New industrial 3D printing method offers potential benefits for aviation industry

A team of scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) as well as from overseas have discovered how to theoretically avoid cracks and deformations in metal parts created with 3D printers, with potential benefits for the aviation industry.

The team, led by the Linköping University in Sweden, travelled to ANSTO’s Lucas Heights Campus prior to commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic to study how the orientation of the part impacts the additive manufacturing (AM) process. Using ANSTO’s Kowari strain scanner, a scientific, non-destructive technique known as neutron diffraction was used to measure and characterise residual stresses within nickel-based superalloy samples that were produced by selective laser melting (SLM) AM method. Superalloys are an important group of high-temperature metals and are often used in the hottest sections of jet and rocket engines, where temperatures can reach 1,200 to 1400 degrees Celsius.

The technique, which allows you to “see inside” a material without damaging it, is used at ANSTO to study materials commonly used in industry. It can reveal information about the structural integrity of pipes, rail and bridge sections, along with many other metal components.

The research concluded that the particular direction in which metal parts are physically oriented, will significantly impact the formation of residual stresses, and therefore has the potential to prevent unwanted deformation or cracks in the AM part. When investigating various orientations of printed samples, the team found that for ‘L-shaped’ parts, the horizontal position resulted in the least residual stress.

The new findings represent a step forward in controlling the properties of AM parts and could eventually mean savings and more durable engine parts for the aviation industry. Measurements on the Kowari strain scanner provided a better understanding of how the orientation of specific parts contributes to the development of residual stresses during the AM process. This research reveals that in AM, it is very important to look at the orientation of the part – in order to find out which direction is best to build up that particular part during manufacture.

When manufacturers are making parts, they cannot see what stresses are building up inside the materials, but this approach enables them to predict stresses beforehand, Neutron scattering confirmed that the predictive models were correct. More work is planned to investigate how different scanning strategies and laser power influence the development of residual stresses.

www.ansto.gov.au


Raymax Applications – A quarter-century of laser solutions

Based in Warriewood on the northern beaches of Sydney, Raymax Applications has been bringing Australia and New Zealand the latest laser technology for more than 25 years.

Light amplification of stimulated emission of radiation – or laser for short –  technology does not sit still. Since the first demonstration of a ruby laser in 1960, humankind has sought to harness this versatile light source to create and develop new applications never before achieved.

Lasers have become well established in industrial processes such as welding, the cladding of fatigued or worn parts, or for cutting metal used in manufacturing sectors such as automotive, aerospace and medical instruments. Then there is the vital task of product traceability, where lasers can ablate surfaces such as glass wine bottles with a permanent Julian code or identification mark. They can even engrave a unique identification code on every medical instrument used in hospitals – readable by both humans and machines. More recently a new process has taken manufacturing by storm: that of 3D metal printing.

For more than 25 years Raymax Applications has found the latest “best in class” lasers and laser technology for companies and research facilities across Australia and New Zealand. Raymax also conducts its own research & development programs, utilising extensive process development facilities and engineering capabilities to assist customers.

“We constantly seek to source the latest technology and support it with our depth of experience and a team of physicists and factory-trained engineers,” says John Grace, Managing Director of Raymax Applications. “This has seen us supply, install and service laser systems in locations such as the Reserve Bank of Australia, many wineries and breweries, Coca Cola, Carlton United Breweries, Masterfoods, Fisher and Paykel, RUAG, Telstra, Defence and many SMEs innovating their business processes.”

While laser technology has proven to have a low maintenance cost and extensive life span, many of Raymax’s businesses remain demanding customers as they choose to update their facilities by taking advantage of improvements developed by the laser manufacturers. In selecting quality products, Grace explains that most of the products Raymax supplies are made by companies based in Europe, the USA and Canada.

“All of these have unique partnerships with us providing support, service and factory training of our engineers and even customers,” says Grace. “These direct factory links provide a major benefit to our Australian and New Zealand customers, and are particularly helpful when new applications and installations are utilised. This is highly valuable for full system process understanding – both locally and from the manufacturer.”

Meeting local needs

Australia’s geographic isolation has assisted in the growth of a service not considered until laser technology became available. Large parts used in mining and energy, and even small aircraft parts, are subject to wear and fatigue, requiring repair or replacement. Repair using a high-power diode Laserline laser can mean shorter downtimes and reduced costs against purchasing a new part and waiting for it to be shipped. Cladding repair with lasers also has the benefit of extending the life of a component, making this appealing from an economic perspective. Raymax is very strong in this sector of the marketplace.

