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3D Printing Industry Weekly – Aluminum as Strong as Titanium

Picture of Sarah Goehrke
by Sarah Goehrke
Oct 12, 2018

What’s happening in the 3D printing industry? Keep informed with our weekly report presented by industry expert Sarah Goehrke. This week: Boeing prints big, 3D printing tech assists doctors in conjoined twin separation, researchers enhance alumina to yield parts as strong as titanium.

This week in additive manufacturing, 3D printing applications are being showcased and further developed. Use cases highlighting additive manufacturing in real-world situations offer a glimpse into what’s possible today, while researchers are at work on the developments of tomorrow. And, of course, there’s the opportunity for more innovative minds to contribute with the launch of this year’s edition of a popular redesign competition.

Week 41, 2018 3D Printing Industry Report 3D Printing Applications Build Up

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Boeing - Thermwood LSAM VLP print

3D printing applications are a big deal — often literally.

Boeing and Thermwood this week showcased a massive single-piece build. The 12-foot-long tool was created with Thermwood’s LSAM (Large Scale Additive Manufacturing) machine and VLP (Vertical Layer Print, though I sincerely want this to be Very Large Print) technology. Delivered in August, the tool was made from a 20% carbon fiber-reinforced ABS for Boeing’s 777X program.

A large fountain in Russia is a-bubble again thanks to 3D printing, as AMT-SPECAVIA reveals its role in restoring the piece. The “Sheaf” fountain, in Palekh, was created by sculptor Nikolai Vasilyevich Dydykin. Following the 3D printing-enabled restoration, the fountain is now round, rather than rectangular, and features mounted underwater lights and 3D printed parapets. The 2.6-meter diameter, 2.2-meter deep fountain is thought to be the first in both Russia and the world to have been restored using construction 3D printing technology, the company reports. Of the work, the company notes:

“The construction of the facility was carried out by the assembly organization LLC IvStroyIndustriya. The fixed shuttering of the parapet was printed by the company IvStroyGarant from Ivanovo with the help of a 3D construction printer (COP-printer ‘AMT’, Construction Objects Printing) produced by the Group of Companies AMT-SPECIAVIA.”

3D Printing Industry Report Separating Conjoined Twins

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Conjoined Twins From Mali Given New Lease of Life at Sidra Medicine, Qatar

A first in Qatar, a medical team at Sidra Medicine recently separated conjoined twins. Such operations are both complex and risky, and 3D printing has come to the aid in these cases before.

That this application for the technology is spreading around the world showcases the localization with which 3D printing can be applied for the betterment of human life in specific areas that might not otherwise have had access to such high-tech solutions previously. This case saw the four-month-old baby boys conjoined at the liver and lower sternum.

By the numbers, the surgery saw a team of 10 medical professionals, 9 hours of procedure, 30 hours of simulation — and at least one 3D printed model detailing the boys’ anatomies for pre-surgical planning. The babies, Hamad and Tamim, are recovering well.

3D Printing Industry Report Research into Medical and Materials Developments

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High purity alumina powder 3D printed to rival titanium for strength

Metals, dissolvable implants, and data without power: researchers around the world are putting 3D printing to work to create an ever-expanding array of interesting solutions.

At Russia’s NUST MISIS, researchers have been at work enhancing 3D printing material properties to see aluminum powder meet the strength of titanium. Targeted at aerospace applications, the ultra-high-purity alumina is set to offer the density and strength benefits of difficult-to-3D-print titanium in an easier-to-handle material. Prototypes are being tested now; the aerospace industry is the target application market for the new high-strength material.

In the US, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Michael Sealy is spearheading work in creating dissolvable medical implants. Work with an Optomec 3D printer enabled careful calibration and precise work as Sealy worked through different tests to create the parts with selected mechanical properties throughout, rather than just the surface as other techniques allowed. 3D printed magnesium implants, designed to degrade at different rates for different bodily applications, may offer unique opportunities for patients to heal better, including the elimination of the need for a second surgery to remove a metal implant.

3D Printing Industry Report Entries Welcome in Extreme Redesign Contest

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Stratasys Extreme Redesign Challenge 2019

Stratasys’ popular Extreme Redesign Challenge is open for entries for 2019, its 15th year of challenging students to use design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to rethink and redesign a tool.

