Lockheed Martin 3D Prints Large Titanium Domes for Satellite Fuel Tanks

Global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin has made many significant contributions to its industry through the use of 3D printing, from propulsion tanks and spacecraft parts to missile components and fuel tanks. The company, which received three Edison Awards this year for ground-breaking innovations in autonomy, directed energy, and satellite technology, has been invested in the innovative technology for quite some time, and recently completed the largest 3D printed parts it’s ever created…so far.

In order to hold up under difficult launch conditions and decade-long missions in the zero gravity conditions of outer space, satellite fuel tanks need to be both lightweight and strong. Titanium is an obvious choice of material, but it can take over a year to acquire 4-foot-diameter, 4-inch-thick titanium forgings, which also increases the overall cost of the tank. Additionally, if traditional manufacturing methods are used to fabricate these forgings, over 80% of the material is wasted.

This infographic shows the scale of the 3D printed domes, their placement on the tank, and overall location within an LM 2100 satellite.

That’s why Lockheed Martin chose to employ 3D printing to create a record-setting, 46-inch-diameter titanium dome for its satellite fuel tanks.

“Our largest 3-D printed parts to date show we’re committed to a future where we produce satellites twice as fast and at half the cost. And we’re pushing forward for even better results,” Rick Ambrose, the Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Space, explained. “For example, we shaved off 87 percent of the schedule to build the domes, reducing the total delivery timeline from two years to three months.”

The new fuel tank for Lockheed Martin’s largest satellites have 3D printed domes integrated into the body to cap them off.

The tank is made up of a traditionally manufactured, variable-length titanium cylinder, which is capped by two 3D printed domes; these three pieces are then welded together to make up the final product. Technicians at Lockheed Martin’s Denver facility fabricate the domes using Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology on a large 3D printer.

By 3D printing the domes, there is no longer any material waste, and the titanium is available to use with no wait time, which lowers the delivery time of the satellite tank from two years to just three months. This in turn helps the company cut its satellite schedule and costs by 50%.

“We self-funded this design and qualification effort as an investment in helping our customers move faster and save costs. These tanks are part of a total transformation in the way we design and deliver space technology,” said Ambrose. “We’re making great strides in automation, virtual reality design and commonality across our satellite product line. Our customers want greater speed and value without sacrificing capability in orbit, and we’re answering the call.”

These 3D printed tank domes are far bigger in size for the company’s qualified 3D printing materials – previously, its largest part was an electronics enclosure for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program that was only the size of a toaster. That makes these domes, which are large enough to hold nearly 75 gallons of liquid, a pretty big leap.

A Lockheed Martin engineer inspects one of the 3D printed dome prototypes at the company’s space facility in Denver.

The final rounds of quality testing for the satellite fuel tank and its 3D printed domes were completed earlier this month, which finally ends a multi-year development program with the goal of successfully creating giant, high-pressure tanks to carry fuel on satellites. Lockheed Martin technicians and engineers spared nothing on their quest to ensure that the tanks would meet, and even exceed, the reliability and performance required by NASA, as even the tiniest of flaws or leaks could spell disaster for a satellite’s operations.

The structure of the vessel was “rigorously evaluated,” according to a release, and the company’s techs ran it through an entire suite of tests in order to demonstrate its repeatability and high tolerances. Lockheed Martin is now offering the large satellite fuel tank, complete with its two 3D printed domes, as one of the standard product options for its 2100 satellite buses.

Discuss metal 3D printing, aerospace applications, and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Images: Lockheed Martin]



3D Printing News Briefs: July 10, 2018

We’re starting things off with a little business in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, then moving on to news from the medical and construction industries, and finishing up with a few fun stories to make you smile. First up, Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of General Electric, has joined the board at Desktop Metal, and an industrial 3D printer distributor is offering a new cleaning unit by Omegasonics to its customers. Moving on, Insight Medical and Onkos Surgical are exploring the use of augmented reality in musculoskeletal oncology together, while Australian researchers introduced a new model for large-scale 3D facial recognition and a family has officially moved into the Nantes 3D printed house. Finally, a vegan confection startup is selling its popsicles, made with 3D printed molds, at select Starbucks locations in Los Angeles, and an EnvisionTEC 3D printer is being used to create characters for a stop motion series about superheroes.

