3D Printing News Briefs, June 12, 2021: BAE Systems, Mechano, QuesTek, University of Virginia, University of Stuttgart, PRES-X & GPAINNOVA

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We’re all about material news and research in this week’s 3D Printing News Briefs, and finishing up with a bit of business. First up, BAE Systems is using large-scale 3D printing and a carbon fiber-reinforced resin to help produce a future combat air demonstrator, and Mechano introduced its new electrostatic dissipative photopolymer resin. QuesTek was awarded three SBIR Phase 1 Awards for advanced materials development, and materials scientists at the University of Virginia School of Engineering have developed a new class of soft materials. Moving on, researchers from the University of Stuttgart used two-photon lithography to 3D print microlenses that reduce color distortions. Finally, PRES-X and GPAINNOVA have announced a strategic partnership for precision surface finishing.

BAE Systems 3D Printing Resin Mold Tooling

In order to help the UK advance its combat air sector, BAE Systems is using large-scale 3D printing and a high temperature-capable, carbon fiber-reinforced, PEI-based resin. The goal is to fabricate mold tooling with the Airtech Dahltram I-350CF resin in order to produce a future combat air demonstrator.

BAE Systems partnered with Airtech Advanced Materials Group and Ingersoll Machine Tools on this project. Ingersoll completed the printing of the mold tool on its large-format MasterPrint AM system, while Airtech provided the Dahltram range of resins, which are well-suited for several print platforms.

Mechano Introduces Electrostatic Dissipative Photopolymer Resin

Arizona company Mechano has patented a new way to use carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, in additive manufacturing materials, and has just released its first product, Formula 1. The photopolymer resin delivers conductive and isotropic electrostatic dissipative (ESD) properties to 3D printed parts, and the parts also have alterable mechanical properties, as well as no carbon trails and no need for continuous resin mixing. Plus, Mechano says its new Formula 1 resin makes it possible to print ESD parts using most resin-based AM processes, including DLP, LCD, and SLA, without compromising the parts’ mechanical performance: great news for industries like aerospace, defense, and electronics manufacturing.

“Our discovery unleashes CNT potential in AM materials to achieve extraordinary performance. It expands, improves, and adds materials properties for an unlimited number of applications,” explained Mechano’s Founder and CEO Steven Lowder.

“Additive manufacturing processes and materials continue to mature so we are excited to offer a technology that is compatible and expansive. We started with electrical conductivity, making Formula1 for ESD to provide a valuable AM solution to highly technical industries. Stay tuned for more. Conductivity, shielding and rad-hard resins are coming soon.”

QuesTek Receives Three SBIR Phase I Awards from US Government 

QuesTek Innovations LLC has been awarded three new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Awards for different projects in advanced materials development. The first award is funded by the Office of Naval Research, and will have the company developing a software tool that leverages a modeling framework based on integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) in order to help optimize a 3D printable nickel alloy for applications in jet engines and industrial gas turbines. With the second award, funded by NASA, QuesTek will work to computationally design multi-layer thermal and environmental barrier coatings, resistant to calcia-magnesia-alumina-silicate (CMAS), for ceramic matrix composite (CMC)-based hot turbine components. Finally, for its Department of Energy-funded SBIR, QuesTek will apply its newly developed ICME tools in order to develop an open source, machine learning-based software package that can enable reproducible data analysis for several electron microscopy data types and systems.

“These three projects represent diverse examples of using ICME for concurrent design of material and component, enabling accelerated development of advanced materials across a wide range of material systems and applications,” said Dr. Greg Olson, QuesTek Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Thermo-Calc Professor of the Practice.

