From Boeing Starliner to Goodyear tire, 3-D printing is becoming manufacturing reality
By 2030, Goodyear aims to bring maintenance-free and airless tires to market, and 3-D printing is part of that effort for the Akron-based tire-making leader founded in 1898 and named after innovator Charles Goodyear. Currently, about 2% of its production is through additive manufacturing and more integration into the mix is in sight.
Humtown Products, a 63-year-old, family-owned foundry near Youngstown, Ohio, adopted 3-D printing in 2014 as an efficient way to make industrial cores and molds. Today, its additive manufacturing division accounts for 55% of overall revenue and is growing by 50% annually. Pivoting to 3-D printing was the company’s “Kodak moment,” said owner and president Mark Lamoncha. “If you are not in the next space, you are out of business,” Lamoncha said. “This industry is at a tipping point to commercialization and in many disciplines it is the equivalent of driving a race car,” he said.
“For industry, it’s most definitely a competitive advantage because you can design in ways that you can’t with traditional production,” said Melissa Orme, has been vice president of additive manufacturing since 2019, a role that cuts across Boeing’s three business units making commercial airplanes, satellites and defense systems. She works with a team of 100 engineers, researchers and other specialists in advancing the technology’s development. Orme cited advantages in reduced lead times for production by a factor of ten, streamlined design into one large piece for assembly, and increased durability.
AM Ventures closes venture capital fund with focus on industrial 3D printing
AM Ventures, one of the global leaders in venture capital for additive manufacturing (AM), has announced the final closing of its oversubscribed venture capital fund focused on industrial 3D printing, closing at 100 million EUR hard cap.
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Right to re-print: What role could 3D printing have in right to repair?
Where the volumes are right or a redesign beneficial, the case for AM can be made but for many parts, traditional methods of manufacture are still the way to go. Reeves recalls a visit to the warehouse of one of Europe’s largest white goods spare parts suppliers almost a decade ago. An analysis of the millions of SKUs on-hand was conducted but Reeves concluded “you could literally count on one hand the ones that were viable 3D prints.”
“The ‘right to repair’ legislation is likely to cause logistical headaches for manufacturers globally who face having to stock hundreds of thousands of spare parts,” Dickin said. “However, the law could also finally move the dial in reversing the “throwaway society” trend of the last 60 years by creating goods that last longer - producing savings for both the consumer and environment.
Ford rolls out autonomous robot-operated 3D printers in vehicle production
Leveraging an in-house-developed interface, Ford has managed to get the KUKA-built bot to ‘speak the same language’ as its other systems, and operate them without human interaction. So far, the firm’s patent-pending approach has been deployed to 3D print custom parts for the Mustang Shelby GT500 sports car, but it could yet yield efficiency savings across its production workflow.
“This new process has the ability to change the way we use robotics in our manufacturing facilities,” said Jason Ryska, Ford’s Director of Global Manufacturing Technology Development. “Not only does it enable Ford to scale its 3D printer operations, it extends into other aspects of our manufacturing processes – this technology will allow us to simplify equipment and be even more flexible on the assembly line.”
At present, the company is utilizing its setup to make low-volume, custom parts such as a brake line bracket for the Performance Package-equipped version of its Mustang Shelby GT500. Moving forwards though, Ford believes its program could be applied to make other robots in its production line more efficient as well, and it has filed several patents, not just on its interface, but the positioning of its KUKA bot.
Making the Call in Mass Production: 3D Printing or Traditional Manufacturing?
When focusing on plastic components and products, there are traditionally few manufacturing methods available, the oldest and most common being injection molding. While injection molding has dominated the manufacturing landscape for decades, newer techniques like 3D printing, have begun to gain traction by offering an alternative, as well as advantages over traditional methods; for example, a company may go straight to injection molding to manufacture plastic products in a high volume of 10,000 parts or more–or they may choose 3D printing for greater flexibility in making designs, multiple iterations, and the ability to make complex geometries not possible before.
