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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Logitech and Realize Medical Partner to Enhance Medical VR

Canadian medical virtual reality (VR) startup Realize Medical has announced a collaboration with Logitech, a renowned Swiss-based manufacturer of computer accessories and software. The partnership is designed to enhance Realize Medical’s Elucis, the world’s first platform for building patient-specific 3D medical models entirely in VR, by integrating Logitech’s enterprise-focused VR Stylus, enabling users to draw medical models precisely and directly in the program.

Through this new joint effort, Realize Medical will take the Elucis platform’s medical image viewing, modeling, and communication capabilities to the next level by combining novel 3D visualizations with the familiar and intuitive input of a hand-held stylus on a writing surface. Based entirely on VR, Elucis lets users turn medical images into 3D medical models with ease for 3D printing and other advanced visualization applications. While Logitech’s VR Ink Pilot Edition stylus, released last December, offers a more natural and precise input modality for a handful of art and design-focused VR tools. Together, the software and the pen will open new capabilities and improve usability.

“We are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to improve our Elucis platform, and this partnership with Logitech does just that,” said Justin Sutherland, CEO and co-founder of Realize Medical. “Giving users the ability to draw seamlessly within our program will greatly improve the user experience, bringing us closer to meeting our mission of providing healthcare professionals with the 3D modeling tools they need to improve patient care and education.”

It takes a long time to make 3D anatomical models on 2D platforms, which is why Sutherland and Dan La Russa, Realize co-founders and medical physicists at the Ottawa Hospital, in Canada, began looking for a way to make the whole process easier. In 2017. they began working on creating a VR platform to help clinical physicians make 3D models faster, and in January of 2019, they took their work to the next level by creating a medical VR startup as a spin-out company out of the Ottawa Hospital.

Combining Logitech’s VR Ink Pilot Edition stylus with Realize Medical’s Elucis software to create 3D models (Image courtesy of Realize Medical)

Two-dimensional imaging, such as computerized tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has been around since 1972. Although the resolution of the images has improved, it remains relatively the same technology with physicians still using the “slices” shown on 2D images for educational purposes and diagnosing patients. But even though medical imaging data represents 3D structures and can be turned into tangible physical 3D models, Realize Medical believes that many clinical settings and private companies are still relying on 2D tools to create 3D models, which is time-consuming and tedious. Instead, Elucis is expected to provide surgeons and healthcare professionals with a radically new way to create 3D medical content, much quicker and accurately.

The patent-pending input method lets users draw, measure, and annotate directly on any given view of an image, allowing for the creation to “materialize” in front of the user, offering the ability to work on it, hands-on. Thanks to intuitive hand motions and true 3D visual cues Realize Medical developed an image navigation tool that unlocks medical images and can even construct and edit 3D structures from 2D contours. 

Realize Medical’s Elucis software will help the healthcare field create 3D models (Image courtesy of Realize Medical)

This new collaboration is the latest in a breakthrough trend of VR and 3D medical modeling aiming to change the future of healthcare. According to the startup, virtual reality can play a variety of important roles in healthcare and medicine, and the Elucis platform, in particular, can act as a clinician’s education and training tool, help with patient-specific planning, have the potential to guide treatment decisions, and much more. The company founders consider that shortly conventional monitor displays will be replaced by modern mixed reality tools like VR, augmented reality (AR), and medical 3D printing. To that end, the partnership continues to upgrade the technological platform offering user-friendly tools to healthcare experts. 

Innovation in healthcare through 3D printing has led to the development of new applications. With hospitals and clinical settings looking to incorporate new ways to create medical models and devices in-house, the demand for technologies that can change the status quo continues to grow. In the last years, we have seen many healthcare institutions working together with researchers, startups, and companies to create bespoke clinical products, from surgical guides to patient-specific implants and 3D printed anatomical models, that can improve patient experience and surgical planning, as well as reduce operating time and costs. The role of mixed VR and 3D printing technologies is shaping up to be a staple for modern healthcare applications, as key development to advance the medical field.

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Polyga Releases Professional Handheld H3 3D Scanning System

In 2018, Polyga Inc., a Canadian developer of 3D scanning and mesh processing technologies, introduced its HDI Contact series of easy-to-use 3D scanners. Now, the company has released its new high-accuracy H3 handheld 3D scanning system, what the company frames as a professional, all-purpose scanner that can produce 3D scans with the kind of high quality you would expect from stationary scanners.