UVA Researchers Create New Soft Materials

More than 7 million Americans have vocal disorders, and when damage to the vocal cords is too severe, there is no replacement for them. But a team of materials scientists at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering has created a new class of soft materials that match the mechanical properties of vocal cords and can be 3D printed for healthcare applications. These elastomers are 10,000 times softer than conventional rubber and very stretchy, and the team created a novel strategy to make them, where bottlebrush polymers link together to enable very soft materials that mimic biological tissue. By using chemical synthesis to append one glassy polymer to the end of one bottlebrush polymer, nanoscale spheres will form, which are rigid at room temperature but melt when they’re hot: perfect for 3D printing soft structures. The elasticity of these silicone-based soft materials can also be majorly fine-tuned, and they’re able to self-organize and assemble as each drop is extruded and deposited during printing. Heading up this research effort is Liheng Cai, an Assistant Professor of Materials Science, Engineering, and Chemical Engineering at UVA, as well as leader of the Soft Biomatter Lab, and the materials scientists on the team co-authored a paper on their research.

“Conventional 3D-printable elastomers are intrinsically stiff; the process of printing often requires external mechanical support or post-treatment. Here, we demonstrate our elastomer’s applicability as inks for direct-write printing 3D structures,” Cai said.

“We believe our findings will stimulate the development of new soft materials as inks for 3D printing, which can be the basis for a broad range of adaptive devices and structures such as sensors, stretchable electronics and soft robotics.”

3D Printed Microlenses Reduce Color Distortions

In tests of the new lenses, the reference lens (left) shows color seams due to chromatic aberrations. The 3D printed achromat lenses (middle) reduced these drastically while images taken with the apochromat (right) completely eliminated the color distortion. Image courtesy of Michael Schmid, University of Stuttgart.

Moving on to more research, a team from the University of Stuttgart used two-photon lithography AM technology to make extremely precise but miniaturized lenses, or microlenses, that can reduce chromatic aberrations; in other words, they can correct color distortions, at least for small-scale images. While two-photon lithography uses a focused laser beam to polymerize a photoresist, two-photon absorption makes it possible for the photoresist to be polymerized in cubic micrometer volumes and print complex, yet tiny, optical structures. These researchers have been working with two-photon lithography and micro-optics for a decade, and noticed that color errors were present in some of the images they created, so their goal was to make 3D printed lenses, with the help of Nanoscribe technology, that could reduce these errors and improve optical performance.

“3D printing of micro-optics has improved drastically over the past few years and offers a design freedom not available from other methods. Our optimized approach for 3D-printing complex micro-optics opens many possibilities for creating new and innovative optical designs that can benefit many research fields and applications,” explained researcher Michael Schmid.

“The ability to 3D-print complex micro-optics means that they can be fabricated directly onto many different surfaces such as the CCD or CMOS chips used in digital cameras. The micro-optics can also be printed on the end of optical fibers to create very small medical endoscopes with excellent imaging quality.”

To learn more, you can read the team’s study here.

PRES-X & GPAINNOVA Begin Partnership

PRES-X technician working with a DLytePRO500 machine

Italian startup PRES-X, an R&D Center of Excellence for finishing technologies that specializes in highly qualified post-processing solutions, has announced a strategic partnership with GPAINNOVA, a Spanish technology group that manufactures surface finishing systems for several demanding industrial sectors, including automotive, industrial engineering, and aeronautics. PRES-X is now an official distributor of DLyte dry electropolishing machinery in Italy, as well as the testing and consulting service center in Europe for eco-sustainable DryLyte technology. This makes BEAMIT Group, which acquired a significant stake in PRES-X last year, the first to offer the full DryLyte service line.

The DryLyte® finishing process, included in the technological range already available at PRES-X, completes and enhances our idea of tailor-made solutions for customers: it has been designed to revolutionize the global market,” stated Andrea Scanavini, PRES-X President and BEAMIT Group General Manager. “PRES-X Technology Center will be a meeting point where customers will be able to choose between tailor-made services and purchasing the most suitable system for metal processing. This strategic partnership enables PRES-X to offer a complete assistance service through skilled technicians on DLyte installations in Italy.”

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