Polymer 3D printing at the 2019 TCT Show

3D Printing Industry has arrived in Birmingham, UK, once again for the latest edition of the TCT Show. The design-to-manufacturing event at the NEC is host to an abundance of 3D printing equipment, including new several new systems. As a returning attendee, the landscape is noticeably different from the desktop 3D printer-friendly machinery at TCT […]

Ultimaker Releases S3 and the S5 Bundle

Dutch company Ultimaker today released the S5 bundle meant to improve the results of its S5 printers and also its new S3 printer.

The S5 bundle includes the Ultimaker S5 Air Manager. This Air Manager encloses the printer and controls the air inside your printer. This improves the safety of your device and its environment. I really welcome this step since while printing TPU, carbon fiber and carbon nanotubes but also with the less exotic ABS toxic and even potentially carcinogenic particles can come off of your 3D printer. In addition to the safety benefits, this controlled air will improve your print results since it minimizes distortion from airflows from air conditioners and the like while also keeping humidity constant. I would expect similar packages or functionality to be added to all Pro printers in the future. Air filtration and safety coupled with better print results are an absolutely essential step if I want to have 3D printers in our homes, schools and offices.

The Ultimaker Material Station is also a welcome addition to any 3D Printer operator’s arsenal. The station lets you load six different material spools into your 3D printing bay where they will be kept in a low moisture environment. Silica gel will keep humidity below 40 percent relative humidity. This reduces breakage problems in PLA and can let you print with PA and other materials that suck up a lot of moisture. I’m skeptical that the pre-feeding will work well but again this is something that all Pro printers will have eventually. I’m also wondering how the silica gel’s performance will stack up to more active cooling solutions such as the industry-leading dryers from Mass Portal that let you condition and manage your filament temperature as well as humidity actively. Such a solution will be superior to the Ultimaker approach but the Material Station should be a tidy place to store filament and reduce breakage for most people.

DSM’s Hugo Da Silva is optimistic,

“The inclusion of the Ultimaker S5 Air Manager and Ultimaker S5 Material Station with the successful Ultimaker S5 is another step toward taking additive manufacturing into production environments. The additional functionality will allow engineering materials, such as those of DSM, to be printed more safely and consistently. This will bring additive manufacturing technology within reach of many more players and help us manufacture tomorrow.”

This is especially true for them since DSM makes a lot of PA and this has been problematic to print for most operators due to moisture filling the material in a matter of hours. The fact that the bundle costs 9.100 USD or 8.685 Euros indicates that Ultimaker is moving upmarket and towards higher-priced enterprise offerings. This is a smart move because there really isn’t much available between $1200 printers that work OK but require too much labor and enterprise like office systems that cost $20,000 or so. 10k or more is a fantastic price point for Ultimaker to operate at. If they were to up their game and obtain the same performance that Mini Factory, Intamsys and 3DGence have in 3D printing PEEK then access to ultra-high-performance polymers would let them sell a good enterprise solution for 20-25,000. As it stands the current bundle is probably a good deal for most businesses and has a great chance of becoming the default printer for most businesses.

For companies and individuals that are looking for less expensive solutions Ultimaker has launched the S3. The S3 which costs 3.995 Euros or 4.395 USD.

The company touts its, “heated build plate, advanced active leveling, a stiffer build platform, and accurate stepper drivers result in the highest print quality of a machine in this form factor. The dual filament flow sensors can detect empty filament spools in the Ultimaker S3 and will automatically pause print jobs so that users can immediately replenish materials and keep the machine running seamlessly.”

I’m not sure why businesses won’t just spring for the S5 bundle, and I suspect that specifically for air quality you’d want to do that in almost all cases. As for consumers and people on a budget, they could get 4 Prusa Originals for this? I could buy a Formlabs Form 3 and a Prusa Original i3 for this price? Would it be worth it? Whereas the S5 Bundle seems like a great product for many companies I’m not sure who the S3 is for exactly. To me, Ultimaker is really giving businesses what they need if they could just up their game to give the S5 the ability to print at 420C. Then they’d have an industry-leading solution. As it stands they have something that should work for many businesses. The S5 is a great printer and these additions should improve results but this launch has really given companies such as 3DGence and Minifactory a lot of breathing room to prosper for more demanding users.