Desktop Metal Board Welcomes Jeff Immelt

Jeffrey Immelt

Leading metal 3D printing company Desktop Metal, located near Boston, was founded three years ago with the goal of making metal 3D printing an essential tool for engineers and manufacturers. The company announced today that it has elected a new member to its Board of Directors – Jeffrey Immelt, the Chairman and CEO of GE until he retired from the company last year after 16 years. Immelt, who began his tenure only days before 9/11 and skillfully led GE through the crisis, has decades of experience, and is regarded as one of the most accomplished, innovative business technology leaders in the world. This makes him a valuable asset as Desktop Metal continues to grow.

“I am excited and honored to join the Desktop Metal board and work with this exceptional team of visionary entrepreneurs. Since it was founded nearly three years ago, Desktop Metal has become a trailblazer across the additive manufacturing landscape and I have a tremendous respect for the company’s ability to innovate,” said Immelt. “I look forward to sharing my experiences and contributing to the future direction and growth of this emerging metal 3D printing pioneer.”

Dr. Ken Washington, CTO and Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering at the Ford Motor Company, was also recently appointed to the Desktop Metal board.

Industrial 3D Printer Distributor Offering Customers New Omegasonics Cleaning Unit


Plural Additive Manufacturing, which is the exclusive North American distributor for industrial 3D printers by 3ntr, is offering the new 815BTX cleaning unit from ultrasonic cleaning systems leader Omegasonics to customers who purchase its 3D printers. The versatile and cost-effective unit is the 3D printing market’s first dual tank/dual action bench top ultrasonic cleaning machine, and can help easily remove water soluble support material.

The left tank of the 815BTX uses a biodegradable cleaning detergent developed by Plural, called BioSolv, while the right tank uses hot water; the model’s dual action then ensures the safe and efficient cleaning of 3D printed parts. The 815BTX also has programmable alternating cycles for hands-off cleaning.

“3ntr manufacturers’ of 3D printers utilize a variety of support materials, some require chemicals for support removal, while others need only hot water. The 815BTX eliminates the need to have two separate cleaning machines or deal with the cost of frequent cleaning detergent changes to get the job done,” explained Frank Pedeflous, the President of Omegasonics. “It’s an all-in-one solution.”

Onkos Surgical and Insight Medical Exploring Augmented Reality in Musculoskeletal Oncology

California medical device company Insight Medical Systems has partnered with Onkos Surgical, Inc. on a pilot project to explore different applications and opportunities for using Insight Medical’s ARVIS (Augmented Reality Visualization and Information System) headset in musculoskeletal oncology, and possibly tumor surgery. Still under development, ARVIS uses its tracking and visualization capabilities to deliver efficient and precise surgical plan execution. The headset can project virtual models of a specific patient’s anatomy and implants into a surgeon’s field of view during a procedure, in order to show hidden anatomical structures and important measurements.

“Onkos Surgical is investing heavily in capabilities and technology to bring innovation to musculoskeletal oncology surgeons,” said Onkos CEO and Co-Founder Patrick Treacy. “Augmented reality technology has the potential of simplifying the complex and providing surgeons with input and feedback that may improve the precision of surgical planning and interoperative workflow. This technology fits well with our portfolio of Precision Oncology solutions.”

University of Western Australia Introduces New Model for Large-Scale 3D Facial Recognition

2D facial recognition is used often for applications in the IT, security, and surveillance industries, and relies on a computer model to know whether a person is legitimate or not. But this method has several issues, such as data being easily accessible online, which aren’t the case with more advanced 3D models. 3D models can address changes in facial expression, poses, scale, and texture, but the data can be hard to gather. Now, researchers from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Western Australia (UWA) have developed a first of its kind system that can complete large-scale 3D facial recognition. The researchers, who published a paper on their work in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, analyzed 3.1 million 3D scans of over 100,000 people, and trained the innovative new 3D Facial Recognition model (FR3DNet) to learn the identities of a large dataset of ‘known’ persons, then match a test face to one.

Dr. Syed Zulqarnain Gilani, who created the 3D model, said, “With off-the-shelf 3D cameras becoming cheap and affordable, the future for pure 3D face recognition does not seem far away.

