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SLM Technology Opportunities For Healthcare Applications

SLM Technology Opportunities For Healthcare Applications

Find out why selective laser melting is the ideal production technique to integrate function into medical device components. Article by Gary Tang, SLM Solutions.

Medical device manufacturers are increasingly adopting metal additive manufacturing technology of SLM Solutions—the pioneer and one of the inventors of selective laser melting (SLM) technology—to produce a wide range of medical and dental parts.

In the healthcare sector, SLM technology is used to manufacture functional prototypes for the serial production of surgical implants, to manufacture new designs of instruments and equipment, or utilized for mass customization, i.e. the production of patient-matched implants and prostheses on a large scale. Dental prosthetic components, and orthopaedic, spine and cranio-maxillofacial implants are all common applications of the SLM technology, with clear benefits to patient outcomes. 

Selective laser melting is the ideal production technique to integrate function into medical device components, such as printing surgical implants with lattice structures for enhanced osseointegration and reduced stress shielding. Designs optimized for SLM process, and those custom to patients’ anatomy, often create complex, bionic geometries only able to be manufactured with selective laser melting. The technology thereby provides productivity and cost advantages to users.

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Where 3D Printing Makes Sense

Where 3D Printing Makes Sense

Here’s a look at how Paul Horn GmbH got its start in additive manufacturing. 

Even complicated shapes can be produced relatively easily with 3D printing.

Paul Horn GmbH launched its additive manufacturing project in spring of 2018, which led to the creation of a dedicated “selective laser melting” production area. Now, the tool manufacturer uses additive manufacturing to produce its own tools—particularly prototypes, special tools and tool holders—and to optimise coolant attachments. Having recognised the advanced possibilities offered by additive manufacturing, Horn is making these available to its customers and partners as well.

“We were captivated by additive manufacturing right from the start, and so we kept a very close eye on advances in the area of 3D metal printing. As soon as the technology had matured to the point where we could use it to manufacture precision tools, we bought our very first system,” Matthias Rommel, Managing Director of Horn, explains. “Originally, we purchased the machine for the R&D area so that we could make special tools and prototypes. During the initial period, we found that we were constantly having discussions with our customers about 3D printing. To begin with, these were purely technical; but as time went by, they led to more and more concrete enquiries for 3D-printed components. Due to the strong interest from customers, we eventually came up with the idea of setting up an additional contract manufacturing business unit for additively manufactured components. In terms of technology, we opted for a DMG Mori LASERTEC 30 (2nd generation).”

It makes sense to use additive manufacturing if it generates a technological advantage. However, in many cases, there is no economic benefit to using additive manufacturing for a component that used to be produced by conventional methods. One example would be a turned part that can be produced relatively quickly on a Swiss-type lathe. Not only that, but additive manufacturing would also be too expensive in terms of post-processing. Other disadvantages compared to conventional production include relatively poor surface quality (Rz 30 µm), accuracies down to only ±0.1 mm, and the high cost of powder compared to bar. 

Greater Design Freedom

As the complexity of a component begins to rise, additive manufacturing becomes more relevant. This may be driven by the need for lightweight design, special cooling channel layouts and small batches of components with highly complex geometry. Consequently, the disadvantages have to be weighed against the benefits of greater design freedom, lightweight construction, quick adaptability and speedier production for more complex parts. In the future, it therefore makes sense for this option to be included in the preliminary considerations as part of each design process.

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How 3D Printed Titanium Motor Nodes Became A Game-Changer In E-Bikes

How 3D Printed Titanium Motor Nodes Became A Game-Changer In E-Bikes

Motor nodes are one of the hardest e-bike parts to manufacture. When GSD Global turned to Sandvik’s experts in metal powder and additive manufacturing to 3D print their motor nodes in titanium, they found they could achieve a lighter, more durable and much more energy efficient solution.