The post Ultimaker Releases S3 and the S5 Bundle appeared first on 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

3D Printing Buying Guide 2019

What a difference a year makes. Once again we’ve seen some monumental shifts and changes in the 3D printing landscape for desktop 3D printers. At the low-end competition has been murderous with many players forced from the market. In the midrange and higher-end systems, we see more sophistication and refinement. Many vendors are improving their systems to cater to users in reliability and usability here. Compared to only a few years ago, 3D printing is becoming much more accessible and cost-effective to do. In higher-end systems, we are getting easy to use systems that are accurate and reliable. 3D printing is still not simple, but it is getting much better for you, the user.

We created this guide to be a resource for you. We hope that we can help you find some systems that are worth considering at every price point.

The desktop 3D printing market consists of low-cost desktop 3D printers for around $500, midrange systems for approximately $1,000 and Pro systems for above $2,500.

Low-Cost Desktop 3D Printers
In low-cost systems, printers barely work or function intermittently. There is often some assembly required and a lot of tweaking to be done. With Tender Loving Care, these printers can work. They’re for those who are budget constrained or want to impulse buy a printer. I’d recommend them to someone who likes to hardware hack and modifies things but not if you’re going to print a lot of stuff. It would be perfect for the mechanical engineering student who has time to invest in improving it.

It’s worth noting that specifically in this segment, paid reviews, and affiliate links are the norm. Due to this, many may have gotten have an overly optimistic view of these printers. Many reviews online contain falsehoods and over claim. Simultaneously some marketing tactics employed by players in this market segment are deplorable. They include behavior such as negatively reviewing each other’s printers. In some cases, companies are claiming that a competitor’s printer has had disastrous failures or fires (additionally, sometimes these things actually catch fire as well). Even for our market, this is very cowboy territory, so buyer beware.

XYZ Printing Da Vinci Nano $221

The Da Vinci Nano has a tiny build volume, but this compact printer has an enclosed printer that comes with software and anything you need to get started for $249. Print quality is not stellar, but the ease of use, especially out of the box is good.

Monoprice MP Select Mini Pro (V3) $199

In aluminium, I also think this looks fantastic.

Monoprice is good at improving and rebadging existing printers and selling them at extremely low price points. The previous versions of the Select Mini V3 built up quite a following. This printer engendered a lively Facebook group that helped you support and improve the machine. In some cases, it seems to have gotten out of hand with people spending much more on upgrades than on the base machine. Although there is a lot to be said for sticking to the old V2 version, given how much information is out there on how to hack it, the new V3 irons out a lot of kinks for a low price. Build volumes are small, but this still is a competent printer that’s relatively easy to use.

Creality Ender 3 $229

The Ender is a value-engineered printer with a large build volume that needs tweaking, love, and care. By no means a high-quality experience or part. But, if you do give it that care this can turn out to be a real workhorse for you.

Anet A8 Plus $249 

I’ll probably get a lot of flack for this since the previous version had issues with catching fire. Reviewers that I know and trust however have managed to run this one without any hitch for months now. Simple and a lot of bang for your buck, now with an aluminum frame.

JG Aurora A5S $399

There seem to be some QC issues with the JG Aurora printers but there is a community to help you with that. Some people are ecstatic with them while others complain of assembly and wiring issues. At any other price point, I’d find this difficult to recommend, but the results that selected people have been getting from this machine are stellar.

Flashforge Adventurer 3 $449

I love this thing. It’s enclosed, relatively well built and for around $400 to $500 is a great buy. Flashforge has been plugging away at making better and better printers for years now, and this one seems a real winner. There is no real community around this printer yet, but it’s worth the extra money to have more ease of use. Heated bed, wifi, filament end detection, cloud printing, simple nozzle removal, it packs a lot of features. The only super annoying thing is that it limits you to using 0.5 Kg rolls of filament which means that you have to spool on a smaller spool interesting filaments.

Wanhao Duplicator 7 $430

We are seeing a huge expansion in low-cost DLP and SLA systems. Partially due to consumer interest and partly because these systems have few moving parts, these are becoming more available. Better optics and lower cost light sources from LCD, DLP and other sources are also feeding this trend. There is a massive amount of systems out there now. The one with a track record at $500 is the Duplicator. Please be careful with all SLA and DLP resins, but the fine detail will amaze at this price point.