Hyperspectral imaging is a successful new field of development that has seen Raymax bring HySpex cameras to the local market. Developed by Norwegian company NEO, hyperspectral imaging cameras can be used across a number of fields for the acquisition of sophisticated data. In a laboratory setting, seeds can be scanned for different properties; in the food industry the quality of fish fillets can be checked; in field work hyperspectral imaging identifies the different layers of earth for agricultural improvements of better targeting of mining excavations.

Hyperspectral imaging can also take to the skies with the HySpex Mjolnir attached to a drone. In this role data can be gathered of structures in fields for agricultural purposes or to support armies engaged in combat. This new product has seen a huge demand for local applications by companies and universities and is fully supported by Raymax.

To service its diverse customer base, Raymax provides other products required for research or specialist industry applications. One field is that of spectroscopy, where it has a number of products such as spectrometers that offer non-destructive analytical solutions for close inspection of products or items being investigated in research or on production lines. Raymax also offers laser optics – with products such as VIPA, or Michelson interferometer or Etalon.

Partnerships

Partnership experience has been highly valuable in the emerging industry of 3D metal printing. With an exclusive agreement between SLM Solutions and Raymax, the expertise gained by SLM Solutions in partnerships with European and American companies has been extensively helpful for paving the way for many different manufacturing companies and universities to identify a way forward for their individual needs with 3D metal printing.

“Sharing partnering information is extremely helpful, such as information about the production of a car steering knuckle through SLM’s partnership with Hirschvogel Tech Solutions, or the rocket component printed using biomimetic engineering applied by CellCore using an SLM280 to produce a never-before done monolithic thrust chamber,” says Grace. “More recently SLM Solutions has focused on developing parameters specific to moving 3D printing into series production, as that is where we see the demand heading.”

Challenges

The introduction of 3D metal printers requires not only a paradigm shift in shopfloor strategies, with the emergence of disciplines such as integrating design into engineering platforms, data analytics and reassessment techniques. Each of these work towards improving outcomes in the application of 3D metal printing.

To bring about successful change in this area, Raymax seeks to encourage training and learning so that laser systems operate effectively. The key skills required are computerised technology, optics and physics that enable full system utilisation, as well as additional chemical knowledge to understand metal powder performance. At the same time, mechatronics engineering supports the capability to build parameters for each stage of development of specific product types.

“Our business covers a diverse customer industry base as laser technology is a stimulating and exciting field,” Grace concludes. “Very often, consumers are not aware of the influence or impact of lasers on our daily lives and the products we purchase.

“Lasers have changed the world and made it easier to develop products and processes. It is as simple as that. Facilitating and bringing to production never-before-done laser applications is not just something our customer base needs, it is also our passion and keeps us challenged and focused to provide customers with the best solutions to help achieve their desired outcome.”

www.raymax.com.au


3D printing electric vehicles: Pipe dream, or the future of automotive?

While it has already demonstrated immense value across many fields, 3D printing has still not been entirely embraced by the automotive industry. That, however, may all be about to change.

As part of the manufacturing process, 3D printing can help reduce costs enough that major carmakers and other industry participants have started exploring the technology. Electric vehicles (EVs) – one of the more tech-forward fields in the transportation industry – are pushing the technology in a completely new direction.

While most efforts to integrate 3D printing with manufacturing focus on using the technology to substitute certain components and parts during the process, the EV sector takes 3D printing a step further. Most recently, the industry stirred excitement following one company’s announcement that it planned to commence selling 3D-printed vehicles. A success on that scale could transform 3D printing from a luxury to a major necessity across the automotive industry.

From components to complete cars

The automotive industry is no stranger to 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing due to the layered manner in which components are constructed). Late in 2018, BMW announced that it had printed more than one million components, with the automaker applying 3D printing techniques for more than 25 years. Yet, 3D printing is still not completely used for mainstream component production, despite growing momentum in that direction as the technology improves.

For many automakers, 3D printers represent an excellent strategy for prototyping components, constructing full vehicles, and even creating models of new ideas. The sector has obliged, with companies like Stratasys creating tools that employ cutting edge technology for greater ease of use. However, the biggest advantage the technology supplies to automakers is its multifaceted upgrade of the manufacturing process. Principally, it cuts down production time significantly, as parts can be 3D printed (in metal, no less) in a fraction of the time needed for traditional casting and manufacturing. Additionally, 3D printed components tend to be more lightweight and easier to repair.

Other major producers are also exploring the field for new implementations of 3D printing. Daimler, EOS and Premium AEROTEC have partnered to build a fully automated line for serial 3D printing that could be deployed seamlessly in most manufacturing operations.