Machine-learning system accelerates discovery of new materials for 3D printing
The growing popularity of 3D printing for manufacturing all sorts of items, from customized medical devices to affordable homes, has created more demand for new 3D printing materials designed for very specific uses.
A material developer selects a few ingredients, inputs details on their chemical compositions into the algorithm, and defines the mechanical properties the new material should have. Then the algorithm increases and decreases the amounts of those components (like turning knobs on an amplifier) and checks how each formula affects the material’s properties, before arriving at the ideal combination.
The researchers have created a free, open-source materials optimization platform called AutoOED that incorporates the same optimization algorithm. AutoOED is a full software package that also allows researchers to conduct their own optimization.
U.S. Army’s New Expeditionary 3D Concrete Printer Can Go Anywhere, Build Anything
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) program is a game changer for construction in remote areas. The project will supply rugged 3D concrete printers that can go anywhere and print (almost) anything. The project started several years ago when concrete printers were very much in their infancy, but even then it was obvious that commercial products would not fit the Army’s needs.
ACES has produced multiple printers working with different industry partners. For example, ACES Lite was made in partnership with Caterpillar under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. It packs into a standard 20-foot shipping container and can be set-up or taken down in 45 minutes, has built-in jacks for quick leveling and can be calibrated in a matter of seconds, making it more straightforward than other devices. Overall the printer resembles a gantry crane, with a concrete pump, hose and a robotic nozzle which lays down precise layers.
The new technology is not magic, as 3D-printed construction is still construction. It does not do everything. A printed building still requires a roof and finishing touches like any other construction work. In areas with good logistics where equipment, labor and materials are all plentiful, there may be little advantage to the ACES approach. But in expeditionary environments, where all these things are likely to be in short supply, ACES could make a real difference.
Improving the Manufacturing Process Through 3D Printing
The Genius of 3D Printed Rockets
The Challenge with AM Process Substitution
I have lost track of how many times I have stressed the economic (and technical) challenges companies face when attempting process substitutions with additive manufacturing (AM), or what I often refer to as “replicating” a part with AM. In short, everyone thinks a metal AM part is going to be cheaper than the machined, cast or forged version of the part (or as strong as the injection-molded part for those working in plastics) based on the hype, only to find that it is not. The “sticker shock” and disappointment that ensue often dampens the enthusiasm for AM and can undermine future AM investments, creating an uphill battle for AM.
3D Search Unlocks Part Database Potential
A variety of digital formats can be leveraged as input, anything from CAD files to photographs, with the system’s algorithms that the Physna team developed creating a “digital fingerprint” of the 3D object. This fingerprint describes the object and enables the user to search a database of parts using a 3D part as the search term.
Physna is capable of interpreting assemblies and the parts associated with the assembly. In the 3D viewer, the user is able to inspect the assembly and search for similar parts from the database.
For instance, if an engineer at has modeled a flange that features a 1-inch ID, a common search using language would be “1-inch flange”, but if the engineer uploaded the model to Physna, the fingerprint would include aspects of the flange like its bolt pattern, whether or not it incorporated a bearing and contours of the flange design. This may lead to discovery of previously designed parts or even compatible third party parts if the database is connected to other vendors.
How startups can hit it big by thinking small
I estimated what the size of the market might be for seemingly impossible parts and calculated that the potential reward was worth the risk. Someone needed to undertake this quest. And even though it embarasses me now to think about how naive some of my original assumptions were, I decided that person should be me. So I launched Velo3D, aimed at using 3D printing to make the parts that innovative companies need to create the future.
We realized that we didn’t have to solve the entire problem. Instead, we could succeed with a much smaller focus by identifying the most valuable, specific problems to solve for customers and tackling those.
Suddenly our entire mindset changed. We were no longer looking for a solution to make any shape possible. We were looking for a way to create one specific type of turbopump. It sounds less exciting, I know. But it was the best thing we could have done.