GSD Global is an engineering and design consultancy with long-standing experience in creating premium electronic bicycles, or e-bikes. Heading the organization is Zach Krapfl, an electric vehicle engineer based in Paonia, Colorado, in the United States. Krapfl is dedicated to global energy conservation and reducing fossil fuel consumption — and combines bicycles, light electric vehicles and renewable energy technologies as a catalyst for sustainable transport.

As with any artform, high-end bicycles are typically handcrafted to satisfy the specific palate of true bike connoisseurs. “Handmade bikes are pieces of art to begin with. So, if we can provide these high-end bicycle makers with a material that can make their bikes last 10 to 20 years, that’s a game-changer to them,” said Krapfl.

GSD Global works with various bicycle OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), with the majority of their design work focusing on e-bikes. For almost a decade, they’ve been partnering with Bosch e-bike systems to testify that, up until recently, e-bike uptake has been slow. Part of the explanation is thought to be that titanium parts such as the motor node that holds the electric motor onto the bike frame are very difficult to machine using traditional CNC processes — and costly at that.

When GSD Global turned to Sandvik to investigate the possibility of 3D printing their titanium components, they found that by developing the design of the motor nodes and adapting them to be additively manufactured, they could reduce their costs by more than 50 per cent.

Using powder bed fusion laser technology, Sandvik 3D printed the motor nodes using its Osprey Ti6AI4V powder. Typically, these grades are used in the medical, aerospace, automotive and engineering industries for applications that require significant weight saving while maintaining high strength and performance. The motor nodes then underwent heat treatment and sandblasting during post processing.

By providing their OEMs with Sandvik’s 3D printed titanium motor nodes, GSD Global can help them to create the ideal e-bikes that will not only cost less and thereby be increasingly sellable, but can also last longer and with increased energy efficiency.

After mastering 3D printed motor nodes, and with the launch of Sandvik’s new titanium plant, its Osprey metal powders, materials expertise and leading capabilities across the additive value chain, the possibilities for additively producing other bicycle parts seem endless.

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Siemens Launches Advance Manufacturing Competence Center In Singapore

Siemens Launches Advance Manufacturing Competence Center in Singapore

Siemens has officially launched its Advance Manufacturing Transformation Center (AMTC) to provide guidance, support and training to companies in Southeast Asia on their journey of adoption, transition and transformation towards advance manufacturing.

AMTC is the first-of-its-kind, three-in-one competence center that combines the Digital Enterprise Experience Center (DEX), the Additive Manufacturing Experience Center (AMEC) and Rental Labs – creating a one-stop advance manufacturing ecosystem that addresses operational transition.

The DEX showcases Digital Enterprise solutions that enable companies to create digital twins of their envisioned advance manufacturing plants, so that they can simulate, optimize and evaluate manufacturing operations before constructing the actual manufacturing environment. It also provides manufacturing design consulting.

The AMEC is where companies can experience hands-on exposure to an advance end-to-end additive manufacturing production line supported by AMTC’s ecosystem of technology partners. It fills the gap between additive manufacturing R&D and commercialization by letting companies carry out prototyping, supported by on-site additive manufacturing experts.

The Rental Labs (Additive Manufacturing) provide affordable access to the latest industrial design software and high-end additive manufacturing printers as well as post-processing equipment – allowing companies to do low-volume 3D printing for proof of concept, and testing of such production line before deciding if they want to invest in additive manufacturing infrastructure.

Minister Chan Chun Sing congratulated the launch of the Siemens AMTC with a video message.

Minister Chan Chun Sing congratulated the launch of the Siemens AMTC with a video message.

“Today, most companies understand the urgent need for digital transformation, and the disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized that. But many companies are deterred by factors such as complex and unintegrated technologies, high cost of transition, disruption to business continuity and lack of technical experts,” said Raimund Klein, Executive Vice President of Digital Industries, Siemens ASEAN. “Siemens is supporting companies in their transition into Industry 4.0 with the AMTC, a consulting, training, R&D and small-scale production facility, all rolled into one.”