The GrabCAD-hosted contest welcomes students from post-secondary through university levels, including teams, to submit well-thought designs that will be judged on mechanical design, design creativity, product usefulness, and aesthetics (for the art, jewelry, and architecture category). Submissions are accepted through February 23, 2019; finalists will be announced in April, and winners in May.

The challenge sees some truly impressive designs each year, and innovation inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of places; last year’s top prize for secondary education in the engineering category went to a nail clipper shield, while a multi-purpose cooking utensil took honors as the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers (NCATC) winner.

3D Printing Industry Report Week 40

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Desktop Metal and Markforged Settle

With round one of the lawsuit settled at the end of July without any findings of IP infringement, the case Desktop Metal filed against Markforged back in March of this year was expected to drag on a bit longer still. Round two, to determine the final status of trade secret misappropriation, began last week and was scheduled to go on for three weeks. Opening arguments showed that the teams were taking the issues personally… but two days after those statements, the case was closed.

“Both Desktop Metal and Markforged acknowledge that neither company, nor the individuals named in the litigation, misappropriated any trade secret or confidential information belonging to the other. Further terms and conditions of the settlement will remain confidential,” the joint press release read.

Well, then. The Metal X continues to ship and the Studio System continues on without suspicion of its intellectual property having been infringed, and we all sleep easier with that much more peace in the industry.

Partnership and Business News

Resin- and thermoplastic-based 3D printing gets a boost this week as US-based Carbon and Germany-based BigRep announced business expansions, while Shapeways announces a new pricing strategy.

The expansive — and expanding — Carbon Production Network rose to a 20-strong collaboration, with the latest partners coming not from additive specifically, but from injection molding and urethane casting operations. Including companies like Bright Plastics, Dependable Plastics, Diversified Plastics Inc., Element Packaging, Gallagher Corporation, Nicolet Plastics, Prattville Machine & Tool, and Resolution Medical, the CPN will see each partner kitted up with a 3D printing ecosystem with technology, training, and support from team Carbon.

On the extrusion side, BigRep announced a development partnership with Bosch Rexroth. The collaboration will see BigRep’s (big) 3D printers equipped with Bosch Rexroth’s CNC control systems and drives. Integrating these systems poises the 3D printers for better connectivity as CEO Dr. Stephan Beyer looks for the move to be part of the company’s strategy to “re-define Additive Manufacturing” and “establish 3D printing as a key industry 4.0 application” — it also underscores the seriousness with which Bosch Rexroth is taking additive manufacturing and looking to invest in the technology.

Shapeways CEO Greg Kress has announced a new pricing setup for the company, to be effective on the 22nd of October. Kress’ letter to the community covers the what, why, and how of the announcement — and the requisite “this is an exciting time at Shapeways” to begin the discussion that will impact users’ pocketbooks. With changes in algorithm, minimum pricing, finish pricing, material pricing, manufacturing speed, and shipping, the long and short of it is about what you’d expect when seeing an announcement on pricing: it’s going up. A more sustainable business model leans on profitability, and with recent changes, such as the addition of the Stratasys J750 and Shopify integration, the company has to reflect portfolio additions to its business model.

Software Enhancements

The best hardware in the world is useless without software telling it what to do; advances in software unlock the true potential of 3D printing, and this week’s releases showcase some new capabilities sure to appeal to users.

Frustum has introduced GENERATE for Windows, with the new release allowing for interactive generative design set to “fundamentally how products are modeled for manufacture by allowing engineers to interact and iterate in real time with generative design models,” the company says. Big claims, but Frustum has developed a reputation for follow-through, which leaves this release one to watch. GENERATE is manufacturing-minded 3D software that brings AI to the design table to create optimized, lighter weight, and stronger parts. This one is a release I recommend reading in full for a closer look at the intriguing possibilities.

Also well worth an in-depth read is Ultimaker’s Cura 3.5 release, which has some hefty improvements. New are hotkeys, a monitor page, and 3MF format compatibility. That last is especially interesting as the industry continues to move toward actual adoption for 3MF, the promising-yet-not-widely-adopted file format that could be the longed-for STL-killer. There’s a lot to the update, from user experience to slicing and overhang improvements — and a really well thought-out enhancement to prime towers for more reliable multi-material (not just multi-color) printing, as well as rotational capabilities for support infill line direction. And connected infill polygons. And minimum wall flow. And new third-party 3D printers, with new profiles for TiZYX, Winbo, Tevo Tornado, Creality CR-10S, and Wanhao Duplicator, along with updated profiles for Deltacomb and Dacoma.

