AMS Spring 2023

Let’s 3D Print Nozzles to Make Many Things Better

6K SmarTech

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After thinking a lot about flow as a new paradigm in considering and implementing additive manufacturing (AM), I considered batteries as one of the most impactful applications to examine. Then, I looked at heat sinks as an interesting use case for AM. Now, I’m exploring nozzles. In future posts, I’ll consider heat exchangers, valves and manifolds, as well.

All of these things have in common that they are components that can be improved by;

  • reducing mass, weight, and size;
  • optimizing shapes, as well as external and internal textures;
  • new “infill” sizes, shapes, patterns, and densities;
  • incorporating lattices and channels

Additionally, these components are critical across many industries, can benefit enormously if enhanced by 3D printing, and their part volumes are actually low.

One of my favorite parts is a nozzle. It’s the Xjet and Marvel Medtech cryoablation nozzle, shown above. These precise, ceramic, 3D printed nozzles slide into a patient’s breast precisely where the breast cancer is and then locally freezes it to kill the cancer. They can only be made with 3D printing. If it goes into production, this new targeted treatment will be a completely new way to treat breast cancer. Millions of parts will be made as a result, each of them high-value. Most of all, everyone in the value chain will want them to be perfect, so they won’t mind you making some margin. The rest of you can wait in line at the car companies and slather praise on Airbus, but, peeps, there’s a whole world out there.

But for those still interested in automotive and aerospace clients, there are also injector nozzles. Injector nozzles are key to engine performance by precisely dispensing discrete amounts of fuel into the engine. Novel geometries and channels could mean that a more highly directed spray or a better pattern could atomize the fuel better. A different design or wholly new set of channels, as well as channels that create a vortex effect or channels that speed up or slow down flow or reduce pressure, could also bring improvements. Different mixtures or combinations of fuel could be had or they could be mixed at different speeds. These injectors are critical components of diesel engines. They would be a prime target for 3D printing.

In the food industry, we can 3D print food by extruding it, of course, but many other foods are also extruded. The above Vienetta ice cream cake is made through extrusion, but so are many candy bars. Churros, pasta, some cheese, breadsticks, jelly beans, some breads, some pastries, all can be made through extrusion processes. All could, therefore, be iteratively slightly improved by 3D printing. With factory utilization high, even the smallest improvements can go almost straight to cash.

A lot of things are injection molded and we do talk about 3D printing tooling for this industry a great deal. But, what about the die and the nozzle of the extruder itself that prepares or compounds the polymer? Or perhaps an improved screw design with a better melt zone for one material. I know it would be am extremely expensive part, but what if you could improve the extruder by just one percent, what would the effects be? What about extruding large things like concrete? Could we perhaps make this process a teeny bit more efficient?

In polymer, monomer, chemical, pharmaceutical, processing, and petrochemical plants, as well as gas facilities, the critical product is mixed, separated, conveyed, and changed in nozzles. Every day, the machinery of the world continuously spits out millions of liters of liquid and millions of kilos of fibers, pastes or solids, all through nozzles. Carbon fiber is made through nozzles, as are vaccines, Mars bars, fuel, gas, most anything.

With 3D printing, we can optimize parts that help convey fluids, gasses and energy flow through a system and, in turn, greatly improve the economics of many industries. So, let’s forget machines, materials, and everything we know. We have Muggle Glue, which is a super special problem-solving glue that can help all the muggles if and when they need it. If a muggle has a problem or wants to make something better, then muggle glue can help solve it. That’s one thing we do as a 3D printing industry.

Or, forgetting the Harry Potter metaphor, we have WD 40 at home to stop the creaking of a door hinge or to make bicycles go a bit smoother and faster. We also have something similar, WD 50, which will make a factory run smoother and faster.

So, forget aviation, orthopedics, and all those other areas. Most of all, forget prototyping. We are an industry that can do two things: we can help you solve unique problems that no one else can and we help your factories move more quickly.

That’s pretty compelling there right? Before I’ve already pointed out that we are industrial strength duck tape to solve your problems. Now, we can add that we’re lubricant for your business. And where in your business? In critical flow components such as batteries, heat sinks, nozzles, heat exchangers, valves and manifolds. So, now we’ve got a natural market in critical component improvement across industry. And one application is nozzles.

So, I have a very humble suggestion: let’s use our technology to improve the flow through nozzles. Lets make nozzles that cool, nozzles that are heat sinks, nozzles that expand things, nozzles that mix things, nozzles that accelerate, nozzles that slow things down, nozzles that cause things to move in a certain pattern, nozzles that cause things to break up into a certain pattern. Let’s make it all, so that we can make almost all things better.

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