As a testament of how the AMTC can help to accelerate production introduction cycle, the center and its partners developed and manufactured a medical grade face shield using additive manufacturing in June this year. The face shield was designed by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) for its COVID-19 front-liners. The optimized face shield has enhanced durability and strength, provides comfort wear and allows ease of cleaning.

Siemens, through the AMTC, is partnering SkillsFuture Singapore to roll out a six-month additive manufacturing training under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme. The programme equips mid-career jobseekers with skills in additive manufacturing and digitalization to move into roles such as Programmable Logic Controller engineers and automation engineers, so as to better support the current wave of industrial companies undergoing digital transformation. The AMTC will host projects for trainees to work on and organise Project Demonstration Days for trainees to pitch their projects to potential hiring employers.

“The launch of its Advance Manufacturing Transformation Center reflects Siemens’ continued confidence in Singapore as a leading location to spur regional development and adoption of Advanced Manufacturing. We believe it remains relevant and will catalyse the digital transformation of businesses in the new operating environment,” said Lim Kok Kiang, Executive Vice President, International Operations, EDB. “We are also heartened that Siemens is supporting our mid-career professionals with training opportunities during this challenging period, and equipping them with skills for the future.”

The AMTC ecosystem currently consists of technology providers, education and research institutes, as well as government agencies. They are:

Technology Providers

Education and research institutes

Government agencies

 

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3D Metalforge Partners Ultimaker To Launch SEA’s Largest Industrial FFF Print Facility In Singapore

3D Metalforge Partners Ultimaker to Launch SEA’s Largest Industrial FFF Print Facility In Singapore

Ultimaker and Metalforge has partnered for the launch of Southeast Asia’s largest industrial FFF printing facility. The new facility will offer industrial-grade, fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing from Ultimaker’s professional S-Line 3D printers, providing a complete ecosystem of certified 24/7 printers, engineering materials, 3D print fleet management and 3D print preparation software. Against the backdrop of increasing demand for 3D-printed parts, this will enable 3D Metalforge to ramp up its printing capabilities for its clients in the defence, maritime, medical, and the oil and gas industries.

The print facility, located in the western part of Singapore, comprises 21 units of Ultimaker S3 3D printers. Metalforge decided to invest in FFF 3D printers with Ultimaker, due to the latter’s partnerships with large globally operating material companies through the Material Alliance, an open platform that consists of more than 45 brands and 150+ material types. This has enabled 3D Metalforge to broaden its offerings, catering to diverse needs and requirements in different sectors.  It is currently printing various parts required for COVID-19-related projects.

3D printing which is also known as additive manufacturing (AM), is suitable for such projects as there are limitations to traditional manufacturing — the challenge of tight deadlines, and rapidly changing design parameters. Additionally, AM is more suited for high-mix, low-volume production, common factors necessitated by the changes brought on by the pandemic.

“We deal with clients from blue-chip companies that have stringent criteria on the production of end-use parts. It is thus imperative that we invest in reliable FFF 3D printers that can meet our needs and benchmarking standards”, said Mr Matthew Waterhouse, CEO of 3D Metalforge.

“Ultimaker also has an open solution that allows us to work with over 150 materials. This has enabled us to experiment and/or print with the most suitable material, depending on customers’ needs. Furthermore, I am pleased with the excellent after-sales support that I have received to date,” he added.

Reported by Media Outreach.

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Igus 3D Printing Service: Quick Delivery Of Lubrication-Free Components

igus 3D Printing Service: Quick Delivery Of Lubrication-Free Components

Wear-resistant functional components, prototypes and replacement parts configured easily and delivered quickly

120,000 additively manufactured components were delivered by igus last year. Reason enough for the motion plastics specialist to further increase its capacities and equip its 3D printing service with new functions such as wall thickness and undercut analysis. In this way, customers worldwide can obtain their lubrication-free and low-maintenance components very easily and quickly, thereby saving costs.

