TCT Europe 29.1

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The opportunities & challenges for AM

A look at the industry’s latest software developments

Fine jewellery design & bespoke architecture



For the flexible and reliable finishing of 3D printing metal parts all three steps of the Hirtisation® process are included in the autonomous H-series finishing modules. The H-Series modules support the tuning of the Hirtisation® post processing to the 3D-printig process for maximum efficiency and short finishing cycles. Removal of powder cake and support structures No mechanical processing steps involved Reaching deeply into cavities and geometric undercuts Levelling of surface roughness while retaining edge sharpness Combination of electrochemical pulse methods, hydrodynamic flow and chemical removal

RENA Technologies Austria GmbH Additive Manufacturing

VOLUME 29 ISSUE 1 ISSN 1751-0333



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from the editor


Business as usual? It’s highly (and hopefully) unlikely any of us will ever have another year like 2020 – though these first few weeks into the new year have sort of felt like a hazy 2020 hangover.

and goodwill has opened up eyes to additive for the long-term. While a return to normality sounds wonderful right now, business as usual needn’t be the default setting going forward.

Almost overnight our routines were skewed; our dining tables turned into desks, we became Zoom tech support for distant relatives and lamented the former ease of locating a travel sized bottle of hand gel. I experimented with “pyjama chic” on impromptu video calls, spent evenings remotely attending international conferences while enjoying the novelty of secretly tucking into a McDonalds Uber Eats delivery. I even did the unthinkable and started watching Selling Sunset.

So onto our first issue of 2021. I don’t think we intended for this issue to be a binder jet special but based on conversations our Senior Content Producer Sam Davies and I have held with various figures over the last few months, that’s kind of what we’ve landed on. So, let’s agree it was intentional, eh?

Yet, perhaps the most interesting consequence for me was getting to view 2020 through the lens of the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. As supply chains were disrupted and PPE demand soared, the pandemic presented a unique challenge that AM was uniquely equipped to tackle. Leveraging the benefits of rapid product development, mass customisation and decentralised manufacture, for some industries and crucially on the frontline, AM provided a temporary lifeline and, as we explore in more detail on page 11, encouraged overdue conversations about supply chain resilience. Places like the UK’s Digital Manufacturing Centre, which we paid a remote visit on page 28, believe AM has a huge part to play in industry recovery and the coming year will be a real proof point of whether that enthusiasm

On the cover, ExOne declares 2021 as ‘the year of binder jet’ and as new machines from major players like Desktop Metal, HP and GE Additive are expected to expand the scope for binder jet hardware over the coming months, there’s good reason to believe this to be the case. To find out how the rest of the industry is prepping for this oncoming trend, we spoke to a number of companies about how they’re shoring up software capabilities to tackle the technology’s most complex challenges. Elsewhere, we’ve got conversations on entrepreneurship with newcomer Hyperganic and AM application in creative industries with jewellery maker Jenny Wu and Aectual Co-founder Hedwig Heinsman. Plus, stories on certification and useful advice on creating a business case for AM shared by Phil Reeves in our regular Expert Advisory Board column slot. Enjoy the issue and stay safe.

29.1 / / 05

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8 11


ExOne explains why 2021 is a turning point for the technology it brought to market more than 20 years ago.



The TCT content team talks to industry leading personnel to understand why 3D printing makes sense for supply chain resiliency.


University of Bristol’s Dr. Jennifer Johns offers her insights on supply chain as a reader in International Business.




Sam talks to Indian service bureau Imaginarium about a record-breaking diamond ring.

Software & Simulation


Stratasys on enabling CMF simulation with full colour 3D printing.


Sam interviews Hyperganic CEO Lin Kayser about his vision for algorithmbased design.


In the ‘year of binder jet’ Laura explores the software advances promising to maximise the technology’s production capabilities.


Through the Doors


We take a look inside the new Digital Manufacturing Centre at Silverstone Park in the UK.

Standards & 30 Certification 30. GETTING UP TO STANDARD


Burloak Technologies on the long road to becoming a certified AM supplier to Boeing.



LACE founder Jenny Wu sits down with TCT to discuss her use of 3D printing to produce jewellery pieces. Laura speaks to a company using 3D printing for bespoke architectural projects.






A look at some of the biggest industry developments at the start of 2021.

Expert Advisory Column



Industry consultant Phil Reeves on why understanding the business case for AM is important.



At least five new production metal binder jet systems are expected this year from ExOne, HP, Desktop Metal and GE, with more likely to follow.


n the early years, few engineers thought it would be possible to simply inkjet binder onto powder and deliver high-density metal parts. For most of the two decades that followed the original 1993 binder jet patent from MIT, that conventional wisdom reigned. The ExOne Company, which was the original licensee of MIT’s binder jet patents for metal, went on to launch the first metal binder jet system in 1998 and continued to print metals on increasingly sophisticated machines without any direct competition for years. With asprinted part densities hovering at about 55-60%, binder jetting metal was viewed as a niche process with limited potential. ExOne had to infiltrate its printed metal parts with another metal to fill in the gaps. That all changed in 2013, when ExOne finally cracked the code on binder jetting metals to high densities, or those greater than 97%, during a joint R&D project with an aerospace company. The team thought if they could just print the finest available powders, the particles would compact, or order themselves, more densely. The challenge with that, of course, is that these powders don’t flow easily like grains of sand; they clump together like baking flour and are difficult to flow and spread evenly. But the project was successful, and the news spread quickly. Even after ExOne filed patents on its invention, however, it took the company several years to get the first commercially viable high-density metal 3D printer — the Innovent — to market in 2016. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to automate dispensing, spreading and compacting the powders. The year after the Innovent launch was a big one for binder jetting: Digital Metal, a subsidiary of Höganäs, launched production of the DM P2500. Desktop Metal announced plans for its Production System. GE announced it would produce its own binder jet system. In 2018, HP announced its Metal Jet Fusion binder jetting system. While the Digital Metal printer has been available since then, this year – 2021 – is the year that all those other binder jet printers are slated to come to market. What’s more, ExOne also launches a new version of the system that jump-started the sector, with its

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5 TOP:







“Binder jet is well on its way to disrupting other manufacturing technologies.”

InnoventPro to be offered in a 3L and 5L size. Binder jetting is having such a moment, in fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if other companies jumped in. “We really do believe this year is a turning point for binder jet 3D printing,” said John Hartner, ExOne’s CEO. “We see an increasing number of customers looking into how binder jet can help their business, whether it’s delivering lightweight parts, higher performance parts, or even decentralising their supply chain. It’s a truly exciting time, and we see the whole field growing.”


One of the reasons the lure of binder jetting has never really vanished, even though many doubted its ability to print high-density metal, is simple: speed. In the complex field of additive manufacturing technologies, binder jetting is the most similar to paper printing and regarded as one of the fastest methods for volumetric output.


In binder jetting, an industrial printhead quickly inkjets binder (essentially a glue) onto a thin layer of powder particles – metal, sand or ceramic – creating a solid part one layer at a time. When printing metals, the final part must later be sintered in order to fuse the particles together. When looking at metal 3D printing alone, almost every other method builds parts with a single point, either a laser or nozzle, that struggles to compete with a printhead. Multi-laser or multinozzle systems have grown increasingly common but, generally, adding those points isn’t as affordable as expanding a row of printheads. “All technologies have their sweet spot, and binder jetting was really built for high throughput,” Hartner said. “Though we expect it to take time, binder jet is well on its way to disrupting other manufacturing technologies.”


Virtually any powder can be 3D printed in binder jetting so long as the right binder chemistry and sintering recipe can be developed and optimised to densify the printed part.


Mirzababaei, S., Paul, B.K. & Pasebani, S. Metal Powder Recyclability in Binder Jet Additive Manufacturing. JOM 72, 3070–3079 (2020). 1

At ExOne, the company has printed everything from traditional MIM powders to concrete, trash and more. Creating bound powder designs is the easy part, with optimising recipes taking the most time.

Most of the new binder jetting systems that come to market in 2021 will arrive with stainless steel alloys, most often 316L and 17-4PH, but more materials are expected to follow. Digital Metal already offers at least six materials. ExOne's material portfolio now offers more than 20 materials, including 11 single-alloy metals. That includes 17-4PH, 304L, 316L, M2 Tool Steel, Inconel 718, Cobalt Chrome, Copper, H13 Tool Steel, Inconel 625, Titanium and Tungsten Heavy Alloy. Aluminium, which is already qualified for R&D use on ExOne systems, has been fast-tracked for third-party qualification status, which indicates general market readiness. ExOne’s first aluminium alloys are expected to receive this status upgrade during 2021.