Powered by FlexScan3D software, like all Polyga’s stationary 3D scanners, the H3 was created with agility in mind. According to the company, the 3D scanning experience you get with the H3 is seamless, as the responsive device can help you complete 3D scanning projects in far less time, thanks to its high-processing speed all the way from data capture to post-processing.

“Leveraging the technology and experience in developing Polyga’s stationary 3D scanning systems, the 280 x 200 x 60 mm H3 produces one of the highest accuracy in a single-shot scan for a handheld system in its class,” the Polyga H3 brochure states. “The Polyga H3 is simply an all-round professional handheld 3D scanner that’s easy to use, portable, and high-accuracy—all at an affordable price.”

Polyga named its new H3 well, as the name is mean to represent the 3D scanner’s most prominent features: handheld, high-accuracy, and hybrid. First, the H3 system offers convenient point and shoot scanning, and it’s easy to pack up and take with you to off-site projects. With an accuracy of up to 80 microns, the new device can produce up to 1.5 million points per scan. Finally, and I think this is the best part, you can actually mount the H3 on a tripod to transform it into a hands-free stationary 3D scanner. A rotary turntable provides automated 3D scanning for those times when you need your hands for something else.

Stationary mode

“We wanted to create a handheld 3D scanner that produces scan data as good as our stationary 3D scanners. This professional handheld system uses our proprietary, multi-image scanning patterns for 3D capture that we’ve traditionally used with our stationary 3D scanners,” explained Polyga Inc.’s President Thomas Tong. “That’s why the H3 captures high-accuracy scans in a single shot. The system produces equally high-quality data in both handheld and stationary modes.”

The handheld Polyga H3 scanner is meant to work quickly, capturing physical objects and turning them into digital 3D models in only minutes, thanks to dual industrial-grade cameras, encoding data at a high speed of 700 frames per second. This is definitely in line with the company’s mission to provide equipment that’s not only easy to use but also provides high quality, in order to give users a good experience.

The H3 is optimal for a variety of industry applications, such as archaeology, art, computer vision, design, manufacturing, medical, and research. It can scan many different objects that are roughly 10 cm to 2 meters in size, such as artifacts, mechanical parts, and even people. Paired with the Polyga software, the device can turn those items into accurate, digital 3D models. Additionally, the Polyga H3 is available in several options ranging from monochrome to color, when you need to capture high-quality color and texture scans.

The handheld Polyga H3 3D scanner is immediately available for purchase, at a price of $9,990. The company refers to this as an affordable scanner, and it does seem comparable in price compared to several other handheld 3D scanning systems, like the EinScan Pro 2X Plus, Faro Freestyle3D, the Artec Eva Light, and Thor3D’s Calibry.

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(Images provided by Polyga)

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Equispheres Secures $30 Million in New Funding Round

Canadian materials science company Equispheres, which specializes in aluminum alloy powder for 3D printing, announced this week that it had secured a Series B investment, along with a new $30 million (CDN) investment round.

The funding round, at an undisclosed valuation, was led by HG Ventures, which is the corporate venture arm of The Heritage Group. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), a government-created foundation to advance clean technology innovation that’s supported the company in the past, and BDC, the only bank in Canada devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs, also participated in the funding round, along with some undisclosed contributors.

Lead funding partner HG Ventures, which invests in and partners with companies working in sustainable technology and advanced materials, contributed $10 million in equity investment to this round of funding, while SDTC added an $8 million grant, which was first announced back in January. BDC contributed $5 million in subordinated financing, and the round was completed with $7 million in undisclosed funding.

Equipsheres’ Doug Brouse informed us that Jonathan Schalliol, VC and Director of HG Ventures, “mentioned on LinkedIn” that the company is a new investor in the additive manufacturing space, and it’s always great to bring new companies into this industry that are excited to be here.

“We are extremely excited to have HG Ventures as a partner, their extraordinary combination of research capability and venture capital experience made them an ideal partner to understand both the technical and market potential of our product across the transportation industry,” stated Kevin Nicholds, President and CEO of Equispheres, in a press release. “We are also grateful to have the support of the Canadian government, enabling us to leverage investor financing to achieve our objective of providing a high-quality product at volume levels the marketplace demands.”

Extreme magnification of Equispheres’ aluminum alloy powders for AM.

This isn’t the first time Equisheres has received major funding for its work in unique metal AM powders. The high performance, mono-sized metal powders it develops can help print parts that are up to 30% stronger and lighter than ones fabricated with other powders. In the last year alone, the company has released two important reports about testing results of its specialty materials, including how it performed in aerospace-ready AM quality tests. With this latest funding, Equispheres can continue testing its powders, and plans to scale up the production capacity, along with investing in research and development partnerships.

