3D Printing News Briefs, March 4, 2023: Rebranding, Superalloys, & More

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We’re starting off with business in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, as 3dpbm rebrands as VoxelMatters, Xaba closes a seed funding round, and CORE Industrial Partners, and its portfolio company Cadrex Solutions, each announce acquisitions. Moving on to software, Carpenter Additive is optimizing its project management efficiency and communications with the Materialise CO-AM platform. We’ll end with research, as a group of scientists 3D printed a metal superalloy that could help cut emissions from power plants, and researchers in China introduced a laser to 4D printing to extend it to a larger class of materials.

3dpbm Unveils New Brand Identity: VoxelMatters

Leading AM market research and media company 3dpbm, while having a difficult name, has long been a trusted source of industry insight and news to its global audience. But now, the company announced that it is rebranding to VoxelMatters, which will consolidate all of its activities into one and reinforce its vision for AM market research and media. The decision was made as a reflection of its evolution, and to go along with the AM industry as it continues to expand toward widespread adoption. “Voxel” refers to the 3D pixel and is representative of digital control of material, while “Matters” represents both the material nature of AM and the importance of the topics the company will continue to cover. VoxelMatters’ new website has improved navigation, a clean, modern look, and a better user experience.

“Our rebranding to VoxelMatters is a natural evolution of our company as we continue to grow and expand our services. Our goal has always been to provide the most up-to-date and valuable information to our readers and clients, across an evergrowing spectrum of industrial segments, and we believe that our new brand better reflects this mission,” said Davide Sher, CEO of VoxelMatters.

Xaba Closes Funding Round to Drive Manufacturing Platform Development

Canadian company Xaba, founded in 2022 to develop AI-driven robotics and CNC machine controllers, has closed a round of seed funding led by Hazelview Ventures, with participation from Whiteshell Group Inc. The company’s two manufacturing platforms, xCognition and xTrude, use proprietary industrial AI to offer autonomy, consistency, high execution quality, and robustness, without the need for constant reprogramming and human supervision. The investment will be used to speed up the development of these platforms, as well as launch pilot programs, and help grow the team. Once its AI-driven xCognition and xTrude are commercially available, manufacturers will be able to evaluate, adopt, and utilize intelligent automation with increased sustainability and much higher throughput.

“Xaba lowers the barriers to adopting new manufacturing technologies, materials, and approaches. For the first time, robots used in manufacturing will be able to consider all elements of execution in the process, which will ultimately reduce reliance on human supervision,” said Xaba’s CEO Massimiliano Moruzzi.

CORE Industrial Partners Acquires Two Manufacturing Companies

Chicago-based private equity firm CORE Industrial Partners has been buying up AM companies like crazy over the last few years, continuing to add more manufacturing, industrial services, and industrial technologies firms to its business. Its latest acquisition is GEM Manufacturing, an ISO 9001-certified, ITAR-registered, Connecticut company (with a location in Vietnam) that provides precision deep drawn metal components and mechanical assemblies. Representing the fifth platform investment in the $465 million CORE Industrial Partners Fund II, GEM fabricates high-precision deep drawn components, from prototype all the way to high-volume applications, using vertical transfer and progressive die press technology. The company also uses wire electrical discharge machining, along with CNC turning and milling, to design and fabricate the tooling in-house, and it also offers several secondary services, including printing and finishing.

Additionally, CORE portfolio company Cadrex Manufacturing Solutions, formed in 2021, announced the acquisition of D&R Machine Company, which provides high-complexity CNC milling, CNC turning, and assembly solutions for the aerospace and defense market. D&R, which also operates an ISO 9001 and AS9100-certified and ITAR-registered facility, is headquartered near Philadelphia, and has the ability to machine forgings, block and bar stock, and castings from a variety of materials. The company supports the aerospace and defense industries through a range of applications, including control systems, starter generators, auxiliary power units, rotor systems, and more. While neither GEM nor D&R are specifically AM-focused companies, they will fit well with the rest of CORE’s manufacturing group.

Carpenter Additive Optimizing with Materialise CO-AM Software Platform

The team of AM experts and metallurgists at Carpenter Additive supports their customers with a variety of end-to-end metal AM solutions, such as powder lifecycle management and specialty alloy atomization. But with all of these capabilities and subsequent customer requests, the company was having an issue with data consolidation, and needed a solution that would be able to handle distinct, complex information across departments and sources. So Carpenter Additive decided to integrate the CO-AM Software Platform by Materialise into its daily workflow, to optimize team communications and project management efficiency. The platform is based on a digital thread, which collects information from scheduling and builds to streamline operations through a connected, centralized information hub. This integration enabled the team to improve manufacturing department productivity by 22%, first-print quality by 14%, and save around 12 hours a week in project management time.

“One thing that was impressive and really impactful was the ability for any of us to log on from anywhere and understand the latest project status. We no longer need to ask someone or call a colleague for information. Now, we can just log on and see all the moving pieces. This was especially helpful during 2020 when the pandemic forced most of our team to work from home,” said William Herbert, Director of Technology and R&D at Carpenter Additive.

3D Printed Metal Superalloy Could Cut Power Plant Emissions

A team of scientists from Ames National Laboratory, Bruker Corp., Sandia National Laboratories, and Iowa State University created a high-performance metal superalloy with a unique composition, and some unique traits: it could help power plants generate more electricity, while also producing less carbon. Fossil fuel and nuclear power plants both use heat to turn turbines in order to generate electricity, but efficiency is limited by how hot the metal parts of a turbine can get. If they’re able to run at higher temperatures, more energy can be converted to electricity, while at the same time decreasing how much waste heat is released into the environment. This superalloy, composed of 42% aluminum, 25% titanium, 13% niobium, 8% zirconium, 8% molybdenum, and 4% tantalum, is both stronger and lighter than many other high-performance alloys currently used to make turbine parts. The results could majorly impact the energy sector, in addition to the automotive and aerospace industries, and the team might now explore whether advanced computer modeling techniques could help to discover more members of what might be a new class of 3D printed high-performance superalloys.

“We’re showing that this material can access previously unobtainable combinations of high strength, low weight and high-temperature resiliency. We think part of the reason we achieved this is because of the additive manufacturing approach,” explained Sandia scientist Andrew Kustas.

Laser-Assisted 4D Printing of Metallic Parts

4D printing is the 3D printing of parts that can change their shape, configuration, or properties over time and under external stimulation, like light, magnetic fields, heat, and others. But until now, polymers have been the only materials used for 4D printing, as well as special shape memory alloys that deform upon cooling but return to their original form when heated back up. Researchers from Jilin University wanted to expand 4D printing to more materials, like metals, which could be very helpful in fields like aerospace, naval equipment, and biomedical engineering. As they explained in their study, they decided to use a laser-based printing process (laser powder bed fusion, to be precise) to create stronger, more versatile parts. Starting with a flat sample of stainless steel powder to produce a shape-morphing part, they exposed certain regions of it to a programmed sequence of laser pulses, which resulted in controlled mechanical stress. The stress is released once the sample is cooled, which formed a strong 3D part and led to the prescribed deformation. The team used their 4D laser printing technique to create 14 metallic structures which, once cooled, acquired the expected mechanical properties.

“During the usual 3D printing process, residual stresses are often generated due to the high cooling rates and large temperature gradients, which in turn cause processing defects such as delamination, cracks, and deformations. In contrast, the deformability caused by laser-induced thermal stress can be controlled to reshape 3D printed structures, which can create a new 4D printing method via the laser stimulation,” explained Professor Qingping Liu, a co-author of the study.

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