While most 3D printing technologies can call themselves green for their ability to deliver consolidated, lightweight parts and other benefits, binder jetting stands alone in one important respect: it can deliver a bigger impact. The ability to produce high volumes of sustainable designs means that the technology can deliver sweeping benefits when it comes to lighter parts that can help decarbonise cars and other products. In fact, ExOne routinely delivers consolidated parts that are redesigned for up to 40% weight savings. What’s more, research has already shown that binder jetting has a material efficiency of up to 96%1. ExOne also recently joined the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association to support independent research into benefits like these so manufacturers can have data about the environmental impact of binder jetting. “Our team is confident about the broad sustainability benefits of binder jet,” Hartner said. “Whether it’s waste reduction, part consolidation, lightweighting or enabling decentralised manufacturing, we’re a company that is truly dedicated to our values and vision of Sustainable Manufacturing Without Limitations.”

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Sam & Laura speak to several industry personnel to understand the potential role of 3D printing technology in more agile manufacturing supply chains.


n California, a collaborative effort involving Forecast 3D takes just three months to go from design development of a nasopharyngeal swab to additively manufacturing a million FDA-approved units. In South Carolina, Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Ethicon brand works with PRISMA Health to additively manufacture an FDAauthorised ventilator expansion splitter that enables a single ventilator to be used for two rescuable COVID-19 patients until individual ventilators come available. In Texas, Essentium designs a 3D printable face mask that is additively manufactured tens of thousands of times over ten weeks before its injection moulding tooling is ready, and a more traditional method can shoulder the burden. And then it keeps printing supplementary masks alongside. There were many more examples all over the world of 3D printing filling gaps of stretched supply chains as the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions from the Far East to the West Coast. It quickly sparked conversations about the need for more agile and resilient supply chains, and in this industry, how important 3D printing is to the transformation of these supply networks. For Steve Richardson, Forecast 3D’s Business Development Manager who focused on supply chain development on an international scale while in the electronics industry, there’s much that needs to go into a supply chain to make it agile – “you have to have visibility throughout the value stream, knowing that you have one focal point, normally the OEM, orchestrating all the different pieces, and we have to have data-driven decisions.” – but having seen up close the capabilities of 3D printing, he is in no doubt that it has its place: “What I really took away from the pandemic was how dynamic the supply chain can be with additive manufacturing.” Speaking to TCT in the autumn of 2020, having surveyed 2,000 manufacturing business leaders about trends in digital manufacturing, HP’s World Wide General

“After COVID, nobody can say failures are not anticipated.”

Manager of 3D Printing, Ramon Pastor, noted how the ‘resiliency of a supply chain is the resiliency of the worst part of said supply chain.’ Around 12 months ago, as offshore factories closed down as a result of the spread of COVID-19, manufacturing organisations around the world learnt that the hard way.


In the 2019 Global Services Location Index, which lists the most attractive locations to produce goods, India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam topped the rankings, with Thailand joining the United States and United Kingdom in the top eight. Notably, though the US and UK excelled in ‘people skills and availability’, ‘business environment’ and ‘digital resonance’, they lacked in ‘financial attractiveness’. Because so much emphasis has been placed on lowering costs within many manufacturing organisations, the effectiveness and resiliency in many cases had been neglected. As Richardson pointed out, “If a company has a mindset of, ‘we’re going to be low cost’, every decision that supply chain makes is based on having the lowest cost product in the market.” Companies and entire industries were

rocked upon the spread of COVID-19. In a Deloitte survey carried out last year, 59% of respondents said they saw a slowdown in sales and challenges to their cash flow, with 22% noting their inability to directly serve customers was the main negative impact on their business during the pandemic. “COVID caused every company in the world to look at their supply chain and say, ‘I can’t tolerate this, I have to have more flexibility,’” said 3D Systems CEO Jeff Graves in a recent interview with TCT.

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“Nobody could have anticipated COVID,” LEO Lane Co-founder and VP, Business Dr Lee-Bath Nelson offered, “but after COVID nobody can say that failures are not anticipated. You have to take measures for that.”

away where you have no visibility of it just because it costs you ten cents?”

The strategy of manufacturing parts offshore is carried out with cost at the forefront of the mind, rather than control, visibility, or even ethics. Using the cheaper locations of the world to manufacture goods at high volumes is a cost-effective way for many manufactures to run their business and, with no incentive to do otherwise, rearranging a supply chain to ‘reshore’ manufacturing is likely much too complex and much too time-consuming to do.

The same idea crossed Xometry CEO Randy Altschuler’s mind in April 2020. Talking to TCT, he stressed: “We need to start quantifying the cost of supply chain disruptions and of risk. It may look like something from a location overseas might be 50% less expensive than domestic, but if you factor in some percentage chance that there could be a supply chain Black Swan event like we’ve had now where there’s no supply available, that’s worth something and that needs to be put into the equation.”

Yet, many consider there to be hidden costs involved with this model that only rear their ugly heads in times of crisis. Richardson gives the generic example of a part that is integral to one’s manufacturing line, or integral to the function of their customer’s assembled product, something that, “if you don’t get that part, it’s going to cost you more than anything. Is it worth having it manufactured thousands of miles

Those considerations are certainly more likely to be made off the back of the pandemic and the disruptions that came with it. But as Dr Jennifer Johns writes on page 14, the reshoring of manufacturing is a political discussion. Indeed, Altschuler conceded that the concept needs the backing from governments, with subsidies being offered, as they have been in countries like Japan, to ‘bring

manufacturing home.’ Without them, manufacturers are likely to put cost efficiency first. This point was highlighted by 3D Hubs CEO Bram de Zwart who, in writing for Business Insider last year, said: “From our experience, the balance between cost and the quality of manufacturers is often much more favourable when sourcing overseas, which is a very harsh reality but something we can’t ignore, especially during a period when most businesses are particularly stretched on resources.” He went on to suggest that a combination of both onshore and offshore production is an effective way of enabling supply chain flexibility, citing the fact that when Asian factories opened up again last year, many of those in Europe and North America were shutting down. There is much to ponder for manufacturers making these decisions, particularly at a time when supply chain disruptions and cash flow problems are impacting the business in an intertwined way. Again on page 14, Dr Johns notes that she generally doesn’t expect manufacturers to shift production from one location to another in a ‘like for like’ way because of the complexities involved,


but instead there may be changes to the ‘status quo’ and that could be good news for additive. Especially given some of the potential wins that are available.


The fundamental thing that a supply chain must do, Pastor emphasised last year, is match demand with supply. And the best way of doing that, he reckons, is on-demand manufacturing with limited physical inventory. Scott Sevcik, Stratasys’ VP of Aerospace, agreed in July 2020, pushing forward the idea of ‘one on the shelf’, allowing there for less wait time upon ordering the part, and less scrap should the

Customer Solutions at J&J. “We operate in a dynamic marketplace where consumer preferences are constantly shifting and demands are only increasing, meaning we must be able to quickly pivot to meet the needs of customers in specific markets. [This] can only be provided through a sustainable, flexible supply chain aligned end-to-end with our commercial R&D teams.” Richardson too, in referencing Forecast 3D’s additive manufacture of testing swabs, eulogised about the demonstration of “collaborative planning, collaborative design, focusing on your strengths, trusting

In responding to a statistic that came out of HP’s aforementioned survey – that 75% of respondents suggested 3D printing may be useful as a back-up technology to traditional means of manufacture – Essentium CEO Blake Teipel analogised 3D printing with a fleet of water pumps that operate in New Orleans, a city just below sea level that gets hit every year by hurricanes. In normal times, those pumps might be at 20-30% capacity to keep the ocean back, while the rest sit idle. Yet, when a hurricane arrives, they all spring into action to quickly reduce the flooding.

Essentium also thinks there’s scope to, as they did with the face masks earlier in the pandemic, use 3D printing to supplement traditional manufacturing. Similarly, from J&J’s experiences, the company is backing the sheer ability it displayed to turn on a dime last year and produce something it wasn’t expecting to a few days earlier. “As a global company operating in markets all over the world, there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all approach’,” said Sam Onukuri, Head of 3D Printing &

There’s an array of opportunities for 3D printing, some being proved out during the pandemic, while others are currently more speculative. But those that are proffered generally revolve around the technology’s capacity to produce end-use parts, particularly as its capabilities continue to grow. Often overlooked when discussing 3D printing’s potential within flexible supply chains is its rapid prototyping proficiencies. This is where, Richardson suggested, the technology will have its biggest and quickest impact. Graves agreed, asserting we could be about to see “an explosion in the designing of components made by additive manufacturing.” Yet, Richardson maintained that ‘every production opportunity starts with a prototyping opportunity.’ Indeed, he and Forecast 3D saw as much just under 12 months ago. The naval swabs project started out as a way of validating design; it became a bona fide AM production application scaling into the millions. Key, as ever, to opening up such opportunities with AM remains finding the right business cases, whether it be down to volumes required or complexity. Not every agile and resilient manufacturing supply chain will rely on 3D printed parts, but in a period when all will be carrying out in-depth assessments of their supply networks, there’s a belief across the board that additive has a big role to play.

demand for it never come. Both suggest 3D printing has an obvious play here, while Pastor said HP is working with customers who are already starting to implement the strategy.

