Focus on 3D Printing - News & Updates

Excerpt: Here are the 3D Printing News & Updates across the world.

3D Printing materials market to reach $4.5 billion by 2024

The $1.5 billion 3D printing materials market is forecasted to grow to $4.5 billion by 2024 at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 25% over the five years. The report from Research and Markets also projects metal 3D printing to grow at an even faster clip.

The growth in the materials segment is obviously related to the global expansion of all types of 3D printers, from consumer and professional desktop models to industrial and manufacturing machines. Easy-to-use FDM (fused deposition modeling) and SLA (stereolithography) 3D printers can now be purchased for under $500. They all use the same filaments and resins, so the more people that buy 3D printers, the more materials those same users will consume. The last couple years have seen a deluge of new industrial-grade polymers developed and certified for aerospace, healthcare, and automotive applications, many of which can be used across different brands of 3D printers. These realities make the 3D printing materials market a safe bet over the next few years.

The metal materials market is being driven by demand from the automotive, aerospace, defense, and healthcare industries, all of which require precise manufacturing of complex components for highly regulated and mission-critical applications. Most of the metals are consumed in powder form, and the most popular metals are steel, aluminum, and titanium. The automotive industry is expected to experience the highest CAGR in the metals segment due to companies such as Ford and BMW using 3D printers to mass produce engine parts, light covers, fenders, and more.

Fastest-growing region

Regionally, APAC (Asia Pacific) is growing faster than any other market and is currently the third-largest consumer of 3D printing materials, behind the US and Europe. More than half of the world's population lives in the region, so as they deploy infrastructure and grow their economies, they'll be consuming an increasing share of 3D printing materials. China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and India already invest heavily in 3D printing and are expected to drive growth in the region. The report also provides a competitive analysis for the largest manufacturers of 3D printing materials, including 3D Systems, Royal DSM, ExOne, GE, Materialise, Stratasys, and EOS.

3D Printed bones help middle ear transplant

3D printed transplant organs have been taking on an increasing level of complexity as of late.. Researchers at the University of Pretoria's Faculty of Health Sciences have conducted 2 successful middle ear transplants using 3D printed bones. This transplant has been the first of its kind, showcasing an effective means of replacing the ossicles which comprise the middle ear.

Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, performing the surgery. Picture: Jacques Nelles

“3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought we could,” says Prof. Tshifularo, head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. “But I need sponsors and funding for this invention to take off the ground.”

The groundbreaking middle ear transplant can fully replace the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. After additively manufacturing each of these bones separately, the researchers have to perform surgery. While the procedure has only been performed on 2 patients, the researchers are confident about its applicability to anyone, from newborns to seniors.

This particular ear transplant is also fairly safe for reasons the researchers highlight: “By replacing only the ossicles that aren't functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures,” Prof Tshifularo explains. “We use biocompatible materials for this procedure, which is. We use an endoscope to do the replacement, so the transplant is expected to be quick, with minimal scarring.”

The surgery Prof. Tshifularo performed was on patients with underdeveloped middle ears. The ear transplant technology is crucial for many people who may suffer from congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases. Although the research is still young, it has already cured two patients and the researchers deem it safer than the alternatives.

As previously mentioned, it carries less risk than existing methods and reduces chances of facial nerve paralysis. The middle ear transplant also simplifies many other procedures such as ossiculoplasty and stapedectomy. Considering its benefits, it may only be a very small amount of time until the surgery is widespread among the medical community.

Prodways Technologies exhibits new industrial 3d printer at RAPID TCT event

France-based Prodways Technologies displayed their new ProMaker P1000 X SLS 3D printer and two new materials at the recent RAPID + TCT Conference. The P1000 X improves upon the performance of the P1000, which was already designed for industrial use. One of the new materials is for their SLS line of 3D printers and the other is a resin for their DLP dental 3D printers.

With a build volume that's 18% larger at 32 liters and a production speed that's twice as fast as its predecessor at two liters per hour, the P1000 X is equipped to fabricate manufacturing jigs, brackets, and end-use components. Another upgrade is the 24-point-grid thermal field control system and a ten-zone IR heating system that improve part precision and mechanical properties. Their slicer was also optimized to generate smoother and more detailed surfaces.

The P1000 X will be able to use seven Prodways materials, including PA12, flexible TPU 70-A, three different types of PA11 (medical-grade, engineering-grade, and glass-filled), the new PolyPropylene PP 1200 for snap-fits and living hinges, and Stark 3200, a high-performance material that will be released soon. With a Process Developer License, researchers can also adjust the machine's open parameters to work with experimental materials.