Equispheres will be using the funds to focus on several important areas, including creating high quality jobs and hiring and developing new talent, and improving reactors for lower cost and higher volume powder production. In addition, the company will ramp up its R&D projects with new and existing strategic partners, as well as work on creating application support services for the aviation, automotive, defense, and space industries in order to expedite advanced manufacturing opportunities that its metal powders make possible.

Equispheres stated in its press release that “more significant developments are expected on the horizon,” so we should stay tuned to hear what’s coming next.

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Equispheres Receives $8 Million from SDTC to Scale Metal 3D Printing Powder Production

Canadian materials science company Equispheres has just announced that it’s received support, and $8 million in funding, from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), which it will use to help scale its metal 3D printing powder production capacity over the next two years.

The SDTC foundation was created by the Government of Canada in order to advance clean technology innovation across the country by funding and supporting entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises that are working to develop, demonstrate, and deploy “globally competitive” clean technology solutions.

SDTC believes that Equispheres’ aluminum alloy powder, which was specifically designed for additive manufacturing and optimized for applications in both the aerospace and automotive industries, can help bring about real-world change.

“Canadian cleantech entrepreneurs are tackling problems across Canada and in every sector. I have never been more positive about the future,” stated Leah Lawrence, the President and CEO of SDTC. “Equipsheres as developed a metal powder that acts as ink for 3D printing and enables automotive and aerospace manufacturers to reduce the weight of their products. With Equispheres’ powder set to remove 100 – 200 kg of mass from an automobile, this would be the equivalent to removing 75 million cars off the road!”

Scanning Electron Microscope photo of Equispheres novel powder.

Aerospace and automotive manufacturers alike have the same mission to reduce their products’ carbon footprint, and weight optimization is key. While 3D printing has certainly been used in these industries many times before, it was not always possible to achieve mass production scale with aluminum alloy powders, which is what Equipsheres specializes in. According to a company press release, these materials also “account for a significant amount of the material demand” in both industries, so a powder that can make stronger, more lightweight parts in a more efficient way is hugely important.

Equispheres provides high performance, mono-sized metal powders, which can fabricate parts that are up to 30% stronger and lighter than those made with other AM powders. In addition to more efficient production, part performance has also been positively impacted with these powders – the release states that the company’s AM powder is anticipated to improve fuel efficiency by over 10% in the automotive industry, was “proven exceptional” in tests run by McGill University, and outperformed in aerospace-ready quality tests.

Equisheres has received major funding for its work in AM powders before, but the timing of this particular award from SDTC “aligns well with other initiatives” the company has been working on in regards to offering a clean technology solution in the aerospace and automotive fields. For example, it put together a consortium that includes a top aerospace company and leading automotive manufacturer in order to use the weight optimization potential of the AM powder to its advantage in order to reduce vehicle weight. But this new funding support from SDTC will allow Equispheres to work with even more partners in the aerospace and automotive industries to “help them realize the benefits of more efficient production and reduced emissions.”

Equispheres CEO, Kevin Nicholds

“We are excited to receive this funding award from the SDTC Foundation. This support from SDTC speaks to the importance of our powder technology as a key to achieving significant emissions reductions in the automotive sector,” said Equispheres CEO Kevin Nicholds. “The funding from SDTC will help Equispheres to continue to accelerate our production capacity and support this important work by our automotive partners.”

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Interview with Tamer Mohamed of Aspect Biosystems on Advancing Tissue Therapeutics

While attending The University of British Columbia (UBC), Tamer Mohamed, along with fellow graduate student Simon Beyer, began working at the Walus Laboratory on the development of a novel microfluidics-based bioprinting platform that could be used to fabricate human tissue constructs. One of the main reasons for their innovation was to potentially replace animal models in drug testing, which are costly, time-consuming and can have poor predictive accuracy. A few years went by and the two went on to win a MEMSCAP Design Award for their pioneering creation (the Lab-on-a-Printer Bioprinter) which would later become the basis for their startup, Aspect Biosystems. The UBC spinoff company was founded by Mohamed, Beyer, Konrad Walus (associate professor at UBC and head of the Walus Lab), and Sam Wadsworth, to turn their idea into a commercial product. The company quickly began providing pharmaceutical companies with high-efficacy tissue models that better mimic in vivo conditions, looking to improve the predictive accuracy of the front end drug discovery process. spoke to Mohamed to learn about his successful transition from graduate student to CEO of Aspect Biosystems.