“AM is just like those pumps,” Teipel said. “You’re able to produce parts and then you’re also able to have that surge capacity when you need it.”

your partners and then trying to get that real time data from the market of where shortfall was.”

“Supply chains take a long time to reengineer,” Teipel evaluated. “It’s going to take another 1, 2, 3, 4 years to see the evolution of supply chains to the point where there’s a new type of optimisation because the supply chains have been optimised for the manufacturing technologies of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. But now, because of additive manufacturing and the buzzy bits of smart factories and the rest, you’re starting to see a new type of efficiency emerge.”

“We anticipate that 3D printing is a mainstay of supply chains.”

“We anticipate that 3D printing is a mainstay of supply chains,” Onukuri added. “We always want to ensure that we can meet the needs of customers in different markets while also pivoting quickly. By re-imagining the way that we create and deliver products and services, we truly move one step closer to innovation that can change health for humanity.” “Additive manufacturing with trust and collaboration can take you to the next level,” Richardson finished. “Case in point is the nasal swabs. We did it in a short period of time, accelerated under the gun and were very reactive. Now, think if you were proactive, and had a big supply chain goal or vision in your head, and then you take the time to implement an agile supply chain with time, I mean, the sky’s the limit.”

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WORDS: Dr Jennifer Johns, Reader in International Business, School of Management, University of Bristol & Academic Advisor to GTMA and Reshoring UK

SUPPLY CHAIN COMPLEXITY: AM IN THE POSTCOVID-19 ERA changing combinations of in-house production, inter-firm trading and outsourcing (within or beyond national boundaries), supply chains have become highly sophisticated to meet the demands of manufacturers and their customers.


lobalisation has created an interconnected global economy. Underpinning this are supply chains, facilitating the movement of goods in increasingly complex ways. Until relatively recently, the vital importance of supply chains has tended to be overlooked, certainly in relation to the general public’s understanding of how supply chains support economic activities. Now the combined impacts of COVID-19 and BREXIT are forcing a closer examination of supply chains as they change, are disrupted or even permanently ruptured. The contemporary complexity of supply chains is well understood within the manufacturing sector. Over decades, advances in communication and transportation technologies have allowed supply chains to become more geographically extensive, and firms have been able to use a wide array of sophisticated logistics, tracking and monitoring technologies to manage their supply chains. Combined with

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However, there are many pressures on industry that threaten to reshape supply chains in numerous ways, typically encouraging a reduction in complexity. For the last three decades, where attention has been focused on supply chains it has done so as part of the sustainability agenda. This agenda covers environmental (i.e. food miles, peak oil) and supply chain ethics (i.e. human rights abuses) concerns. Environmental concerns pressure supply chains to shorten as demand for more locally produced goods (particularly food) increases and producers seek to reduce their carbon footprint. Ethical concerns, typically concentrated on the working conditions in factories (including subcontractors), has increased requirements on firms to monitor and inspect suppliers and be aware of lower tier suppliers. This has been driven by companies’ own corporate social responsibility strategies and more recently as a consequence of the Modern Slavery Act. One could logically expect to see a reduction in supplier numbers to facilitate closer monitoring and inspection, but this has not emerged as an observable trend. Despite substantial pressure, we have not seen either a reduction of the length of supply chains or in supplier numbers. Indeed, complexity continues to increase as the economic (profit-maximisation) imperatives driving sourcing decisions prevail. Until recently that is. The impact

of COVID-19 and, to a lesser degree, political changes (Trump’s US trade policies and BREXIT) are having more long-lasting and transformational impacts on supply chains. Since March 2020, they have been battered by external forces, resulting in disruption and, in some cases, permanent rupture. The impacts are multiple and include the temporary closure of factories in China, national lockdowns, workforce vulnerabilities and shortages, and the costs and logistics of complying with COVID-19 guidance. We can see three broad trends in the reconfiguration of supply chains that seek to address the vulnerabilities of geographically extensive supply chains (particularly those between advanced economies and the Far East). First, that of reshoring, the process of manufacturing returning ‘home’ to advanced economies from lost cost locations. Interest in reshoring is partly politically motivated (the futile aim of national self-sufficiency) and partly driven by industry concerns around quality and supply chain risk. Beyond a handful of well-publicised multinational firms relocating some manufacturing, data on reshoring levels shows it to be relatively small in scale but increasing – and likely accelerating since March 2020. Reshoring presents an opportunity for additive manufacturing (AM) as the relocation of production affords companies the chance to rethink their production methods. Evidence currently suggests that little reshoring is on a like-for-like basis and if firms relocate production to their home (advanced) economy it is likely they


In times of supply uncertainty this strategy supplements existing (often geographically extensive) supply chains with more localised supply options. Often the local suppliers are the backup option in the event of established supply chain failure. This dual sourcing strategy thus increases supply chain complexity rather than reducing it, adding to the resourcing and management of supply. Again, this opens up potential spaces for AM to exploit, particularly with regard to removing the need for time consuming and costly re-tooling. The flexibility of AM may prove to be attractive to companies needing additional supply, which begins dialogue with firms that may not (yet) be convinced of the advantages of AM, potentially leading to the local AM firm outcompeting the low-cost supplier. At present the situation regarding the reconfiguration of supply chains is an

will be adopting more advanced production methods. Here, the ability of AM to produce complex parts (that combine a number of previously separately manufactured components) will reduce supplier numbers and facilitate the relocation of production.

“Relocation of production affords companies the chance to rethink their production methods.”

Second, the relocalisation of production, often bringing production much closer to the consumer. This satisfies many sustainability demands, reduces supply chain disruption and increases speed to customer. Distributed manufacturing is often assumed to include advanced manufacturing methods, across the whole spectrum of desktop to industrial AM machines and post-production technologies. Here, the unique capabilities of AM mean the technologies are able to offer much more highly localised solutions than traditional manufacturing methods. The current COVID-19 crisis is having an immediate effect on the organisation of supply chains with the adoption of a compromise solution, that of dual sourcing.

uncertain one, especially as we enter the post-BREXIT period. A number of different processes are operating that will impact on where and how we manufacture, but not all are moving in the same direction (technologically or geographically). We can expect a general trend towards a degree of relocalisation of production and reshoring, but this will be sectorally and geographically uneven. As history has shown us, supply chains are increasingly complex, but the weight of the impacts of COVID-19 and BREXIT may force a change. It is a challenging time, but there are some clear opportunities for AM to begin to really demonstrate and showcase the capabilities of the technology, helping to deliver meaningful progress in the reorganisation of manufacturing in the post-COVID-19 era.

Watch: AM’s Role in Supply Chain Resilience | TCT Conference @ Formnext

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n Mumbai, India, a world record certifying authority representative sits and counts up to 7,801. Imaginarium and the Diamond Store by Chandubhai have gone for the world record of most diamonds set in a ring and wait patiently to have it confirmed. Watching the representative manually count nearly 8,000 diamond pieces across two whole days with nothing but a jeweller’s loupe, the partners are thankful they had digital technologies to hand when embarking on the Divine – 1801 Brahma Vajra Kamalam project. The piece, which broke the Guinness World Record in August 2020, only to be usurped in November, was inspired by the natural design of the Himalayan Camellia flower. It features seven parts – a gold shank and six rows of petals – all assembled around a stigma crew to allow thousands of diamonds to be set by one of Imaginarium’s skilled jewellers within prongs on each component with the highly precise micro pavé technique. But such were the intricacies of the design, the partners decided to leverage Imaginarium’s 3D printing capacity to iterate multiple versions of the ring before heading into production. “The precision and tolerances are impossible in the conventional way of making jewellery,” Tanmay Shah, Head of Innovations at Imaginarium, tells TCT. “The convention that I refer to is where all of this would have been the work of a craftsmen who starts with

