3D Printing News Briefs, April 20, 2024: Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium, Blow Molding, & More


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We’re starting with news about a manufacturing consortium in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, as OPEN MIND Technologies has joined the Georgia Tech Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium. Moving on, industrial machining and metal 3D printing service provider Wilting has added three 3D Systems printers to its factory, and Unilever utilized Formlabs solutions to overhaul its plastic bottle production. A collaborative team of researchers developed a 3D printer that can figure out how to print an unknown material on its own. Finally, the Italian track cycling teams hope to take home Olympic gold on their new 3D printed bikes.

OPEN MIND Technologies Joins Georgia Tech Consortium

OPEN MIND and the Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium leadership during a visit to Georgia Tech’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility. (Left to Right) Kyle Saleeby – Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium Research Program Director; Alan Levine – OPEN MIND Managing Director for North America; Prof. Aaron Stebner – GA-AIM and Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium Executive Director.

Germany-based OPEN MIND Technologies, which is a top global developer of optimized hyperMILL CAD/CAM software solutions, joined the membership-based Georgia Tech Manufacturing 4.0 Consortium, which provides workforce development and facilitates collaborations between academia, industry, and government to develop and deploy advanced manufacturing. Projects in the consortium cover a multitude of topics, such as piloting new manufacturing cycles, additive manufacturing-focused technology development, and more. Georgia Tech is one of the top public research universities in the U.S., with more than 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and conducts over $1 billion in research each year for industry, government, and society. Initial consortium members, supported by staff at the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, have contributed technology, skilled resources, and funding. In OPEN MIND’s case, its support allows Georgia Tech students to leverage top CAD/CAM software.

We are very pleased to join the Georgia Tech Consortium which provides a great opportunity to participate in leading research and connect with other members focused on advancing manufacturing,” stated Alan Levine, Managing Director of OPEN MIND Technologies USA. “The Consortium offers a unique opportunity to expand OPEN MIND’s collaboration with Georgia Tech to the full membership and their specialized projects.”

Wilting Adds Three DMP Flex 350 3D Printers from 3D Systems

DMP Flex 350 Dual

Dutch industrial machining and metal 3D printing service provider Wilting, which got its start helping a large semiconductor capital equipment manufacturer produce complex metal parts, has experienced significant growth, and so expanded its production capacity with the addition of three metal printers from 3D Systems. Specifically, the company installed two single-laser DMP Flex 350 printers, and one dual-laser DMP Flex 350 Dual printer, alongside its existing two systems, which allows Wilting to offer a broader materials portfolio for applications, like highly accurate end-use parts out of titanium and stainless steel. Wilting started working with 3D Systems’ Application Innovation Group (AIG) back in 2012 to speed adoption of advanced metal AM capabilities and expertise in its Eindhoven facility, and the company took to it like a fish to water. It now produces optimized components designed for higher performance in semiconductor capital equipment, as well as the analytics and mobility industries, and is moving into a new 183,000 sq. ft. facility.

“We place our customers and their applications at the center of each engagement. 3D Systems pioneered the use of additive manufacturing to deliver precise, reliable parts for semiconductor applications. In the early days of our relationship with Wilting, it was rewarding to share the application expertise our AIG had built from more than a decade working with semiconductor capital equipment manufacturers to scale their use of additive manufacturing. As an industry leader, the team at Wilting quickly realized AM’s advantages,” said Raph Alink, account & business development manager, 3D Systems. “It’s a big step for a company to bring AM in-house, and Wilting has already mastered the technology and is now transferring that into volume production for its customers. I look forward to seeing how our collaboration will continue to unfold, and the potential that AM will unlock for Wilting and its growth.”

Unilever Overhauled Plastic Bottle Production with Formlabs’ 3D Printing

Bottles produced with a 3D printed tool are nearly indistinguishable from the final product produced through traditional metal tooling processes. From left to right: a bottle produced with the 3D printed mold, a bottle produced with a metal mold, and a labeled prototype bottle for customer testing.