Nevertheless, the goal – or until recently a pipe dream – of a fully 3D printed vehicle has remained just out of reach, primarily because finding replacements for sensitive components like engine parts is difficult. Now, the EV sector may be on the brink of sparking another wave of innovation.

Italian manufacturer XEV took the industry by storm when it unveiled its design for its LSEV, promises that outside of some key components, the entirety of its vehicle is 3D printed. According to the company, the vehicle has reduced the number of components from 2,000 to slightly over 50 and manages to reduce costs by nearly 70%. Impressively, the car would weigh just under 500kg, which is significantly less than most vehicles on the roads today. XEV also claims that the production time for each car would be reduced from three to five years to just three to 12 months.

XEV isn’t the only company hard at work on a 3D-printed EV. US-based firm Local Motors has been developing a prototype for a self-driven minibus named the Olli, which is meant to help reduce the traffic congestion plaguing many of the world’s largest cities. It’s also 3D-printed, but it is marketed as a public-transit solution as opposed to XEV’s private cars. Local Motors has also noted that it has perfected its 3D printing process to the extent that it can fully manufacture an Olli in just about 10 hours, marking a notable achievement for such a complex task.

It is worth noting that while both the LSEV and the Ollie are almost entirely 3D-printed, they still rely on some traditionally manufactured components. In the LSEV’s case, that is the main chassis, the windows and the car seats. The Olli’s windows are also not 3D-printed, but the rest of the vehicle depends on these rapid advances in printing technology. Moreover, the Olli is not meant to be a replacement for buses and other large vehicles – its top speed is only 40km per hour and it only has roughly 1.5 hours of battery. Even so, it marks an important first step towards constructing more sustainable transportation solutions.

The future is bright, but not here yet

While the LSEV and Olli are promising hints at what the future holds for both 3D printing technology and EVs, they are still first and early attempts. It remains to be seen whether they will be embraced over the long run.

Nevertheless, it’s a promising development, and one that could significantly alter the way we view EV technology and sustainability, and manner by which we handle issues like pollution, traffic congestion, and rapidly expanding urban populations. These projects are likely only the beginning, as well. As 3D printing matures and becomes more viable, we’ll likely see many more disruptive projects emerge.

www.tclhofmann.com.au

www.tclh3dprinting.com.au


GoProto announces acquisition of 3D Systems On-Demand facility

GoProto has expanded its Industry 4.0 presence with the acquisition of 3D Systems’ Australian facility in Melbourne, while also increasing additive manufacturing capacity at its North American facility.

After receiving the highest ever ranking for an additive manufacturer on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies, GoProto has capitalised on this momentum by expanding even further into the digital manufacturing landscape. The acquisition of 3D Systems’ Australian facility, the largest digital manufacturing service bureau in the region, coupled with the earlier acquisition of WYSIWYG 3D, sees GoProto become the largest digital manufacturer in the Australian market.

Further emphasising its global reach, GoProto’s North American facility in San Diego, California, has also installed two new HP 5210 Multi Jet Fusion printers. Adding these two high-productivity 3D printers to its existing six 4200 MJF printers increases GoProto’s production capacity at that location by approximately 50%.

As of 1 December, GoProto acquired 3D Systems’ Australian on-demand manufacturing facility, the largest 3D digital manufacturer in the APAC region. Located in Melbourne and commissioned just two years ago, the state-of-the-art facility houses a full range of 3D Systems production-ready 3D printers and a highly experienced management and operations team. This pivotal acquisition will accelerate GoProto’s strategy to become the largest Industry 4.0 player in the Australian market.

“This acquisition is a significant leap forward in our growth plans for the region, with an experienced management team that pioneered the introduction of 3D printing into APAC,” says Simon Marriott, Director at GoProto (ANZ) Pty Ltd. “The benefits to our manufacturing customers will be significant as they transition to Industry 4.0 and seek to build agile supply chains that are resilient to global influences.”

Earlier in November, GoProto also acquired WYSIWYG 3D, creating a unified laser scanning and 3D entity focused on expansion in the digital manufacturing space. WYSIWYG 3D has been providing 3D scanning services since 2003 and will continue to provide the same quality laser scanning, photogrammetry and 3D CAD modelling service under the GoProto banner in Sydney.

Commenting on the development, Shane Rolton, Managing Director at WYSIWYG 3D, said: “We’ve already been working on a number of projects with GoProto. Combining our expertise and resources shortens the time lag between scan data and production, putting ourselves exactly where our customers need us.”

By adding this expertise to GoProto’s already expansive service portfolio, the acquisitions enable a streamlined solution for every stage of the product development lifecycle, open up new opportunities for the companies’ combined customer base, and create a firm foundation for further expansion as an Industry 4.0 leader.

