3D Systems Looks to Increase 3D Printer Efficiency with Aquant’s AI Platform

For the last two years, 3D printing industry giant 3D Systems has been looking into product launches in hardware, materials, and workflow, in order to create more opportunities for additional applications. 3D Systems President and CEO Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) mentioned this strategy again at RAPID + TCT in Texas last month, and highlighted a few examples.

For instance, the company has been focused on applications in the medical and dental fields for a while, and both the US Air Force and the US Navy will be utilizing its technology to reproduce older plane components and qualify metal 3D printing for warships. 3D Systems also recently introduced a new metal 3D printing system, along with an integrated metal 3D printing software platform.

Never one to just sit back and rest on its laurels, 3D Systems rallied after disappointing Q3 17 financial results and outlined a fairly aggressive approach to keeping its market leadership position. In keeping with the plan, the company recently made its newest announcement – it’s chosen the Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform by New York-based Aquant to increase field service efficiency through parts prediction.

“Advanced technology is key to continued growth for our business. By applying Aquant’s AI technology to our service processes, we believe we are taking a major step towards the vision of providing our customers with zero unplanned downtime,” said Mark Hessinger, the Vice President of Services for 3D Systems.

Aquant, an enterprise AI platform, learns the unique language of other enterprises through machine learning, and uses this knowledge to increase equipment uptime – what it refers to as Uptime as a Service. Its machine learning can provide a step-by-step troubleshooting process, which allows its customers to make faster, smarter decisions, driven by hard data, by taking Aquant’s recommendations for “predictive actionable service.”

The company uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms to quickly convert both historical unstructured and structured data into a helpful knowledge base. Aquant’s predictive AI can help elevate organizations by increasing first-time fixes on machines, which completely negates unplanned downtime.

Shahar Chen, Aquant’s CEO and Co-Founder, said, “We are honoured 3D Systems, one of the leading 3D printing companies in the world, has decided to partner with us. Our technology will allow 3D Systems to leverage all of the data they’ve gathered over the years to create an immediate improvement in speed and accuracy of issue diagnosis, achieve a significant increase in machine uptime, reduce operational costs and provide fast ROI.”

3D Systems will maximize its 3D printers’ uptime through Aquant’s innovative AI platform, which will allow the company to diagnose machine failures more accurately and quickly. Thanks to its increased productivity, 3D Systems will be able to save money by cutting out repeat service visits. In addition, Aquant analyzes historical item usage, so it’s better able to forecast any future demand.

According to the Aquant website, “Even the best experts cannot predict the exact parts and skills necessary to complete each job. In order to maximize machine uptime and increase first-time fix rate, Aquant’s machine learning algorithms predict which parts and skills are required for the job.”

The technicians at 3D Systems can call on Aquant’s technology to quickly diagnose 3D printer issues based on their report symptoms. In addition, the company will be able to better predict which parts will need service calls, escalate complex problems to the next level without delay. – basically letting Aquant take care of all of the heavy lifting.

It’s smart decisions like this – teaming up with Aquant to reduce 3D printer downtime – that keeps 3D Systems on top.

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MIT 3D Printed Magnets Mimic Real Organisms

Recent findings from the group of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology show magnetic, 3D printed creatures able to move, crawl, sneak, fold and catching objects, with no “strings” attached. MIT produced the magnets from a brand new kind of soft material, which they infused with magnetic particles. These incredibly realistic structures have potential in […]

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Robo Acquires MyStemKits Educational 3D Printing Platform

California-based 3D printer manufacturer Robo 3D has announced the purchase of an educational 3D printing platform, MyStemKits. The company in question owns the biggest online library of STEM curriculums incorporating 3D printable kits for K-12 schools. The acquisition is a clear sign that Robo are looking to get into the burgeoning educational 3D printer field. As […]

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UL and Tooling U-SME officially partner to launch Additive Manufacturing Professional Certification program

Following the release of the Additive Manufacturing Safety Certification for powder handling, UL, a global safety science company, and Tooling U-SME, a leading provider of manufacturing training solutions, have finalized an agreement to create a single source for training and professional additive manufacturing certification. With this partnership, the Additive Manufacturing Fundamentals program, previously developed by Tooling […]

#3DPrinted Quick Release GoPro Bracket #celebratephotography

From xchg_dot_ca on Thingiverse:

Created Quick Release plate for YI Handheld Gimbal based on GoPro quick release buckle.
This is designed to be used with GoPro chest mounts.