“Our research shows that recognition performance on 3D scans is better and more robust. Your 3D scan could be in any pose, wearing glasses or a face mask, and laughing or just smiling and the deep model can recognise you in an instant.

“We hope that this research will help improve security on devices that use facial recognition to grant access to networks and systems.”

Nantes 3D Printed House Welcomes First Tenants

In 2017, a collaborative team of researchers in France began an ambitious project where an industrial 3D printer and a patented concrete construction process called BatiPrint3D were used to build a five-room house in just days. This spring, after 54 hours of 3D printing and four months of contractors adding the roof, windows, and doors, the team finished the 95-square-meter, environmentally-friendly YHNOVA house in the district of Nantes Bottière. The house features wheelchair access and digital controls, and its curved walls are said to reduce the effects of humidity. But it still only cost around £176,000 to build – 20% cheaper than an identical house manufactured with traditional methods. Now, the NMH Housing Award Committee has allocated the house to a French family, and Nordine and Nouria Ramdani, along with their three children, are being hailed as the world’s first family to live in a 3D printed house.

Nordine said, “It’s a big honour to be a part of this project.

“We lived in a block of council flats from the 60s, so it’s a big change for us.

“It’s really something amazing to be able to live in a place where there is a garden, and to have a detached house.”

The THNOVA team now believes they can 3D print the same house in just 33 hours.

Dream Pops Selling 3D Printed Popsicles at LA Starbucks

Vegan confection startup Dream Pops, headquartered in Los Angeles, creates organic, gluten- and soy-free, and vegan popsicles that are tasty, healthy, and made using 3D printed molds. These premier dairy-free popsicles consist of fruit and superfoods pureed together and cooled inside the molds at an accelerated rate with liquid nitrogen. Now, the startup has announced that its sweet treats are now available at five select Starbucks locations in the city – Third Street Promenade, La Brea and 4th, San Vincente and Barrington, Melrose and Stanley, and Wilshire and Santa Monica. The vegan ice cream pops, each of which contain fewer than 100 calories and seven grams of sugar, comes in five distinct flavors: Berry Dreams, Coconut Latte, Mango Rosemary, Vanilla Matcha, and a Dream Flight, which includes all four flavors.

“Our aim is to become the Willy Wonka of plant-based confections starting with our first product the Dream Pop and extending into adjacent better-for-you desserts,” said Dream Pops Co-Founder and CEO David Greenfield.

Dream Pops’ popsicles will be available at these Starbucks locations until October 5th.

3D Printed Stop Motion Characters

3D printing has been used many times to help create characters and backdrops for ads and commercials, music videos, and even movies that use popular stop motion animation. If you’re a fan of the stop motion show Robot Chicken, then you might also recognize the name of the full-service production company that creates it. California-based Stoopid Buddy Stoodios specializes in developing and producing stop-motion, CG, and 2D animated content, and also creates an animated stop motion comedy series called SuperMansion. The studio fabricates most of the show’s characters with a Perfactory 3D printer from EnvisionTEC.

“By utilizing 3D printing, we’re able to tell a story about superheroes and love and conflict and action and adventure,” said Kei Chong, Digital Design Supervisor at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios.

To learn more, check out the video below.

3D Printing for Animation | Stoopid Buddy Stoodios from EnvisionTEC on Vimeo.

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

VEEM Partners with Aurora Labs for Early Access to 3D Printing Technology

Aurora Labs is known for its lightning-fast 3D printer, the S-Titanium Pro, which has drawn interest from many high-profile organizations including NASA. The latest company to be interested in the 3D printer is VEEM, an Australian business that specializes in high-tech propellers and gyrostabilizers. The two companies have now signed a non-binding term sheet that sees them working together for the next five years, possibly more.