For globally positioned companies with development teams in different countries, logistical challenges in the rapid procurement of identical additively manufactured parts are very frequent. With the igus 3D printing service, which is quickly available around the world, engineers can order, test and use the same lubrication-free and maintenance-free parts across borders – without long delivery processes.

This is because igus has further increased its 3D printing capacities with two additional laser sintering printers in the USA and a further plant in China, and now delivers prototypes, small series and special parts even faster. Two further laser sintering printers are also planned for the main location in Cologne. The printed components are delivered regionally in only a few days. The cost advantages are obvious: machine downtime is reduced through the quick delivery of spare parts, development costs are saved through faster functional prototypes and delivery costs are reduced through local production.

3D printing service 2.0

Ordering parts is easy thanks to the 3D printing service. First the 3D model is created and exported in STEP/STP format. The data is then dragged and dropped into the browser window. In the last step, the user can select the number of pieces and material and order or send an enquiry directly online. The new version of the 3D printing service tool now also offers the possibility to immediately check the feasibility of 3D models online.

For example, the minimum wall thicknesses and the size are checked with regard to printing format capacity. In the case of print2mold (injection-moulded parts made of additively manufactured moulds), the tool also carries out an undercut analysis. After individual ambient parameters have been entered, the online 3D printing services indicates the most suitable iglidur material. Vibratory grinding and black colouring of laser sintering parts can now also be selected with a mouse click. The user gets prices and delivery times right away so that the component can be ordered or an enquiry submitted immediately.

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3D Printing And Counterfeit Automation Parts

3D Printing And Counterfeit Automation Parts

Sir Isaac Newton is famous as one of the greatest scientists of all time, but he also used his scientific genius to help catch counterfeiters during his time at the Royal Mint, the organisation responsible for producing England’s coinage. Today, in the world of industrial automation parts, even a genius like Newton would have trouble tracking down the counterfeiters. The emergence of 3D printing is one factor that accounts for this difficulty. Here, John Young, APAC director at EU Automation, explains more.

From prototyping and manufacturing, to the military and pharmaceuticals, 3D printing is increasingly used in a range of different sectors. Also known as additive manufacturing, it offers benefits such as fewer steps in the manufacturing process, reduced material waste, more complex designs and rapid prototyping.

However, 3D printing, like all technology, is a double-edged sword. Although the net impact of this manufacturing innovation on society will surely be positive, the technology will also be used to produce harder-to-detect counterfeits. The world of automation parts will be one area where this risk exists.

Make it until you fake it

There are a number of key ways in which 3D printing will give a fillip to the fraudsters. Firstly, 3D printing is so effective at producing replica parts that they will be harder to tell apart from the genuine articles.

Secondly, the technology is becoming cheaper and more readily available. A 3D printer is relatively affordable, given the sophistication of this technology and the price is continually getting lower.

Thirdly, aspiring counterfeiters will also find that the materials used for additive manufacturing, as well as the CAD designs and related software, are also becoming cheaper and more readily available. In fact, many of these CAD designs are freely available on the internet and in many places, the mere possession of a design is not itself a criminal offence.

Fourthly, patent law and IP protection will need to catch up with the times and in instances where there are global supply chains, international cooperation will be imperative. As with any novel application of technology to criminal activities, the scammers will have a head-start while honest manufacturers and law enforcement agencies struggle to keep pace with a rapidly emerging problem.

Finally, one factor that is perhaps overlooked when it comes to discussions of the dangers of 3D printing and counterfeiting, is how easy it is for the counterfeiters to move their operations. 3D printing is perfect for small footprint manufacturing, so counterfeiters will be unlikely to stay in one place for a prolonged period of time, making law enforcement more difficult.

Who can you trust?

