nScrypt’s newest 3D printing platform made its official debut at the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) conference in Orlando, Florida, on May 2, 2021. An award-winning manufacturer of high-precision microdispensing 3D printing and bioprinting equipment, nScrypt is presenting the nRugged system at its exhibition booth. Additionally, during the event, nScrypt’s Director of Government Relations, Larry “LJ” Holmes, will take part in a panel to discuss how the company’s 3D manufacturing systems are being used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). AMUG 2021 is one of the first in-person 3D printing trade shows to return since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020.
Originally revealed in late 2019, the nRugged is the ruggedized version of nScrypt’s direct digital manufacturing platform known as the Factory in a Tool (FiT). The company’s latest 3D system can be configured for either 3D manufacturing or bioprinting in harsh environments and can do both with automatic tool changes programmed right into the build. For example, the same machine can digitally manufacture a complete electronic device or a bioactive bandage. The bioprinter configuration can print both biologics and non-biologics with a broad palette of materials to choose from. More importantly, since the nRugged builds on the FiT platform’s precise linear motion gantry, it solves the problem of manufacturing a precision product, and not just a part, in harsh environments, like on a Navy ship in rough waters or on the back of a trailer. That means the machine can also print while it is actually moving, although nScrypt’s CEO Ken Church says “it is not ideal.”
Church has described the nRugged as “so much more than a 3D printer.” Excited to show it at the company’s AMUG booth – number 35 –Church said the real advantage of this “tough machine” is its rapid mobility while maintaining precision. For easy deployment just about anywhere, nScrypt designed the nRugged so that it wouldn’t need crates, riggers, heavy equipment movers, or technicians to set it up and calibrate it. Church said users could simply “roll it” into position, remove the top, plug it together, and start printing. If the machine needs to be moved, that’s not a problem either. Even if it is moved, it can start printing right away.
In June 2019, the company announced a pilot project with the U.S. Military, the Uniformed Services University 4D Bio3 Program, and The Geneva Foundation to make a bioprinting system fit for forward-deployed military environments, using a ruggedized version of nScrypt’s award-winning BioAssembly Tool (BAT) bioprinter, called the Austere BioAssembly Tool (ABAT). The resulting ruggedized printer, now the nRugged, is encased in a protective cover to ensure that the bioprinting process is unaffected by the harsh conditions it is placed in and has already been used by the U.S. military in a forward-deployed desert setting.
The machine can be outfitted with up to four tool heads, in any combination, for microdispensing, material extrusion, milling and polishing, aerosol jetting, and pick-and-place, capable of using more than 10,000 material choices. The standard machine has a carbon fiber exoskeleton and a 150 x 150 mm heated print bed but can be built in other sizes. It can fit optional equipment, including a target view camera (for microscopy and X-Y alignment) and a process view camera (for a live view of the printing tip) for in-process monitoring and control, a Keyence line scanner or point sensor, and a four-channel heater controller. Equipped for remote locations, the printer runs up to 48 hours with the battery option and can even be solar charged, and weighs approximately 220 pounds (100 kilograms).
As part of its innovative bioprinting initiative, nScrypt also launched a rugged version of its bioprinter to the International Space Station (ISS) in July 2019 for bioprinting human tissues in microgravity. Designed by nScrypt in collaboration with Techshot, the BioFabrication Facility (BFF) mounted inside the ISS U.S. National Laboratory is used by astronauts to print organ-like tissues. From manufacturing knee menisci for the 4D Bio3 program to printing with human heart cells, the BFF is lightweight and ruggedized enough to withstand the harsh conditions of space and printing precise tissues that can withstand the trip back to Earth for further research and study.
As part of the AMUG 2021 conference from May 2 through 6 at the Hilton Orlando, nScrypt’s Holmes will participate in the “Developing and Transitioning Best AM Practices for Technological Dominance for Our Warfighters” program on May 4 at 1:30 PM along with fellow panelists Bill Marshall from the U.S. Air Force, US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Branch Chief Joe Kott and James Zunino, U.S. Army Technical Area Chief for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing. Holmes will focus on nScrypt’s 3D manufacturing systems, their use by the U.S. DoD and discuss how multi-material multi-technology fabrication in a single manufacturing system can reduce supply chain shortfalls experienced during the pandemic.
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