With the installation of two new HP 5210 Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers at the San Diego manufacturing facility, GoProto increases the MJF install base at this location from six HP 4200 MJF printers to a total of eight, and increases production capacity at this site by approximately 50%. With this, GoProto has also upped its build units from 30 to 34, ensuring 24/7 production capability on all eight MultiJet 3D printers.

Jesse Lea, President and CEO at GoProto, said: “The current global supply chain structure has shifted during the pandemic. Companies are looking to minimise their risk in procuring production parts. With our business model focusing on Industry 4.0 principles, expansion of capacities for domestic rapid manufacturing with the latest technologies and materials and the complete end-to-end service model, GoProto is ideally situated to help our customers with assurance of supply.”


Additive manufacturing lights the way forward for Burn Brite

When Ampcontrol Burn Brite set about developing a polymer moulding component for a new safety lighting product for underground coal mines, it decided to explore the potential of 3D printing, with support from AMTIL’s Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub).

Ampcontrol Burn Brite Pty Ltd (Burn Brite) is a member company of Ampcontrol Pty Ltd. Based in Ringwood in Melbourne’s east, Burn Brite is a designer and integrated manufacturer of lighting and power supply systems. It supplies to the underground coal, tunneling and infrastructure markets throughout Australia and South-East Asia. Employing 40 people, Burn Brite has been in operation for 63 years.

Burn Brite’s operation is a classic manufacturing operation. From raw materials such as polymers, metal sheeting and electronic components, Burn Brite processes, fabricates and assembles to detailed in-house designs that require strict Group 1 and 2 certification compliance. Most of these products are safety-critical in their application.

Burn Brite is essentially an independent operation, providing sales, R&D and manufacturing functions. As Burn Brite’s products have been designed in-house, the role of R&D is critical to the ongoing success of the business.

The challenge

Burn Bite planned to design and develop new integrated safety lighting for underground coal mines. Its new flagship luminaire product would be called the ISLEDi. This would be an extensive change to its existing ISLED product with new leading-edge electronics embedded. These product developments are detailed and onerous, including arduous laboratory testing of properties, material compatibility and safety mechanisms.

The body of the luminaire was to be made from a polymer moulding requiring detailed design, prototypes and intricate detail in injection moulding tooling. The estimated timeline for project completion was significant, and the risk of future realised injection moulding issues arising was high.

The solution

In discussion with industry contacts, it was recommended that additive manufacturing (AM) could assist for fast prototype development, enable fast iterative design, and therefore lower decision risk in injection mould tooling investment. Burn Brite sought additive manufacturing support from the Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub) via the Build It Better (BIB) voucher program and was very appreciative to be accepted.

Burn Brite engaged a registered service provider, Cobalt Design, to assist in CAD aspects related to additive manufacturing and to engage with additive manufacturing companies best suited to the form and close material property correlation requirements of Burn Brite’s prototype design.

How the Additive Manufacturing Hub helped

Burn Brite knew of additive manufacturing through media and exhibitions, but had no direct knowledge or experience of it in terms of design considerations, compatible polymers and so on. With funding assistance from the BIB program, engagement and detailed discussions with Cobalt were undertaken. This led to Burn Brite modifying certain aspects of its designs and issuing designs closely suited to additive processes.

Without the opportunity of the BIB program, Burn Brite would not have pursued an additive manufacturing path. The BIB program enabled engagement with Cobalt, design suitability for AM, fast processing of prototype parts and samples, and shortened lead times to critical decisions about product tooling.

The outcome

Cobalt’s creative design and form iterations were completed within weeks. The creation of fast prototypes then occurred within days. Burn Brite would historically take several months to iterate design between mould flow simulation to rapid prototypes and so on. The additive manufacturing path has saved many weeks of iteration to get to a high confidence level on final body form and tooling design.

All mechanical aspects of Burn Brite’s new ISLEDi are now complete. Critical decisions regarding tooling and investment were made through a series of trials and formal reviews, subsequent to the receipt of samples.

The target market for this product is the underground coal longwall mining sector. Discussions regarding the flexibility and increased visual awareness and status of mine condition that this product will enable have been very positive to date.

The product design and final assembly are currently undergoing certification review. Burn Brite is confident that the product design in its current form will be successful in this certification. The product is on track for a market release in July 2020.

Burn Brite will now implement an additive manufacturing step in its design process going forward. The benefits have clearly been a reduced time to investment decisions, and therefore to final product realisation. Burn Brite remains watchful of the economic improvements in additive manufacturing and looks forward to the time when it will invest in additive manufacturing machinery and make the transition from injection moulding.