“The precision and tolerances are impossible in the conventional way of making jewellery.” a block of [material], and they have only two-dimensional sketches to refer to, so even the curvature [of the petals] in three dimensions, the way it fills that volume, was something that had to be in their head. Only a select few skilled artisans could have pulled this off.” Imaginarium was well-placed to take on this project. At its headquarters in Mumbai, it has dozens of employees working on jewellery manufacturing and finishing every day while it was able to leverage Digital Light Processing technology from Rapid Shape, who has products designed specifically for jewellery projects. Using the vendor’s S30+, Imaginarium utilised its 405 nm UV LED light source, HD 1920 x 1080 px resolution

and resin temperature control capabilities to produce iterations in a quick-print, high-resolution general-purpose material that helped Imaginarium visualise the design and spot defects. The company then harnessed Rapid Shape’s direct casting material to allow the ring to be cast in gold. “When it comes to this level of precision,” Shah explains, “we needed a laser-based printer because of the tolerances. Rapid Shape comes closest to an SLA. The interesting evolution of technology is that projector-based system, because of its high resolution and high definition, is now giving parts at a par with a high-end laser-based SLA machine. But the added advantage for the DLP is speed. Whereas an SLA machine would have taken six hours to make this prototype, a DLP would take one hour to do the same.” Jewellery is one of Imaginarium’s four main business activities, with 3D printing regularly being leant on to help the company tackle complex designs, reduce the time to manufacture and print one-off or customised goods. All were at play in this record-breaking project. Shah estimates that this design, approached in a conventional way, would have taken months because of the complex shape and need to assemble multiple pieces. And that is just the first iteration, without considering the size of the prongs that differ for every diamond they hold. “That’s the standard,” he says. “So, enter 3D printing. What that does is one, all of your simulation, validation etc is done in the CAD software; we could modify the design as many times as we wanted, and even after making the first prototype, if we find something not working, it’s a matter of one hour or two hours to tweak the CAD design and start again. Two, of course, it’s impossible to achieve otherwise. And the third is when you can play with multiple materials, you’re not trying to replicate a prototype into some other conventional form, it’s part of the same workflow. It’s just one workflow.”

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LACE founder Jenny Wu on using 3D printing to produce fine jewellery.


n the corridors of Art Basel Miami, visitors are rushing to see a bold piece they’ve never seen before, wanting to know more about it, wanting to touch it, maybe even wanting to buy it. Taken aback by the interest, Jenny Wu returned to her Oyler Wu Collaborative architecture design studio with the idea to start a new business. Seven years on, her LACE jewellery brand has launched a wedding collection, a men’s line, and recently expanded into Europe. Underpinning all that success is 3D printing technology. It was the autumn of 2014 when Wu’s first LACE line of jewellery was launched, just a year after she first used 3D printing to make a fashion statement while speaking publicly and attending events. Among the first products on sale were the Tangens necklace, which features interlocking elements and was initially produced with Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology, and the Papilio ring, a design inspired by the movement of a butterfly wing that has been additvely manufactured in nylon and metal materials, while also cast in sterling silver. Each of these designs began with a sketch, before moving into an extensive prototyping phase that first assessed form and fit and later considered the best material for production. The process used for production, though, has been subject to much deliberation over the years, for not every step of Wu’s journey with LACE has been a walk in the park. “For the first few years, there was definitely a lot of learning,” she tells TCT. Case in point is the Tangens necklace, one of LACE’s flagship products and the kind of piece that was drawing the attention of so many in Miami. While the design remains much the same as it did back in 2014, the production method needed changing. “Back then, it was mostly FDM and to print a lot of my jewellery was challenging, there was a lot of limitations for the kind of work I wanted to do and how it might translate to 3D printing,” Wu says. “With the support systems, FDM was impossible,

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so now I mostly work with SLS [Selective Laser Sintering], which, being powderbased, obviously makes it more feasible to do interlocking pieces, [for example].” Finding the right process to produce this piece was paramount for Wu since she had insisted on the necklace being completely 3D printed, including the latch, with zero assembly. Since the necklace was a big and bold piece, it needed to be flexible and durable, but not so hard that it would hurt upon contact with the skin.





“Figuring out how to print the necklace was probably one of the most challenging things,” she recalls. “Just the latch itself, I probably printed that latch 50 times because when it’s too tight, the customer will yank on it and the whole thing will pull off, and then if it’s too loose, someone knocks you and it falls off, and so, in the end, we figured out using SLS with a TPU was the best method, but even within that, looking at the tolerance of each intricate [interlocking] piece and trying to make sure they move but don’t collide, that was a lot of work.” A lot of effort, as well, has gone into finding the right material to use for pieces, especially as the additive manufacturing industry has made great strides in expanding users’ options in that regard over the years. Some materials have been too soft and easily breakable, others too stiff for the specific application. It has led Wu to look beyond polymers and closer at what metal 3D printing can offer, resulting in many new designs that polymer AM couldn’t address, such as the Mobius ring, while offering metal versions of several existing designs that had previously been released as plastic pieces, like the Papilio ring. Per Wu, most of what LACE now offers is done in precious metals and steels, largely for reasons around durability and wearability – considering how a customer might bang their ring on a table or not feel when their earrings have fallen out because they’re too lightweight – but also because, “I was always interested in elevating 3D printed jewellery into a fine jewellery brand and not a fashion jewellery brand.”

“I was always interested in elevating 3D printed jewellery into fine jewellery.”


canopy for a museum, and at the same time, I was working on this Velum piece. It’s nice to have things that are working at different scales and, obviously, with the soft surface and curves, 3D printing is just completely suited for that type of application.” Though Wu has been working as a jewellery designer for seven years now, she has never seen it as a departure from architecture. Rather, she considers it architecture at a smaller scale that is placed on the body. While the Oyler Wu Collaborative endeavour sees the implementation of additive to produce scale models, LACE has enabled her to explore the full potential of the technology with greater freedom. It has also allowed her to do so in a manner that matches her values, that considers the wants of her customer base at an intimate level and allows her to bring to market something unique in style and design. Each LACE piece begins on a sketch pad, is modelled digitally and printed repeatedly until the design is finalised, before production is outsourced. A workflow typical of many a jeweller. But it is done Jenny Wu’s way. “For me, 3D printing has completely changed the way a business model is run, especially in fashion and jewellery,” Wu finishes. “There was a point when you consider, ‘should I just have this [mass] produced somewhere and instead of printing it in small batches,’ and in six years of building this company, I found that I was able to evolve my design over time, I was able to hold small inventory, and I’m able to print to order and be nimble about when I can launch a piece.


The latest LACE piece is the limited-edition Velum ring, released in 2020 with only 35 units going into production. It came after many months of design and prototyping using a resin 3D printer, making adjustments ‘slowly and constantly’ before eventually printing a final iteration in precious metal. Velum, as with all LACE products, is produced on-demand and is available in stainless steel, bronze and grey steel, which are 3D printed, or cast in silver after the piece has been printed in wax. Velum is said to have taken LACE into a new direction with regards design and the inspiration behind this piece tells you it could barely be possible without 3D printing. “Sometimes I think about the work we do in architecture leading the way, inspiring the work in the jewellery, but Velum is one that is happening at the same time as what we’re doing in architecture,” Wu explains. “We’ve been really inspired by taking a soft, draped surface, but then producing it in a hard material; trying to get the undulations and the reading of fabric, but hard. We’ve been interested in that type of design for some time. We won a competition for this drapery inspired


“When I talk to more traditional brands, just making a mould for a piece of jewellery costs a lot of money and then the time between conception and production could run between one to two years. You’re making a huge investment and you’re expected to order 100,000 pieces otherwise you can’t recover the cost of R&D. You just think about all that fast fashion out there, and the fact we have sweatshops and they’re just pumping out massive amounts of [products] that people may or may not want, and then you have this huge sell out at the end, it just feels like this is not the right business model to work in this time and age. Obviously, our cost per piece will be higher than if it was mass-produced, but I feel like this is the more sustainable and ethical way of practicing.”

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f you’ve walked through the terminal building at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, you perhaps won’t have noticed that the floor you rolled your suitcase across was, in fact, 3D printed. It’s one of the many high-profile projects realised by Aectual, a provider of large, bespoke 3D printed architectural and interior products that demonstrate the true potential for additive manufacturing (AM) in the built world. Inspired by classic terrazzo flooring, the end result was a combination of 3D printed patterns fused with a bio-based terrazzo infill, built using a sustainable AM workflow which Aectual opened up to AEC professionals and consumers in a new online beta platform back in January. It’s an idea that grew out of the 3D Printed Canal House project in Amsterdam, a renowned R&D venture conceived by Dutch DUS Architects to build a full-size canal house using a large-scale, portable AM system known as the KamerMaker. Today, through Aectual, that same team is now deploying that very technology to produce mass customised products such as wall panels, flooring, room dividers and stairs with 100% recyclable, renewable materials. “We actually got a lot of questions over the years from architects [and] colleagues that would also love to do something with the technology,” Hedwig Heinsman, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Aectual told TCT. “We realised we really would love to build a platform where anyone can just go online and customise their own interior and architectural products and ultimately, even buildings. So, at that moment, we decided to just take the plunge.” Through this new platform, consumers can tailor the size, colours and patterns across a line of 12 signature parametric pieces, while those in the AEC industry are being invited to collaborate and

