3D Printing News Briefs, August 26, 2023: Materials, Electroplating, Consumer Goods, & More

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It’s all materials, all the time in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, starting with AddUp adding an aluminum alloy by Constellium to its materials portfolio. igus introduced an online service for 3D printing and Element strengthened its position as a testing provider of AM powders characterization. In research news, scientists in Australia are using 3D photolithographic printing to make a complex environment for assembling tissue that mimics an organ’s architecture, and a researcher from the Academies of Loudoun is investigating whether changing the printing parameters of an electroplated 3D print can improve its electrical performance. Finally, we switch to sustainability in consumer goods, as Replique and Siena Garden 3D printed over 1,000 replacement foot caps for garden chairs.

Constellium’s Aheadd CP1 Aluminum Alloy Works with FormUp 350 Printers

Global metal additive manufacturing OEM AddUp has added the Aheadd CP1 aluminum alloy by Constellium to its materials portfolio, which means it can be used on its FormUp 350 range of 3D printers as a high-performance alternative to traditional grades like AS10 and AS7. Constellium developed this aluminum-iron-zirconium alloy especially for the needs of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing, and it offers higher productivity for heat dissipation applications, as well as higher solderability, which means users can increase laser power and scan speed. In addition, post-build operations are simplified with this alloy, which definitely helps increase profitability of an application, and parts printed with Aheadd CP1 have mechanical properties similar to that of AS7 in terms of hardness, ductility, and fatigue resistance. Finally, its higher thermal conductivity makes this aluminum alloy a better choice for heat exchanger and aerospace applications, and it was also recently approved for use in motorsports.

“To obtain the best mechanical properties using AS7 and AS10 grades, several long and expensive post-build treatments must be carried out, such as hot isostatic pressing and, solution and aging Etc. With Aheadd CP1, very similar material properties can be achieved with a simple heat treatment at 400°C,” said Frédéric Sar, Materials Officer at AddUp.

igus Launches New Online 3D Printing Service

The igus online 3D printing service now enables users to calculate the service life of their printed wear-resistant parts.

Motion plastics specialist igus has over 30 years of experience in plain bearing technology, producing bearings using injection molding. But, when customers need parts that are more wear-resistant than usual, the company turns to 3D printing. igus recently introduced an online 3D printing service that it says can predict the service life of 3D printed components in just 30 seconds. The seamless process offers insights into material durability, which makes it much easier for individuals and businesses to choose the right one from the company’s many material offerings. Users upload an STL or STEP file of their product, and the service displays materials, finishes, production options, feasibility analyses, cost estimates, and delivery timelines. To get the service life calculation, just select the part’s sliding surface and input a few application parameters, and an estimate will be automatically generated. igus uses an extensive database, derived from thousands of abrasion tests, to ensure that these service life calculations are as accurate as possible so users can make informed decisions.

Tom Krause, Head of Business Unit Additive Manufacturing at igus, said, “We have now integrated the service life calculation into the 3D printing service because knowing the longevity of a component in advance, in addition to price information, makes it easier to choose the right material.”

Element Achieves AM Milestone with Powder Characterization Approval

Global testing, inspection and certification (TIC) leader Element Materials Technology reached a major AM milestone—its Antwerp laboratory has received approval as a powder testing provider from aerospace technology company GKN Aerospace Sweden AB. The company has significantly invested in the capabilities of its Antwerp and Teesside laboratories, which shows just how dedicated it is to offering customers from multiple industries a comprehensive suite of powder characterization and metallic testing services for additive manufacturing in accordance with ISO/ASTM 52907 standards. For quality assurance purposes, accurate determination of powder properties is very important, as powder quality can majorly impact 3D printing and the properties of 3D printed materials. Element’s labs are staffed by experienced experts and filled with state-of-the-art equipment, and their services cover important characterization aspects like chemical composition, particle size distribution, contamination, and flowability. Both of the laboratories offer comprehensive powder testing throughout the whole lifecycle of products, including pre-service, manufacturing stages, and post-service.

“We are thrilled to receive approval from GKN Aerospace Sweden AB, a respected leader in the aerospace industry. This milestone highlights our commitment to advancing additive manufacturing and our dedication to providing exceptional testing services,” said Matt Hopkinson, EVP of EMEAA at Element.

“As 3D printing and additive manufacturing continue to expand across industries, our Antwerp and Teesside laboratories are well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of the industry and contribute to the success of our customers.”