The AM Hub is an initiative delivered by AMTIL in partnership with the Victorian State Government to provide an industry-driven collaborative network of technology users, suppliers and supporters that will promote the adoption of additive manufacturing technology. For more information, please contact John Croft, AM Hub Manager, on 03 9800 3666 or email amhub@amtil.com.au.

www.amhub.net.au

www.burnbrite.com.au


SHOC: 3D printing the perfect fit for visor upgrade

Sports equipment manufacturer SHOC was encountering problems with one of its key products: a visor for American football helmets. Working with AMTIL’s Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub), it found a solution in 3D printing.

SHOC is an Australian-owned and operated business that provides sports industry after-market polycarbonate helmet visors for American football and lacrosse. The company has been providing its products for just over five years.

The challenge

SHOC’s 2.0 Lightning Visor football-helmet visor was suffering some fitting issues, which were causing premature cracking of the visor. The reason for this was that the 2.0 Lightning product was designed as a one-size-fits-all visor. While it fitted most helmets okay, on one helmet, the Riddell Speedflex, it had to be bent to fit the mask. This was a major issue because the Speedflex is the most popular helmet in the sport currently, meaning failure issues for the visor were exacerbated. SHOC pulled the 2.0 Lightning visor after several issues arose and the company did not want to risk any further problems for its end customers.

The solution

SHOC engaged the team at product design and development specialists ONEPOINTSIX in late 2018 to begin the redesign of its 2.0 Lightning football-helmet visor. The Zero G project consisted of two parts.

The first part: to redesign the 2.0 Lightning visor that would fit the Speedflex perfectly with zero bending of the polycarbonate. The redesigned visor would basically retain the same styling of the 2.0 Lightning visor, but to perform a shape upgrade so that it would fit the more pinched style of the Speedflex helmet’s mask.

The project would employ 3D printing processes to facilitate the printing of the updated design, and test fitting. When the 3D-printed part did not fit on the mask properly, SHOC and ONEPOINTSIX made small design shape changes and reprinted the part. This enabled the team to quickly bring the part in for a perfect fit.

The team also utilised the 3D printed part to present the new design to its customers and invite feedback. The importance of this part of the process became clear at one point when it emerged that SHOC had omitted to lower the top of the visor so that it did not cover the mask label. This would have been a significant issue with some of the professional teams, who must show the label on their helmets.

The second part of the project was to design a new quick-fitting visor clip. The newly designed VIPER clips would be utilised not just on the new SHOC Zero G visor but on all other visors offered by SHOC, as well as other competitor visor brands. ONEPOINTSIX was contracted to perform the design work for the clips and utilise 3D printing to facilitate testing of the parts and ensure a perfect fit on the Speedflex helmet, as provided.

SHOC provided the design and 3D-printed sample to its US factory, who indicated that the custom shape that had initially been chosen would prove extremely difficult to mould, and suggested instead utilising a toroid shape as the base shape of the visor. The team went back to the CAD software with this advice, with ONEPOINTSIX working directly with the factory and their mould maker to make the changes to the CAD design. The shape was quickly updated and another sample was printed; further tweaks to the shape were required and additional samples were printed.

ONEPOINTSIX supplied SHOC’s factory with the CAD drawings, and 3D-printed samples were made at the factory of both the clips and the visor. Samples were received and checked by ONEPOINTSIX, and mould manufacturing began.

At present SHOC has finalised the clips and they are in production. The mould for the visor initially failed optical testing but SHOC is close to resolving this. The visor part has been supplied, SHOC has test-fitted it onto the helmet and all masks, and it is a perfect fit. Finally the mould has been repolished for optical clarity and the design finalised in late February.

One lesson learned in hindsight was that SHOC would have benefitted from going to end customers with design proposals and receiving feedback on various 3D-printed shapes. This would have provided direct feedback in regard to customer experience.

The outcome

SHOC has completed the design and testing of its new product for the American football helmet market utilising the services of ONEPOINTSIX. It has received factory final samples of all parts and is currently awaiting final mould tweaks to begin production imminently.

The use of 3D printing was instrumental in getting an exact fit of the visor to the helmet. If it was not for 3D printing, the project would inevitably have entailed large amounts of guesswork, which would have been massively time-consuming. Additive manufacturing allowed SHOC to make exact changes, and enabled quick turnarounds on testing and verification.

