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Materialise Adds Ansys Simulation, Carbon Fiber Reinforcement and More to 3D Printing

Metal AM Markets
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3D printing software and service company Materialise (Nasdaq: MTLS) has unveiled a new holistic process quality system for its collaborative additive manufacturing (CO-AM) platform ahead of Formnext 2023 in Frankfurt. This system aims to revolutionize quality and process control in certified manufacturing, offering users in-depth analysis by correlating data across all stages of production. As a part of this news, Materialise has announced partnerships with DigiFabster, Reinforce3D, and Ansys.

CO-AM Quality & Process Control

CO-AM Quality & Process Control (QPC) is designed to enhance additive manufacturing (AM) by providing a comprehensive quality and process control for certified production. The QPC system enables the collection, monitoring, analysis, and correlation of critical data throughout the different stages of product development, including research, validation, and actual production. It integrates data from a variety of AM sources, such as 3D models, materials, process parameters, and quality inspections, to give manufacturers a detailed view of their production processes and their interrelated aspects.

The QPC suite has evolved with the introduction of the QPC Layer Analysis module, which allows for the examination of layer data and its correlation with CT scans. The newer QPC Process Lab module encourages team collaboration by centralizing data, thereby speeding up product development and enhancing process validation.

All these functionalities are encapsulated within Materialise’s CO-AM software platform, which offers a wide array of tools for the planning, management, and optimization of 3D printing processes. CO-AM integrates solutions from Materialise as well as other partners to address aspects like design automation, mass customization, and post-processing, thereby streamlining the management of diverse AM technologies on a single platform.

3D Printing eCommerce Portal

In a significant move to enhance the user experience and streamline the manufacturing process, Materialise has partnered with DigiFabster. The integration of DigiFabster’s e-commerce and automated quoting solutions into Materialise’s CO-AM platform is meant to offer a more efficient, customer-centric approach, providing 24/7 responsiveness and faster order processing.

DigiFabster’s platform, which will be assimilated into Materialise’s offering, uses machine learning to expedite the quoting process, making it possible for customers to receive quotes at any time. This modernization of the ordering system is designed to streamline order management and provide real-time updates, ultimately saving time and reducing costs for manufacturers. The collaboration focuses on improving the speed and reliability of manufacturing services, which are critical factors for customer satisfaction and business success.

Ansys Simulation for 3D Printing

Further strengthening its software capabilities, Materialise has entered into a strategic partnership with simulation software giant Ansys. This collaboration aims to integrate simulation technology within Materialise’s Magics software, offering users a unified workflow that enhances efficiency and reduces the need for specialized engineering knowledge.

The collaboration between Ansys and Materialise underscores the importance of integrated digital solutions to address the complex challenges within the additive manufacturing workflow. The seamless integration of Ansys Additive Suite into Magics aims to streamline the process from build and data preparation to simulation, facilitating a more cohesive and efficient workflow. This integration is poised to drive innovation across industries, including medical and aerospace, by enabling a faster time-to-market and more precise distortion compensation.

The Ansys Additive Suite is a comprehensive simulation platform designed to enhance additive manufacturing workflows from start to finish. It provides users with the tools required to design, optimize, simulate, and analyze 3D printed parts. The suite includes various modules, such as Additive Print, Prep, and Science tools, and can be used as an add-on to Ansys Mechanical Enterprise licenses.

Key features of the suite include:

  • Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM), enabling users to create optimized structures with the required durability and minimum material usage.
  • Process simulations for different additive manufacturing methods, including Powder Bed Fusion, Directed Energy Deposition, and Metal Sintering.
  • Predictive tools for analyzing and preventing build failures, compensating for distortions, and predicting melt pool behavior, porosity, and microstructures in the printed parts.
  • Structural and thermal analysis capabilities for validating the performance of designs under various load conditions.

Essentially, all that’s missing from both CO-AM and the Ansys Additive Suite is an autocorrect tool, which leads one to wonder if 1000 Kelvin will add its AMAIZE software to CO-AM or the Additive Suite. After all, the Berlin-Los Angeles startup just announced the full commercialization of its artificial intelligence-driven software, including integration with EOS and Nikon SLM Solutions. If it works as promised, AMAIZE could significantly complement these other tools by allowing for first-time-right 3D printing.

Continuous Fiber Injection Process

Adding to its manufacturing capabilities, Materialise has adopted Continuous Fiber Injection Process (CFIP) from Reinforce3D, enabling them to produce parts with superior strength and lightness. CFIP is an innovative post-processing technology that enhances the mechanical strength and lightness of 3D printed parts by infusing them with continuous fibers such as carbon fibers. This technology is unique because it reinforces the parts post-production, rather than during the printing process. It involves injecting continuous fibers along with a liquid resin into hollow channels within the part. After injection, the part undergoes a curing process, solidifying the resin and bonding the fibers to the part’s structure.

Key benefits of CFIP include the ability to direct fiber placement in complex patterns and trajectories, compatibility with a range of additive manufacturing materials (plastics, metals, ceramics), and the capacity to create strong integral joints by connecting separate parts with continuous fiber links. This technology is also adaptable for constructing large-scale, multi-material structures.

The update to CO-AM comes at a significant time for Materialise, as the Belgian software and service leader replaces its beloved CEO. Fried Vancrean announced his retirement after a 33-year tenure. Starting January 1st, he will transition to Chairman of the Board, and Brigitte de Vet-Veithen, who has been with Materialise since 2016 and leads Materialise Medical, will take over as CEO.

Materialise’s Q3 2023 earnings report reflects a positive financial trajectory, with increases in revenue, EBITDA, net profit, and investor optimism. Despite challenges in the manufacturing segment due to a slowdown in prototyping markets, the medical segment experienced substantial growth, underscoring de Vet-Veithen’s impact. The company’s strong financial position, with significant cash reserves and a solid net cash position, makes it a stable stalwart in AM. As CO-AM continues to build, it may just bring that same stability to the rest of the 3D printing industry.

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