Ewald, HP’s Solution Architect, will discuss design tips that result in good MJF parts, how to implement the technology, and where MJF fits within additive and subtractive manufacturing.

This webinar will help attendees understand how the HP Multi Jet Fusion technology 3D printing process can be leveraged in various stages of the product development lifecycle. The experts at HP and Protolabs have teamed up to give you key insights into Multi Jet Fusion materials, processing capabilities, and part quality. Whether the attendee is new to additive manufacturing or evaluating Multi Jet Fusion for their production project, this presentation will help identify when the technology provides the most value and what to consider when manufacturing Multi Jet Fusion parts.”

Register for the webinar here.

Dassault Systèmes on Project Management Solutions

At 10 am EST on Thursday, July 23rd, Dassault Systèmes will hold a live webinar,”Discover How to Deliver Projects on Time and Under Budget, a Real-time Online Experience,” all about collaborating with integrated project management solutions connected to 3D engineering data in order to drive project success. Dassault speakers Maximilian Behre, the Online Industry Business Consultant Director, and 3DS Industry Process Consultants Siddharth Sharma and Alessandro Tolio, will discuss project management challenges, shortening the design cycle through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, provide a demonstration of Project Management on the cloud, and answer questions.

“Whether you are managing big programs that involve hundreds of people or are leading a smaller project, an easy to use integrated project management solution will help you to seamlessly collaborate across all disciplines with any stakeholder. Connect the dots between Marketing, Engineering to Manufacturing and customer services.”

Register here.

KEX Knowledge Exchange on Post-Processing

Finally, former Fraunhofer IPT spinoff KEX Knowledge Exchange AG is holding its second webinar on its KEX.net web platform, “Online Seminar Post-Processing for Additive Manufacturing,” on Thursday, July 23rd. Lea Eilert, the project and technology manager for the ACAM Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing, will teach attendees about typical heat treatment for AM materials, the necessity of post-processing for 3D printed components, and various post-machining and surface finishing methods.

Register for the webinar here. In addition, Eilert will also present the third KEX webinar on August 6th, entitled “Market, Costs & Innovation.”

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

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MDA and Burloak to Make 3D Printed Space Satellite Parts

Family-owned metal manufacturing network Samuel, Son & Co. provides industrial products and related value-added services all across North America, and one of its most important company divisions is Burloak Technologies, which was responsible for establishing the first full advanced manufacturing and production additive manufacturing center in Canada back in 2014. This Canadian 3D printing leader was founded in Ontario in 2005, and offers design and engineering services for a variety of technologies, including additive manufacturing, high precision CNC machining, materials development, metrology, and post-processing, to companies in multiple sectors, including automotive, industrial, aerospace, and space. To that end, it recently announced a five year agreement with Canadian technology firm MDA, which provides innovative solutions to government and commercial space and defense markets.

These two companies are partnering up to 3D print components and parts for applications in satellite antennae that will be sent to outer space.

“Over the last two years we have worked closely with MDA’s Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue business to apply and evolve additive manufacturing to their product offerings. This collaboration has allowed us to optimize antenna designs in terms of size, mass and performance to create a new set of possibilities for the industry,” Colin Osborne, Samuel’s President and Chief Executive Officer, said in a press release.

Spacecraft Interface Bracket for an antenna

This collaboration seems to be a continuation of an existing partnership between the two companies. In the summer of 2019, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) awarded Burloak and MDA a two-year project under its Space Technology Development Program (STDP) for the purposes of using 3D printing to develop RF satellite communication sub-systems. As part of that project, Burloak, which is a member of GE Additive’s Manufacturing Partner Network, scaled up AM application to create more complex sub-system components, using flight-certified material processes for titanium and aluminum.

MDA, a Maxar company founded back in 1969, is well-known for its abilities in a wide array of applications, including communication satellite payloads, defense and maritime systems, geospatial imagery products and analytics, radar satellites and ground systems, space robotics and sensors, surveillance and intelligence systems, and antennas and subsystems. The last of these capabilities will obviously serve MDA well in its latest venture.

As of now, the two companies have successfully completed multiple combined efforts which have resulted in 3D printed parts being more readily accepted for use in the unforgiving conditions of outer space.

“With challenging technological needs, it’s important that we find the right partner to help us fully leverage the potential of additive manufacturing for space applications,” Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA, said. “We’re confident Burloak Technologies is the ideal supplier to continue supporting our efforts. This collaboration is a perfect example of partnerships that MDA develops under its LaunchPad program.”

(Image courtesy of MDA)

As part of this new agreement, MDA and Burloak will continue working together in order to improve upon the manufacturability and design of multiple antenna technologies through the use of additive manufacturing. We’ve seen that using 3D printing to fabricate components for satellite, and other types, of antenna can reduce the cost and mass of the parts, which is critically important for space communication applications. As a whole, the technology is transforming how we build complex space systems.

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