Cofounders of Aspect Biosystems Tamer Mohamed and Simon Beyer at the Walus Lab when they were grad students

What was the inspiration behind Aspect Biosystems?

Aspect Biosystems was established with the vision of leveraging advancements in biology, microfluidics, and 3D printing to create technology-enabled therapeutics that will ultimately have a meaningful impact on patients. We are marrying our deep knowledge of human biology with cutting-edge 3D printing technology to create. Our story started almost a decade ago so we’ve spent years developing our foundational microfluidic bioprinting technology and are now applying our platform technology to create functional tissues, both internally through our proprietary programs, and with our partners around the world.

Can you tell me about the company’s growth model?

Platform technologies often have the advantage of flexibility, as they could allow you to pursue multiple applications. This also presents a challenge though, in that it is easy to become unfocused. At Aspect, we’ve built a strategy that allows us to both focus and diversify. Internally, we are advancing proprietary tissue programs in regenerative medicine. But we also recognize that to achieve our vision of enabling human tissues on demand, we can’t work alone. By providing access to our technology to partners around the world, we are able to create a network effect and tap into specific domain expertise. This allows our technology to be applied to a wide range of research purposes externally, without detracting resources or focus from our specific tissue programs internally. We collaborate with academia and industry on specific applications that allow us to fuel our growth and help generate revenue and a robust innovation pipeline.

How much has Aspect grown?

Aspect is the first and only company to leverage microfluidics to create functional tissue, and we are proud to pioneer this approach. Academically, we were one of the first groups in the world to print cells while at the UBC, so we see ourselves as pioneers in both bioprinting and platforms for creating tissue therapeutics. Five years ago, we had four full-time employees. Today we have a team of over 40 people focused on our mission and over 20 collaborations globally. We have attracted smart venture capital, partnered with some of the biggest names in our industry, and made major breakthroughs in applying our technology to create functional tissues. It is a great sign that, year-after-year, we continue to raise the bar. It is an even better sign that I believe the best is yet to come.

The Aspect Biosystem team celebrating Canada Day

What will the applications of this technology be in pharmaceutical research and drug trials?

I believe the opportunity with the highest value and best poised to make a significant impact on the pharmaceutical space is disease modeling. Using 3D bioprinting technology allows us to model diseases in a human-relevant system that would otherwise be difficult to study in animals or less sophisticated in vitro models. For example, working with GSK and Merck, we are leveraging our microfluidic 3D bioprinting platform to create physiologically-relevant 3D tissues containing patient-derived cells to assess the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs and to predict a patient’s response to treatment. This partnered program could unlock the discovery of novel therapeutic targets and the development of immuno-oncology therapeutics.

Would you tell us more about Aspect’s current and future work? 

Our current internal programs are focused on orthopedic and metabolic diseases. On the orthopedic side, we are leveraging our deep knowledge of musculoskeletal biology and biomaterials to create knee meniscal replacements. On the metabolic side, we are focused on liver tissue and creating a therapeutic tissue for Type 1 diabetes. Externally, our partners around the world are using our 3D bioprinting technology to advance research in the brain, lungs, heart, pancreas, and kidneys, just to name a few. By being both focused internally and diversified externally, we are building a robust pipeline for the future. Our end goal is to enable the creation of human tissues on demand, and we know that we can’t do it alone. Our network of academic researchers and industry partners are key to making our vision a reality.

How fast is the technology moving towards a future with lab-made functional organs?

Tamer Mohamed

We are focused on identifying specific diseases or biological malfunction inside the body and rationally designing advanced tissue therapeutics that address these areas of unmet medical need. So, while we may not actually be making something that looks exactly like an organ, we are recreating the biological function that has been lost or damaged to address the problem. For example, someone with Type 1 diabetes has a pancreas that is unable to perform the vital function of creating insulin. We don’t necessarily need to engineer something for them that looks exactly like a pancreas – instead, we are creating an implantable therapeutic tissue that replaces function that has been lost. In this case, that function is sensing glucose levels in the blood and biologically releasing insulin in response. This is an example of one of our internal programs – a bioengineered pancreatic tissue therapeutic that restores a critical function that been lost due to an autoimmune disease.

Is Canada a great place to develop a bioprinting company? 