Midrange Desktop 3D Printers
Midrange systems are best for people who want to print parts. They are more reliable than entry-level systems and have components that last longer. With a lot of tweaking, some of these systems provide high-quality parts. Official Prusa i3s, for example, can with correct tweaking make great parts even for manufacturing. We’re seeing better prints in this category and more things such as touchscreens while automated bed leveling is becoming commonplace. In this category, more people are paying attention to the ecosystem, so looking at filaments, settings, and software to enable better prints and better user experience.

Prusa i3 MK3S $999

The best just got better. The Original is an amazing assembled 3D printer for $999. If you want a first printer, buy this one. If you want a printer to hack, modify, and improve, buy this one. If you want a motion stage for your bioprinting lab, buy this. Well calibrated Prusa’s make some of the highest quality FDM 3D prints out there. Yes, there is a steep learning curve for a beginner, but this could be your first printer and your last one as well.

Craftbot Plus $999 

A Craftbot Plus is an excellent printer to buy for around $999 while the Craftbot XL is a large build volume workhorse for $1900. I love what Hungarian firm Craftbot is doing on software, support and most of all on building these reliable fire and forget 3D printers that are a dream to use.

Pro 3D Printers
Pro 3D printers are meant to be used for businesses. Generally, more effort has been put into ease of use, component quality of the hardware, user-friendliness of screens and software as well as print quality. Build volumes and speeds should be higher as should overall performance. These printers now are approaching “printing with a few clicks and some user knowledge,” and hopefully we’ll see more “fire and forget” and less “guess your way to a part” in the future.

Formlabs Form 3 $3500

Uniquely, Formlabs has a wholly integrated vision for the desktop from materials to manuals and software. Formlabs top-down ecosystem means that you are constrained to a certain degree. But, in place of this comes an ease of use that other systems simply do not have at all. The Form 3 comes with more refinement in software, sensors, and better screen removal, which should enable more accurate parts with both more extensive and more delicate cross-sections. The Form 3 is new, so it has a limited track record as of today. If you want to opt for more of a track record, get a Form 2. This is still the best desktop SLA and one of the best printers out there.

Ultimaker S5 $6000

The S5 is a reliable printer that can repeatably make FDM parts with a lot of accuracy. $6000 is a lot of change when compared to a lot of other printers out there. If you want ease of use and are using this as a central printer for your office or just want the least total headaches, then the S5 is a great tool. I’m still in love with the print cores feature of these machines and their overall simplicity for me as a user.

The post 3D Printing Buying Guide 2019 appeared first on 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

BASF Commercializing Metal-Polymer 3D Printing Composite Material with iGo3D, MatterHackers, and Ultimaker

BASF 3D Printing Solutions, a subsidiary of German chemical company BASF that’s focused entirely on 3D printing, has been working to build up its materials inventory over the past two years. In 2017, BASF formed a partnership with Essentium for the purposes of developing more robust FFF 3D printing materials. A new partnership focuses on the industrial Ultrafuse filament family, which includes extra-strong Ultrafuse Z for the desktop. Now, it’s introducing a new Ultrafuse material: Ultrafuse 316L metal-polymer composite.

“Ultrafuse 316L can, under certain conditions, be processed on any conventional, open-material FFF printer. Our goal was to develop a high-quality metal filament that makes the additive manufacturing of metal parts considerably easier, cheaper, faster, and accessible to everyone,” explained François Minec, Managing Director, BASF 3D Printing Solutions.

In the past, FFF was limited to just using thermoplastics. But BASF Ultrafuse 316L is a metal filament with polymer content, the latter of which acts as a binder during the printing process. The main polymer content, or primary binder, from the ‘green’ part is removed through catalytic debinding, which then results in the brown part of pure metal particles and the residual (secondary) binder. Industry-standard debinding and sintering processes take this secondary binder out of the brown part, while the metal particles combine. Post-sintering is when the material achieves its final hardness and strength properties – 316L stainless steel.

