Stealth CT Startup Lumafield Could Aid 3D Printing Quality Assurance

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Startup Lumafield emerged from stealth mode and announced that is has over $32 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins, DCVC, Tony Fadell, Jason Calacanis´ Launch and Lux for its computed tomography (CT) and 3D scanning tool. Currently, CT tools are very expensive, but Lumafield will lease you its kit for $3,000 a month. The company claims that the tool can be operated in an office environment and is easy to use.
Lumafield’s platform combines software, 3D scanning, and CT to allow engineers to map and understand internal features of products in an accessible way. Using the firm’s Voyager software, the tool will also segment a part by combining CTs automatically and making them easy to decipher.

Tony Fadell, co-inventor of the iPod and iPhone, gave the company props, saying, “When we were developing the iPod and iPhone, we relied on X-ray CT scanning. In those days we had to use outside services to get these expensive scans and wait days for results. Even today this critical tool is only accessible to giant companies. But that’s going to change quickly: Lumafield puts these insanely powerful tools on engineers’ work benches around the world.”

Moreover, Lumafield’s “powerful automated analysis engine that pinpoints voids, pores, and cracks before they turn into critical problems.” Desktop Metal is reportedly already a user. For many 3D printed parts, quality assurance (QA) is problematic. So far, if it has to be critical, then a CT step is necessary for QA.

Only with CT can you really make sure that your metal 3D printed part does not have any voids or cracks. It would be very valuable to be able to CT scan every single part coming out of a service bureau in a cost effective manner. As a result, it would be possible to have a better handle on QA issues earlier on, even for non-critical components. A company can learn faster and more quickly discover a print or post-processing error somewhere. This could really allow a firm to master its existing processes much more rapidly than otherwise possible.

So far, however CT has been beyond the means of most service bureaus. Lumafield could change this by making CT accessible to smaller players and more parts. With Lumafield, one could perform more QA on more parts and do so more inexpensively. Now, of course, QA costs will go up due to increased part handling. So, it may not make sense for everyone. However, in a market where individual parts can cost $3,000 and the economic impact of those components can far exceed that, this could be a huge help for the 3D printing industry.

I’ve said before that we need to do individual QA for every 3D printed part that we make. I’m pretty alone on having this opinion, but I’ll keep repeating it none the less. We make each component differently with a different orientation, tool path, and residual heat all on a different area of the build platform. Therefore, we should 3D scan and CT scan every single part we put out. Yes, I know that this will be expensive, but every component is made uniquely.

We are not cutting away from a known block of material with a tool. We’re building something up in an entirely different way. In order to make sure that this item does what it should, we need to scan and CT that item. So far, this has been cost prohibitive, aside from the aerospace, defense, and medical markets. However, with an automated Lumafield package, this could become a reality.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. They’re a startup, Joris. They’re going to move fast and break things, namely me. They’re going to get their growth hacker hats on, sling these things out the door, and we’ll all get cancer. In these, very well made, videos they explain the safety of the device saying that they’ve met FDA requirements. They also say that the “machine has extensive lead shielding to block stray X-Rays.” The equipment also has a number of features that mean that the machine only works when the door is closed. I still remember when people used to photocopy their butts at office parties so lets hope that everyone uses this thing correctly.

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