Canada has a long and rich history in the field of regenerative medicine, going back to the discovery of stem cells in the 1960s. As a country, we have an opportunity to be a global leader in the field. At Aspect, we are proud to be part of these efforts. We are in ongoing discussions with different government groups as to how we can play a role in helping to lead the charge and the government has been embracing that. We have seen significant federal and provincial support for innovation and public/private partnerships, which definitely help stimulate growth in the field.

How disruptive is the technology you created?

By combining microfluidics with 3D printing, we are disrupting tissue engineering. We are able to programmatically process multiple cells and biologically-relevant materials in high-throughput to rationally design and produce functional tissues. We are constantly integrating new microfluidic processing units within our printhead technology and leveraging continuous advancements in the “lab-on-a-chip” space. With our microfluidic technology, we are generating a large amount of data. By using this data and machine learning, we are improving the quality and automation of the biomanufacturing process.

Ultimately, bioprinting is only as good as our understanding of biology – and our understanding of biology is growing wider and deeper. We are combining state-of-the-art stem cell science with our microfluidic 3D printing technology to create tissue therapeutics. For example, we are combining insulin-secreting cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) with our printing technology to create therapeutic tissues for patients with Type 1 diabetes.

[Images: Aspect Biosystems and Tamer Mohamed]

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Aspect Biosystems is Creating Opportunities in Biotech

In the coming decade, the 3D bioprinting community could witness some of the most important technology advancements we have ever seen. Researchers, laboratories, universities, companies and the young generations of future professionals are preparing to become a part of this incredible change. All over the world startups and established companies are partnering with dozens of universities at a time to engineer tissue, generate the best-personalized medicine available and change the drug discovery industry. In Canada, one company is moving forward quite rapidly, tackling tissue therapy and drug creation. Vancouver-based Aspect Biosystems is pioneering microfluidic 3D bioprinting of living, human tissue. 

Aspect Biosystems is a University of British Columbia (UBC) spinoff startup that made waves by announcing its ability to use live human cells to create and build living human tissue. It was founded in November 2013 by a group of university researchers who went on to create their own 3D bioprinting technology in which cells are combined and suspended in a liquid form hydrogel to create functional living human tissue models.

Lab-on-a-Printer technology

Tamer Mohamed, Konrad Walus, Sam Wadsworth, and Simon Beyer originally received funding from UBC’s Seed Fund (which supports early-stage startups) and used it wisely to develop their disruptive 3D bioprinting platform based on its proprietary Lab-on-a-Printer technology, capable of creating living human tissues on demand for broad applications in the life sciences. The platform is a brand new way of bioprinting which consists of a series of modular microfluidic printhead cartridges created for tissue design. Using coaxial flow focusing, a cell-laden biological fiber is generated within the cartridge and printed into a 3D structure. These 3D tissue constructs are expected to provide an improved physiological model when compared to current in-vitro 2D cell cultures, and therefore, should provide more meaningful results. The microfluidic approach enables researchers to create heterogeneous 3D tissues, deposit multiple bioinks from a single nozzle and precisely control the tissue microenvironment.

The technology was originally developed at the Walus Lab founded fifteen years ago by Walus, who is also a professor at UBC. Researchers and students at the lab, which is harbored within the Faculty of Applied Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UBC, are working to create technology that will enable further narrowing down of drug candidates prior to clinical trials and a reduction in the cost of the most expensive step of drug development.

The company began developing 3D printed human tissue specifically for the testing of drugs by pharmaceutical firms to improve the predictive accuracy of the pre-clinical drug discovery process. But printing human tissue to be used for testing new drugs is only the first goal, they eventually hope to 3D print entire human organs and help end animal testing. The key is their technology, which is enabling advances in fundamental biology, drug development through novel pre-clinical models, and regenerative medicine.

Just a year after being founded, Aspect created tissue using their biotechnology and driven by the consideration that human tissue can be more effective in predicting a drug’s success than testing on animals. The first tests were conducted on drugs for airway fibrosis, a disease that causes uncontrolled scarring of the lungs, and for which there is no cure. The founders consider that human tissue can be more effective in predicting a drug’s success than testing on animals.

Aspect Biosystems Lab-on-a-Printer microfluidic device

Among other achievements, the biotech startup partnered with Johnson & Johnson to produce meniscus tissue from biocompatible materials; developed a predictive and human-relevant liver tissue platform in collaboration with JSR Corporation to accelerate the development of new medicines; partnering with InSCREENeX to develop 3D printed contractile tissue for pharmaceutical testing, and creating personalized neural tissues with the University of Victoria, just to name a few. 