The second new material is the PLASTCure Denture resin for their ProMaker LD10 and LD20 dental 3D printers, enabling dental labs to more quickly produce denture bases and tooth models. Up to 30 denture bases can be printed in five hours using the new material. With these product launches, Prodways continues to serve small and medium-sized businesses that want to modernize their fabrication and production processes.

Tips for safe 3D Printing

Is 3D Printing safe? Unfortunately that question does not have an easy yes/no answer. In this article we'll look at several aspects of the safety of 3D printing including the safety of the hardware, the materials used and the 3D printed objects.

What makes a 3D printer safe? There are a few things you should keep in mind when researching whether a 3D printer is safe or not.

  • Electrical safety
  • Mechanical safety
  • Risk of burns

Electrical safety

When one buys a 3D printer, check if the power supply meets all CE mark regulations and is protected against short-circuit, overload, over voltage and over temperature.

A nice feature could be that the hotend of the printer contains thermal runaway protection. By using a thermal fuse mounting in the heat sink to monitor temps and kill all power to the heater in the event of any over temp condition.

Last thing which is pretty rare but nice: a smoke sensor that's separately powered from the machine and which kills all power to the heater when smoke is detected.

Mechanical safety

3D printers contain many moving parts. Fortunately, industry-wide most used NEMA-17 stepper motors do not have enough power to cause serious injuries. Though, in search for a safe 3D printer, please keep in mind that moving gears that are not covered can still form a potential risk. So you might want to limit your search to 3D printers that have a 'closed print chamber' design.

Risk of burns

There is a potential risk of burns, as the print head of most 3D printers can reach temperatures of up to 500 °F / 260 °C and the heated bed (not always included) goes up to 212 °F / 100 °C. Again a fully enclosed print chamber is what one should be looking for, especially when it has a 'auto turn off feature' when the door is opened.

Safety & 3D Printing Materials

So now that you have bought a 3D printer that seems safe, the actual printing can result in all kinds of new risks. What materials are safe to use?

ABS once was the most popular 3D printing material. Engineers love it for its strength and designers like it cause it's easily polishable with acetone.

Its popularity has eventually decreased a bit due to studies that have shown that the fumes that are released are possibly carcinogenic.

But are there no other options? Yes there are plenty. You could for instance use PLA. PLA is a bioplastic and is considered to be relatively safe.

But please keep in mind that most PLA that's sold as 3D printer filament isn't raw, untreated bioplastic. In order to make PLA printable and visually pleasing all kinds of chemicals are added. So you might want to look out for a 3D printer with an air filter.

Safety of 3D Printed Objects

So is the object you've printed safe? Again there's no simple yes/no answer cause it really depends on the application. Is it a functional print? For instance a connector to connect wooden parts of furniture? Then it's best to print it with a super strong and resilient material with a bit of flexibility like nylon. If you' would make the wrong decision to print a functional connector with a stiff and brittle material like PLA, someone might get hurt.

Is the object used as cutlery? If yes, then you'll want to post-process your object with a food-safe glaze, even on a single-use / disposable basis. Re-using the object is not a good idea due to all the micropores and crevices that your 3D printed object will have. Besides that – the little bits of food which will sit inside of your object will provide food and shelter to bacteria and mold. But even if your 3D printing material is certified food-safe plastic, your nozzle is going to contain all kinds of leftovers from every other filament you've ever printed with. On a higher level – industries such as aerospace and automotive are turning to 3D printing as a replacement for traditional manufacturing. The change from utilizing 3D Printing as a prototyping tool to it being used as an end product has got federal regulators tapping the brakes. Concerns about the safety and consistency of 3D printed components means developing new testing mechanisms to prove their safety and efficiency.

Titan Robotics debuts Atlas-H 3D printer with dual pellet extruders at RAPID+TCT 2019

Titan Robotics, Ltd. displayed its latest innovative production 3D printer with Dual Pellet Extruders at the Rapid+TCT exhibition, recently. As a production additive manufacturing (AM) solutions provider, Titan continues to innovate and offer novel solutions for the AM industry. The new Atlas-H product line features dual retracting pellet extruders combined with a robust frame and industrial closed-loop motion control system that enable print speeds reaching 30,000mm/minute. The Dual Pellet Extrusion System further reduces part production costs by combining high-speed printing with the ability to use a wider range of low-cost pellet feedstocks. This provides additional production solutions that enable the adoption of polymer extrusion 3D printing on the factory floor.

Dual Pellet Extruders on the new Atlas-H

“Titan has been a pioneer in the development and implementation of pellet extrusion technology in the additive manufacturing industry. Our Atlas-H product launch aligns with Titan's mission to develop innovative solutions and technologies to bring additive manufacturing into industrial production,” said Clay Guillory, Titan Robotics CEO. “It strengthens Titan's reputation as one of the most innovative companies in the industry.”