The terms of the agreement give VEEM early access to Aurora Labs’ 3D printers and Large Format Technology, as well as the potential for purchase of said technology and the possible opportunity for R&D in areas that are appropriate for VEEM’s business. The non-binding term sheet is based on a four-stage process, as outlined by Aurora Labs:

  • Stage 1: VEEM reviewing and critically analyzing Aurora Labs’ technologies and products and their potential capabilities
  • Stage 2: Aurora Labs assisting VEEM to assess the potential value to VEEM of utilizing Aurora’s technologies and products in VEEM’s opearations
  • Stage 3: The two companies identifying and evaluating potential opportunities to secure government research and development incentives, grants or funding related to the venture program
  • Stage 4: VEEM being provided with the opportunity of making an equity investment in Aurora Labs

“With our modern world recognising the finite nature of natural resources and the full cost of energy, the desire to move away from traditional reductive manufacturing is growing,” said Mark Miocevich, VEEM’s Managing Director. “Additive manufacturing through 3D printing is rapidly developing around the world. From being a very expensive option for small, highly sophisticated components, recent technical developments in 3D printing are showing the future path leading to larger sizes and far more rapid production rates. Aurora Labs has developed the most advanced process that we have evaluated and represents a significant step forward in large and rapid 3D printing. VEEM are excited to be able to partner with Aurora Labs to bring the future of additive manufacturing to the present.”

Currently, VEEM casts more than five tonnes a day worth of product and is looking to potentially upgrade its process with Aurora Labs’ 3D printing technology when it’s fully developed. VEEM is looking to utilize both Aurora Labs’ Medium Format and its Large Format 3D printers, making VEEM one of Aurora Labs’ first potential customers for its Large Format Technology. VEEM will also be providing feedback on the technology and, after signing a comprehensive MNDA, has received a behind-the-scenes look at Aurora Labs’ metal powder-making process.

“We’re extremely pleased to be in talks with VEEM, and their drive to be at the forefront of technology and innovation makes them an ideal industry partner for us,” said David Budge, Managing Director of Aurora Labs. “When you couple that to their ambition to dominate the global market in their chosen field then the unique fit is even more appropriate. VEEM currently create castings up to 14 tons in size on a daily basis and we are looking to help them improve their production capacity through innovative use of our Large Format Technology. It’s encouraging to be expanding on our Industry Partner Program which confirms the interest in the technology we are developing.”

There is no assurance that any legally binding agreement will be entered into, although Aurora Labs is optimistic that one will be reached. VEEM will be given the opportunity to invest, but there is no fixed agreement for the company to acquire shares in Aurora Labs at this time.

The non-binding agreement with VEEM is part of Aurora Labs’ Industry Partner Program, and Aurora is in talks with several other organizations about becoming part of the program. The program focuses on four key areas: early access to Aurora Labs’ technology; possible purchase of that technology with input into printer design; possible participation in research projects; and possibility of acquiring equity stake.

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


3D Printing News Briefs: June 29, 2018

In today’s 3D Printing News Briefs (the last one this month, how is the summer going by so quickly?!), a few companies are announcing special honors and recognitions, and then we’re sharing stories stories about some interesting new 3D printing projects, and finally wrapping things up before the weekend with some business news. Renishaw’s Director of R&D has been honored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, while MakerBot earned an important designation for its 3D printing certification program for educators and Renovis Surgical Technologies received FDA approval for its new 3D printed implant. Festo is introducing three new bionic robots, one of which is partially 3D printed, and CINTEC is using 3D printing for its restoration of a famous government house. GE wants to use blockchains for 3D printing protection, and ExOne announced a global cost realignment.

Royal Academy of Engineering Honors Renishaw’s Chris Sutcliffe

Earlier this week, the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) awarded a Silver Medal to Professor Chris Sutcliffe, the Director of Research and Development of the Additive Manufacturing Products Division (AMPD) for global metrology company Renishaw. This award is given to recognize outstanding personal contributions to British engineering, and is given to no more than four people a year. The Silver Medal Sutcliffe received was in recognition of his part in driving the development of metal 3D printed implants in both human and veterinary surgery, and also celebrates his successful commercialization of 3D printed products with several companies, including Renishaw, and the University of Liverpool.

“Throughout my career I’ve worked hard to commercialise additive manufacturing technology. As well as AM’s benefit to the aerospace and automotive sectors, commercialisation of AM and associated technologies has been lifechanging for those with musculoskeletal diseases,” said Sutcliffe. “The award celebrates the successes of the engineers I have worked with to achieve this and I am grateful to receive the award to recognise our work.”