The RX1 Bioprinter

This year, the company’s 3D RX1 bioprinter is being used by biologists to generate advanced pulmonary tissues to discover novel therapeutic strategies that have the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of patients with chronic lung diseases. In addition, the company is crafting a portfolio of 3D bioprinted human tissues that will, one day, be available on-demand for various clinical uses. With this bioprinter, biologists can hopefully create complex, functional tissue for research purposes. Currently, Aspect is trying to develop muscle tissue as well as liver tissue and pancreatic tissue for Type 1 diabetes. 

Initially launching with 10 employees, the company now has over 50 and has raised a total of $3.7 million in funding In 2018. Earlier this year, Aspect was named the 2019 Growth Stage Company of the Year by LifeSciences BC. Not new to the award spectacle, the company was also the recipient of the ‘Most Promising Startup’ Award at the BC Tech Association’s 2016 Technology Impact Awards

Aspect is building an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and business professionals from all over the world, to advance tissue programs both internally and through its commercial partners. Through innovation and talent, Aspect is bringing to market revolutionary technologies for strategic applications in the life sciences.

[Images: Aspect Biosystems]

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NRC Canada Partnering with Polycontrols to Scale Up Cold Spray Additive Manufacturing

Lamarre and Bernier

Last year, we learned that Jean-Michel Lamarre and Fabrice Bernier of the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada had started fabricating electric motor magnets using a process called cold spray additive manufacturing, or CSAM. The technology involves a metal material, in fine powder form, being accelerated in a high-velocity compressed gas jet. A stream of powder hits the substrate at high speed and starts building up a layer at a time, and the process has extremely high buildup rates, which makes it possible to produce several kilograms of magnets an hour. Cold spray itself is a relatively old technology but adapted here to build up objects and giving them magnetic properties is a step forward. In many 3D printing processes, magnetic parts are problematic because we have difficulty aligning metal fibers, organizing particles or getting the part itself made.

As metal 3D printing continues to be used in more sectors of the economy in Canada, it seems that more industrial-scale demonstrations are required so that interested parties can see its potential. So now, NRC Canada and Quebec-based Polycontrols, which specializes in surface engineering solutions and equipment integration, are partnering up to improve the accessibility of CSAM for the country’s manufacturers.

The NRC in Boucherville, home of the future the Poly/CSAM facility

Together, the two will be building a collaborative research facility, located at the NRC’s Boucherville site in Quebec, that will work to scale up the CSAM process, as well as help researchers and manufacturers study, adopt, and deploy the technology.

“The National Research Council of Canada acknowledges the value and importance this collaboration can offer the industry and the Canadian advanced manufacturing ecosystem,” said François Cordeau, the Vice President of Transportation and Manufacturing for NRC Canada. “We see great potential in bringing together different stakeholders to enable innovation and to build a network of industrial partners for a stronger Canadian supply and value chain. Our renowned technological expertise and capabilities in additive manufacturing research and development will support Poly/CSAM and contribute to developing demonstration platforms targeted at end user-industries and cluster networks.”

Poly/CSAM facility interior layout design

The Poly/CSAM facility is expected to open in February of 2020, and will help adapt laboratory-developed technology in order to meet factory and mass production requirements. Investissement Québec, the Business Development Bank of Canada, and Bank of Montreal have helped Polycontrols launch the first phase of this strategic growth initiative with an estimated $4 million investment over the six-year venture.

“Polycontrols is eager to leverage its proven track record in thermal and cold spray implementation (aerospace and surface transportation industries) to showcase its capabilities as a large-scale manufacturing integrator offering custom equipment platforms with the objective of bringing disruptive technologies such as hybrid robotic manufacturing, data analytics and machine learning (supported by Artificial Intelligence) to the shop floor,” stated Luc Pouliot, the Vice President of Operations for Polycontrols. “We see Poly/CSAM as a way to strengthen Canada’s industrial leadership in cold spray additive manufacturing and becoming more agile and competitive on the national and international scene.”

The Poly/CSAM facility will offer multiple technologies, including:

  • data logging and analytics
  • machine learning
  • surface preparation
  • sensor technologies
  • in-situ robotic machining and surface finishing
  • coating and 3D buildup by cold spray
  • local, laser-based thermal treatment

Poly/CSAM, a new metal additive manufacturing facility to open in February 2020

In addition, to ensure that the technology will be used safely and securely out in the world, NRC Canada will provide advice, training, and technical services to manufacturers through its professional team of over 40 experts.