BMW-led study highlights need for AI-based AM part identification
With time-to-market in the automotive industry steadily decreasing, demand for prototyping components is higher than before and the vision of large-scale production, delivering just-in-time to assembly lines, is emerging. This is not only a question of increasing output quantity and production speed but also of economic viability. The process chain of current available AM technologies still includes a high amount of labor intensive work and process steps, which lead to a high proportion of personnel costs and decreased product throughput. Also, these operations lead to bottlenecks and downtimes in the overall process chain.
Scientists Set to Use Social Media AI Technology to Optimize Parts for 3D Printing
“My idea was that a material’s structure is no different than a 3D image,” he explains. “It makes sense that the 3D version of this neural network will do a good job of recognizing the structure’s properties — just like a neural network learns that an image is a cat or something else.”
To see if his idea would work, Messner designed a defined 3D geometry and used conventional physics-based simulations to create a set of two million data points. Each of the data points linked his geometry to ‘desired’ values of density and stiffness. Then, he fed the data points into a neural network and trained it to look for the desired properties.
Finally, Messner used a genetic algorithm – an iterative, optimization-based class of AI – together with the trained neural network to determine the structure that would result in the properties he sought. Impressively, his AI approach found the correct structure 2,760x faster than the conventional physics simulation.
Nissan Accelerates Assembly Line with 3D Printing Solution
Previously Nissan outsourced all of its prototypes and jigs to mechanical suppliers who used traditional manufacturing methods, such as CNC and drilling. Although the quality of the finished product was good, the lead times were long and inflexible and the costs were high. Even simple tools could cost in the region of 400€ for machining. By printing some of these parts in-house with 3D printers, Nissan has cut the time of designing, refining and producing parts from one week to just one day and slashed costs by 95%.
Eric Pallarés, chief technical officer at BCN3D, adds: “The automotive industry is probably the best example of scaling up a complex product with the demands of meeting highest quality standards. It’s fascinating to see how the assembly process of a car – where many individual parts are put together in an assembly line – relies on FFF printed parts at virtually every stage. Having assembled thousands of cars, Nissan has found that using BCN3D 3D printing technology to make jigs and fixtures for complex assembly operations delivers consistently high quality components at a reduced time and lower cost”.
How 3D Printing Impacts The Maritime Industry
3D printing has penetrated a range of sectors and industries to a point where it is being adopted by mainstream organizations in their manufacturing processes. However, one sector that has been left behind in this adoption is the maritime industry.
There are a stream of applications for 3D printing in the maritime industry, such as product innovation and customization, spare part manufacturing, on-demand manufacturing, and much more.
3D Printing Technologies in Aerospace and Defense Industries
Currently, AI is an integral part of the design process for AM in aerospace. In designing parts for aircraft, achieving the optimal weight-to-strength ratio is a primary objective, since reducing weight is an important factor in air-frame structures design. Today’s PLM solutions offer function-driven generative design using AI-based algorithms to capture the functional specifications and generate and validate conceptual shapes best suited for AM fabrication. Using this generative functional design method produces the optimal lightweight design within the functional specifications.
Circular Economy 3D Printing: Opportunities to Improve Sustainability in AM
Within the 3D printing sector alone, there are various initiatives currently underway to develop closed-loop manufacturing processes that reuse and repurpose waste materials. Within the automotive sector, Groupe Renault is creating a facility entirely dedicated to sustainable automotive production through recycling and retrofitting vehicles using 3D printing, while Ford and HP have teamed up to recycle 3D printing waste into end-use automotive parts.
One notable project that is addressing circular economy 3D printing is BARBARA (Biopolymers with Advanced functionalities foR Building and Automotive parts processed through Additive Manufacturing), a Horizon 2020 project that brought together 11 partners from across Europe to produce bio-based materials from food waste suitable for 3D printing prototypes in the automotive and construction sectors.