Read more and see more on YouTube


We #celebratephotography here at Adafruit every Saturday. From photographers of all levels to projects you have made or those that inspire you to make, we’re on it! Got a tip? Well, send it in!

If you’re interested in making your own project and need some gear, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our Raspberry Pi accessories and our DIY cameras.

Father Takes Up 3D Printing, and Founds New Company, to Create Son’s Custom Orthosis

Some of the most heartwarming aspects of the 3D printing industry involve the people who do everything they can to develop and provide affordable 3D printed prosthetics to people who need them the most. Just in time for Father’s Day, Formlabs has shared a beautiful story about a dad who worked tirelessly to help his young son walk on his own…and ended up helping others along the way.

Cerebral palsy (CP) causes more than 17 million people around the world to have limited control of their own bodies. Seven years ago, Nik, the son of Matej and Mateja Vlašič, was born one month early, and due to difficulties during childbirth, suffered brain damage that led to the diagnosis of CP, and an inability to stand or walk on his own.

To help CP patients walk, many doctors will prescribe standard orthoses meant to correct spine and limb disorders. Patients can purchase pre-made orthotics, and some can even be slightly modified to better fit the patient, but it’s not easy to use one device to help with several symptoms, and they can even lead to skin irritation and pain.

Custom orthoses, CNC machined based off of a plaster or foam box impression, generally fit better, but the cost can be astronomical, even with insurance, and delivery can take weeks. On top of that, children outgrow them quickly.

Matej, who has an engineering background, said, Based on my knowledge, I knew that a piece of plastic could not cost so much money.”

Matej has worked hard all of Nik’s life to help him move on his own, even using ski boots to stabilize his ankles when he got older.

When you’re looking at your child, you instinctively know what to do in order to help him. When Nik was unable to turn on his side, I decided to build a ramp so that he could easily flip on his belly. When he found out that this was fun, he was trying to do it all by himself,” Matej said.

He instantly felt confident, and you could see it in his eyes that he loved it and that he wanted to progress. This is what kept us going.”

Unfortunately, Nik’s short Achilles tendon and low muscle tone kept him on his toes.

He was afraid of walking because his feet were in a really bad position,” said Petra Timošenko, Nik’s physiotherapist. “If he had tried to walk longer like that, he would have injured the bones and the joints.”

Matej knew he had to find a better way to help his son.

The lack of comfort and high price combined with all the cons were enough that I decided to do something about it. I didn’t have the solution at that time, but I wanted to find a better way to design it,” Matej said. “I was just trying to help my son the best possible way.

I didn’t know how orthoses are produced currently, so I was able to look outside of the box.”

He had heard of 3D printing, and after conducting some research, determined that the technology was accurate enough to create a properly-fitted orthosis. One of the benefits of 3D printing, especially in the healthcare field, is its ability to design customized products at a more affordable cost, and Matej was confident he could create a custom, 3D printed orthosis that would give Nik the correction and support he needed.

After a few attempts, Matej successfully digitized Nik’s feet, learned 3D modeling, and spent the next six months researching and experimenting, and eventually developed an innovative workflow, which starts with placing the patient’s feet, in the corrected, standing position, on a vacuum bag.

An iPad-mounted structure scanner scans the footprints from the bag, while the feet are also 3D scanned from above, and the data is merged and cleaned up into an accurate representation. The custom orthosis is designed right on the 3D scanned foot in CAD software, and then 3D printed in high resolution on a Form 2 3D printer with Durable Resin.

The first 3D printed prototype reached almost to Nik’s knee and kept him from walking freely, so Matej got to work on the second iteration, creating a prototype that fit inside a regular shoe. Finally, a successful prototype was created.

“In two or three days he was walking, and we were not needed to take care of him so that he doesn’t fall anymore,” Matej said. “The change was immediate, it was unbelievable.”