Ultrafuse 316L was specifically designed for safe, cost-effective printing of fully stainless steel objects on open FFF 3D printers for metal tooling, prototypes, and functional parts. Now, BASF has begun to commercialize the material with a trio of companies – professional desktop 3D printing solutions provider iGo3D, 3D printing retailer MatterHackers, and desktop 3D printing leader Ultimaker.

“In comparison to Metal Injection Molding (MIM), the Ultrafuse 316L offers an office-friendly solution, which opens new production opportunities. To reach the full potential of the metal filament and to ensure a solid start, it is necessary to understand that Ultrafuse 316L is not a conventional filament. Our goal is it to provide full service packages and support from the first request up to the finalized and sintered part, to implement metal 3D printing as a natural component in your manufacturing process,” said Athanassios Kotrotsios, the Managing Director of iGo3D.

The risk of defects is lower, and the success rate higher, when using Ultrafuse 316L due to the metal content being in the high 90% range, and an even distribution of metal in the binder matrix. In addition, the possible occupational and safety hazards that come with handling fine powders are significantly decreased with this material, because the metal particles are immobilized in the binder matrix.

“Ultrafuse 316L from BASF enables engineers and designers to produce true, pure, industrial grade metal parts easily and affordably using desktop 3D printers. This material is a significant technological advancement and truly a shift in how we describe what is possible with desktop 3D printers,” said Dave Gaylord, Head of Products for MatterHackers.

BASF’s Ultrafuse 316L – Metal filament for 3D printing stainless steel parts

The new Ultrafuse 316L metal composite filament is strong and flexible enough to be guided through complex material transport systems, and works with both Bowden and direct drive extruder types.

Paul Heiden, Senior Vice President Product Management for Ultimaker, said, “The Ultimaker S5 raises the bar for professional 3D printing by offering a hassle free 3D printing experience with industrial-grade materials. We are proud to announce that print profiles for Ultrafuse 316L will be added to the Ultimaker Marketplace. 3D printing professionals worldwide can then use FFF technology to produce functional metal parts at significantly reduced time and costs compared to traditional methods.”

BASF will provide 3D printer processing guidelines and parameter sets for Ultrafuse 316L, in addition to on-site support and consultancy to make sure that the material is performing up to snuff on your choice of FFF 3D printer. But if you’re interested in learning more about how to use the material now, you can check out this tutorial from MatterHackers about BASF’s new Ultrafuse 316L:

Metal polymer materials will let a lot more people 3D printing stronger materials. However, it has to be noted that a completely new geometry will most probably not work the first time with this process. Shrinkage rates in parts vary across wall thicknesses, part sizes and even geometries. During the sintering, process parts will tend to not shrink uniformly. The currentl limitation with Ultrafuse is therefore the same one that affects binder jetting with metals. For series of the same parts this is very interesting currently and it should be a solvable challenge to make shrinkage more predictable. But, the sheer data involved to predictably predict part outcomes at many geometries and do then in software predictively deform parts would be vast. So solvable, but still a difficult challenge to undertake for these partners and the industry as a whole.

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

[Images: BASF]

The post BASF Commercializing Metal-Polymer 3D Printing Composite Material with iGo3D, MatterHackers, and Ultimaker appeared first on 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

Royal DSM Will Choose Ten Startups to Participate in the I AM Tomorrow Challenge

Royal DSM, headquartered in The Netherlands, is a global company based on science and sustainable living—with serious dedication to 3D printing also, as they realize the incredible potential such technology offers so many industries around the world. Now, they are offering an acceleration program in large-scale 3D printing and additive manufacturing for startups and scaleups, with a focus on data analytics, artificial intelligence, and related software. The teams will also participate master classes, be exposed to ‘exclusive’ networking opportunities, and receive expert coaching sessions.

The I AM Tomorrow Challenge, in collaboration with HighTechXL, Hexagon, and Ultimaker, chooses a limited number of companies to participate in the unique ten-week acceleration program meant to help launch new businesses or help existing ones evolve further. DSM offers funding or partnerships to some startups who complete the acceleration program, with applications accepted through August 8. Only ten companies will be chosen to attend, either at HighTechXL’s campus in Eindhoven or Boston, MA.

