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3D Printing News Briefs, October 6, 2021: Business, Guns, & Bridges

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We’re starting with a little business in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, as EPLUS 3D and Shining 3D have issued a joint declaration. Optomec received an order from an OEM for five of its electronics 3D printers, and Hexcel was awarded a contract for 3D printed Boeing 777X parts. Moving on, a young man described as a far-right extremist was arrested in Australia for trying to 3D print a gun. Finally, check out a concrete bridge created by Ghent University researchers with 3D printing and topology optimization!

Joint Declaration by Shining 3D & EPLUS 3D 

EPLUS 3D, founded in 2014, is the original developer and maker of SHINING 3D‘s industrial metal and plastic 3D printers, and its business covers professional 3D scanning, dental digitization, and industrial 3D printing. But, the two companies recently made a joint declaration in Hangzhou, China, which states that EPLUS 3D is now a standalone company and no longer a SHINING 3D subsidiary. With this structural change, the two companies have made some arrangements in order to “facilitate a smooth transition,” such as EPLUS 3D opening a new production facility in Hangzhou, investing in marketing, sales, R&D, and after-sales efforts, establishing an independent global brand, and providing industrial 3D printer solutions to customers around the world.

“For the industrial AM machines (made by Eplus3D) sold by SHINING3D, Eplus3D will dutifully provide services to ensure the machines running properly on an equal basis, including but not limited to, after-sales service and technical support,” the joint declaration states.

Optomec Receives Order for 5 Aerosol Jet 3D Electronics Printers

Semiconductor Packaging examples showing 3D printed interconnects for (L-R) 3D stacked die, mmWave, and flex circuit.

An OEM that’s a long-time production customer of Optomec Inc. recently placed an order for an additional five Aerosol Jet 3D printers for electronics production, bringing the total number over time for this particular company to 15 systems. This order, which cost over $1 million, is part of the OEM’s production ramp plan, hopefully growing to more than 25 machines over the next year. A main application for electronics printing is semiconductor packaging—fabricating 3D interconnects to connect chips to traditional circuit boards, other chips, and even being directly integrated into end-use products like wearables. That’s exactly what this particular customer, which manufactures electronic systems, has been using Optomec’s patented Aerosol Jet solutions for since 2018, specifically for advanced semiconductor packaging in a proprietary mobile device end-product.

“This most recent multi-system 3D Additive Electronics order is further testimony to the production viability of Optomec’s solutions. We look forward to supporting this industry-leading user as they continue to grow their fleet of production systems, and likewise replicating this proof statement with others in need of next-generation semiconductor packaging solutions,” stated David Ramahi, Optomec’s CEO.

Long-Term Contract Awarded to Hexcel for Boeing 3D Printing

In other business news, advanced composites company Hexcel Corporation was awarded a long-term contract to 3D print parts for the Boeing 777X family. Hexcel will use its HexPEKK material, which combines carbon fiber and PEKK, to produce aerospace structures for the jets at its own AM site in Connecticut. The HexPEKK parts that Hexcel will be making for Boeing, starting later this year, include air flow ducting applications and other supporting aircraft elements. Commercial aerospace, defense, and space applications require parts that are lightweight, complex, and feature a strong mechanical performance, so HexPEKK is a great choice, as it meets interior aircraft smoke and toxicity requirements. Plus, in 2019, the company’s HexAM 3D printing process and HexPEKK end-use components were added to Boeing’s Qualified Provider List.

“We are pleased that Boeing has selected our additive manufacturing technology for these parts, and we appreciate their confidence in HexPEKK solutions for commercial aerospace applications,” said Colleen Pritchett, Hexcel President — Aerospace, Americas & Fibers.

Man Arrested in NSW for Allegedly Trying to 3D Print a Gun

Moving on, Australia has long taken a hard line on 3D printed guns, with the New South Wales Parliament passing a law in 2015 that bans the possession of files for 3D printing weapons, even fake ones. Now, Counter Terror Police in NSW have arrested a 26-year-old man in the city of Orange for allegedly having digital blueprints to 3D print a gun. The investigation into the man began soon after the Australian Border Force officers found a package, allegedly containing a firearm component, bound for the home in Orange, and realized that the name and address matched their list of known right-wing extremists. After being charged with possessing a digital blueprint to manufacture a firearm, he is now facing a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

“With the emergence of technologies, particularly in 3D-printing, authorities are proactively conducting inquiries into online activity and monitoring both the licit and illicit movement of firearms and firearm parts,” said NSWPF Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command’s Detective Superintendent Mick Sheehy.

“Police continue to uncover evidence of all types of illicit firearms, including homemade firearms, which are often crudely manufactured or assembled.

“These types of firearms add another layer of risk in terms of the safety of the community as they are unstable, and many are unable to maintain integrity once fired. We will not hesitate to take action if we believe there is a possibility that a firearm could land in the wrong hands.”

Topology Optimized, 3D Printed Concrete OptiBridge

Finally, Ghent University and its embedded research institute spinoff Concre3DLab, which is focused on 3D printing concrete structures, used 3D printing and topology optimization to make a 2 x 5 meter concrete footbridge that’s been dubbed the OptiBridge. The co-operation team based the bridge girders on a 2D topology-optimized design by Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and constructed the bridge by joining four hollow 3D printed segments, which were printed in under an hour and a half. The project, which has a goal of tackling complex AM problems from various angles, involved a lot of experimentation, and the design of the bridge is unique as mathematical design tools were used to design the shape—by applying structural topology optimization to a 2D girder problem, the team was able to optimize the stiffness and develop the bridge’s 3D shape.

The bridge was originally supposed to be printed in two pieces, but the team ran into transport limitations. So the design was subdivided into four bridge segments, which were printed in 40-minute sessions on two consecutive days, though that’s not accounting for preparation and cleaning tasks. A printing mixture and system, with a rapid setting time and more early-age strength, was developed that made it possible to print overhang angles up to 45°. Once the four segments were joined and aligned, the rebars and post-tension tendons were inserted, and self-compacting concrete was used to fill the inner void; afterwards, the entire structure prestressed. Finally, the bridge was flipped over to its final orientation. Next steps include a testing program to analyze the bearing capacity and stiffness of the 3D printed bridge, and it will also be used to evaluate how the sustainability of 3D printed structures.

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