Australian Researchers Bioprint “Instruction Manual” for Cells

Mechano-chemical flow lithographic (MCFL) printing of microstructured niches. a) Components of the MCFL 3D printer. b) Stepwise fabrication processes to print synthetic cell niche environments. c) Photoresist chemistry used. d) Confocal image of an example niche with microstructured properties, including changes to linewidth, mechanics (Young’s modulus), and chemical microproperties (concentration of the fluorophores FITC and TRITC). e) Maximum intensity projection of the 3D confocal data, scale bar 50 µm. Dotted red and orange lines annotate the profile of force spectroscopy in (f,g). Young’s modulus across filaments. Fabrication variables are shown at the top of the graphs for physiologically f) stiff (7.5 kPa, red, TRITC) and g) soft (2.5 kPa, orange, FITC) segments. h,i) Actin (magenta) and hydrogel (cyan) stained ADSCs (primary human adipose-derived stromal cells) cultured over 3D niche with (h), “stacked-logs” or i) “offset-honeycomb-layers” architecture. Macro lens photography (left) is shown together with MIP (middle) and 3D confocal renders (right), scale bars 200 µm.

Moving on, bioengineers and biomedical scientists from the University of Sydney and the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) at Westmead developed a new method that brings us one step closer to 3D printing human organs. Using 3D photolithographic printing, they fabricated a complex environment for constructing tissue that replicates an organ’s architecture. It basically teaches stem cells derived from blood or skin cells how to become specialized cells that can come together to assemble an organ-like structure. The researchers say that cells use mechanical triggers and strategically positioned proteins to move through their environment, and in their recent study, they used chemical and mechanical cues at the nanoscale to mimic cellular functions during growth and guide them to form more realistic, organized structures. In the future, this technology could significantly change the study and understanding of rare diseases by enabling more accurate tissue models.

“Without specific instructions, the cells would likely group together unpredictably within the incorrect structures,” explained co-research lead Dr. Peter Newman, the University of Sydney. “What we’ve effectively done is create a step-by-step process that guides each building block to exactly where it should go and how it should connect with the others.”

Improving Electrical Performance of Electroplated 3D Prints

Siddarth Sreeram, a researcher with the Academies of Loudoun in Virginia, recently published a study on “Varying the Infill Parameters of an Electroplated 3D Print to Improve Electrical Performance.” Commercially available 3D printing filaments and methods create parts with high electrical resistance, which means they have limited electrical applications, but conductive materials, like pure metals, are not as lightweight or cost-effective. In the past, electroplating—using metals to coat a substrate—and changing the infill parameters for 3D prints have been tested separately as a means to improve the electrical performance, but Sreeram wanted to see if combining the two could enhance the electrical properties of 3D prints, “due to the better coverage of the metal on the substrate.” Using a linear infill pattern, ten test objects were printed with 20% infill density, while another ten had 30% and the final ten were at 40%. All 30 were painted with one coat of nickel-conductive paint, and 15 were then electroplated at about 4V for 40 seconds with a copper anode and 9g CuSO4, 30mL H2SO4, and 90mL H2O. Then, they were subjected to resistance testing using a multimeter.

The data collected reflects that resistance did change with electroplating and in response to the variance of infill parameters: the Dunn’s test (conducted after a Kruskal-Wallis test) reveals that there is not a statistically significant difference between the resistances of the prints with 20 and 30 percent infill densities while there was a significant difference between the prints of 20 and 40 percent infill densities as well as the prints with 30 and 40 percent infill densities. This could reflect that infill densities may not vary proportionally with the effect of electroplating on a given part.”

3D Printed Foot Caps for Garden Chairs Promote Sustainability

Foot caps like these enable you to repair garden chairs and keep them in their best condition. Original Fofana foot cap on the left, 3D printed redesigned foot cap on the right. Image courtesy of Replique

Digital inventory and 3D printed spare parts startup Replique partnered with Siena Garden, a garden furniture brand of specialist wholesaler association H. Gautzsch Firmengruppe, to 3D print over 1,000 foot caps for garden chairs. These protective covers are part of their joint Eternal Spare Parts concept, which promotes sustainability and a circular economy by offering continuous replacement parts throughout the entire lifespan of a product. Through a seamless integration with Replique’s platform, spare parts can be digital stored and then 3D printed locally and on-demand and locally, which negates massive minimum order quantities and excessive inventory. This initiative will allow Siena Garden customers to keep their furniture looking fresh for many years, while also cutting down on waste and reducing cost. The garden furniture brand will also expand its spare parts online shop with Replique by adding more 3D printed spare parts beyond the foot caps, which were fabricated using Forward AM’s new Ultrafuse TPU 64D.

“Replique was able to not only translate our 3D printing requirements, but also implement them on the spot. The combination of Replique’s expertise with their secure and scalable platform was a game changer for us,” said Peter Benthues, CDO of H. Gautzsch Firmengruppe.

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