When major news about 3D printing develops, it often surrounds one company or agency. NASA is building a 3D printed rocket engine. Organovo has created 3D printed kidney tissue. What’s not often readily apparent, however, is the fact that these major innovations are rarely the work of one organization alone. Delve a little bit more deeply into any of the big 3D printing stories and you’ll soon see that every groundbreaking invention or project has been developed by a network of partnerships and supporting players. There are the material suppliers, the software developers, the financiers – it’s very unusual for one organization to carry the full weight itself.
It can actually be kind of interesting to trace your way back through the layers of companies and agencies that build the things that make the news. Take the US Air Force, for example – back in October, they announced their intention to incorporate 3D printing into as many aspects of their manufacturing processes as possible. Shortly after that, they enlisted the services of Aerojet Rocketdyne to define the standards for all 3D printed rocket components. Now Aerojet Rocketdyne (who also happens to be a major player in NASA’s 3D printed engine development) has added another layer by signing a contract with Sigma Labs.
The contract will allow Aerojet Rocketdyne to non-exclusively license Sigma Labs’ PrintRite 3D software applications. The PrintRite3D system was designed for the purpose of certifying and verifying the quality and viability of additively manufactured metal parts, and Aerojet Rocketdyne will use it to evaluate and redefine the 3D printed components being utilized in Air Force manufacturing.
This news comes shortly after Sigma Labs was awarded a huge contract from GE Aviation via America Makes. To further tangle the web of partnerships and contracts, Aerojet Rocketdyne has also placed a separate order, through the America Makes initiative, for the use of Sigma Labs’ In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA) software.
“Working alongside Aerojet Rocketdyne on this Air Force program, as well as with America Makes, allows Sigma Labs to once again showcase the benefits of our unique technology,” said Mark Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs. “This is a great opportunity for Sigma Labs to gain additional exposure within the aerospace and defense industry, particularly as part of an initiative designed to define more efficient qualification requirements for 3D-printed rocket components. We look forward to the rollout of these programs in 2016 and appreciate the trust that both Aerojet Rocketdyne and the U.S. Air Force have placed in Sigma Labs.”
Feeling a bit lost or confused yet? Me too. Trying to follow which 3D printing-related companies, government agencies, educational institutions and other organizations have worked together, for which purposes, resulting in which products, is kind of like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: Additive Manufacturing Industry Edition. (I am totally making my guests play this at my next party.) It does make you realize, though, that an industry is like an ecosystem, with all species (or corporations) depending on each other to keep the whole system going – in ways that aren’t always immediately visible. Discuss in the Aerojet Rocketdyne Uses PrintRite3D System forum over at 3DPB.com.