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develop their own products. To date, this design-to-delivery platform has been deployed in over 50 projects for established customers like Nike and BMW Group. The Aectual solution comprises of a proprietary extrusion-based 3D printing technology, robotics from ABB and recyclable materials, including specially developed plant-based polymer pellets engineered with Henkel. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from Aectual’s platform is how its foundation is firmly rooted in the circular economy. Back in 2019, while outlining its ‘The Future of Making’ ambitions for design automation, software provider Autodesk shared findings that 30% of global waste comes from the construction industry. Aectual’s strategy seeks to address this crucial challenge. In addition to leveraging the outward benefits of additive versus subtractive manufacturing – less waste, less material usage – Aectual says its process promises less CO2 emissions compared to traditional methods of manufacture for custom architectural products and promotes a full end-toend sustainable customer journey, which encourages buyers to return their Aectual pieces once they’re no longer needed so that they can be shredded and repurposed into new products. Of Aectual’s ethos, Heinsman said: “We had several pillars. One was really the idea of community or democratising architecture so that you can really give people access to the act of shaping their environments - ultimately, entire homes and communities but we start small with these products. And of course, the whole aspect of creating without any waste and working with recycled and more natural materials has also been really a core element from the start.” As the Schiphol Airport project shows, Aectual’s work blends 3D printing with traditional construction mediums like glass and concrete but the start-up has been mindful to ensure that this sustainability focus remains true even in

those more classic materials. Heinsman shares how, in this case, they were able to use waste marble material and replace the traditional binding agent with a plant based alternative while, in another project, they managed to recycle used Budweiser bottles into a unique flooring concept at the Capital C offices in Amsterdam.

“The whole production process will only become more and more sustainable.” While products are manufactured in-house at Aectual’s Amsterdam production facility, which currently houses four robot arms with a huge print area of 500 sq. ft., Heinsman adds that in future, there’s scope to leverage additive’s other highly touted green attribute – localised production. “That’s of course really how we envision it in the future - there will be just a lot of local hubs and we can connect to all kinds of digital manufacturing techniques,” Heinsman said. “At the moment, I think it’s already a better alternative because we can really produce very strategically so it's all made to measure - we can really dimension things according to how it's transported so that it can be flat packed in a smart way. So, the whole production process will only become more and more sustainable in the coming years.”




Having ran DUS Architects for 15 years and worked closely with large-scale 3D printing – the KamerMaker printer itself is now on its third iteration – Heinsman feels there’s been a shift in the way AM is being used by AEC professionals. Like the bespoke Aectual panel on the wall of Nike’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street that went from concept to installation in just six weeks, there’s a lot of value to be found in 3D printing individual features rather than focusing purely on, oftentimes headline making, entire buildings.

restrictions, UV resistance, etc. So, in that sense, it's quite easy to make a prototype but in order to really launch something onto the market, that's really a different thing and I think that's really what we've mastered or managed to do now with several products.”

“Any building that you see now is always built up from lots of different elements, windowpanes, doors, bricks, you name it,” Heinsman explained. “What is also interesting there is that [AEC] is a very capital-intensive industry, there's a lot of expensive machinery involved and you're dealing with a lot of building regulations. It makes it a bit easier when you focus on one product at a time, to really deep dive into products, get all of the building regulations and specs sorted, fire

“It is definitely something that we can already do,” Heinsman added. “But what we also love is that we offer a lot of solutions for conventional buildings, renovations, new builds. Overtime, my ultimate fantasy is that people can go online and just start to pick and play with all kinds of products and start to create their own dream office or dream home or dream day-care centre. We're actually not so far away from that.”



This is just the beginning and Heinsman assures that those ambitions to fully 3D print buildings are very much in Aectual plans as it proved last year with the “tiny Bauhaus”, a small visitor building designed to celebrate the Bauhaus movement.



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t can be deflating, stressful and exhausting. To exert so much effort, brain power and creativity over a sustained period of time, only to realise there’s still much room for improvement. Or you can take it in your stride, collaborate with the right partner and open the door to new opportunities. For decades now, design engineers have leant on 3D printing’s ability to rapidly print parts to assess the form and fit, maybe the function too, of an application that will soon go into production. But they’ll probably do so in a different material, colour and surface finish. Companies don’t want to spend too much money on expensive materials, only for the design to be iterated a dozen times, especially when tools to simulate performance and behaviour are now so readily available. It means colour, materials and finish (CMF) simulation, in which designers get a true insight into how their part looks, feels, and performs, is often carried out only towards the end of the product development phase. “The problem is they don’t trust the digital design and some of them are using animation tools, rendering tools, CAD tools and so on, so the workflow isn’t smooth,” Michal Diga, Director of PolyJet Software Solutions at Stratasys, begins. “We wanted to enable our customers to have a smooth workflow, to capture the design intent and hold the physical model in their hands.” Diga is explaining the motives behind Stratasys’ partnership with software company Luxion, which has resulted in the former’s multi-material, multi-colour J Series of PolyJet 3D printers and GrabCAD Print software being made compatible with the latter’s KeyShot 10 rendering platform. It is recognition from Stratasys, one of the oldest companies in the 3D printing

space, that even after 30 years, there is still room for the technology’s prototyping capabilities to grow. In particular, the company sees CMF simulation as a key part of the design phase that is currently too costly, time-consuming and complex. “The screen is good enough for some things,” offers Lior Elgali, Product Manager, Design at Stratasys, “but you don’t touch it, and this means you don’t really know how it’s going to behave in the real world. Even if you think you do, you don’t. It’s like seeing a scenery on National Geographic and being there, it’s a completely different experience.” Independently, the KeyShot 10 software boasts extensive material, texture and colour libraries. Users can access metal, plastic and wood materials; Pantone and RAL colours; and bump, colour, displacement and roughness textures, rendering models to encompass all this detail on screen. With the J Series and its own proficiencies in colour, materials and surface finishes, as well as its compatibility with the 3MF file format, they can also fabricate the design in 3D form.

“3MF was actually the enabler,” Diga explains, “because the special thing about it is that it doesn’t just hold the geometry, but also the colour, the materials and finish. You have much more information in one package.” Being able to transfer the capabilities of KeyShot 10 through to the J Series and hold so much data, Diga and Elgali believe, is set to have a massive impact on the speed and quality of product design for J Series users. In the past, they’ve seen designers use CAD platforms with limited CMF tools, using textures and colours as placeholders – even labelling parts ‘green’ rather than designing in the shade they desire – because of the lack of available options. It means that often, the fully formed and fully detailed design isn’t prototyped until the very end. But the combination of KeyShot 10 and the J Series, Diga believes, can change that. “It accelerates the design process so they can start early with CMF,” she says. “They get [the prototype overnight], the quality is better because they don’t have to imagine too much, you can hold it and touch it, and you can give it to the decision makers so that early in the process you have the right direction.” Having enriched the capacity of 3D printing as a prototyping tool with their partnership, Luxion and Stratasys promise there is more to come. They want to add an option to print directly from KeyShot 10 to their nearby service provider, control and specify shore value within the 3MF file, carry out research into how to translate transparencies from the computer to the real world, and support bump maps to enhance surface finishes. “It has been a pleasure working with Luxion in the past year, and we’re so happy we have the opportunity to continue working together in 2021,” Diga finishes.


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here are many places in which you could pick up the story of Hyperganic CEO Lin Kayser. There’s the child inspired by technology, the entrepreneurial teenager, the successful businessperson rubbing shoulders with Hollywood actors and now the spearhead of a team that talks seriously of a ‘paradigm shift’ in design.

That kind of chat followed Kayser’s purchase of a 3D printer in 2012. For someone who thinks of software as an ‘amazing technology that can create anything,’ having a 3D printer fabricate some of those things physically saw Kayser hooked immediately. While at that time many in the industry were positing the idea that a 3D printer would be in every home, one of the technology’s hobbyist users was captivated by its potential to ‘transform’ the way we manufacture. Not long after, he handed his notice in at his then-employer Adobe, set up a new start-up in his hometown of Munich and is still motivated by that very thought nearly ten years on.

“We have a lot of global challenges to solve and we’re running out of time.”

“The key thing for us is to dramatically accelerate innovation,” Kayser begins. “We believe that innovation of physical objects has not been progressing very fast. And we believe that we have a lot of challenges as humanity that we need to solve through physical objects. Think about last year, we shut the entire world down, essentially, and it had how much impact on carbon emission? It had one, but we didn’t have enough impact to make a dent in climate change, for example. The technical solutions that we have need to change in order to address [these issues].”


Hyperganic’s contribution to that is the Core 2.0 and Print Framework 2.0 software it is launching formally in the coming months, after years’ operating in stealth and even more time carrying out R&D. As Kayser saw 3D printing’s potential to alter the way things are made, he also observed that ‘maybe we should also change the way we design things and engineer things.’ He believes that 3D printers are not so much limited by their technology as they are by the designs that are fed into them. And so, Hyperganic has

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set about developing tools that not only aim to change how parts are designed, but in doing so, take full advantage of 3D printing’s capabilities.