MakerBot’s Certification Program for Educators Gets Important Designation

One of the leaders in 3D printing for education is definitely MakerBot, which has sent its 3D printers to classrooms all over the world. Just a few months ago, the company launched a comprehensive, first of its kind 3D printing certification program, which trains educators to become 3D printing experts and create custom curriculum for STEAM classrooms. An independent review of the program showed that it meets the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards, and it has earned the prestigious ISTE Seal of Alignment from the accreditation body. In addition, a survey conducted over the last three years of over 2,000 MakerBot educators shows that the percentage of teachers reporting that MakerBot’s 3D printers met their classroom needs has doubled in just two years.

“This data shows that MakerBot isn’t just growing its user base in schools. We’re measurably improving teachers’ experiences using 3D printing,” said MakerBot CEO Nadav Goshen. “Much of this impressive teacher satisfaction is thanks to the effort we’ve put into solving real classroom problems—like the availability of 3D printing curriculum with Thingiverse Education, clear best practices with the MakerBot Educators Guidebook, and now training with the new MakerBot Certification program.”

Earlier this week, MakerBot exhibited its educator solutions at the ISTE Conference in Chicago.

FDA Grants Clearance for 3D Printed Interbody Spinal Fusion System 

California-headquartered Renovis Surgical Technologies, Inc. announced that it has received 510(k) clearance from the FDA for its Tesera SA Hyperlordotic ALIF Interbody Spinal Fusion System. All Tesera implants are 3D printed, and use a proprietary, patent-pending design to create a porous, roughened surface structure, which maximizes biologic fixation, strength, and stability to allow for bone attachment and in-growth to the implant.

The SA implant, made with Renovis’s trabecular technology and featuring a four-screw design and locking cover plate, is a titanium stand-alone anterior lumbar interbody fusion system. They are available in 7˚, 12˚, 17˚, 22˚ and 28˚ lordotic angles, with various heights and footprints for proper lordosis and intervertebral height restoration, and come with advanced instrumentation that’s designed to decrease operative steps during surgery.

Festo Introduces Partially 3D Printed Bionic Robot

German company Festo, the robotics research of which we’ve covered before, has introduced its Bionic Learning Network’s latest project – three bionic robots inspired by a flic-flac spider, a flying fox, and a cuttlefish. The latter of these biomimetic robots, the BionicFinWave, is a partially 3D printed robotic fish that can autonomously maneuver its way through acrylic water-filled tubing. The project has applications in soft robotics, and could one day be developed for tasks like underwater data acquisition, inspection, and measurement.

The 15 oz robot propels itself forward and backward through the tubing using undulation forces from its longitudinal fins, while also communicating with and transmitting data to the outside world with a radio. The BionicFinWave’s lateral fins, molded from silicone, can move independently of each other and generate different wave patterns, and water-resistant pressure and ultrasound sensors help the robot register its depth and distance to the tube walls. Due to its ability to realize complex geometry, 3D printing was used to create the robot’s piston rod, joints, and crankshafts out of plastic, along with its other body elements.

Cintec Using 3D Printing on Restoration Work of the Red House

Cintec North America, a leader in the field of structural masonry retrofit strengthening, preservation, and repair, completes structural analysis and design services for projects all around the world, including the Egyptian Pyramids, Buckingham Palace, Canada’s Library of Parliament, and the White House. Now, the company is using 3D printing in its $1 million restoration project on the historic Red House, which is also known as the seat of Parliament for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and was built between 1844 and 1892.

After sustaining damage from a fire, the Red House, featuring signature red paint and Beaux-Arts style architecture, was refurbished in 1904. In 2007, Cintec North America was asked to advise on the required repairs to the Red House, and was given permission to install its Reinforcing Anchor System. This landmark restoration project – the first where Cintec used 3D printing for sacrificial parts – denotes an historic moment in structural engineering, because one of the reinforcement anchors inserted into the structure, measuring 120 ft, is thought to be the longest in the world.

GE Files Patent to Use Blockchains For 3D Printing Protection

According to a patent filing recently released by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), industry giant GE wants to use a blockchain to verify the 3D printed parts in its supply chain and protect itself from fakes. If a replacement part for an industrial asset is 3D printed, anyone can reproduce it, so end users can’t verify its authenticity, and if it was made with the right manufacturing media, device, and build file. In its filing, GE, which joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) consortium in March, outlined a method for setting up a database that can validate, verify, and track the manufacturing process, by integrating blockchains into 3D printing.