Counterfeiting has been around since the invention of coinage thousands of years ago, and possibly longer. The fact that the US Missile Program was discovered to have inadvertently used counterfeited computer chips is testament to the ubiquity of the problem.

There are potential technological breakthroughs that will help defend against this problem in future. For example, counterfeiters might have the tech to easily replicate standard identification tags, but if you were to layer the QR code across hundreds of layers during the process of additive manufacturing it would be almost impossible to reverse engineer or replicate. ‘Exploding’ the QR tag like this is one interesting way in which science is already beginning the fightback against counterfeiting.

Manufacturers can look forward to these innovations becoming mainstream, but they should not have to wait before taking mitigative action. Counterfeit parts are more likely to break down and cause commercial losses through unplanned downtime. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a scientific genius to demand good warranties for your purchases and to find trusted suppliers whose reputations have been sustained over many years.

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IDTechEx: Will Low-Cost Metal Additive Manufacturing Printers Be Successful?

IDTechEx: Will Low-Cost Metal Additive Manufacturing Printers Be Successful?

Metal additive manufacturing has seen many trends over recent years including pushing the (build) envelope and deposition rate to higher levels, broadening the materials portfolio, and expanding into new markets. According to IDTechEx, one trend that cannot be overlooked is the number of product launches for low-cost “desktop” variants; but the question is, will they be successful?

It is well-known for polymer 3D printing that the hobbyist market, which, although popular and great for engagement, is not where the value lies. The majority of the market value is and will be based in industrial applications. Metal additive manufacturing currently services high-value industries, most of the printers sold are powder bed fusion and can cost over $1 million with expensive powder feedstocks. The industry is forecast to have a fall resulting from COVID-19 before rising to significant levels, according to an IDTechEx report, Metal Additive Manufacturing 2020-2030.

The high price-tag for current metal printers has kept it in the realms of high-value industries such as aerospace and defense, and medical. Powder bed fusion processes are gaining traction in other sectors, such as energy, but require time to find the economically viable use-cases. There are a large number of alternative printer processes emerging, including directed energy deposition (DED), metal binder jetting, material jetting, and more. The report highlights all the main players and benchmarks the different processes against each other, allowing the gaps in the market to be observed.

According to IDTechEx, one recent trend is the release of “desktop” or cheap/affordable metal printers. Here we are not talking about systems costing around $0.5 million and targeting small-to-large part production but rather those at ca$100,000 or below. These small printers are designed to make this technology more accessible and ideal for research, prototyping, and small replacement parts.

There are numerous players entering this field with different processes. The bound metal approaches of Markforged and Desktop Metal grab most of the headlines, although there are others extruding pellets (rather than filaments) and Rapidia with a “water bound” approach. Then beyond that, there are players like One Click Metal (a TRUMPF spin-off) making low-cost powder bed fusion machines and the likes of Meltio and InssTek making directed energy deposition units utilizing wire and powder feedstocks, respectively.  Some companies have their whole business model around these low-cost printers whereas others have them as more as a secondary side project, the issue comes with the economics.

To make these printers a success, large annual sales volumes are needed which means a far greater adoption than has previously been observed. The follow-on sales from materials will not be as significant and the “simple” designs will result in less servicing, installation, and training fees. The counterpoints are that there will be software services and a replacement market which could be beneficial with a large installed base.

There are also printer limitations that are quick to be overlooked, IDTechEx notes. For bound metal processes, this includes necessary debinding steps (which brings solvent considerations, cost implications, and part thickness limitations) and consolidation in a sintering furnace (bringing impact on size, time, and cost). The same is true for other processes and although they are not deal-breakers (and there are constant innovations progressing this), it does mean they are not the small, cheap, “plug-and-play” printers initially perceived.

Then there is the important question of what the adoption will be like. This is unchartered territory and although the products are at an attractive price point, and there are good early signs, the market potential has many barriers to be truly realized. The competitive landscape is heating up, the complicated legal history between Markforged and Desktop Metal is well documented and given both have significant funding and valuations there is clear confidence in the potential. It should be noted that both players have other offerings that could prove more lucrative in the longer-term.