The AM Hub is an initiative delivered by AMTIL in partnership with the Victorian State Government to provide an industry-driven collaborative network of technology users, suppliers and supporters that will promote the adoption of additive manufacturing technology. For more information, please contact John Croft, AM Hub Manager, on 03 9800 3666 or email amhub@amtil.com.au.

www.amhub.net.au

www.shoc.com


AM Hub, TBGA team up on training

AMTIL’s Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Barnes Global Advisors (TBGA) engineering consultancy to deliver training solutions for Australia’s additive manufacturing community.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, TBGA is the world’s largest independent additive manufacturing engineering consultancy. It helps companies work through the adoption of additive manufacturing processes, covering strategy, design, leadership, training, materials and economics. TBGA’s CEO and founder John Barnes previously worked with CSIRO, where he helped establish the Lab22 Innovation Centre, one of Australia’s leading centres for metallic additive manufacturing. TBGA’s team of specialists collectively boasts well over 130 years of experience in additive manufacturing.

The company already has a well-established presence in the UK and Europe as well as across the US. With its new partnership with the AMHub, TBGA’s additive manufacturing training is now available on five continents. Initially TBGA will be offering the Additive Manufacturing Certificate for Engineers, Managers and Executives, delivered in collaboration with Purdue University’s Online College of Engineering. The Additive Manufacturing Certificate Program is ideal for professionals with a manufacturing background and is designed to bring you from novice to broad awareness. As an online course, training can be undertaken at your pace and in line with your schedule.

“TBGA has an unrivalled reputation when it comes to helping manufacturers bring additive processes into their operations,” said John Croft, Manager of the AM Hub. “The Additive Manufacturing Certificate Program is a recognised course delivered by Purdue University, a highly regarded US university with outstanding credentials in the additive manufacturing space.”

Further down the line, TBGA will also be delivering a range of additional training options, including shorter and more specialised courses, that will also be available via the AM Hub.

“This will be the first of a series of courses that will be developed around additive manufacturing which will be offered as we move forward,” Croft added. “Our plan is to engage with the Australian manufacturing industry by bringing a range of short courses brought to you by experienced industry leaders to start the building skillsets around additive manufacturing!”

Led by AMTIL and supported by the Victorian Government, the Additive Manufacturing Hub has been established to grow and develop additive manufacturing capability. To find out more, contact John Croft, AM Hub Manager, on 03 9800 3666, or email jcroft@amtil.com.au.

www.amhub.net.au 
www.barnesglobaladvisors.com


Sentient Bionics gets a helping hand from the AM Hub

When Sentient Bionics required rapid production of prototype parts for its new robotic hand project, it turned to AMTIL’s Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub) for assistance.

Based in Port Melbourne, Sentient Bionics has been developing anthropomorphic robotic grippers for more than half a decade. During that time the company has worked with prosthetic users, hospitals and industry partners to develop a range of grippers suitable to satisfy everyday human and robotic needs. Familiarity, versatility and affordability are at the core of Sentient Bionics’s ethos, and it has developed hands that allow people and robots to interact in a natural and effective way.

Additive manufacturing has already been a large part of Sentient’s business, giving it the ability to quickly prototype both adult and child-sized prosthetic mechanical hands. Additive manufacturing’s fast development time has allowed Sentient Bionics to start clinical trials and quickly respond to feedback gained through them with helpful and progressive design changes.

While Sentient Bionics specialises in the design and assembly of technology and devices, it has outsourced the manufacturing of components. Although it has some basic desktop fused deposition modelling (FDM) printers in-house, which it uses for rapid prototyping operations, the company gets all the parts that it uses for testing and consumer-level products made professionally by additive manufacturing (AM) service providers.

The challenge

Sentient Bionics accessed the Build It Better (BiB) voucher programme via the Additive Manufacturing Hub (AM Hub) to assist it in initiating a new robotic hand project, as well enhancing the continuation of its prosthetic hand product line. Sentient Bionic’s dynamic design process required several prototype parts to be manufactured quickly so they could be tested and altered according to results, and additive manufacturing was chosen as the primary method of manufacture.

The solution

Sentient Bionics received manufacturing services from two Victorian companies – GoProto (ANZ) Pty Ltd and Objective 3D Pty Ltd – within the scope of its BiB voucher, which covered 50% of the service costs.

AM Hub member GoProto was engaged for a range of additive manufacturing services including:

  • Manufacturing structural and functional parts designed by Sentient Bionics for the robotic and prosthetic hands, including the palm (front and back), internal mechanism and phalanges, using GoProto’s HP Multi-jet Fusion Printing capabilities.
  • Manufacturing various other parts designed by Sentient Bionics required for internally used tools and rigs, as well as parts for several smaller side projects of Sentient Bionics as part of their professional design contract work.

The services received from GoProto reflected Sentient Bionics’s sustainable mindset, through the use of HP MJF PA11 and PA12. Both PA11 and PA12 are high-reusability materials that minimise waste, and PA11 is a renewable raw material produced from vegetable castor oil, resulting in a reduced environmental impact.