While many industrial companies are just beginning to embrace the benefits of 3D printing, a rare few others have been in on the secret for decades—and DSM is one of those pioneers, at the forefront of AM processes for over 25 years with their Somos® products. With an eye to the future and the realization of how important new startups are to the ‘digital ecosystem,’ DSM is helping to mold the continued expansion of 3D printing in the next decades.

The DSM team lists their reasons for creating the program:

  • Recognition of the power of 3D printing
  • World-class materials expertise
  • Global reach
  • Expansive industry network
  • Financial resources

DSM has already invested in over 50 companies spanning Europe, the US, and Israel since 2001. This is their ninth challenge for startups, and all part of their mission to build sustainability throughout the world.

Hugo da Silva

“Digitalization will transform the world of manufacturing. By building an ecosystem of partners, we can work together to create tools that support 3D printing design and production, helping our affiliates and customers create innovative new products in a more sustainable way. The I AM Tomorrow Challenge is a step toward a brighter future,” said Hugo da Silva, VP Additive Manufacturing DSM.

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division is also working toward an end-to-end digital solution for AM processes, and they will be connecting with both DSM and partners in assessing and companies participating in the acceleration program that might be able to participate in development.

Royal DSM continues to be a force in 3D printing, from collaborations with companies like Briggs Automotive Company to partnerships with FormFutura and development of materials for new 3D printing systems. 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.

[Source / Images: DSM press release]


The post Royal DSM Will Choose Ten Startups to Participate in the I AM Tomorrow Challenge appeared first on 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing.

DSM launches ‘I AM Tomorrow’ acceleration program for 3D printing software startups

Global science-based company and material producer DSM has announced the I AM Tomorrow Challenge, an acceleration program designed to drive innovation in 3D printing. The initiative has been created for startups and scaleups focused on data analytics, AI and other advanced software solutions for large-scale 3D printing. Specifically, streamlining the 3D printing process flow is […]

Collaborative Research Team Develops Density-Graded Structure for Extrusion 3D Printing of Functionally Graded Materials

Microscopic photos of top and side views of printing results with a 0.38 mm wide extrusion path: (a) without versus (b) with overlapping by 0.36 mm respectively. Overlapping extrusion paths exhibit over-extrusion of material at the overlapping region, which results in unwanted blobs on the surface of the print.

Plenty of research has been completed in regards to FDM (extrusion) 3D printing, such as how to improve part quality and how to reliably fabricate functionally graded materials (FGM). The latter is what a collaborative team of researchers from Ultimaker, the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), and the Chinese University of Hong Kong are focusing on in their new research project.

The team – made up of researchers Tim KuipersJun Wu Charlie, and C.L. Wang – recently published a paper, titled “CrossFill: Foam Structures with Graded Density for Continuous Material Extrusion,” which will be presented at this year’s Symposium for Solid and Physical Modeling.

“In our latest paper we present a type of microstructure which can be printed using continuous extrusion so that we can generate infill structures which follow a user specified density field to be printed reliably by standard desktop FDM printers,” Kuipers, a Software Engineer and Researcher for Ultimaker, wrote in an email.

“This is the first algorithm in the world which is able to generate spatially graded microstructures while adhering to continuous extrusion in order to ensure printing reliability.”

Because 3D printing offers such flexible fabrication, many people want to design structures with spatially graded material properties. But, it’s hard to achieve good print quality when using FDM technology to 3D print FGM, since these sorts of infill structures feature complex geometry. In terms of making foam structures with graded density using FDM, the researchers knew they needed to develop a method to generate “infill structures according to a user-specific density distribution.”

The abstract reads, “In this paper, we propose a new type of density graded structure that is particularly designed for 3D printing systems based on filament extrusion. In order to ensure high-quality fabrication results, extrusion-based 3D printing requires not only that the structures are self-supporting, but also that extrusion toolpaths are continuous and free of self-overlap. The structure proposed in this paper, called CrossFill, complies with these requirements. In particular, CrossFill is a self-supporting foam structure, for which each layer is fabricated by a single, continuous and overlap-free path of material extrusion. Our method for generating CrossFill is based on a space-filling surface that employs spatially varying subdivision levels. Dithering of the subdivision levels is performed to accurately reproduce a prescribed density distribution.”