Unilever is one of the world’s largest fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, and the industry is very competitive, so brands are constantly adapting their product strategy. Packaging is a big area of innovation, and brands have to consider the safety, material usage, aesthetic appeal, and sustainability for many packaging types. Plastic products like cosmetic packaging and food and beverage containers are typically produced with blow molding, a traditional rapid mass production method for high-quality, thin-walled parts. Serioplast Global Services is one of Unilever’s partners for creating packaging for home and personal care goods, and made prototype mockups using direct 3D printing or blow molding, but these were not reliable enough or had too long a lead time, respectively.

They turned to Formlabs and its compact Form 3L stereolithography (SLA) printer, which offers high precision, smooth surface finish, and the ability to print large-scale molds and parts. Unilever and Serioplast worked with the company’s engineers to find a material that could hold up under the internal pressure and temperature of stretch blow molding (SBM), while still keeping high stability and good dimensional accuracy. They chose glass-filled Rigid 10K Resin, which combines stiffness, strength, and thermal resistance, and created molds for new bottle designs in just two days. These molds allow operators to pilot-test multiple designs at once, and offer such high quality that they can also be used for consumer testing and line filling; plus, they validate the SBM process. By using Formlabs’ technology, Unilever and Serioplast ultimately reduced lead times by up to 70% and tooling costs up to 90% compared to traditional molds, so they can get better products to market faster and for less money.

MIT Printer Identifies Unknown Material Parameters On Its Own

Researchers developed a 3D printer that can automatically identify the parameters of an unknown material on its own. Image credit: MIT

More sustainable materials than plastic are emerging all the time, but to print new ones from scratch, users have to adjust up to 100 parameters based on their composition, while mass-produced polymers already have established parameters. A collaborative research team from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Center for Scientific Research in Greece (Demokritos) took on this problem by creating a 3D printer that automatically identifies the parameters of an unknown material on its own. Specifically, they added three instruments to the printer’s extruder so it’s able to measure the forces and flow of a material. The data is gathered over 20 minutes and then fed into a mathematical function used to automatically generate material-specific printing parameters, which can then be used in off-the-shelf 3D printing software. Their work, published in a paper, could help reduce the environmental impact of 3D printing

Senior author Neil Gershenfeld, who leads CBA, said, “In this paper, we demonstrate a method that can take all these interesting materials that are bio-based and made from various sustainable sources and show that the printer can figure out by itself how to print those materials. The goal is to make 3D printing more sustainable.”

Italian Track Cycling Teams Head to Olympics with 3D Printed Bikes

The 2024 Summer Olympics will be held in Paris July 26-August 11, and the men’s and women’s Italian track cycling teams are hoping to pedal their way to victory on two new incarnations of the Hour Record-winning Bolide F HR track bike, which bicycle manufacturer Pinarello says is the first and fastest high-performance, 3D printed bike ever produced. It was initially created for cyclist Filippo Ganna’s successful Hour Record attempt in 2022, and the reigning Olympic champion men’s endurance racing team received 3D printed versions of the Bolide F HR, called the Bolide F HR 3D. The women’s endurance team will compete on the Bolide HR C, a custom carbon model.

Pinarello has been using 3D technologies for its bicycles since 2015, with numerous hours spent developing the design of the Bolide F HR 3D. Each frame uses just five parts, and there are three standard frame sizes. Scalmalloy was used to print the men’s bike because its properties enable it to excel under the increased speed and forces of the cyclists, while the more lightweight carbon Bolide F HR C model helps the women get up to speed as fast as possible. The new models share the same dimensions and geometries as the original Bolide F HR, along with other key features like AirStream technology, narrow forks and seat stays to reduce the weight of the frame, and AirFoil sections to reduce the bike’s frontal area. Also, after several rounds of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing, handlebar geometry for the Bolide F HR 3D and Bolide HR C was optimized to minimize drag. Both models are UCI-approved and available for the general public, and other Olympic teams, to purchase.

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