3D printing software startup, Ulendo just scooped up $1 million dollars from the National Science Foundation (NSF) program known as America’s Seed Fund, bringing the company’s fundraising total to over $2.5 million. The latest NSF grant will help the business advance its additive manufacturing (AM) vibration compensation (VC) software, doubling the throughput of 3D printers.
Laser-focused on speeding up 3D printers up to 100% without having to degrade part quality, Ulendo’s team has created software tools that improve the productivity and quality of manufacturing machines at a low cost. The company’s advanced software helps businesses monitor, control, and improve the performance of their manufacturing process, allowing their machines to print twice as fast by compensating for the vibration created by the printer.
A spin-off of the Mechatronics Program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Ulendo – which means “journey” or “voyage” in the Chichewa language – wants its software to enable manufacturing machines to achieve their full potential as tools for modern manufacturing. The next step in that journey is to expand the commercial use of its patented vibration compensation software. Thanks to the new Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II award, industrial organizations already using many 3D printers in their business can access Ulendo VC.
Previously, Ulendo VC was available only to manufacturers of 3D printers that would implement it on a specific set of printer models. Instead, the grant will cost-effectively increase the productivity and speed of more 3D printer types.
Commenting on the grant, Ulendo CEO Brenda Jones said, “With the help of NSF, we can significantly improve the existing set of algorithms to address more 3D printer types and, more importantly, retrofit a 3D printer already in operation with our software, doubling its capacity. For 3D printing service bureaus and contract additive manufacturers, this enables them to squeeze more value out of their existing investment in additive manufacturing machines.”
In fact, this project is motivated by the needs of the $11 billion additive manufacturing industry that is critical to national security, supply chain resiliency, and economic prosperity, states the company. Moreover, the software algorithms developed through the grant will benefit not only 3D printing. Still, they will also apply to a wide range of advanced manufacturing machines, like machine tools and robots, whose speed and accuracy are limited by vibration.
According to the SaaS (software as a service) startup, the adoption of 3D printing for mainstream manufacturing has been hindered by pervasive quality problems caused by the vibration of the machines when operated at high speeds. Historically, end users have printed slowly to avoid or limit the impact of vibrations, which significantly restricts outputs. This project addresses the need for accurate calibration of the changing vibration behavior of 3D printers under varying operating conditions.
Previously, in 2021, Ulendo received a $250,000 phase I research grant from the NSF to accelerate the technical development of its patented software algorithm called filtered B-splines (FBS) and reduce the time to market.
Receiving an STTR grant from the NSF is an essential milestone for startups, both as an affirmation of the science behind the technology and as a segway to boost its R&D. Each startup can receive up to $2 million to support translational research and development and businesses with phase II funding are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds.
This grant award comes just weeks after Ulendo secured another $1 million in a seed funding round in March 2023. The investment was made by Automation Alley Michigan’s Industry 4.0 knowledge center through the Industry 4.0 Accelerator, the nation’s first Industry 4.0-specific accelerator, along with its partners Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University and Jackson-based Lean Rocket Lab. In addition, the funds enabled Ulendo to recruit 13-year AM industry veteran Jay Murray who has stepped up as vice president of sales.
Both the grant and recent seed funding round prove that the research in smart manufacturing and AM at the University of Michigan has been successfully translated to the industry through Ulendo. Actually, plenty of real-time comparisons and demonstrations posted by Ulendo have shown how the software helps improve printed parts.
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