Nik’s orthosis is barely visible.

Just how braces align teeth, the 3D printed orthosis keeps Nik’s foot in the corrected position. It’s best to use orthoses at a young age, as children’s bodies can adapt while they grow. Physiotherapy also helps to strengthen ligaments and muscles.

When he’d been using the orthosis for two or three months, for the first time, I saw Nik smiling,” said Timošenko. “After four or five months, he started to become faster and faster. His steps became longer, and his walking more smooth. He actually started to dance.

Now I can do much more sophisticated exercise with him. We can run on a treadmill, we can jump, because I know that his feet are in the right position and I can’t cause any deformation to his bones or joints, that might, on the long term, require an operation to correct. If he didn’t have this orthosis, his feet would be in danger.”

Matej created four versions of Nik’s 3D printed orthosis.

The first version gave him confidence and stabilized him. The second version improved his overall walking smoothness,” Matej explained. “Then the third helped him get better posture, and that’s when he really started to enjoy the walking and started to play around. The fourth orthosis corrected his right foot that was off the center of his body, so now he’s able to stand with his feet together in a straightened, upright position.”

After looking at the workflow, and measuring Nik’s feet with and without his 3D printed orthoses, certified orthotist and prosthetist Dejan Tašner knew that Matej had created a novel solution. He is able to make an affordable custom orthosis in less than 24 hours, and the devices are also comfortable.

3D printing allows us to create orthotics with different thicknesses in different areas. We can apply a more thick area where it’s needed and minimal thickness to the areas where correction is not required,” Matej explained. “This is not possible with current solutions.

Orthoses don’t need to hurt, only without pain can the children accept them.”

Matej and his wife decided to certify the workflow, which is now patent-pending, so the process and components will meet standard requirements for medical devices and allow for clinical trials. Matej quit his job to focus on 3D printed, patient-specific 3D printed children’s orthotics full-time and, together with Mateja, Tašner, and Timošenko, formed a new company called aNImaKe.

At the moment, we are testing with several patients with different pathologies from age three to 11,” Tašner said. “We already see improvements in terms of biomechanics, which is the main goal. But also, crucially, a positive change in sentiment that the parents see in the daily life of their children because they need to feel comfortable to use the orthosis often enough to improve their walking.”

aNImaKe hopes to expand the technique to other parts of the body, such as a hand brace that helps young CP patients spread their fingers.

We want to enlighten others in the medical industry about the tools that are available today to provide better options to the children,” Matej said. “Orthotics should be built for a person, and should treat only the symptoms, not be standardized solutions that put them in boxes.”

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

[Source/Images: Formlabs]


Team Effort Uses 3D Printing to Restore Coral Reefs

[Image: SECORE: Paul Selvaggio]

Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, with thousands of animal and plant species living in their colorful ocean-floor habitats. These reefs are in quite a bit of trouble currently, however. In the past 30 years, 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have died and if changes aren’t made to slow the progression of climate change and curb other human-caused damage to the reefs, 90 percent of them may die in the next century. Coral reefs aren’t just vital to the plants and animals that call them home, but to humans as well – they provide a lot of income through tourism and fishing, as well as protecting coastlines during violent storms.

Saving them, therefore, is critical, and involves some human intervention at this point. Coral are sessile animals, meaning that they take root like plants but capture their food from the ocean water. Coral polyps root themselves in ocean rocks, gradually reproducing and growing until they form the lush, brightly colored reefs that people travel thousands of miles to see. It’s a slow process, though – coral reefs grow by centimeters each year, taking thousands of years to become large and thriving. Right now, coral reefs don’t have thousands of years, so they need our help.

Several organizations have been trying to help coral by 3D printing artificial reefs and sinking them in the ocean in hopes of attracting free-floating coral polyps to embed themselves and begin reproducing. An organization called SECORE International (Sexual Coral Reproduction) is also using 3D printing, but taking a more hands-on, aggressive approach. SECORE is a nonprofit global network of scientists, public aquarium professionals and local stakeholders working to protect and restore coral reefs. Along with its partners, which include the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Nature Conservancy, SECORE is developing restoration processes that leverage the natural reproductive habits of coral.