From the outset, Kayser and the company’s CTO Michael Gallo believed they would not be able to enable the paradigm shift they think is necessary with traditional CAD software that ‘work very nicely for simple shapes, but terribly for complex things.’ In one conversation, Gallo is said to have suggested creating a model where ‘we basically store every atom, every molecule in an object and then we can design anything the printer can print.’ “Of course,” Kayser





recalls, “we had a good laugh and said, ‘this is ridiculous.’ But then a couple of days later, Michael calls me and says, ‘hey Lin, why don’t we try this?’”

Building the high voxel engine that would enable Hyperganic to do this took three to four years. But now, Kayser and co are confident their platform can ‘represent any object that a 3D printer can theoretically output.’ That opens them up to objects of such extremely high complexity that the development of the parts, Kayser says, need to be automated. “This is where we end up in AI-based engineering, where you can use genetic algorithms and use neural nets to find out interesting patterns and structures that work well,” Kayser explains. “And why is that so interesting to me? That has its roots in a fundamental frustration. Take a modern car and strip away all the plastic decoration that they put on, it doesn’t look that different from a car from the 1980s or 1990s. And you ask yourself, why has innovation not happened faster? Because we need it urgently, we have a lot of global

challenges that we need to solve and we’re kind of running out of time. And the problem is that the paradigms that we use to engineer objects are derived from the way the Greeks and the Romans designed objects. The smart guy or smart girl sitting in front of a computer and drawing stuff on the screen and it always depends on the intelligence and experience of the designer and engineer to know what comes out of it.” Hyperganic’s idea is to develop algorithms within its Core 2.0 offering, input a description of the part and allow the artificial intelligence to take care of the design of that component. It leans on some of the principles of generative design tools, building optimised designs from scratch and then allowing the user to harness the intelligence generated for other products. Hyperganic refers to this as ‘defining a way to design’, rather than simply designing with sketches and CAD drawings. This idea has been adopted in the computer hardware space where initially microchips had been sketched, and then later designed in a CAD programme, but once they got so complex, they had to change the approach. “Instead of doing computer-aided design, you have to do computer-generated design,” Kayser explains. “If today you design a microchip, you’re not doing it geometrically, you’re doing it algorithmically. You’re describing what the algorithm should do and the algorithm comes up with the geometry. That’s what we want to do for the rest of the world.”


Since Hyperganic first engineered its software a few years back – before Kayser had even incorporated the company in 2017 – the company has been working with customers to develop concept applications by combining its Core offering with 3D printing technology via Print Framework’s mesh repair, slicing, support generation and stacking tools. One of those applications is a customised bicycle helmet that was derived from the scan data of a triathlete’s head and statistical crash data procured from research into how cyclists fall when they come off their bike. This information was factored into the Hyperganic algorithm and output thousands of design possibilities, with the selected one looking like a slimline cap, with room for

ventilation at the top of the helmet and a less porous structure around the sides to protect the user’s fall. “This is the power of mass customisation,” Kayser told the All Digital Additive Manufacturing YouTube channel in January. “First, it fits the right person, and second, you can take new information into account and in the next production run, immediately there is a better product. This can only happen if you have algorithms creating these things because no human ever has the time to adapt everything all of the time.” Another application the company has been working on is a heat sink additively manufactured in copper that looks more like the bristles of a brush or a coral in the ocean than a typical heat sink. Its surface area has been maximised to allow it to dissipate as much heat as possible, while the funnelling of air to the bottom of the component has also been optimised. This is considered to be an incredibly complex design to tackle, per Kayser, but because it was developed with an algorithm, it’s not a complexity that Hyperganic needs to address again and again. “When you implement it once, you can reuse it everywhere and sometimes it’s really surprising where you end up,” he says. “For example, the heat exchanger, because of the algorithm it uses, it generates structures that are very stable, so you can stand on it. We’ve now been using that in completely different applications where you need something that distributes the weight evenly. It’s so interesting because we actually just wanted to radiate a lot of heat and be aerodynamically optimised so that the air flows and takes the heat out.” Read the second part of this interview, where Kayser goes on to discuss some of the company’s biggest challenges in bringing its products to market, at:

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s ExOne boldly declares on the cover of this issue, 2021 is shaping up to be the year of binder jet additive manufacturing (AM). With a stream of new machines from the likes of GE Additive, Desktop Metal and HP making their way onto the market, we spoke to a number of companies within the space to find out how software is shaping up to address the complexities of this technology and maximise its production capabilities. For the binder jet pioneer, software plays a key role at ExOne before, during and after printing. Factoring in part shrinkage to binder quantity and drying times, the company has developed tools both in-house and with external partners like Siemens, Ansys and Altair to tackle design, live in-process monitoring, control and analysis. To mitigate the effects of sintering, a necessary postprocessing step that has been successfully deployed in the metal injection moulding (MIM) industry for decades but the effects of which remain hard to predict, ExOne tells TCT it has created “complete software-controlled recipes” and anticipates a wave of commercial software solutions to arrive as binder jet demand increases. Rick Lucas, ExOne Chief Technology Officer and VP, New Markets, continued: “That will certainly help simplify the process and increase adoption going forward, but it’s truly an exciting time in binder jetting and that’s helping pull a variety of software players into the market to help support this key sustainable manufacturing technology.” Lucas may well be on to something. Simulation specialist Simufact recently introduced a metal binder jet tool which allows prediction and prevention of the distortion caused during sintering. The tool, found in Simufact Additive, addresses this key challenge in the binder jet process which can sometimes see parts shrink by up to a third in size. Now, Simufact says users without specialist simulation knowledge can manage sintering effects such as thermal strain, friction, gravity, and sintering-induced mechanical stress, and compensate for those factors at the design level.



“It’s clear that MBJ has the potential to bring the benefits of AM to new automotive and industrial applications by sufficiently lowering cost and processing time compared to L-PBF, and there is a race to get it right,” Robertson added. “There are only a few printer OEMs that can achieve this initial breakthrough and software that helps make sense of the data and guides the user through the necessary steps to achieve repeatable quality is a vital component.”

“We see process simulation as a fundamental enabling technology that will help drive the industrialisation of metal binder jet AM,” Jeff Robertson, Technical Business Development, Simufact, part of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division told TCT. “It stands to reason that without a robust sintering simulation capability, it will be difficult for companies to take full advantage of MBJ as the scalable production technology we need it to become.”

But several OEMs are also building tools internally. Desktop Metal, known for its bound deposition technology, recently launched its Live Sinter platform in a bid to remove the trial-and-error process of sintering and improve part shape and dimensional tolerances. To do that, the software uses proprietary algorithms to generate negative offset geometries by filling the part design with “cells” which go through the process of shrinking and distorting in the same way they would in a furnace to eliminate the need for supports and ensure parts come out within 1% of their final geometry. Live Sinter also improves on the use of setters, typically deployed to prop parts up inside the furnace, by minimising the requirements for expert sintering knowledge.

Robertson says the most requested functionality is this ability to perform geometry compensation and if binder jet continues to rack up the kinds of customers it's currently attracting across industry - Cummins, Wabtec and Sandvik in the case of GE Additive or Volkswagen and U.S. Marine Corp for HP – the significance of those capabilities will become all the more prominent.

“If you know exactly what that shrinkage is, then you can put a part in the furnace and essentially scale it up first so that when it shrinks, it comes out the right size,” Andy Roberts, Desktop Metal VP of Software, said. “Unfortunately, it's not that easy because not only does the part shrink in different amounts in different directions but it also has friction drag against the setter and because there's friction with the part as

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it shrinks, the setter doesn't shrink. So, what will happen is, the part will drag against the setter and as it shrinks, it will warp and deform and sometimes even crack.”

a prior layer where there's printed material, it's almost like hitting a manhole cover on a street and that causes that density to spike up on the leading faces of the parts.

Live Sinter runs on a GPUaccelerated multi-physics engine with a set of Nvidia physics tools, borrowed from the gaming world, in combination with meshless finite element analysis (FEA) to rapidly deal with thousands of cells within in a part. Roberts shared how the team is constantly fine-tuning parameters and discovering new resolutions for additional challenges such as how asymmetrical parts with cut-outs can open up and deform as they shrink or how the powder spreader can cause uneven densities.

“What Live Sinter does is simulate the behaviour of the part as it exists after printing with density being messed up inside the part and in sintering where you've got friction and variable warping […]. So it's really not just simulating the sintering but simulating the printer and resulting furnace effects.”