Their method – a novel type of FDM printable foam structure – offers a way to refine the structure to match a prescribed density distribution, and provides a novel self-supporting, space-filling surface to support spatially graded density, as well as an algorithm that can merge an infill structure’s toolpath with the model’s boundary for continuity. This space-filling infill surface is called CrossFill, as the toolpath resembles crosses.

“Each layer of CrossFill is a space-filling curve that can be continuously extruded along a single overlap-free toolpath,” the researchers wrote. “The space-filling surface consists of surface patches which are embedded in prism-shaped cells, which can be adaptively subdivided to match the user-specified density distribution. The adaptive subdivision level results in graded mechanical properties throughout the foam structure. Our method consists of a step to determine a lower bound for the subdivision levels at each location and a dithering step to refine the local average densities, so that we can generate CrossFill that closely matches the required density distribution. A simple and effective algorithm is developed to merge a space-filling curve of CrossFill of a layer into the closed polygonal areas sliced from the input model. Physical printing tests have been conducted to verify the performance of the CrossFill structures.”

The researchers say that the user prescribes density distribution, and can use CrossFill and its space-filling surfaces, with continuous cross sections, to “reliably reproduce the distribution using extrusion-based printing.” CrossFill surfaces are built by using subdivision rules on prism-shaped cells, each of which contains a surface patch that’s “sliced into a line segment on each layer to be a segment” of the toolpath, which will be made with a constant width; cell size determines the density.

“By adaptively applying the subdivision rules to the prism cells, we create a subdivision structure of cells with a density distribution that closely matches a user-specified input,” the team wrote. “Continuity of the space-filling surface across adjacent cells with different subdivision levels – both horizontally and vertically – is ensured by the subdivision rules and by post-processing of the surface patches in neighboring cells.”

The subdivision system distinguishes an H-prism, which is built by cutting a cube in half vertically along a diagonal of the horizontal faces, and a Q-prism, generated by spitting a cube into quarters along the faces’ diagonals. To learn more about this system and the team’s algorithms, check out the paper in its entirety.

Schematic overview of our method. The top row shows a 2D analogue of our method for clear visualization. The prism-shaped cells in the bottom row are visualized as semi-opaque solids to keep the visualization uncluttered. Red lines in the bottom row highlight the local subdivisions performed in the dithering phase.

The researchers also explained the method’s toolpath generation in their paper, starting with how to slice the infill structure into a continuous 2D polygonal curve for each layer of the object, which is followed by fitting a layer’s curve “into the region of an input 3D model.”

Experiments measuring features like accuracy, computation time, and elastic behavior were completed on an Intel Core i7-7500U CPU @ 2.70 GHz, using test structures 3D printed out of white TPU 95A on Ultimaker 3 systems with the default Cura 4.0 profile of 0.1 mm layer thickness. The team also discussed various applications for CrossFill, such as imaging phantoms for the medical field or cushions and packaging.

“The study of experimental tests shows that CrossFill acts very much like a foam although future work needs to be conducted to further explore the mapping between density and other material properties,” the researchers concluded. “Another line of research is to further enhance the dithering technique, e.g. changing the weighing scheme of error diffusion.”

CrossFill applications. (a) Bicycle saddle with a density specification. A weight of 33 N is added on various locations to show the different response of different density infill. (b) Teddy bear with a density specification. (c) Shoe sole with densities based on a pressure map of a foot. (d) Stanford bunny painted with a density specification. (e) Medical phantom with an example density distribution for calibrating an MRI scanning procedure.

The team’s open source implementation is available here on GitHub. To learn more, check out their video below:

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

RAPID 2019: Talking 3D Printing and Partnerships with Ultimaker’s Jamie Howard

While attending the recent RAPID + TCT conference and trade show, I also visited the Ultimaker booth to meet with Jamie Howard, the new president of Ultimaker North America. On the first full day of RAPID, when the show floor had officially opened and there were just a few less lectures and workshops, the company announced that Heineken is using its on-demand 3D printing solutions to create functional machine parts and custom tools for the manufacturing line at its Seville brewery in Spain.

