3D Printing News Briefs, February 16, 2023: AMUG, 3D Printed Antennas, & More

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We’re kicking off 3D Printing News Briefs with event news, as AMUG has announced the keynote speakers for its 2023 conference. Moving on, Quickparts adopted the Materialise CO-AM platform, and Nextech AR updated its AI-powered SaaS platform, Toggle3D. In research news, a team from the University of Sheffield is 3D printing antennas that could help people in remote communities, and researchers from Harvard developed a rotating nozzle for printing helix shapes with interesting properties. Finally, a research collaboration between ETH Zurich and MIT demonstrates how robotic spraying and 4D printing can produce lightweight, self-shaping formworks.

AMUG Announces 2023 Keynote Speakers

The AMUG 2023 keynote speakers: Robert Ducey (top left), Nicholas
Jacobson (bottom left), and Max Haot.

The Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) is holding its 2023 AMUG Conference in Chicago, Illinois from March 19-23, and recently announced the keynote speakers for the in-person event. First up, co-presenting keynote speakers Robert Ducey, technical supervisor for the Rapid Prototyping department of LAIKA Studios, and Nicholas Jacobson, a member of the translational research faculty at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, will share their insights on Tuesday the 21st, while Launcher‘s Founder and CEO Max Haot will take the stage on Thursday the 23rd.

Ducey and Jacobson connected during AMUG 2019 over what they describe as a “little-known 3D modeling and printing technique called bitmap printing,” and that led to a collaboration in which they leveraged their own toolsets and workflows, resulting in AM designs for cardiology, cleft palate, and pediatric epilepsy. Together, they will present “Collaborations Between an Animator, an Architect, and a Surgeon: The Keys to Impactful Innovation in Medicine,” which will focus on their unique partnership, give a history of their individual methods, look at their new innovations, and share their vision for future work. Two days later, Haot, who founded Launcher in 2017 to develop more efficient rockets and transfer vehicles for delivering small satellites to orbit, will provide an overview of the 3D printing used in Launcher’s high-performance E-2 liquid rocket engine and the Orbiter space tug programs.

Quickparts Partners with Materialise to Adopt CO-AM Platform

On-demand industrial production services provider Quickparts is partnering with Materialise, in order to manage its distributed manufacturing flows by adopting and leveraging the Materialise CO-AM software platform. Quickparts runs seven global design and production centers across Europe and North America, and as such, its distributed manufacturing network needed a software solution that could connect all the various sites, and was capable of integrating both traditional and additive manufacturing technologies. Implementation of the platform began in its Lawrenceburg and Seattle locations at the end of 2022, and CO-AM will be extended to more locations in Q2 of 2023. The open architecture platform will enable Quickparts to scale its AM operations by securely managing on-demand manufacturing across multiple production sites, streamlining order-to-cash operations, automating processes, and more.

“Adopting CO-AM within Quickparts’ manufacturing operations will enable us to streamline our distributed global production facilities and modernize our capabilities with efficiency so we are able to achieve the fastest lead times in the industry. Once CO-AM is integrated, we can process orders faster, which allows us to improve our cost structure through fleet optimization and machine utilization. It gives us, and our customers, traceability to every part along the manufacturing process so we can realize the highest quality standard with all of our parts,” said Ziad Abou, CEO of Quickparts.

Nextech AR Upgrades AI-Powered Toggle3D SaaS Platform

Nextech AR Solutions Corp. is a Metaverse company that provides augmented reality (AR) experience technologies and 3D model services, and recently launched a major upgrade to Toggle3D, its AI-powered SaaS platform. Toggle3D, launched in September and described as having both simplicity and usability, is disrupting the computer graphics market, which includes competitors like Autodesk, SOLIDWORKS, and Adobe, and is projected to reach $160 billion by 2027. The platform makes it possible for 3D artists, product designers, marketing professionals and eCommerce site owners to create, design, customize, and publish high-quality 3D models and experiences—with no technical or 3D design knowledge required—and offers a way to convert large CAD files into lightweight 3D models at scale, and for affordable prices.

