3D Printing News Briefs, October 4, 2023: Advanced Ceramics, Tooling Study, & More

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In today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, Germany’s largest AM bureau has invested in Dimensionics Density’s technology, 3DCeram Sinto and Sintx Technologies are collaborating to develop materials and technologies for advanced ceramics 3D printing, and AddUp and the WBA completed a consortium study on metal AM for tooling molds. HUST researchers created a new material that makes a 3D printed toilet extra slippery, and architects used desktop 3D printing and wood joining to make a tea house in Japan. Finally, a YouTuber 3D printed a plastic combustion engine.

FKM Invests in Automatic Density Determination Technology

FKM Additive Manufacturing

Germany’s largest full-service powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printing bureau, FKM, has invested in the automatic density determination technology of Dimensionics Density. By automating AM process chain tasks like part design optimization, slicing, material handling, 3D printing, post-processing, and validation, human error in manufacturing is reduced, production speed is increased, and higher precision is possible, all while maintaining strict quality control. FKM covers the entire AM process chain, from design and powder characterization to parameter optimization and post-processing, and will use Dimensionics Density’s technology to move towards a fully automated and streamlined AM workflow. In addition to speeding up production, automating the process chain reduces waste, lowers costs, and enables the creation of complex geometries, all of which make AM a more attractive manufacturing choice for a variety of industries.

“As more and more of our customers look to AM as a production technology, it is increasingly important for us to optimise an array of strict quality control processes, giving confidence in outcomes, and therefore cementing customer relationships. Considering the large number of build jobs and parts that we are producing every day, the need arises for a speedy and precise non-destructive density determination testing technology for AM. After studying the report on measurement methods for density determination in AM which was conducted by the Fraunhofer IAPT in Hamburg, we decided to assess Dimensionics Density’s technology,” said Stefan Behlert, Head of Quality at FKM. “In order to verify the technology, Dimensionics Density offered free testing of samples and the calculation of an ROI according to the number of samples FKM aims to measure each year. Both delivered convincing results which led to an order of one machine for the quality laboratory at FKM.”

3DCeram Sinto & Sintx Technologies Collaborate for Advanced Ceramics AM

The collaboration between Sintx Technologies and 3DCeram Sinto Inc. is off to a great start. The teams recently had a successful meeting at 3DCeram.’s facility in Grand Ledge, MI for printing trials and sales opportunity planning. (Image courtesy Sintx via LinkedIn)

Advanced biomedical and technical ceramics manufacturer Sintx Technologies, Inc. and 3DCeram Sinto, Inc., a turnkey provider for advanced ceramics AM, are collaborating to develop novel resins and processes for the additive manufacturing of ceramic products, specifically for the biomedical and investment casting industries. Both are industry-leading companies, with strong histories in both additive manufacturing and advanced ceramics, and they plan to use their expertise to produce these high-value resins, create 3D printed ceramic components, and subject the resulting components to advanced thermal processing. The two believe that their combined results will help “to drive expanded geographical adoption” of 3D printed advanced ceramics, as there’s been increased interest for those capabilities around the world.

“We are excited about the possibilities of creating a silicon nitride-based resin for the biomedical market. With interest in silicon nitride medical devices continuing to grow rapidly, we believe 3D printed silicon nitride devices will play a major role in the future of medical and technical segments in which we participate. We believe that SINTX’s resin formulation and densification expertise, combined with 3DCeram’s production scale printers, will provide the market with components of superior quality,” said Dr. Sonny Bal, CEO of Sintx Technologies.

Metal AM Tooling Study by AddUp & the WBA

In early 2023, global metal AM OEM for powder bed fusion (PBF) systems AddUp established its AM Tooling Competence Centre in Aachen with the Werkzeugbau-Akademie (WBA), one of its previous partners. The facility, which also serves as AddUp’s German subsidiary, was created to accelerate the adoption of metal AM by tooling companies and is equipped with a FormUp 350 PBF machine; toolmakers can submit application cases to use the Centre for evaluation and to study all aspects of their project. AddUp and the WBA are now conducting a consortium AM Tooling Study with six select tool-making companies to investigate the adoption of metal AM for mold making, and it has delivered the first prototypes of injection molds with optimized internal cooling channels.

The participating companies are Siebenwurst, Zahoransky, GIRA, Pöppelmann, Harting, and FRAMAS, and they had the chance to implement the technical and economic advantages of AM for their injection molds. The performance of a mold relates to its ability to cool injected parts, and PBF printing can be used to create complex cooling channels, which are then positioned as close as possible to the mold walls and can cool the part’s surface more homogeneously. These companies identified their own case studies for parts traditionally made with conventional machining processes, and AddUp evaluated each one. Then, they were designed for AM, optimized for conformal cooling, and 3D printed on the FormUp 350; post-processing was completed by the WBA or the tooling company itself. Each ready-to-use mold was sampled on the company’s production lines, and comparative data will be provided to the WBA. The results of this first Tooling Study will be published by the WBA during its General Assembly in the 4th quarter of 2023.