Objective 3D, also an AM Hub member, was engaged for services including the manufacture of structural and functional parts of the prosthetic and robotic hands, which require alternative manufacturing methods not supplied by GoProto such as metal 3D printing and Polyjet 3D printing.

The BiB voucher programme would be crucial in allowing Sentient Bionics the capacity to expand its product range, grow its intellectual property (IP), and delve into new industries.

The outcome

With the help of the BiB voucher programme, Sentient Bionics went from a simple, harness-powered prosthetic product with no motor actuation, to a versatile robot gripper capable of integration with existing robotic systems.

Thanks to the financial assistance of the BiB voucher programme and the guidance and expertise of the AM Hub, Sentient Bionics’s research project was able to cut down manufacturing costs significantly. It made it feasible to undertake more development work across one year than Sentient Bionics had previously achieved ever since forming as a company. More engineers were hired, and the company relaunched its website with new content and new products. In addition the team attended more conferences, broke into new industries, and developed promising leads for future collaboration and sales pipelines as a result of networking within the AM Hub community.

Sentient Bionics now sees additive manufacturing playing a crucial role in its future – as its development continues (as it will for a number of years), so do its requirements for a manufacturing method that allows for iterative design changes and high-quality parts. The current designs for its new robotic product rely primarily on additive manufacturing, and the team at Sentient Bionics do not expect that to change anytime soon.

With the help of the AM Hub, Sentient Bionics was able to expand into new industries and markets, and within these new markets demonstrate the benefits of additive manufacturing.

The AM Hub is an initiative delivered by AMTIL in partnership with the Victorian State Government to provide an industry-driven collaborative network of technology users, suppliers and supporters that will promote the adoption of additive manfacturing technology. For more information, please contact John Croft, AM Hub Manager, on 03 9800 3666 or email amhub@amtil.com.au
www.amhub.net.au
www.goproto.com.au 
www.objective3d.com.au
www.sentientbionics.com


FELIXprinters assists in commercialisation of vegan-friendly 3D-printed salmon

FELIXprinters’s BIOprinter has been used to successfully manufacture vegan salmon with a taste, texture and appearance seemingly identical to real salmon.

Headquartered in IJsselstein, in the Netherlands, FELIXprinters was established in 2010 to provide top-end, robust, reliable, and competitively priced 3D printing solutions for industry users. FELIXprinters has established itself as a key player in the supply of mid-priced highly accurate industrial additive manufacturing machines. The company’s reputation is built upon the Pro 3, Pro L, and Pro XL platforms, which are used throughout an array of industry sectors for challenging additive manufacturig (AM) production applications.

FELIXprinters recently introduced the BIOprinter, which was developed on the chassis of the established FELIXprinters product line, building on tried and tested technology that has already been serving manufacturers for years. The printer is characterised by several key features that are specifically designed for medical, scientific, and research applications, including syringe cooling, print bed cooling and heating, a dual head system, easy syringe positioning (ergonomic access to the machine supports researchers in their work), and automatic bed levelling.

In recent months a group of international students has developed a 3D printing technique that enables them to print complex binders and proteins into plant-based fish alternatives, and at the heart of this research is the FELIX BIOprinter.

The trio of students from The University of Gothenburg (in Sweden), Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (in Spain), and The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) started to work together on an EU-led project in 2017. During their work research as part of Training4CRM, a research project which uses 3D printing to develop treatments of neurodegenerative disorders, the team realised that similar techniques could be applied to 3D print plant-based proteins.

Identifying a gap in the market within the seafood sector for more structured vegan-friendly fish-based products, the team began developing its plant-based alternative. The process is now set to be launched commercially under the trading name Legendary Vish, with the aim of providing a healthier and tastier alternative to existing vegan-friendly fish substitutes.

The step forward in the technology is the ability to create seafood products with complex structures that would be impossible using traditional extrusion technologies, and this was achieved through the use of the FELIX BIOprinter.

The key driver behind the use of 3D printing for fish production centres around sustainability issues, addressing the fact that many of the world’s fisheries are at the moment pushed beyond their biological limits. In addition, 3D printing fish rather than relying on traditional fishing methods reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of the oceans, and negates the need to use antibiotics, a common necessity to “aquacure” salmon in fish farms.

In an attempt to tackle these environmental challenges, the student team built on the extrusion-based 3D printing technique they’d developed as part of project Training4CRM, to 3D print fish instead of medicinal products. Using the FELIX BIOprinter, the AM method works by extruding a range of plant-based bio-inks, the BIOprinter allowing the extrusion of different plant-based ingredients (basically “food-inks”) through different print heads. This allows the production of the complex appearance of salmon fillets, showing the realistic distribution of orange/red meat tissue and white connective tissue.