Applications, Applications, Applications

Well — applications, applications, as we feature two looks into R&D and usage this week. It’s a good week for cement research, as we see another university 3D printing with strength, while a 3D printed chest implant showcases a closer-to-the-heart use of technology.

Research at Nanyang Technological University Singapore is leading toward robots ready to swarm together to 3D print concrete structures. Proven with two robots and a cement mix formulated specifically for 3D printing, the research is set to “allow for unique concrete designs currently not possible with conventional casting,” the team explains. Working with smaller robot swarms precludes the existing issue of massive printers that may not fit into construction sites. Developments continue, as orchestrating the two robots requires sophisticated procedures in ensuring appropriate bonding, smooth structuring, fully mapped parts, and avoiding collision of the building arms.

A medical team in South Korea has revealed its first success in implanting a 3D printed rib cage into a 55-year-old patient. The patient, treated at Chung-Ang University Hospital’s Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, suffered from a sarcoma in the sternum and rib; the extensive reconstruction needed called for a prosthesis well beyond the capabilities of conventional options. The 3D printed solution is made of titanium, weighs in at 190g, and was successfully implanted on a September 19th surgery, marking a first for such a procedure in South Korea and a sixth globally. The hospital says the patient is recovering well.

3D Printing Industry Report Week 39

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New Product Launches

Materialise has introduced its simulation software for metal 3D printing, which together with the company’s Magics 3D Print Suite is set to “bring simulation for additive manufacturing (AM) to the production floor by providing easy-to-manage simulation capabilities at lower price points.” Simulation is increasingly in focus for operations as 3D printing continues on the path toward wider use in production applications. Through simulating builds prior to beginning a print job, files can be tested and optimized to ensure low failure rates, saving on costs, materials, and energy. This new metal-targeted simulation solution is set to optimize production processes “without the need for expert knowledge.” It is based on an OEM version of the Simufact Additive Solver, working with Magics software; the simulation module is available now, and Magics 23 is set for release later this year.

LulzBot and IC3D have announced another new filament to go alongside the world’s first open-source 3D printing filament. ABS, introduced last year, has now been joined by the open source PETg formulation. Aleph Objects, LulzBot’s parent company, continues to champion the open source philosophy. Carrying the new IC3D PETg material — which now has a custom-developed print profile in Cura LE — brings another addition to the 30+-strong material portfolio available from LulzBot. IC3D PETg is said to offer strength, ductility, dimensional accuracy, and high chemical resistance.

Operations Expansions

At TCT Show, Shapeways and Stratasys announced a teaming up through which Shapeways will offer full-color multi-material 3D printing services via the Stratasys J750. Shapeways’ 3D printing services broaden access to industrial technologies that might not otherwise be available for use by designers, students, small businesses, or artists. Customers including Biologic Models have already been making use of the new access; beta customers will be able to make use of the new service later this year, while the full launch is slated for 2019.

Also at TCT Show, Israel-based XJet announced its first distribution agreement. Working with UK-based Carfulan Group, distribution will be operating under the XJ3D name. XJet’s NanoParticle Jetting (NPJ) technology is used in its intriguing Carmel AM System line for metal and ceramic 3D printing.

Metals and electronics 3D printing company Optomec has expanded operations in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) region through the opening of Optomec GmbH. The EMEA Operations Center is based in Switzerland at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, which is affiliated with research stronghold ETH Zürich. The new office will house engineers and technicians alongside Optomec equipment, ready to work with regional clients.

Spare parts 3D printing is picking up around the world, and Singapore, in particular, is becoming a hub of activity. Singapore-based SpareParts3D has announced a collaboration with DNV GL through the latter’s joint industry project (JIP) focusing on additive manufacturing for spare parts. One of two 3D printing-focused JIPs introduced earlier this year from DNV GL, this initiative is set to bring qualified additive manufacturing to the maritime and oil and gas (O&G) sector.