“It would therefore be desirable to provide systems and methods for implementing a historical data record of an additive manufacturing process with verification and validation capabilities that may be integrated into additive manufacturing devices,” GE stated in the patent filing.

ExOne to Undergo Global Cost Realignment

3D printer and printed products provider ExOne has announced a global cost realignment program, in order to achieve positive earnings and cash flow in 2019. In addition to maximizing efficiency through aligning its capital resources, ExOne’s new program will be immediately reducing the company’s consulting projects and headcount – any initial employee reductions will take place principally in consulting and select personnel. The program, which has already begun, will focus first on global operations, with an emphasis on working capital initiatives, production overhead, and general and administrative spending. This program will continue over the next several quarters.

“With the essential goal of significantly improving our cash flows in 2019, we have conducted a review of our cost structure and working capital practices. We are evaluating each position and expense within our organization, with the desire to improve productivity. As a result, we made the difficult decision to eliminate certain positions within ExOne, reduce our spending on outside consultants and further rely on some of our recently instituted and more efficient processes,” explained S. Kent Rockwell, ExOne’s Chairman and CEO. “Additional cost analyses and changes to business practices to improve working capital utilization will be ongoing over the next several quarters and are expected to result in additional cost reductions and improved cash positions. All the while, we remain focused on our research and development goals and long-term revenue growth goals, which will not be impacted by these changes, as we continue to lead the market adoption of our binder jetting technology.”

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


3D Printing News Briefs: June 26, 2018

We have plenty of business, material, and 3D printer news to share with you in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs. 3D printing led to increased savings for GM over the last two years, which is now increasing its use of the technology as a result. ExOne is saying goodbye to one CEO and hello to another, while Polymaker announces a global distribution arrangement with Nexeo Solutions and CollPlant receives R&D project approval in Israel. The US Patent and Trademark Office will be hosting its annual Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting this week, and RP Platform has announced a rebrand and a new AI software platform. Finally, the UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing has decided to add Digital Metal’s binder jetting technology to its portfolio.

GM Increasing Use of 3D Printing at Plants

Zane Meike, AM lead at GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant, holds a common 3D printed tool used to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers. [Photo: Michael Wayland]

According to Dan Grieshaber, the Director of Global Manufacturing Integration for General Motors (GM), most of the company’s factories have 3D printers, which are used to build accessories and tools for workers. A $35,000 3D printer at GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant has actually helped save the company over $300,000 over two years: it’s used to make multiple items, such as part hangers, socket covers, and ergonomic and safety tools. A common tool used to align engine and transmission vehicle identification numbers cost $3,000 to buy from a third party, but is less than $3 to 3D print at the factory. Realizing that these kinds of savings can add up quickly, GM is increasing the use of 3D printing – part of its new Manufacturing 4.0 processes – at its plants in order to help streamline operations.

“We’re quickly evolving, creating real value for the plant. This will become, as we progress, our footprint. We’ll have this in every one of our sites,” Grieshaber said.

Grieshaber also said that GM is working to standardize 3D printing, as well as share best practices across all of its global plants.

ExOne Welcomes New CEO

The ExOne Company, which provides 3D printers and 3D printed products, materials, and services to its industrial customers around the world, has announced that its CEO, James L. McCarley, is departing the company, effective immediately, to pursue other interests and opportunities; he will be assisting the company in transitioning his responsibilities to the new CEO. ExOne’s Board of Directors has also announced who the new CEO will be – S. Kent Rockwell, the company’s Executive Chairman, who has served in the position in previous years. Rockwell’s new title is effective immediately.

“On behalf of our Board and management team, I would like to thank Jim for his efforts and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” said Rockwell.

Polymaker Makes Distribution Arrangement with Nexeo Solutions

Shanghai-based 3D printing material producer Polymaker has entered an arrangement with chemicals and plastics distributor Nexeo Solutions, Inc., also based in Shanghai. Nexeo will be a global distributor for three new materials in the Polymaker Industrial line, but plans to introduce more of its materials over the rest of the year. C515 is an advanced polycarbonate (PC) filament that has excellent toughness and a low warping effect, while C515FR is a flame retardant PC with high impact resistance. SU301 is a polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based polymer that’s water soluble and was developed as a support material for FFF 3D printers.

