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3D Printing News Briefs, June 16, 2022: Lawsuit, Software, & Aerospace Case Studies

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First up in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, we’ll share the latest update in the Continuous Composites lawsuit against Markforged. Next, nTopology has released an advanced lattice generation tool. Finally, on to aerospace news, as BigRep shared a case study about how its technology helped overcome COVID-19 supply chain challenges and Objectify Technologies shared one about redesigning a hydraulic block manifold for 3D printing.

Markforged Challenges Lawsuit by Continuous Composites

A composite part being 3D printed via Continuous Composites’ ‘CF3D’ technology. Image via Continuous Composites.

Last year, Continuous Composites sued Markforged, alleging that the metal and carbon fiber 3D printer manufacturer infringed upon patents that are related to its own Continuous Fiber 3D printing (CF3D). The case revolves around US patents ‘9,511,543,’ ‘9,987,798,’ ‘10,744,708,’ and ‘10,759,109,’ which Continuous Composites says are part of a larger family of patents, revolving around its core technology, from before Markforged was founded. This fall, Markforged filed a motion to dismiss the case, in which Continuous Composites is seeking financial compensation and an injunction preventing the Massachusetts company from violating the patents in the future.

Now, Markforged has called for the case to be thrown out, and barring this, has requested a trial by jury, stating that patent 9,511,543 covers “something different from the conventional slicing techniques,” and that the patent covers a 3D printing method that directs curable liquid material to a nozzle—but Continuous Composites doesn’t use this kind of material, so it’s not liable for patent infringement in this case. In addition, Markforged asked how it can infringe on the other three patents, because they all “fail to comply with one or more of the conditions for patentability.” So it seems like this case won’t be over anytime soon.

nTopology Releases Advanced Lattice Generation Tool

The new tools separate the lattice generation process into three fundamental components: unit cell, cell map, and lattice parameters.

Engineering software provider nTopology has announced the release of its 3rd generation lattice generation tool, which it says is faster and offers more control over complex lattice structures. The goal was to make it easier than ever for new nTop users to access the lattice tools, which is why the lattice generation process has been separated into three main steps: selecting a unit cell, defining the cell map, and controlling the parameters of the lattice. For existing users of the software, nTopology wanted to streamline the transition to its new latticing technology, which includes 37 blocks that have been in development for nearly two years; visit the updated Lattices tab to find three new blocks that will enable you to transition over your current workflows.

Some of the key features of this new release including super-fast lattice generation, and by super-fast, nTopology means a performance increase of 50% to the fastest lattice generation tools on the market. Users can also enjoy more control over creating lattices with new tools for streamlining design and optimization. These new tools include lattice warping, a unified latticing workflow, filter beam utilities, and the ability to create surface lattices, which enables the design of conformal rib grids to increase body stiffness in organic and complex shapes.

BigRep Overcame COVID Supply Chain Issues by 3D Printing Molds

CNE’s Nathan Brown and Jason Deadman from SAS

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 62% of passenger planes were grounded, which isn’t great for their engines, as they need to be protected from the elements when parked for a long period of time. Due to supply chain shortages, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) didn’t have enough off-the-shelf engine covers and exhaust plugs on-site, and turned to CNE Engineering, a local specialized supplier that uses large-format 3D printers by BigRep, for help creating parts for aircraft maintenance. To 3D print molds for producing the castable urethane parts, CNE used the BigRep ONE, with its cubic meter build volume, for the main piece, and the BigRep STUDIO for smaller features like removable mold inserts. BigRep’s bio-based PLX was used to print the outer shells, while HI-TEMP CF was used for the center core and the inserts were printed using TPU. Large-format 3D printing helped CNE meet the SAS’s fast timing requirements during a time that traditional supply chains were unable to do so.

“This case study is a shining example of how BigRep’s large-format 3D printers are already changing the game in aerospace MRO,” said Peter Smeets, BigRep’s Chairman of the Board and Managing Director of 360 Aircraft Finance. “We believe this is only the beginning and that 3D printed solutions will become the gold standard for custom, cost-effective manufacturing free from traditional supply chain issues.”

You can read the full case study here.

Objectify Technologies Redesigned Aerospace Manifold for AM

Finally, Objectify Technologies worked with an aerospace customer to redesign a hydraulic block manifold for 3D printing, as the technology enables the fabrication of internal features and passages. In the aerospace industry, this kind of manifold is used to regulate fluid flow, which helps control power transfer between actuators, pumps, and other components of a hydraulic system. Using traditional manufacturing to create these typically requires specialized tooling because of the necessary complex drilling, and unfortunately, it can often lead to abrupt, angled junctions forming between flow paths, which causes flow separation and even stagnation. Using 3D printing to create the hydraulic block manifold out of an aluminum alloy allowed Objectify to reduce the weight of the component, while maintaining its robustness, improving flow paths, and considering loading constraints.

In redesigning the manifold, Objectify used Rhino and MSC Apex to modify and optimize the design, Materialise Magics to prepare the data, and Simufact Additive to simulate the build. The company replaced unnecessary drill channels with simpler designs, which allowed critical areas to be modified and internal channels redesigned for 3D printing. The first design was printed and subjected to stress tests, and the final hydraulic block manifold had a 30% reduced weight, up to 60% improved flow efficiency, and was printed in one piece.

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