3D Printed Slippery Toilet Could Reduce Water Usage

A test of the miniature toilet using dyed honey.

There are several kinds of slippery toilet surfaces, such as Teflon coating, but the more they’re used, the less slippery they become, so either the coating or the toilet must be replaced to remain effective. But a new material developed by researcher Yike Li and his colleagues at China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) could change that, as it made a toilet so slippery that hardly anything could stick to it, even after heavy use and in the face of abrasion. This means that not only could it majorly reduce the amount of water used for flushing, but also that you may never have to clean toilets again! The team used SLS 3D printing, and a mixture of plastic and hydrophobic sand grains, to make a miniature model of a toilet. They lubricated its surface with the environmentally-friendly silicon oil, and tested the toilet by throwing all kinds of substances into it, including milk, yogurt, honey, and synthetic feces. Even after rubbing the toilet with sandpaper more than 1,000 times, the toilet was just as slippery as when they started. If adapted for full-size toilets, and made more cost-effectively, this could be very useful in public bathrooms where toilets get a lot of use.

Li said, “The reduced flushing volume would result in less wasted water during transportation to the processing facilities, thereby saving transportation costs.”

3D Printed Tea House in Japan

Photo by Eiichi Yoshioka.

The potential of digital fabrication in architecture through 3D printed elements, as opposed to full concrete structures, could revolutionize the construction industry, and a great example is the Tsuginote Tea House. This full-scale prototype pavilion, erected at the Kanazawa Shrine in Japan, was developed by architects Kei Atsumi and Nicholas Préaud over three years of research into 3D printing and its application in common-use architecture, specifically ancestral Japanese wood joinery. Using desktop 3D printers, they 3D printed over 900 unique, double-curved pieces out of a wood-based PLA filament, which were then self-assembled by four people in three hours using a patented joint system, rather than glue or metal fittings. By combining 3D printing and wood joinery, their study—supported by JSPS KAKENHI; Grant Number JP21K12561—changed 3D printed architectural production from a structure-oriented system to a module-oriented one. This could enable architects to reduce material and labor costs, as well as lower the environmental impact of construction and make it more accessible, while still creating unique structures. Atsumi and Préaud have filed a patent for the joint system, and plan to continue their research, moving on to larger-scale structural elements.

“On the technical level, this assembly aims to eliminate the weakness inherent in all traditional wood frame structure assemblies in a given linear direction, which operates by locking by stop and friction. The solution that we have developed, and which can be applied to a panel system as well as to a frame, proposes a geometry that cancels this linear weakness while being mountable and dismountable without tools on a single joint system,” they explained.

“The versatility with respect to the construction material used makes it possible to achieve the desired geometry through 3D printing. In this regard, we are now conducting research on the ideal composition of 3D printing filaments made of wood fiber, which is currently considered an industrial waste product.”

YouTuber 3D Prints Plastic Combustion Engine

Camden Bowen, a YouTuber who enjoys “making the right things with the wrong tools,” recently took on a unique challenge: 3D printing a functional combustion engine using mostly plastic. In the past, he completed projects on air-powered pumps, which lay the groundwork for this experiment. His goal was to replicate how traditional piston engines work, from compressing fuel-air mixtures and igniting them to expelling exhaust and bringing in fresh fuel. The result, which he referred to as a “plastic bomb,” was far from perfect, often due to issues related to plastic 3D printing. For instance, the critical components of the engine, like the flywheel and crankshaft, needed a stronger material, like metal, to hold up under the stress, and while there was a good compression ratio and dependable ignition system, the fuel delivery mechanism (a butane lighter at the intake port) was weak. Also, while the engine did emit some pops and bangs, it certainly wasn’t operating consistently.

“Am I disappointed? Eh…You see, one of the biggest problems is, whenever I test stuff like this, if it doesn’t work on the first try, when I’m done after, it’s not a matter of just fixing what didn’t work. I end up having to rebuild half the engine because usually something gets destroyed in the process,” Bowen concluded. “But the thing is though, I still view this engine as a really big success. I mean, in terms of quality, it’s probably my most refined engine yet. Before I essentially destroyed it, you had a lot of really smooth running parts, and everything was super low-tolerance.

“I’m not entirely ready to throw in the towel yet. I think that I will probably return to this again in the future when I have some time set aside for it. But I think for now, I’m fairly satisfied with these results.”

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