“It's almost like a street cleaner in some sense that it has a counter rotating brush and it's pushing a mound of powder ahead of it,” Roberts explained, pointing to an example of a printed fuel swirler. “What we found is that when the layer of powder goes across

Aiding Live Sinter, Materialise, known for its software expertise having provided the backbone to many leading AM hardware vendors through its custom build processors, recently developed a specific platform for Desktop Metal. Through this collaboration, Materialise is providing additional sintering support generation and metal binder jetting enhanced 3D nesting capabilities as part of its Magics SG+ module. “Out-of-the box software often doesn’t meet the unique and specific requirements of binder jetting

“We see process simulation as a fundamental enabling technology.” technology,” Stefaan Motte, Vice President and Managing Director of Materialise Software, told TCT. “In addition, with its large platform, typically smaller parts and high print rates, binder jetting typically also requires greater parts and data management. In combination with a build processor, which manages the communication between software and machine, Streamics, our AM management software, can facilitate this.” Motte explained how Materialise’s build processors create standardised workflows for all print technologies, deemed crucial for companies working with diverse manufacturing environments. But he also cautioned that there’s a fundamental difference when it comes to binder jet, and that’s down to the way part data is communicated to the machine by images rather than toolpaths. Motte elaborated: “There are two ways of delivering content to the binder jetting machine. The first way is by providing slices to the machine that are converted into images or immediately provide images to the machine. Materialise currently provides slices to the Desktop Metal machines but we are currently also looking into providing images directly from the build processor.” Despite being around for more than two decades, binder jet remains a complex process yet its advantages in terms of speed, material diversity and perhaps most relevant today, sustainability, make a compelling proposition for production applications. Simufact’s Robertson added: “The industry needs a tool that is useful and enables AM specialists and engineers to build parts successfully and repeatably. If we can do that well, then everyone wins.”

Read more:



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Laura Griffiths gets a remote first look inside the UK’s new Digital Manufacturing Centre.


ieron Salter sports a hard hat and high vis vest and walks us, literally and figuratively, through his vision for the future of UK advanced manufacturing. Standing at the epicentre of the UK’s engineering cluster at Silverstone Park, the CEO and founder of KW Special Projects tours his audience through a 2,000 square metre facility that’s soon to be filled with rows of polymer and metal additive manufacturing systems that will make up a brand-new Digital Manufacturing Centre (DMC). Providing this whistle stop visit via YouTube and speaking with TCT over Zoom, it’s not exactly the kind of ‘through the doors’ feature we envisioned pre-pandemic but as the final pieces come together ready for a 2021 launch, Salter shares how those challenges of the last year have emphasised how valuable the DMC and its digital toolset could be for British manufacturing. “It made us question whether what we're doing is valid,” Salter told TCT. “Additive manufacturing is still a growing sector. We're trying to carve a marketplace out of something that's still growing. So, it was always a risk but we had an even bigger risk when COVID came along. We had to question really whether what we were doing was the right thing and whether it was the right time, particularly because two of our early adopter sectors, [which] we believed were going to be aerospace and automotive, got hit quite hard by the direct impact of COVID. We came to the conclusion that actually we believe additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing in particular were going to be an important part of the recovery.” Similar to how we work and communicate became largely digital overnight, Salter suggests manufacturers and industry must now take a similar agile approach in order to become more efficient and resilient. The DMC is setting itself up to be a qualified supply chain for onshoring and exporting UK manufacturing and will function as a technology partner for companies within automotive, aerospace, defence, industrial, medical and space sectors. AM is a big part of that strategy. Having founded engineering company KW Special Projects back in 2012 and provided extensive polymer printing capabilities primarily to the automotive sector, the DMC is an extension of Salter’s ambitions to scale up and expand into metal AM across multiple industries. “We didn't want to just have a small step change from where we were, we wanted to build a very capable industrial scale production facility, Salter says of the DMC’s early plans. The pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place when the project was granted 3.2 million GBP in Local Growth funding through a public-private

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partnership with South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and a well-timed extension to a site by MEPC at Silverstone Park provided KWSP with the ideal location to create a purpose-built technology agnostic facility. “Our differentiator is the fact that we're an engineeringled business,” Salter said. “We, first and foremost, are engineers that design parts and systems, and we're now offering the manufacturing solutions to go with it. We're always seeking new technologies. The DMC is not just open for business but open for partnerships and collaboration and so if there are American, European, Asian companies that want to have a base in the UK, we can offer that. If they've got technologies they want to demonstrate in the UK, we can do that. That's the sort of thing we're trying to build; a real hub of additive and digital manufacturing at Silverstone.” That collaborative philosophy also filters into its chosen technologies, curated with support from UKbased AM equipment provider Laserlines and British machine manufacturers such as RPS and Renishaw, the latter of which the DMC recently placed an order with for two of its quad-laser RenAM 500Q metal AM systems. Describing the partnership with Renishaw as a “close collaboration,” it’s a two-way street, as Salter explains, that will grant the DMC access to the latest technology capabilities but also provide critical feedback and learnings to OEMs to help drive efficiencies. In addition to printing technology, the DMC intends to provide end-to-end production capabilities with a UK-first fully connected digital workflow that follows parts from design through to inspection via Renishaw Connect. Within that workflow, the DMC also houses ancillary hardware including post-processing equipment from polymer finishing and colouring expert DyeMansion and DMG MORI advanced CNC machinery secured through a partnership with Produmax, a Yorkshire-based precision engineering specialist within the aerospace industry, which has since set up a satellite centre at the Silverstone site. “It’s not just additive, it's around digital and connectivity,” Salter said. “It's all about providing engineering services that lead through to complete manufacturing and to cover a range of technologies. So, polymers and a range of metal capabilities including aluminium, Scalmalloy, titanium, but also some newer technologies that we’re either involved in developing or developing ourselves like ceramics.” Of course, all of this equipment requires a skilled team to run it and Salter has been busy assembling



“The DMC is not just open for business but open for partnerships and collaboration.”


a crew of experts across additive and engineering to deliver on this ambition. Over the next five years, Salter says the DMC has the potential to create as many as 50 jobs for the local area. To attract the right talent, particularly younger would-be engineers, the DMC has been designed to promote a clean contemporary picture of manufacturing with collaboration zones, hot desking and education centres which can be utilised by schools and universities to inspire a new generation of engineers.

That learning aspect also extends to conversations the DMC is already having with potential customers, large and small, around the benefits of various advanced manufacturing techniques whether it’s using AM for jigs and fixtures, optimising a design for part consolidation or deploying Additive Casting technology, which the Centre recently added in a partnership with Enable Manufacturing. “3D printing metal parts isn't always the right solution but quite often printing the tooling is and then you can make a homogenous part from a cast material rather than worrying about the parameter optimisation for a laser powder bed material,” Salter explains. “We want to make sure we've got all those bases covered and that we are focused on solving customers problems, not trying to force square pegs into round holes.” As more machines settle in at the DMC and the team continues to grow, the DMC is on track for its grand opening later this year. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can go through the doors for real. Salter adds: “We hope that at the end of this we [can] stick a big Union Jack on the front of the building and the UK Government can point at it and say ‘well, that's what we're talking about.’ It's another case study. It's another success story. And this is what we do best.”

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step forward on the path to a greener future for aviation and the demonstration of the company’s ability to commercialise a transformational technology. This is how Samuel, Son & Co., Limited’s CEO Colin Osborne described the news that Boeing had approved Samuel subsidiary Burloak Technologies as a supplier of additively manufactured aluminium parts earlier this year. For Burloak, it had been a long time coming.

Founded in 2005, the additive manufacturing (AM) service provider had aligned with Samuel in 2017 before the metal manufacturing firm took complete control of the company 12 months ago. The timing was no coincidence. Burloak has always backed its technical competence but knew in order to supply the likes of Boeing, it needed to prove scalability. In the years prior, Burloak had often refused to take orders if it couldn’t see where AM added value and placed a greater focus on understanding the minutiae of how the technology needed to work. Peter Adams, Burloak’s founder and Chief Innovation Officer, estimates the company turned away 95% of the people that contacted them in this time, shying away from the swell in interest around AM after GE started investing big. “We weren’t trying to be all things to all people,” he tells TCT, “we were determined that we were going to fundamentally understand the process, understand where it fits in the market and how to apply it well.” After 15 years of ‘doing things the hard way’, the company felt AM was ready to be applied for production applications in the aviation

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sector. While it has always provided engineering and AM services, the company had established a ‘longterm vision,’ setting its stall in the aerospace sector, and working out how it would best position itself to meet the demanding specifications of the likes of Boeing. This involved building its own Metallic Material Properties Development and Standardisation (MMDPS) database to show full understanding and traceability of the materials, as well as adjusting the parameters of every AM machine it has ever owned. While Adams accepts there is a cause to do this to tackle the different applications and demands, there has always been a need to because of the instability of the processes.