3D Printed Implants

4WEB Medical has seen substantial growth recently for its Lateral Spine Truss System. So substantial, in fact, that the company announced this week at the North American Spine Society (NASS) Annual Meeting that it has entered into a partnership set to enhance its market positioning. The exclusive partnership, with both TeDan Surgical Innovations and Lattus Spine LLC, is geared to combine 4WEB’s Truss Implant Technology with the Extreme Lateral (XL) Access solution that TeDan and Lattus offer. TeDan’s primary focus will shift to the Lateral Spine Truss System.

As more implant solutions are created via 3D printing and qualified for use, many are left wondering how these new introductions compare with traditionally made devices. A new comparison, dubbed the MATRIXX Trial, is set to be “the first ever clinical evaluation of novel 3D-printed lumbar interbody fusion devices relative to PEEK.” Put into motion by Nexxt Spine LLC, the trial is set to pit its 3D printed titanium Nexxt Matrixx System spinal fusion implants against ‘gold standard’ PEEK cages in a randomized patient trial.

3D Printing Industry Report Week 38

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Investments

Money makes the business world go ‘round, and new capital is speeding the way for some interesting additive manufacturing operations.

ASTM International has announced funding for additive manufacturing research into projects covering feedstock, process qualification, post-processing, and testing. Set to “help catalyze the development of needed standards in additive manufacturing,” the funding will set work from the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), NASA, EWI, Auburn University, and ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence partner the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) in motion.

Stratasys spinoff Evolve Additive Solutions announced its own round of funding, closing a $19 million investment led by strategic partner LEGO Brand Group, with participation from Stanley Black & Decker and an unnamed third partner. Evolve’s unique Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP) technology is fully geared toward manufacturing operations. Company executives are enthusiastic about the potential the new funding and closer work with these strategic partners are enabling as they look toward beta machines, following a recent announcement of their first alpha placement.

Company Operations

A new company and new ownership highlight the fast-moving business end of 3D printing, with interesting implications for materials.

NanoSteel has formed Formetrix, Inc., a spinout of its additive manufacturing business set to commercialize metals for 3D printing. Series A funding, led by “an industrial leader in Additive Manufacturing” along with Cycad Group and SPDG, is paving the way for Formetrix’s activity. Materials from the new company are set to bring experience in steel alloy design from NanoSteel to bear, with an initial focus in applications for molding, casting, and stamping in automotive, O&G, and heavy machinery. Formetrix is working with the ForumUp 350 3D printer from AddUp.

Univar has announced its acquisition of Nexeo Solutions. Nexeo, which has been expanding its 3D printing materials portfolio, is a global chemical distributor and service provider that is now looking to leverage the capabilities of its new parent company. The $2 billion transaction includes the assumption of Nexeo’s debts. The announcement also notes that “Univar has hired an external advisor to evaluate strategic alternatives for Nexeo’s industry-leading Plastics business, which may include a potential divestiture of the business”; Nexeo Solutions 3D is in the Plastics business.

New Products & Installations

Stratasys is proving the value of FDM 3D printing with the installation of a Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer at the Siemens Mobility RRX Rail Service Center. The digital rail maintenance center, in Dortmund-Eving, Germany, “offers the highest level of digitalization in the rail industry.” On-site 3D printing for spare parts is set to ease the supply chain for inventory as well as provide on-demand tooling. Tools 3D printed in ULTEM 9085 offer high strength, fast turnaround compared to traditional methods (in the order of 13 hours to 3D print versus six weeks to order), and a proof point for the value proposition of this application area.

At IMTS, 3D Systems announced a partnership with GF through which the partners are introducing the jointly developed DMP Factory 500, a hybrid solution designed to integrate into existing manufacturing workflows and introduce increased automation to metal. Because a large new machine isn’t enough for 3D Systems, the company also expanded its software platform and, in an announcement to fit in with other categories in this week’s digest, announced increased investment from Align as well as noting the milestone of producing 320,000 unique customized Invisalign orthodontic aligners daily thanks to SLA 3D printing.

Additive Milestones

Siemens sees the value of 3D printing in not only its rail operations but throughout its expansive portfolio of activities. The company has announced a significant milestone for its 3D printed burner in an SGT-700 gas turbine. The equipment, operating now for a year in Germany at E.ON’s combined cycle plant, has seen the burner operate for more than 8,000 hours without issue. The burners are each 3D printed with SLM technology in one piece, rather than the previous 13-part-18-weld traditional design.

License: The text of "3D Printing Industry Weekly – Aluminum as Strong as Titanium" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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