How Materialise Research Makes Multi-Laser 3D Printers Accessible with Future-Proof Software
A major goal for many in the 3D printing industry is boosting productivity to ultimately scale operations. Materialise’s software research team predicts that multi-laser machines will be key in enabling 3D printing factories to accomplish this goal.
In this blog, we’ll dive into this topic with Tom Craeghs, Research Manager within our Central Research & Technology department. Read on to discover the advantages and challenges of multi-laser machines, as well as how advancements in software will enable these printers and their associated productivity to become a reality.
Exploring Additive Manufacturing Opportunities: Optimizing Production with Hyundai Lifeboats
This project was the epitome of Explore. Just as myself, Director of Innovation at Materialise, and others from the Mindware team, had no experience or knowledge of producing lifeboats, the Hyundai team was unaware of the capabilities and limitations of 3D printing. So, the first step in this project was bringing our two worlds together to pinpoint a relevant business challenge for Hyundai Lifeboats that we believed could best be solved via additive manufacturing.
Easier said than done. We dove into an interactive workshop session in which we discovered each side’s perspectives, expectations, and blind spots. We first discussed how AM could increase the boat’s value — with enhanced speed, performance, functionality — but we were met with hesitancy from the Hyundai team.
How Additive Manufacturing Adoption Brings Business Gains
Analysis from Jabil’s 2021 3D Printing Technology Trends survey revealed that additive manufacturing is already enabling unique and better ways for manufacturers to serve their markets. In the last few years, highly regulated industries with precise and rigid standards for safety and quality, such as healthcare, aerospace, defense and automotive, have positioned themselves enthusiastically among those championing the strategic benefits of additive manufacturing.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Automate 3D Printing Decision-Making
GE to advance competitiveness of wind energy with 3D printed turbine blades
The project will initially produce a full-size 3D printed blade tip for structural testing, in addition to three blade tips to be installed on a wind turbine, with the hope of reducing manufacturing cost and increasing supply chain flexibility for the components.
“We are excited to partner with the DoE Advanced Manufacturing Office, as well as with our world class partners to produce a highly innovative advanced manufacturing and additive process to completely revolutionize the state of the art of wind blade manufacturing,” said Matteo Bellucci, GE Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Leader.
Guide to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D Printing
Selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing is trusted by engineers and manufacturers across different industries for its ability to produce strong, functional parts.
In this extensive guide, we’ll cover the selective laser sintering process, the different systems and materials available on the market, the workflow for using SLS printers, the various applications, and when to consider using SLS 3D printing over other additive and traditional manufacturing methods.
Get ready for metamorphic manufacturing
A new wrinkle in blacksmithing is hailed as the third wave of the industry’s digitization.
Metamorphic manufacturing, also known as robotic blacksmithing, is poised to bring about faster time to market, less material waste, more available materials, less energy used and more control.
Speeding the Adoption of Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing offers a number of potential innovations in product design, while its flexible manufacturing capabilities can support a distributed manufacturing model - helping to unlock new business potential. However, when companies begin to consider all that is needed to make additive a reality— such as generative design, part consolidation, and topology optimization—it becomes clear that the traditional ways of designing and manufacturing parts are falling away.
3D printing in metal resulted in fewer bacteria and greater food safety
3D printing in metal was chosen as a solution and Marel quickly began to redesign the support element specifically for 3D printing, so that it took full advantage of the technology’s possibilities. The support element is in direct contact with food, so bacteria can accumulate in all cleaves, joints and openings, and these bacteria can be transferred directly to the meat. That’s why we were really excited about the possibility of 3D printing the support element in one piece, and the weight reduction was also a positive element, as the support element moves MANY times a second, says Matias Taul Hansen, Technical Designer at Marel
3D printing is a much cheaper solution than cutting out the item, and compared to laser cutting, 3D printing is also preferable, as we avoid joints where bacteria can accumulate. By 3D printing in titanium, we also achieve a lower-weight item that is cheaper to produce and that can work faster, says Kristian Rand Henriksen, consultant at the Danish Technological Institute.