Paul Tayler, the Vice President of EMEA at Nexeo Solutions, said, “Expanding our portfolio to include industrial grade filaments from Polymaker Industrial gives our customers access to a wider range of filaments that solve new 3D printing challenges and meet the demands of manufacturers. Industrial customers benefit from Nexeo Solutions’ access to world leading plastic producers coupled with additive manufacturing technical expertise.”

CollPlant Receives R&D Project Approval

Two years ago, regenerative medicine company CollPlant received funding from Israel’s Ministry of Economy for its research in developing collagen-based bioinks for 3D printing tissues and organs. CollPlant, which uses its proprietary plant-based rhCollagen (recombinant human collagen) technology for tissue repair products, has now announced that the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) has approved a grant to finance the continued development of its rhCollagen-based formulations intended for use as bioinks. Terms of the grant require CollPlant to pay royalties to the IIA on future sales of any technology that’s developed with the use of the funding, up to the full grant amount. The total project budget is roughly $1.2 million (NIS 4.2 million), and the IIA will finance 30%, subject to certain conditions.

“In addition to providing immediate non-dilutive funding, this grant from the Israel Innovation Authority represents an important validation of our BioInk technology and its market potential. With the recent opening of our new cGMP production facility in Rehovot, Israel, we are well positioned to meet growing demand for our BioInk and tissue repair products. We are grateful to the IIA for this recognition,” said CollPlant CEO Yehiel Tal.

Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting Hosted by US Patent and Trademark Office

For the last several years, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been hosting the Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting, and this year’s meeting takes place tomorrow, June 27th, from 1 to 5 PM at the USPTO headquarters inside the Madison Building in Alexandria, Virginia. The USPTO will be seeking opinions from various participants at the informal meeting, which is really a forum for individual 3D printing users and the USPTO to share ideas, insights, and personal experiences.

“We value our customers and the feedback provided from individual participants is important in our efforts to continuously improve the quality of our products and services,” the USPTO meeting site reads. “Your willing participation in this informal process is helpful in providing us with new insights and perspectives.”

Scheduled speakers at this year’s meeting are coming from CIMP-3D, HRL, Kansas State University, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, and the NextManufacturing Center, and an RSVP is required to attend the AM Partnership Meeting.

RP Platform Launches New AI Software and Rebrand

London-based RP Platform, which provides customizable workflow automation software for industrial 3D printing, is launching a new software platform, which will use AI for the first time to automate 3D printing production. With customers in over 30 countries, the company is one of the top automation software providers for industrial 3D printing. In addition to its software launch, RP Platform has also announced that, as it continues to expand its software capabilities to target AM end part production, it is rebranding, and has changed its name to AMFG.

“We want to help companies make their 3D printing processes much smoother so that they can produce more parts with greater visibility and less effort. And we have more exciting releases to our software over the coming months that will further enhance our production automation capabilities,” said Keyvan Karimi, the CEO of AMFG.

“Ultimately, we’re creating a truly autonomous manufacturing process for industrial 3D printing. For us, this means taking manufacturing to a new era of production. The launch of our new software, as well as our company rebrand, fully reflects this vision going forward.”

NCAM Installing a Digital Metal 3D Printer

The National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM) in the UK, headquartered at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry, has decided to add the unique binder jetting technology developed by Digital Metal to its large range of advanced manufacturing equipment, and will soon be installing one of its high-precision metal 3D printers – which are not available anywhere else in the UK. The 3D printer will be available for use by NCAM’s member companies, and other organizations, who are interested in testing the capabilities of Digital Metal’s proprietary binder jetting technology.

Dr. David Brackett, AM Technology Manager at the NCAM, explained, “The Digital Metal binder jetting technology falls into the category of ‘bind-and-sinter AM’, where a multi-stage process chain incorporating sintering is required to achieve full density. It’s a very fast technology that can create complicated and highly detailed designs, and there is potential for wider material choice than with AM processes that use melting. We are delighted to be able to offer this to the companies we work with.”

The Digital Metal 3D printer will be operational later this summer, and NCAM personnel are already training with it to ensure they can operate it efficiently and safely.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or let us know your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Images via Dezeen]