3D Printing News Briefs, September 30, 2023: Drone Customization, 3D Printed Bandage, & More


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We’re kicking off 3D Printing News Briefs with software, as Meltio has a new toolpath generator. Moving on, a collaborative project is making drone customization and production with 3D printing more reliable, and the Si Se Puede Foundation is improving STEM education with MakerBot 3D printers at its new 3D printing center. In research news, a team from Queen’s University Belfast developed a 3D printed bandage to help heal diabetic foot ulcers, and a researcher at the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore is working to build a large-format, sub-micron resolution 3D printer for faster, more economical production of optical devices. Finally, a startup is using upcycled tequila waste to make 3D printer filament.

Meltio Space Software for Robotic Arm 3D Printing

Spanish multinational Meltio is making it easier and more reliable to use its wire-laser metal 3D printing solutions to create accurate parts with Meltio Space, a new toolpath generator software for the Meltio Engine Robot Integration. Developed for accelerated adoption of Meltio’s DED technology, the slicer offers an easy-to-use interface for planar, non-planar, and variable extrusion toolpaths, and includes kinematics simulation, cell configuration, and collisions check. It goes beyond the constraints of traditional 3-axis systems with its integration of a 6-axis robotic manipulator and 2-axis workpiece positioners, which offers more design freedom so users, regardless of their level of expertise, can quickly adapt to and enjoy the benefits of using robotic metal AM to create customized, intricate parts. The slicer uses a virtual model of the real robot movement, which simplifies the integration of popular robotic brands like ABB, Yaskawa, FANUC, and Kuka; plus, it also performs collision checks, so the risk of damage or errors during printing is low. Finally, for no extra cost, there’s also a built-in robot library and post-processors. Meltio Space software is available for an annual subscription at a competitive price, and free for the first year with each sale of the Engine. For current customers, there’s an offer to access the software for free the first year if it’s associated with the purchase of training through a reseller or sales channel.

“Meltio Space makes it possible to design very reliable parts as quickly as possible and with a wider range of possibilities for our industrial customers. And this is thanks to a very user-friendly interface of the Meltio Engine Robot Integration. Meltio Space also includes preset and recommended material profiles and 3D printing parameters and a series of specific processors for robot arms from ABB, Kuka, Fanuc, and Yaskawa including collision detection, and simulation,” said Meltio Engine Product Manager Alejandro Nieto. “Industrial applications are improved thanks to the new Meltio Space software in which the learning curve of our Engine integrators was very low because they depended on third-party software and those developers do not have the knowledge that we can have in Meltio of the Meltio Engine. So the main goal of our technology is to give the most efficient tool that allows the industry the most of the applications they need to manufacture metal parts with our wire-laser technology. Meltio Space is a living platform that will provide feedback to keep improving and offers competitive software to different industrial customers of Meltio.”

Improving Drone Customization with Precision 3D Printing

As drones continue to evolve, the need for custom components grows, which 3D printing can help with, but strength, reliability, and affordability are of critical importance. Carbon-filled nylons take care of strength, but they’re susceptible to moisture absorption during transport, which hurts the integrity of the material and final parts. German drone producer Third Element Aviation worked with Fiberthree, which makes high-end nylon filaments, and Thought3D, known for Magigoo bed adhesives and Drywise in-line filament dryer, to improve consistency, reliability, and quality assurance for prototyping and producing custom end-use components using precision 3D printing for its adaptable Auriol drones. Fiberthree’s advanced F3 PA-CF Pro material, known for its high temperature resistance and strength, was used to print the components, and the company recommended Drywise, which continually dries filament during the printing process to ensure optimal moisture content, uniformity, and integrity. This also saved Third Element Aviation a lot of time, and the collaboration shows just how important proper filament handling and in-line drying can be, especially for demanding, high-performance applications like drones.

“Integrating innovative materials from Fiberthree, paired with Drywise filament dryer into our production process has been a groundbreaking move,” said Benjamin Wiens,  Co-Founder of Third Element Aviation. “We have dramatically improved our printed parts quality and reliability while still leveraging the flexibility of in-house production. Further we’ve cut our drying times significantly, the quality of our prints has improved remarkably, and we’re seeing much less material waste. It’s truly revolutionizing the way we produce our Auriol drones.”

Si Se Puede Foundation’s New 3D Printing Center Features MakerBot

Si Se Puede provides students with the tools they need to succeed.

The Arizona-based Si Se Puede Foundation started as an advocacy group over 23 years ago, and is dedicated to providing access to STEM education and technology to students in underrepresented and under-resourced communities and schools. Over 20 mentors from industry and Arizona State University students volunteer at the foundation’s STEM center, which also hosts student-led robotics teams. For no charge, they can use the center’s range of equipment and tools, from computers, laser cutters, and woodworking machines to band saws, CNC mills and routers, and a new 3D printing center that’s equipped with five MakerBot Sketch Standard printers, two Sketch Large printers, a Method X, and a Replicator Z18. Most new students at the STEM center have little experience with 3D design and printing, which can be intimidating, but with a little training and encouragement, they quickly learn the whole design and engineering process. Designed as more than just a lab, the center also plans to use the ISTE-certified MakerBot Certification training program to offer courses to students and teachers.

