A trend that I find very pleasing is one showing up with increasing frequency in 3D printing and other technology-based trade shows and exhibitions. I’m talking about the innovation competition, in which young companies, inventors and entrepreneurs are invited to present their ideas for an audience of industry experts and investors. Startup competitions have been a popular fixture at Inside 3D Printing for a few years now, and last week’s RAPID 2016 did not disappoint with its Innovation Auditions Competition. Unlike similar competitions, the Innovation Auditions were not strictly limited to startups, but rather focused on ideas: some which came from young companies, others from long-established businesses, and others still marinating at the university level.
Last Tuesday, eight selected innovators were each given a 5-minute slot to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors and technology experts for purpose of generating potential investments or business partnerships. At the end of the hour-long competition, the panel provided feedback and advice to the participants on how to take their ideas to the next level, before selecting one standout as an official winner. It had to be a difficult decision, as a lot of intriguing ideas were presented, but at the end of the day the top honor went to nScrypt, a 14-year-old company located in Orlando, not far from this year’s RAPID.
The innovation presented by nScrypt was actually the result of a partnership with electronics printing company NovaCentrix. The two companies were awarded a joint research and development contract via the FlexTech Alliance and the US Army, for the purpose of creating a 3D printing tool capable of producing objects that are both complex and functional. Both companies possessed significant expertise and experience in 3D printing technology, so they decided to combine their most powerful products to create a new, even more powerful machine.
nScrypt is known for their 3Dn series of multi-functional printers, the most advanced being the multi-nozzle 3Dn 500. By integrating the 3Dn 500 with NovaCentrix’s PulseForge photonic curing tool, the two companies ended up with a multiple tool head machine that, according to nScrypt, can print with a wider variety of materials than any other system on the market. Its five heads include a pick and place tool, three micro-dispensing pump heads, one fused deposition extruder, and one photonic curing head, enabling it to print, cure, and switch materials at high speed.
“Working with NovaCentrix has been rewarding on many fronts,” said Kenneth Church, nScrypt CEO. “Great collaborators can do great things together, and together we have created a new level of possibility for 3D printed electronics. We really appreciate being recognized by RAPID for our joint effort.”
While there’s been no word about when this hybrid machine might hit the market – or whether it has an official name – it was first unveiled to the public in November at last year’s IDTechEx conference, and it’s been generating quite a bit of excitement, as evidenced by its taking top honors at the Innovation Auditions. The machine should especially be of interest to electronics manufacturers, as it has the ability to 3D print an entire working circuit with just the push of a button – not to mention integrated hybrid circuits.
Church, for his part, can’t say enough about 3D printing and its potential to combine with other technologies to create new and unheard-of things – as well as to reclaim a lot of outsourced manufacturing jobs back to the US.
“We used to be so good at machining here in the US,” he said. “We can regain that position, but we can also do much more. Rather than just milling big bulk parts, we can 3D print and polish where it’s possible and then mill where we need to mill.”
“Personalization in medicine will continue to be really important,” he continued, “but there will also be a bigger demand for it in consumer goods, as well…With 3D printing and the technology it enables, someday people will want more than just comfortable shoes. They’ll want shoes that can give them feedback and data, shoes that can talk to them.”
Clearly, Church has an inventive mind, so this may not be the last time he and his colleagues show up at innovation competitions such as this one. If you’d like to learn about some of the other innovations presented at the RAPID competition, you can check them out here. Discuss details further in the nScrypt Hybrid 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.