3D printed seeding units. [Image: SECORE/Valérie Chamberland]

Certain coral species naturally broadcast egg and sperm cells, which are collected by SECORE, fertilized, and then raised in tanks until they become freely swimming larvae. Those larvae are then introduced to 3D printed “seeding units” that resemble places on natural reefs where coral would attach. Once the coral have embedded themselves, the seeding units are planted on reef areas in need of restoration.

It’s an effective approach, but a costly one, unfortunately.

“One of the ways SECORE is aiming to reduce these costs is by designing seeding units that do not need to be manually attached to the reef, but rather can be sown from a boat or other method, similar to how a farmer would sow seeds in a field,” said SECORE Project and Workshop Manager Aric Bickel.

3D printing is another way to keep costs down, as well as to rapidly produce the seeding units. SECORE aims to produce a million of the units by 2021, and hundreds of thousands of units annually by then. Phase One of the project is taking place in the Caribbean, with research and training hubs in Mexico, Curaçao and the Bahamas.

“3D printing allows us to do a bit of rapid prototyping. We were looking at several different materials, and 3D printing allows us to print a variety of materials,” Bickel said. “It also saves the cost of having to make molds or castings which, particularly for the initial prototypes, would be a significant amount of money invested.”

A diver with a tray of the seeding units [Image: SECORE/Benjamin Mueller]

CAS is one of SECORE’s primary funding providers, and because SECORE is a small team with limited engineering capabilities, CAS turned to the Autodesk Foundation, with which it looked into various design firms for help with the development of the seeding units.

“In collaboration with the Foundation, we reached out to several design firms,” Bickel said. “Emerging Objects seemed like they would be the best folks to help us out with this next design phase and hopefully with the iterative design phases as we go forward.”

One of the main challenges SECORE has been having is finding the best material and design combination for the seeding units. Not just any shape can be used – the units need to be able to wedge themselves into the reefs without manual assistance. The material is an issue, too. SECORE had been using rough cement for the seeding units, but that material worked a little too well – in addition to attracting corals, it also attracted quite a few competing organisms.

“One issue was with competition from other species on the units themselves,” said Bickel. “What the trials showed is that a slicker surface will cut down on that potential competition. The needle that you have to thread here is having a surface that’s rough enough for corals to settle on and to attach to but smooth enough that it’s not a good location for other organisms such as sponges and algae to attach to.”

Several years of trials and experiments revealed ceramic to be a good potential material for the seeding units. Emerging Objects has plenty of experience in the experimental use of 3D printed ceramic, but needed to be able to 3D print the material on a large scale, so the company reached out to Boston Ceramics for help.

“Boston Ceramics is one of the few companies we’re aware of in the world that can potentially meet some of the demands for the number of substrates we’ll be using,” said Bickel.

The team used Autodesk Netfabb to design the original shape, a tetrapod, for the seeding units, and has been experimenting with other designs that are better suited to landing and wedging themselves in the surfaces of the reefs and protecting the larvae. One of those designs looks like a ninja throwing star.

[Image: SECORE/Valérie Chamberland]

“The question we posed to our working group was, ‘Can you give us your best impression of what promotes coral larvae to grow, and what’s going to allow them to survive in the ocean as they grow up in these early life stages?’” said Bickel.

The SECORE project is not one of immediate gratification. The organization grows its corals from embryos in small conglomerations of cells, and depending on the species, it can take several years for the corals to become sexually mature. In earlier life stages, however, the coral can still provide habitats for fish and other species.

This elkhorn coral was outplanted by SECORE five years ago. Since then, it has grown into a mature colony, which now spawns with other elkhorn colonies in the waters of Curaçao. [Image: SECORE/Paul Selvaggio]

“It’s definitely an investment in the future,” Bickel said. “I think that with really complicated ecosystems, we’re talking many years before you start seeing comparable structure return to areas that are being restored. The main focus at the moment is, can we improve our methods and our technologies to upscale this type of restoration to the levels needed to counteract the decline?”

SECORE isn’t the only organization working to do so, and the hope is that with enough of them putting effort into restoring coral reefs, the damage can be mitigated and even reversed.

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

[Source: Autodesk]