In addition to a new modern look and design for Toggle3D, which includes a UX/UI lift and improves functionality, Nextech AR also introduced an AI-generated Physics Based Rendering (PBR) material creation tool for the platform that enables scale of photorealistic materials; the company believes this new AI tool will increase signups to the platform. This new material template, available in the Pro plan, has three different AI-powered methods of creating high-quality PBRs, including creating a uniform color material from scratch and creating a material by cropping a product reference photo. Additionally, the CAD converter also features some advancements with this upgrade, which will open new use cases in CPQ sales, product design and marketing, modeling, and ads. Toggle3D is offering a free 30-day trial of its Pro plan for a limited time, so users can try some of the new editing features.

3D Printed Antennas Could Bring Stronger Internet to Remote Areas

3D printed radio antennas

The antennas used to build telecommunication networks are often expensive and slow to manufacture, which delays prototype development and makes it hard to create new infrastructure. But researchers in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering developed a new design that uses 3D printing to make it much faster, and less expensive, to manufacture radio antennas, without compromising on performance. This means that stronger mobile phone and faster internet connections could be brought to people who live in remote communities. The researchers performed radio frequency testing at the university’s UKRI National mmWave Measurement Lab, and found that the mmWave aerials they designed and printed have frequency that matches what can be produced with traditional manufacturing, but can be fabricated in just a few hours for far less money. These findings could speed development of new 5G and 6G infrastructure for the telecommunications industry.

“This 3D-printed design could be a game changer for the telecommunications industry. It enables us to prototype and produce antennas for 5G and 6G networks at a far lower cost and much quicker than the current manufacturing techniques,” said Eddie Ball, Reader in Radio Frequency Engineering from the Communications Research Group at the University of Sheffield. “The design could also be used to produce antennas on a much larger scale and therefore have the capability to cover more areas and bring the fastest mobile networks to parts of the world that have not yet had access.”

New Nozzle Design Can 3D Print Rotating Helix Shapes

How’s this for a twist—Harvard University researchers from the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering designed a novel rotating nozzle that can 3D print twisting helix shapes with multiple materials, and different intriguing properties, at the same time. Helical structures can be found many places in nature, with different unique mechanical properties and functionalities, and synthetic architectures that mimic natural helixes have been produced through a variety of methods, including microfluidics and 3D printing. But, these cannot create and pattern multimaterial helix-shaped filaments with, as the researchers explain in their paper, “subvoxel control” in 2D and 3D motifs at the same time. The team that developed this system are using it to work on printing a type of artificial muscle, as well as changing the properties of a length of 3D printed filament while it’s being printed.

“Here we report a rotational multimaterial 3D printing (RM-3DP) platform that enables subvoxel control over the local orientation of azimuthally heterogeneous architected filaments. By continuously rotating a multimaterial nozzle with a controlled ratio of angular-to-translational velocity, we have created helical filaments with programmable helix angle, layer thickness and interfacial area between several materials within a given cylindrical voxel. Using this integrated method, we have fabricated functional artificial muscles composed of helical dielectric elastomer actuators with high fidelity and individually addressable conductive helical channels embedded within a dielectric elastomer matrix. We have also fabricated hierarchical lattices comprising architected helical struts containing stiff springs within a compliant matrix. Our additive-manufacturing platform opens new avenues to generating multifunctional architected matter in bioinspired motifs.”

4D Printing Textile Formwork for Robotic Concrete Spraying

Image credit: Guillaume Jami and Hamilton Forsythe

Finally, the 4D Formwork research collaboration between Gramazio Kohler Research at ETH Zurich and the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT demonstrates a 4D printed textile formwork for robotic concrete spraying. Together with industrial partner Burgin Creations, the research team demonstrated how 4D printing, and robotic spraying, can fabricate ultra-lightweight, self-shaping concrete formworks. The researchers were not only able to show the potential for scaling up 4D printing, but also found a concrete mixture that makes the formwork more stable, and ensures chemical compatibility between the textile and concrete.

According to a press release from ETH Zurich’s Department of Architecture, “4D Formwork aims to explore the technology of 4D printing to make permeable and sprayable formworks using a predefined digital design pipeline. 4D printing is a process by which a flat printed geometry reshapes into a 3D geometry through the influence of applied environmental stimuli such as heat, moisture, pre-stress, pre-tension, and more. So far, this technology has mainly been developed for small-scale applications such as product or fashion design and medical devices. However, its potential application to architecture is entirely new.”

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