Pellet Extrusion 3D printing on the Atlas with a heated enclosure significantly increases the number of materials that can be 3D printed, with a wide range from the very flexible, to high stiffness and from low-temperature commodity materials to high-temperature engineering thermoplastics. This wide range of materials in pellet form is also the lowest cost 3D printing feedstock available on the market to date, with cost savings reaching 10X lower than traditional filament feedstocks.

ABS Pellets reinforced with Carbon Fiber

The new Atlas-H model with a build volume of 42”x42”x48” also features a new industrial design, capable of reaching print speeds of up to 30,000 mm/min with multiple extruder heads on the same gantry. This superior, high speed motion control system utilizes industrial controllers and servo drives on all axes, enabling precise and reliable movements and smooth G-Code execution.

“At Titan Robotics, we value innovation that addresses our customers' needs as we continue to push boundaries for extrusion-based 3D printers. With a second pellet extruder on Titan's Atlas-H, our customers can deposit multiple model materials within a single part or model and support materials so that parts with complex features can be more readily realized,” explained Bill Macy, Titan's CTO.

Titan's Atlas line of 3D printers are currently used by industrial customers across multiple industries, including aerospace, government, defense, automotive, foundry, manufacturing, universities, apparel and visual merchandise across the globe. Customer applications range from end-use production parts to mass customization, molds, tooling and design iteration.

The Atlas-H with Dual Extruders and Heated Enclosure

“With the launch of Atlas-H, we believe both existing and new customers will benefit from increased speed and reduced raw material cost with high reliability never seen before in this industry. Our expanded product portfolio empowers our customers, enabling them to choose the configuration that meets their production needs,” said Titan's CCO, Rahul Kasat. “Available configurations include options for multiple filament and pellet extruders on a single gantry, thus optimizing customers' capital investments and operating expenses.”

HP 5200 Series offers high volume production & accuracy

As 3D printing further progresses into industrial usage, many of the main additive manufacturing companies are upping the ante. Now with HP's 5200 series, the world-renowned conglomerate is pushing for mid-volume production with an accuracy and repeatability similar to that of injection molded plastics. As a result, they hope boost Jet Fusion technology with wider-ranging materials and more reliability.

HP's 5200 series is also part of a wider trend that the company has been undergoing. Their 500/300 series targeted functional prototyping, while the 4200 takes on short runs and production. With the 5200 series they hope to tackle middle volume workflows for “production environments producing over 200 parts per week“.

Currently, the HP Jet Fusion 5200 Series includes three machines: the 5200, 5210 and 5210 Pro. All three embody a similar production quality so the main differences come down to running costs and volumes they produce. The 5200 can manage approximately 800 parts per week, but if a company needs even higher unit production, they may find the 5210 more economical. There are also other differences, such as the 5210 including better scanner calibration for the print bed and more materials.

“The HP Jet Fusion 5200 Series unlocks production opportunities to move them into digital, thanks to its manufacturing predictability, breakthrough economics, and the enablement of new applications,” said Ramon Pastor, Vice President and General Manager of HP.

One of the big upgrades the 5200 series brings to the table is the upgraded lamps. With the added power, the lamps can now heat at higher levels. This enables one pass of the printhead to achieve significantly higher effect. The higher temperatures also give the printer better capabilities in terms of materials it can fuse together.

The announcement came from on-site at the Siemens' facility in Erlanger, Germany. Along with the Jet Fusion 5200, the company also brought out other major reveals. Along with the printer, HP released a cooling unit, which automatically removes a finished print bed and replaces it with a fresh one to minimize downtime. The 5200 series is also supported by three new software releases: HP 3D Process Control, HP 3D Center and the HP 3D Parts Assessment Service.

Along with the printer, the company is also launching their new TPU material and their Digital Manufacturing Network. HP also announced new “industrial alliances” with Siemens, BASF and Materialise. BASF has actually had significant input in the production materials for the Jet Fusion 5200 series. Similarly, Materialise will integrate the 5200 series within their Build Processor and Magics 3D Print Suite. “The market is clearly embracing 3D printing for production and, as a long-standing HP partner, we are proud to expand our collaboration to new areas,” comments Fried Vancraen, Founder and CEO of Materialise. “Our customers are excited by our tighter integration with HP, our joint work on new applications and materials, and our commitment to scale high-quality part production.”