Beyond the bound metal printers, Markforged are major players in 3D printing of continuous fiber composites. Desktop Metal also entered this field in late 2019 with their Fiber printer, and there are many more new and established players developing this technology. This includes a wide range of fiber integration, material choices, and design opportunities.

 

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Australian Army Pushes Metal 3D Printing To Extremes In Latest Field Trial

Australian Army Pushes Metal 3D Printing to Extremes in Latest Field Trial

Building on the success of its world-first field trial in June this year, a WarpSPEE3D 3D metal printer has again deployed and been put through its paces by the Australian Army during a two-week field exercise in the extreme heat and humidity of the Northern Territory.

WarpSPEE3D is the world’s first large-format metal 3D printer to use patented cold spray technology that enables significantly faster and more cost-effective metal part production than traditional manufacturing. Developed by SPEE3D, Australian award-winning manufacturer of metal additive manufacturing technology, the printer is capable of printing large metal parts up to 40kg at a record-breaking speed of 100grams per minute.

The printer arrived in Darwin in early June and forms the backbone of the Army’s developing 3D printing capability.

Having received a number of upgrades and modifications in the two months since its first deployment, the WarpSPEE3D print cell deployed, as part of 1 CSSB’s larger Brigade Support Group, to various field locations in temperatures up to 38 deg C and 80 percent humidity, whilst printing and machining genuine military metal parts.

SPEE3D printers make metal parts the fastest way possible, leveraging metal cold spray technology to produce industrial quality metal parts in just minutes, rather than days or weeks. This process harnesses the power of kinetic energy, rather than relying on high-power lasers and expensive gasses, allowing 3D metal printing in the field, at affordable costs.

The Australian Army announced a $1.5 million investment in a pilot of SPEE3D technology in February 2020 with a 12-month trial designed to test the feasibility of deploying 3D metal printers both on-base and in the field. SPEE3D partnered with the Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (AMA) and Charles Darwin University (CDU) to deliver the program with soldiers from the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade training in 3D printing at CDU since February.

The program aims to significantly increase unique parts available to the Army compared to what the regular supply chain can provide.

SPEE3D CEO Byron Kennedy said, “This second field deployment proves our technology is a genuine solution for expeditionary metal 3D printing. This two-week trial demonstrates the WarpSPEE3D is a robust workhorse that is capable of printing real parts and solving real problems in the field. It also proves that soldiers can take control of the whole workflow of creating the spare parts they need, from design to printing and post-processing, right here where they need them.”

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Metal 3D Printing Revolutionises Valve Design And Manufacturing

Metal 3D Printing Revolutionises Valve Design and Manufacturing

The emergence and maturity of metal 3D printing technology, as well as intelligent software such as CFD and CAE, are driving innovations in valve design and manufacturing. Article by Shining 3D.

A valve is a device used to control the direction, pressure and the flow of fluids (liquid, gas, powder). It is an important controlling component of a fluid power system, and is widely used in mechanical products in areas such as petrochemical, mining, power, health, electronics, robotics industries, and so on.

The emergence and maturity of metal 3D printing technology, as well as intelligent software such as CFD and CAE, are driving innovations in valve design and manufacturing. And one such development is for hydraulic manifolds.

Light-weight Hydraulic Manifold

The hydraulic valve manifold is a complicated integration, with internal passages across each other and complex inlet arrangements.

In traditional models, it is necessary to drill the hole and then to block the unnecessary drilled hole with screw plugs in order to manufacture internal-crossed manifolds.

But there exists the possibility of leakage with this kind of manufacturing method. Besides, internal pathways made by drilling are straight and have 90-degree turn. According to CFD (computer fluid dynamics) analysis results, some areas will have the problem of less flow and some will have the turbulence.

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