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

[Source/Images: National Research Council of Canada]

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3DQue Introducing QPoD & QSuite at RAPID 2019: Enabling Autonomous 3D Printing Mass Production Capabilities

Today in Detroit, this year’s RAPID + TCT kicked off in the Cobo Center. We’ve already been reporting on plenty of news from the show, with lots more to come in the days ahead. Canadian company 3DQue Systems Inc., which automates FFF and FDM 3D printing for mass production, will be launching two technologies at the event this week: QSuite and QPoD.

First, a little background…the company was founded just last year by finance expert Steph Sharp and 18-year-old inventor and 3D printing whiz 18-year-old Mateo Pekic, who began 3D printing small part quantities in 2016. Pekic needed to find a way to remove parts from the print bed and start the next job remotely, and after lots of research and testing, has now been running his own 3D printers – with full automation – for more than two years.

“Until now, plastic 3D printing has failed to meet today’s manufacturing needs due to the high cost of part removal and lack of end-to-end automation. Working from his basement, Mateo Pekic has been able to solve a problem that has stumped some of the world’s leading experts in materials science, engineering and innovation by automating plastic 3D printers to safely produce complex plastic parts at scale,” said Sharp, who is also the CEO of 3DQue.

Pekic spoke with Sharp, a local mentor for entrepreneurs, and asked her to run the business with him; 3DQue was founded just days after Pekic’s 18th birthday. The company has truly made plastic 3D printing competitive with traditional manufacturing, as it offers solutions to some of the major problems when it comes to scaling the technology, such as unit cost, autonomous part removal, and automated production.

When I first saw an image of the QPoD, I was positive it was oriented wrong, until I read the release more closely. The plastic high-volume 3D printing mass production unit, powered by the company’s automation QSuite, has a vertical build platform.

This could actually be a real game changer. The efficient, compact, 24/7 production-on-demand unit has a total of nine 3D printers in a 12 sq ft 3×3 array. An 8-day field trial was conducted on the autonomous platform in January, and the QPoD printers were able to successfully produce 25 x 25 x 25 mm switch cube frames at a rate that would be equivalent to 100,000 parts a year: a production capacity of over 8,000 parts/sq ft.

Switch cubes

The platform has internal conveyors and collection bins for true autonomous 3D printing, at unit costs that are competitive with injection molding. With QPoD, there’s no need for outsourcing, which helps reduce inventory levels, costs, the environmental footprint, and lead times.

The QPoD is driven by QSuite, which automates 3D printers all the way from upload of the design to delivery of the parts. This end-to-end automation upgrade negates manual, time-consuming tasks like enterprise scheduling, 3D printer restart, and parts removal. The suite includes several modules, including calibration, material removal, and matching the next print job to the current 3D printer configuration.

QSuite mass produces high-quality plastic parts in a continuous loop without the need for dedicated operators, and reprioritizes jobs based on changing parts or deadlines. The suite doesn’t require any glue, tape, or robotics for autonomous part removal, and uses real-time reporting and management data to give users complete control from remote locations.

At RAPID this week, 3DQue will be offering live, hands-on demonstrations of the innovative QPoD. Not only has the cover been removed from the platform so attendees can get a good look inside, but you can also book a hands-on demonstration of the automated part ordering system at the company’s booth #1765. You can choose the part, material, color, and quantity, then watch how it’s uploaded into the queue and matched with the correct printer. Once the part is printed, attendees will be able to see it automatically delivered to the collection area and pick it up.

Additionally, don’t miss the Innovation Auditions at RAPID today from 1:30-2:30, as Pekic will be competing for the chance to present 3DQue at tomorrow morning’s keynote presentation.

Starting in July, QSuite capabilities will be available for license to end users on a pay-for-use basis starting at $1 an hour per printer (lower hourly rate for high volume users). Booking is also currently open for the QPoD platform, with installations slated to take place between June-December 2019 for the introductory price of $45,000. Each on-demand production unit comes with QSuite, automated part delivery, control panel, and nine 3D printers.