MIT researchers create 3D-printed organic plastics which decomposes naturally

Mediated Matter Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by researcher and designer Neri Oxman, is hoping to get people to think differently about the objects and structures made with poymers. With their latest research and art installation, Aquahoja I, the group created polymers derived from organic matter, 3D-printed by a robot, and shaped by water.

Mediated Matter calls this process “designing for decay.” Whereas most plastics, wood, glass, and metals are never recycled after they have outlived their function, the group's biopolymers are designed to decompose upon reaching the end of its product life cycle, returning to the earth instead of being destined for a dump.

With Aquahoja, Mediated Matter presents three artifacts created by its Water-Based Digital Fabrication Platform: an architectural pavilion shaped like a closed set of wings, a library of material experiments, and a set of “hardware/software wetware enabling technologies” developed by the group for the design and fabrication processes. The experimental biopolymer artifacts debuted in an installation at the MIT Media Lab's lobby recently, and are now headed for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.

“Works included in this project are digitally designed and robotically manufactured out of the most abundant materials on our planet–the very materials found in trees, insect exoskeletons, apples, and bones,” the Mediated Matter group wrote in a statement. “Cellulose, chitosan, pectin, and calcium carbonate are combined and compounded with high spatial resolution over material tunability producing biodegradable composites with mechanical, chemical, and optical functional properties across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters.”

The biopolymers used in the pavilion and artifacts are all composed of chitosan, cellulose, pectin, and water. Research into chitosan as bioplastic for large-scale consumer products (created from shrimp and other crustacean species' exoskeletons) has been ongoing for several decades. Cellulose polymers have been used to make plastic cups, while pectins and starches can also be used to make organic plastic films.

As Mediated Matter explained in a recent research paper, “Water-Based Robotic Fabrication,” chitosan, cellulose, and pectic can be stabilized and dissolved in water, as well as recycled within minutes. The group calls these water-shaped skin-like structures “hojas” (“leaf” or “sheet,” in English), which can be created at the architectural scale or as handheld products. The group also says they can be designed and fabricated as if they were grown and not manufactured. In fact, since the biopolymer is 3D-printed into the artifacts seen in the exhibition, no assembly is required.

Mediated Matter composed the pavilion, which stands 16 feet tall from biocomposites. The polymers extruded by the robots can be fine-tuned with software to vary in stiffness, flexibility, opacity, and color, and the pavilion reflects these programmed possibilities. Its color varies from brown to yellow, while the patterned textures resemble materials such as threads and tree leaves. From afar, the pavilion resembles a fine art sculpture. Up close, however, the surface looks organic instead of synthetic.

As visually stunning as the pavilion is, the library of artifacts are equally intriguing, especially when considering the practical applications. Six years in the making, Mediated Matters calls these computationally grown artifacts “functional biopolymers.” In other words, they aren't a design pipe dream, but full of product potential. The various objects' iterations and designs suggest a near future with naturally decomposable packaging or even toys, which typically get thrown in a closet instead of being returned to the earth.

h A bag created from chitosan, using the first generation of the Water-Based Digital Fabrication Platform, points to these more immediate application possibilities. Unlike the ugly and ecologically damaging plastics bags humans are accustomed to using, Mediated Matter's bioplastic bag has a certain beauty to it, where aesthetics meets function.

“The wide array of forms and behaviors embodied in both pavilion and artifacts reflects the manner in which they are expressed in nature, where a material such as chitin can compose both the exoskeletons of crustaceans and the cell walls of fungi,” says Mediated Matter. “In contrast to steel and concrete, the composites formed by these materials are in constant dialogue with their environment.”

Mediated Matter says that some artifacts in Aquahoja I exhibit dramatic changes in response to atmospheric factors like humidity and heat, while others darken or lighten as the seasons change. Some of the group's other biopolymers exhibit brittle and transparent, glass-like textures, while others are flexible and rigid like leather. Whatever their design qualities may be, the biopolymers can all return to the ecosystem.

“The surface area of [it] is limited only by the robotic gantry–a continuous construction modeled after human skin–with regions that serve as structure, window, and environmental filter,” the group explains. “At the end of its life cycle, when no longer useful, the structure can be programmed to degrade in water (e.g., the rain), thereby restoring its constituent building blocks to their natural ecosystem, augmenting the natural resource cycles that enabled its creation.”

Mediated Matter calls this process “environmental programming,” and the group foresees a future where the properties of built structures can be modified relative to seasons to encourage or inhibit decay. What is particularly interesting, but perhaps left understated by Mediated Matter, is that this system is scalable. In theory, an entrepreneur with software, a 3D printer, and the biological materials could create biodegradable products almost as easily as a corporation with mass production capabilities–financing and marketing considerations notwithstanding. And that wouldn't just be great for the environment, but a win for independent businesses.