“There’s a reason we do what we do at the STEM center. That’s to get students exposed to all the technology that’s necessary for them to be successful in the 21st century so, when they get into the workforce, they can be contributing members of the economy,” explained Faridodin (Fredi) Lajvardi, President and CEO of Si Se Puede.

“It’s very important for us to certify teachers because if you just get a printer without having any certification, you don’t learn the little tricks and things that you need to know about how to make the printer work perfectly. MakerBot Certification gives the teachers all the tools they need to use the machine effectively.”

Researchers Develop 3D Bioprinted Bandage to Treat Ulcers

A) Overview of the 3D printed scaffold; B) Image of the Coaxial filament under the Leica Microscope; C) Image of the Coaxial filament embedding NR-stained TO-LPs under the Leica Microscope; D) Image of the filament’s inner core embedding NR-stained LPs under the Confocal Microscopy Stellaris 5TM, from Leica Microsystems. Red Channel: TO-LPs stained with NR embedded in HEC hydrogel (filament’s inner core). Black channel: SA/CNC hydrogel (filament’s outer shell).

Diabetes is a lifelong condition and is among the top ten causes of death worldwide. Diabetic foot ulcers, or DFUs, are a serious complication, affecting roughly 25% of patients, and once they’re identified, 50% are already infected, and over 70% of cases result in lower limb amputation. Wound dressings and skin alternatives can be used to treat these, as they keep the environment under control and provide bioactive compounds to manage infection and promote tissue repair, but the process is complex, and often unsuccessful. A team of researchers from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) came up with a novel skin-like, personalized 3D printed bandage, or scaffold, that releases antibiotic-loaded molecules to treat DFUs. They used bioprinting to combine two bioinks into one filament: a nanocomposite hydrogel that contains lipid nanoparticles encapsulated with thyme oil (an all-natural antibiotic replacement), and an outer shell made of a hybrid hydrogel and enriched with free thyme oil. In the future, these scaffolds could be produced at hospitals, making them a more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective treatment. Plus, the wound dressing can be monitored and offer treatment without having to be repeatedly removed and replaced, which improves patient care and speeds the healing process. You can learn more about the team’s approach in their published study.

“Our natural liposomal antibacterial approach has shown promising initial antibacterial results highlighting the potential of this strategy to prevent bacterial colonisation during the crucial early stages of wound healing, as well as longer-term protection of the wound,” said Dr. Matthew Wylie, Lecturer from the School of Pharmacy at QUB and responsible for the in vitro antibacterial activity evaluation of the 3D printed bandages.

“Improved wound management will not only enhance patient quality of life but could reduce the need for traditional antibiotic therapy, a key aim in the fight against antimicrobial resistance development.”

Sub-Micron Resolution 3D Printing for Photonic Devices

7um height laser microscope sample with out of the box resin

High-performing optical devices are all around us, but as electronics continue to shrink, the need for smaller optical components is causing production challenges. A multi-step, layered 2D lithography process with many machines in a cleanroom is typically required, which makes things expensive and harder to scale. Professor Tapajyoti Das Gupta of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore is working with In-Vision to develop a large-format, sub-micron resolution 3D printer that can make flexible, stretchable photonic devices faster and more economically, which could build a better supply chain and disrupt the semiconductor industry. Most 3D DLP projectors are either one-micron or two-micron resolution, but for this work, In-Vision is supplying a projector—based on a DLP9000-Chipset with a newly designed optical path—to achieve sub-micron resolution at a 405 nanometer wavelength. Using funding from the Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information, Das Gupta and In-Vision are partnering with J Group Robotics to build the printer itself. It is anticipated to be completed by December of 2023, and Das Gupta expects the first optical component to be printed in the spring of 2024.

“3D-printing has taken over many other manufacturing processes, the only thing left is printing in submicron resolution. This technique has the potential to reduce the cost and drive drastic change in the semiconductor industry by eliminating the clean room requirement and making production much faster,” said Das Gupta.

“It also reduces the carbon footprint of the entire production process and could dramatically improve supply chain resiliency, allowing companies to produce and procure chips much closer to home.”

Upcycled Tequila Waste Used to Make 3D Printing Filament

PolyAgave in action.

Back in 2020, a husband and wife team in Guadalajara, Mexico formed a startup, called EcoLife Labs, with two main goals: develop a valuable product, and make it eco-friendly. The result is PolyAgave, a 3D printing filament made from upcycled tequila waste. Basically, it turns blue agave fibers, which are used to make tequila, into brittle pellets, then spooled into filament. PolyAgave supposedly has a wood-like effect once printed, “smells good, like sugar,” and is compostable. Plus, to improve its overall sustainability, the filament comes in cardboard spools, with no plastic labeling.

Tequila is a very materials-heavy industry, using 11 pounds of agave for just one bottle and leaving a lot of leftover fibers after distillation, and EcoLife Labs is just the latest in an accelerating movement of engineers, distillers, and construction experts working to upcycle Mexico’s agave leftovers. The startup began a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so it could purchase an industrial extruder for mass production of PolyAgave, but unfortunately, it only raised $669 of its nearly $50,000 goal. Still, most of the 3D printing industry is very focused on sustainability efforts these days, so there could still be a market for an eco-friendly product like this one. Time will tell if EcoLife Labs will still try to make a go of it with PolyAgave.

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