“We’re still in the first stages of 3D printing, but we’ve already seen a reduction of costs in the applications that we found by 70-90% and also a decrease of delivery time of these applications of 70-90%. Local manufacturing helps us a lot in increasing uptime, efficiency and output. We use 3D printing to optimize the manufacturing line, create maintenance and quality control tools, and create tools for our machines which help us increase safety for our people. I think there will be even more purposes in the future,” Isabelle Haenen, Global Supply Chain Procurement at Heineken, said in a press release.

Howard told me that he would describe Heineken as a “global customer,” and that Ultimaker was already looking at additional 3D printing applications in the brewery, aside from the ones it’s already working on, like safety and line optimizations and tooling.

The brewery produces multiple brands of beers owned by Heineken, which all adds up to 500 million liters of beer annually. Engineers at the Seville brewery started off using the Ultimaker 2+ about a year ago, but have since switched to a set of Ultimaker S5 machines.

Howard explained that the project partnership with Heineken included the Ultimaker applications engineering team going through the plant to help the brewery “discover and develop applications that could be 3D printed.”

Heineken’s 3D LAB [Image: Ultimaker]

“We offer that to our Enterprise customers as a service to help them accelerate the adoption of 3D printing in the enterprise,” Howard said. “We also facilitated some advanced training in design for 3D printing so that they could actually print the parts and tools we discovered during what we call the ‘site scan’ process, and that enables the transfer of knowledge and the adoption of knowledge necessary to have them be able to do it more on their own.

“So teaching the competency to discover new applications – it expands the catalogue of parts and applications that they can actually 3D print, which increases the adoption and expands the footprint of the printers.”

Since adopting Ultimaker’s solutions, the brewery has been able to increase its production uptime and save about 80% in production costs.

“The Heineken opportunity is really a good demonstration of the range of applications you can use the Ultimaker platform to do,” Howard said. “Our vision and mission is accelerating the world’s transition to local digital manufacturing, and in a distributed way, where you have the opportunity to leverage our software.

“The open materials platform gives us the flexibility to, at a local level, expand the range of applications with all the same accessibility to the material partners that we have through our Partner Alliance. The Heineken use case includes four categories of applications, from rapid prototyping to safety devices and also jigs, fixtures and tools on the manufacturing line, and also tooling for end-use parts – parts that fail during the production line process – to keep the uptime of the facility higher.”

I asked Howard what types of materials Heineken was using, and he showed me a device made out of Tough PLA material that is used to keep bottles from falling off the line.

“It’s light, and yet has the strength to be able to handle the weight from the bottle,” Howard explained.

“The tool that they were using before was a lot more rigid and rough, and it was sometimes causing the bottles to come off the line.”

The 3D printed version of the tool causes less friction on the bottles, which means a higher yield for Heineken as less bottles are breaking. It also saves the brewery time and money, as they can fabricate the tool on-site rather than send the design away to a third party for manufacturing. Howard also told me about one of the 3D printed safety device that’s been implemented in the brewery.

“There was a piece of equipment that required maintenance, and there was a safety latch that they built to prevent the machine from accidentally coming on during the maintenance process, to protect the workers from any injury. So the part that was printed goes over the power [switch] so you can’t inadvertently turn that machine on during the maintenance process.”

We then moved on to some parts 3D printed by other Ultimaker customers, including one for Volkswagen Autoeuropa. The tool, pictured above, was used on the manufacturing line to keep the wheel assembly from getting scratched. The tool has multiple drill guides to keep the wheel from falling off the lug nuts while it’s being screwed on, and Volkswagen was able to save a lot of time and money in upgrading to this 3D printed tool from the one they were previously using from a molding company, which would often break.

“We redesigned it…before, they were molding it in one piece. Our engineers helped them to discover that if they designed this differently, they could do it in a way that, if this part breaks, then you can just print that part, you don’t have to take the whole thing and throw it away,” Howard explained.

“All the principles of lean manufacturing are addressed in this particular piece.”

This new 3D printed version of the part reduces the amount of the time the tool was unavailable due to breakage, keeps productivity up, and also protects the wheel, so that the yield of the assembly at the end of the line is higher overall.

Take a look at more of my pictures from the Ultimaker booth at RAPID + TCT below:

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

[Images: Sarah Saunders, unless otherwise noted]