Wilgo Feliksdal, co-founder of FELIXprinters, commented: “The BIOprinter consists of an adaptable and flexible ecosystem to ensure that it can meet a wide range of researchers’ needs without generating unnecessary costs, and we are delighted that it has been at the core of the work undertaken at Legendary Vish.

“One major advantage is the source control system, which enables the user to use standard slicing software and make changes themselves if needed. Also, syringes are not restricted to expensive brand-specific or in-house produced products that essentially drive up operating costs. The machine instead has been designed to use a standard 5ml syringe, and standardised petri dishes and culture plates, so there are no limitations on auxiliary parts and materials.”

Beyond the optimisation of its industrial range of printers, FELIXprinters has extensive engineering and R&D capabilities, which it is able to utilise to provide specific services in the development of tailor made, customised 3D printing platforms — working in partnership to produce new and innovative solutions.

“The FELIX BIOprinter is appropriate for all types of bio-printing research, and is equipped with strong motors that can extrude a range of different viscosity of materials, which was invaluable when being used to simulate the look and feel of salmon,” Feliksdal added. “In addition, the BIOprinter has been designed to be easily upgradeable, which means that the lifecycle of the machine can be extended without compromising quality, reliability, and productivity.”

www.felixprinters.com


3D printing during COVID-19 – A blueprint for future manufacturing

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many industries and their supply chains, it has been incredible to see how the healthcare sector has responded – helped in many ways by the clever use of 3D printing. By Michael Boyle, Managing Director, HP Australia & New Zealand.

The sudden shortage of essential medical equipment brought on by the pandemic, including respiratory support and personal protective equipment (PPE), has offered a glimpse at how supply chain disruptions can be mitigated with 3D printing, as well as new business opportunities 3D printing can provide when adopted at a large scale.

One advantage of 3D printing is extreme flexibility and the ability to rapidly redeploy equipment from one task to another – in other words, to retool. Using a 3D printer, you can be creating building materials one moment and medical prosthetics the next by loading a digital design of the new part into the printer. This agility makes 3D printing useful for prototyping and for making low-run parts that can be used to repair outdated equipment or create custom products to solve unique challenges.

Flexibility has allowed industries to repurpose their production and R&D capabilities towards manufacturing mass quantities of hand sanitizer, producing tens of thousands of masks and gowns, and retooling factories to assemble face shields. In New Zealand, not-for-profit group ShieldsUp has worked with HP New Zealand, Emirates Team New Zealand and Rodin Cars New Zealand, along with hundreds of 3D printing enthusiasts and volunteers across the country, to design and deliver almost 18,000 face shields in under two months.

Triple Eight Race Engineering managed to successfully transfer its 3D printing capabilities from the racetrack to the ICU ward. When approached by the Queensland State Government, the team redirected their HP 3D printers that were typically reserved for producing car parts, towards designing and manufacturing critical ventilator components.

At HP, we have been mobilising our 3D Printing team and global Digital Manufacturing Partner Network to design, validate and produce essential parts for medical responders and hospitals. More than 158,000 3D-printed parts have been delivered to frontline workers in Asia Pacific, with over 2.3 million parts printed globally.

Beyond boosting the supply of PPE for healthcare workers during COVID-19, 3D printing is allowing companies to transform their supply chain strategies and introduce on-demand manufacturing for the long term. The real-time nature of 3D printing not only helps businesses retool to solve immediate supply shortages, it simplifies and shortens supply chains by allowing components to be produced closer to home and nearer to the customer. By extension, the headaches that often come with navigating international transportation, tariffs, and exposure to geopolitics, are reduced.

Moreover, cost-effective trial and error can encourage rapid prototyping that fosters greater innovation, personalisation of products, and improved time-to-market. The ability to print a customer’s order as required also has the potential to save businesses from holding large inventories of product and reduce costs associated with holding warehouse space.

The current crisis has reminded us how interconnected our supply chains are, with conduct in one country having a ripple effect across the globe. Yet thanks to 3D printing, the pandemic has also reminded us of the value of local manufacturing and the need to promote capability-based alliances across industries.

Replicating experiences seen in the healthcare sector, the benefits of on-demand printing to shortened supply chains and improved time-to-market apply to all industries and businesses. As businesses begin assessing their strategic priorities and changes to manage the impact of COVID-19 on operations, we should learn from past experiences and embrace cutting-edge technology, like 3D printing, to streamline operations and reduce exposure to global fluctuations.

www8.hp.com