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[Images provided by 3DQue]

Shipboard 3D Printing Expanding Worldwide

Polar waters, icy environments and seemingly harsh surroundings make the Arctic one of the most difficult marine settings to work in, especially with regards to ship and marine technology. This complexity demands some risk-based designs and frameworks for safe and sustainable technology that can survive in harsh ecosystems. Very difficult sailing conditions in Arctic or Antarctic waters, offshore oil rigs and fleets travelling in harsh seas, has propelled governments and companies to include additive manufacturing in structures made to survive severe maritime conditions. In 2014 the United States Navy began considering bringing 3D printers on board their ships, they envisioned a not so distant future when they could print spare parts, miniature combat drones, and even organs or other body parts, on Navy vessels in the middle of the sea. While In 2017, the US Coast Guard used 3D printers to create spare parts (not normally kept on vessels and which may be difficult to source) on board its ships. Currently, 3D printers are available for crew use on five Coast Guard cutters as well as at several shore units, including Base New Orleans and the Surface Forces Logistics Center Engineering Services Division in Baltimore.

Similarly, Coast Guard academy professor, Ron Adrezin, uses the technology for operations in remote areas aboard the Cutter Healy, a 420-foot icebreaker that goes on research missions in the Arctic and Bering seas. On another front, International Submarine Engineering (ISE) used Sciaky’s Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology to produce a titanium Variable Ballast (VB) tank for an arctic submarine. It’s all about having a 3D printer for full access and on site to create some hard-to-get parts that come in really handy when bad weather conditions keep ships from moving, severe storms break something in the middle of the sea or ice threatens entire fleets.

In 2015, Canadian company Oceanic Consulting Corporation, a subsidiary of Fleetway, used 3D printing to create bespoke replacement parts and modify them as required in house, for many of their research and development projects to study and improve ships, fixed and floating offshore structures and other advanced marine systems. Located in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the company applies 3D technology to realize some ambitious projects. Their ongoing need to create accurate scale models and simulate real-world environments, made Oceanic search for the perfect-fit 3D printer. The research and design team on Oceanic works towards improving the safety of vessels navigating in harsh sea ice environments, managing extreme cold temperatures and large ice loads. Combining expertise in mechanical engineering, experimental research and numerical simulation in Arctic Engineering with 3D printing could be just what they needed to increase efficiency and reduce costs for some of their projects. 

3D Printed Marine Part from a Stratasys Machine

The company purchased a Stratasys 3D printer from Javelin Technologies, for fabricating essential components as they usually work under very tight timelines due to their customers’ needs for delivery in short time periods -usually just a few weeks-. Using the Stratasys 3D printer, together with SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD Software, allows Oceanic specialists to quickly turn concepts into physical parts, giving them new opportunities to do work in house that was once sent to outside suppliers. Making the complexity of parts fabrication possible with the 3D printer has allowed for enhanced sophistication in physical model experiments, which allows for improved accuracy and happier clients.

Oceanic claims they save time using SOLIDWORKS and doing their own 3D printing to validate designs quickly to meet demanding project deadlines. They are also always testing and pushing the 3D printer and the capabilities of the build material to their limits, sometimes designing very thin parts. The fabrication team was already accustomed to Javelin’s high level of service and support, so working with the company was an obvious choice.

Working in an often harsh marine environment presents extra challenges, and having a 3D printer allows Oceanic to efficiently print replacement parts and modify them as required. It is now possible to 3D print parts that were once only machined, so designers can add detail and features that would otherwise be very expensive – even impossible – to machine. Examples include mechanical linkages, rudders, mounting brackets, props, and even custom instrumentation.

The scope of some of Oceanic’s projects is to develop guidelines for the safe and sustainable design of ships and fleets that need to venture into harsh marine environments, by combining practical knowledge, state of the art engineering methods, and fundamental hazard concept design. That is why Oceanic has access to a comprehensive suite of world class marine research facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador, which include the National Research Council of Canada’s Ocean, Coastal and River Engineering Portfolio, and Memorial University’s Ocean Engineering Research Centre and Marine Institute.  Whether it has been contracted to study ships, boats, offshore structures, or other marine systems, Oceanic provides clients with the expertise, advanced facilities, and now 3D printing technology to realize even the most ambitious project. 

NOAA: Formlabs Form2 Printer mounted to the GyroPro stabilization platform, used for mapping deepwater areas in the Caribbean and South Atlantic Bight

Going one step further and in a more recent attempt to 3D print in a dynamic environment, in 2018 the US Department of Commerces’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sent a team on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer with a Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) style printer which uses an ultraviolet (UV) curable liquid and a laser to cure the liquid layer by layer, to map deepwater areas in the Caribbean and South Atlantic Bight. Harsh marine areas pose quite a challenge for engineers and designers to develop technology that will aid ships, marine structures and communities to work in some of the worst conditions in the planet, but having accesible 3D printing technology either in house for restoring and creating spare parts or even on board can become life-changing.