“There’s still not a perfect machine on the market,” Adams assesses. “What we’re looking for is more stable production. I can bring a machine in, I can dial that and meet a customer spec. But when the next machines arrive of a [duplicate] model, I expect every one to be identical, because we’re now using tens of machines to support [application] programmes. We still spend a lot of time with our engineers tuning them for what we know works. And that makes scaling the industry a challenge. You wouldn’t expect that in the CNC environment, we shouldn’t be willing to live with it in the AM world.” Adams notes that if Burloak was to buy a CNC machine from Matsuura, DMG Mori or Mazak, it would expect each to demonstrate a similar precision and repeatability

‘within a reasonable tolerance band.’ The company has never been able to say the same for AM. And though Burloak is not at liberty to detail what was required to meet the Boeing BAC 5673 specification, Adams says in every other customer spec the control of machine parameters, along with control of input materials and file preparation, are fundamental considerations.

It has not always been straightforward for AM technology to meet specifications like this, but after 15 years of groundwork, Boeing has now certified the supply of aluminium AlSi10mg parts, produced with powder bed fusion technology, to a range of application programmes. Burloak will be the one to supply them and Adams believes it is testament to the focus it has placed on extensive datasets and the backing of its parent organisation. “I think we’re now at that cutover point where things are going into production in a big way and that’s driven by companies like Burloak having deep and meaningful datasets around the material and the material performance, demonstrating it in a repeatable way,” says Adams. “But having a company such as Boeing demonstrate that this can be done at scale is the real exciting thing about this, because it sets the stage that the time is now right. The market is such, with the disruption and fragility of the supply chain, that having companies like Burloak who [have] multibillion dollar parents behind them and have got the demonstrated ability to meet these difficult specs, shows the scalability of additive is there.”




Just as Desktop Metal hinted when going public last year, the company has quickly sought to pursue opportunities in the AM market’s consolidation. In a 300 million USD deal, Desktop Metal has taken over EnvisionTEC to mark its expansion into polymer additive manufacturing, adding another suite of office-friendly solutions to its growing product portfolio. EnvisionTEC founder Al Siblani will stay on as the brand’s CEO, with Desktop Metal believing the transaction will provide a gateway into new markets. “Together, we have more than 200 distribution partners around the world that extend our reach into applications across fast-growing markets for additive manufacturing, such as dental, medical, and jewellery, in addition

to doubling down on the broader industrial market,” commented Desktop Metal founder and CEO Ric Fulop. “I’m more confident than ever we can accelerate the adoption of AM 2.0 and help customers transform how parts are made around the world.”

enable supply chain agility and ‘unprecedented’ speed to market, with Protolabs EMEA VP and Managing Director Bjoern Klaas telling TCT Protolabs is now a global leader.


Consolidation is happening on the service provider side of the industry too. In a 280 million USD deal, Protolabs has acquired 3D Hubs, giving the international company access to 3D Hubs’ global network of manufacturing partners and ‘reinforcing Protolabs’ commitment to being the go-to resource in contract manufacturing.’ The companies believe their complementary tech capacity and services can


Having only come to market with its ST1600 Masked Stereolithography system last year, Satori has wasted no time in partnering with a renowned user of 3D printing technology. Working alongside Ganit Goldstein, the pair have developed a collection of necklaces that are embedded with WiFi-controlled LED lights and are printed in one piece within 25 minutes and at a maximum cost of 3k GBP. Speaking to TCT, Satori CEO Chengxi

“Despite the ongoing crisis around the COVID-19 pandemic, we look to the future with a great deal of optimism. The Innovators around the world see themselves as key to solving many of the world’s most significant challenges, but it’s the ongoing revolution within manufacturing that is helping to drive innovation,” he said. “For this reason alone, the Protolabs acquisition of 3D Hubs is truly exciting. With the acquisition now complete, we’ve created the world’s most comprehensive digital manufacturing provision for design engineers around the world.”

FORMLABS REINTRODUCES FUSE 1 Just as we were beginning to wonder what happened to Formlabs’ officefriendly SLS efforts, CEO Max Lobovsky reassured us towards the end of 2020 that the commercial availability of Fuse 1 wasn’t far off. In January, the company formally announced that its mission to ‘do with SLS what we did with SLA’ was back on track. Fuse 1 was re-introduced to the market alongside a postprocessing station called FuseSift and a Nylon 12 powder, while it also boasts a modular build chamber to enable continuous printing. Its Surface Armor technology combats the ‘orange peel’ surface texture issue of SLS, and the machine can also print with up to 70% reused powder with a material refresh rate of 30%. “SLS technology has long been trusted by engineers and large manufacturers for its ability to print strong, functional prototypes and enduse parts, but its high cost and complex workflow have historically confined it to large companies,” Dávid Lakatos, Chief Product Officer of Formlabs, told TCT. “The Fuse 1 and Fuse Sift improve on the unique advantages offered by SLS, while bringing it within reach for companies of all sizes and types through unprecedented affordability and ease of use.”

Wang said: “Our vision is to be the innovation powerhouse to empower individuals and organisations. Therefore, we include our end users, whether it’s fashion designers, dentists, or engineers, in our 3D printer development process. The Satori x Ganit 3D printed jewellery collection is a demonstration of how we adopt a collaborative and inclusive approach to push affordable professional 3D printing to the frontier of industrial application.”

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Expert Advisory Column



ike most 8-year olds, I had no idea what my father did back in 1979. Frankly, I don't think I cared. As long as it meant we could afford a colour television to watch Ed Stewart on Crackerjack I was happy. It wasn't until I was about nineteen that I mentioned to my father some problems I was having on my college summer placement at Vickers Nuclear Engineering. I was rotating through the departments and had 'sadly landed' in the quality control department. I was baffled. They wanted me to review their newly created ISO9000 documentation to see how it compared to their previous BS5750 documentation. "Yawn"… Little did I know that my father was both the cause of my problem and the solution! Back in the mid-1970s, my father was the quality control manager at the Dutch appliance manufacturer Philips (my parents were very lazy naming their children). The company had a strong quality and safety ethos and co-opted my father onto a British Standards Institute (BSI) working group to develop a standard for manufacturing production procedures. This activity led to the publication of BS5750. My father spent the next few years helping different manufacturing companies adopt and embed BS5750 before transitioning his knowledge across to ISO9000 and ultimately ISO9001. It took my father about 30-seconds to explain what I needed to do to keep the QA manager at Vickers happy. He then spent the next few hours explaining why standards are vital to the success of companies, supply chains and industries as a whole. Fast forward another 30-years, and like good-old dad, I also found myself sitting in a BSI working group. Albeit with a few differences. In early 2019, I was asked by BSI and their sponsors UK Research & Innovate

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(UKRI) to write a guide for senior executives and finance professionals to help them understand the business case for investment in additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing. The rationale being that the engineers who understand AM/3DP don't always know what the budget holders want to hear and struggle to secure investment. Inversely, the budget holders don't always know what questions to ask or which stones to turn over to find the 'real-cost' or 'risk' of AM/3DP technology adoption. In late 2020, after 18-months working with BSI, UKIR, and a group of industry stakeholders, we finally published PAS6001:2020 - Factors to be considered in making and assessing the business case for additive manufacturing and 3D printing. PAS6001 is a fast-track standardisation document, which defines good practice when building or evaluating the business case for AM/3DP investment. Many readers of TCT might overlook the value of such a document; after all, AM/3DP technology has been around for over 30-years, so surely procurement and implementation is easy. Not so. In the 18-years I have been delivering AM/3DP strategy consultancy; I have seen

my fair share of poor technology due diligence and investment trainwrecks. These often stem from business executives' unrealistic want and needs, who often see AM/3DP as some enabler for 'manufacturing revolution'. Inversely, many investment errors also come from the magpie-like egos of R&D departments, who see a shiny new toy they need to justify. About five or six years ago, I was asked to run an innovation workshop in a large American heavy machinery company. The idea, or so I thought, was to identify applications where AM/3DP could impact the companies topline revenue or reduce waste and grow bottom-line profitability. However, unbeknown to me, there was a poorly hidden agenda. When I arrived, I was asked if I could tailor the workshop slightly to 'focus on possible applications that would make good use of the machines that had already acquired?' As it turned out, the companies senior management were 'so bought into AM/3DP' they had 'released' a 2 million USD budget to engineering and procurement to embed AM/3DP into the business. Doing what good procurement people do, they had negotiated a fantastic price of two large platform metals machines with all the whistles, bells and ancillary technology. However, it was obvious to the trained eye that the technology was a total mismatch for the business needs. Inversely, I have also seen this story played out in reverse, where the engineers have identified the most appropriate technology for a given application, only for procurement and management to cut a PO for a 'more cost-effective platform'. Again, the result is the same, an underutilised machine and a bitter taste all round. Inside the next issue: A conversation with Reeves on the role of PAS6001 in justifying a business case for AM.


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