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3D Printing News Briefs, June 22, 2024: Depowdering, Helicopter Cockpit, & More

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We’ll take care of business first in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, as one of CORE Industrial Partners’ portfolio companies has made an acquisition. Aectual won an innovation award for its sustainability efforts, and Solukon made some improvements to its SFM-AT350 depowdering system. Finally, ORNL researchers developed 3D printed defect-free tungsten for use in extreme environments, and Murtfeldt AS 3D printed a cockpit for a helicopter simulator.

CORE Portfolio Company PrecisionX Acquires National Manufacturing

Private equity firm CORE Industrial Partners, which specializes in manufacturing, industrial technology, and industrial services, announced that its portfolio company PrecisionX Group has acquired National Manufacturing Co., a provider of specialty deep and shallow drawn stamping. PrecisionX, which provides precision metal components and mechanical assemblies for critical use applications, was formed by the combination of two other CORE acquisitions, GEM Manufacturing, which makes precision deep drawn metal components, and Coining, a specialist in progressive metal stamping, wire EDM and Swiss screw machining of high performance nickel alloys. National serves many end markets, including electronics, aerospace and defense, and medical, in which it has plenty of experience working with implantable devices. Its important ability to work with customer engineering teams during the design phase will help speed up the process of bringing new products to market, and makes it a valuable acquisition for PrecisionX and CORE.

“We believe National is well-positioned at the forefront of the deep and shallow drawn specialty stamping space following decades of providing differentiated technical capabilities and outstanding customer service,” said Matthew Puglisi, Partner at CORE. “We will continue to work to expand our presence in high-growth, technically demanding end markets, including medical and aerospace & defense, through execution of both organic and inorganic growth initiatives.”

Aectual Wins Award for Sustainability & Greentech at VivaTech Paris

At the recent VivaTech Paris event, the LVMH Innovation Awards ceremony was held to celebrate innovation in the luxury industry. Over 1,545 startups from 89 countries in six categories were up for awards this year, and Dutch 3D printing company Aectual won the Sustainability and Greentech award. The aim of this award is to, as Aectual put it, “connect innovative solutions to all Maisons of the group,” and Aectual was chosen as the winner for its exciting circular approach to luxury goods. The additive design firm uses digital tools, including 3D printing, to create unique retail interiors, and other items, from recycled waste. One of its most well-known sustainable projects is a collaboration with Tiffany & Co. to create 3D printed façades out of recycled fishing nets for its storefront at Changi Airport Singapore.

Joining the five other LVMH Innovation Award winners live onstage at the ceremony, Hans Vermeulen, Aectual’s Co-Founder and CEO, accepted the award for the Sustainability & Greentech category from LVMH Founder and CEO Bernard Arnault and LVMH Environmental Development director Hélene Valade. The trophy was designed by Maison DIOR, and will have a special place of honor at Aectual’s new headquarters in Amsterdam, slated to open later this year. In his speech at the awards ceremony, Vermeulen thanked the Aectual team and LVMH, and said he’s “looking forward to create circular impact together with all the LVMH Maisons.”

Solukon Announces Enhancements to SFM-AT350 Depowdering System

For the second time in less than a year, Solukon has announced enhancements to its market-leading SFM-AT350 depowdering system, which you can see for yourself at the upcoming RAPID + TCT. Announced in the fall of 2023, the machine is available in two excitation variants, and now features an adapted arm design, so it can accommodate parts that weigh up to 100 kg, as well as build plates of the flagship EOS M 400 and Nikon SLM 500 3D printers. Except for medical parts, the total weight of LPBF components is increasing, often because parts are usually produced on solid build plates with complex support structures. As such, depowdering needs to grow as well, and now the SFM-AT350-E can handle parts that weigh up to 100 kg, with dimensions of 400 x 400 x 400 mm or 500 x 280 x 400 mm. This is achieved through an adapted arm design, so the chamber volume and associated inert gas consumption don’t change. This also makes the system more compatible, so customers working with larger, complex components can use it.

“Many of our current and potential customers print their medium-sized parts on an M 400 from EOS or a Nikon SLM® 500,” explained Andreas Hartmann, Solukon CEO and CTO. “The upgraded SFM-AT350 is now compatible with both of these printers and therefore covers two more key additive manufacturing systems in this size range.”

You can see the upgraded SFM-AT350-E, with ultrasonic excitation, at Solukon’s booth #2161 at RAPID in Los Angeles, June 25-27. The company will also be exhibiting the SFM-AT1000-S depowdering system with flexible front-top loading for industrial-scale rocket parts.

3D Printed Defect-Free Tungsten for Use in Extreme Temperatures

ORNL researchers used electron-beam additive manufacturing to 3D print the first complex, defect-free tungsten parts with complex geometries. Research was performed at DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. The MDF, supported by DOE’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office, is a nationwide consortium of collaborators working to innovate, inspire and catalyze the transformation of U.S. manufacturing. Credit: Michaela Bluedorn/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Tungsten has the highest melting point of any metal, which makes it the perfect choice for fusion reactors, in which plasma temperatures get higher than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit—far hotter than the center of the sun. In its pure form at room temperature, the metal is brittle and shatters easily. But researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed what they say are the first 3D printed, defect-free tungsten components that can withstand extreme temperatures. Working at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF), the team created an electron beam 3D printer to counter the brittleness of room temperature tungsten. Once the metal powder is deposited, a magnetically directed stream of particles in a high-vacuum enclosure melts and binds the tungsten into a solid object. The vacuum helps to reduce residual stress formation and foreign material contamination. Their work could be very positive for the future of clean energy technologies, like fusion energy.

“Electron-beam additive manufacturing is promising for the processing of complex tungsten geometries. This is an important step for expanding the use of temperature-resistant metals in energy resources that will support a sustainable, carbon-free future,” said ORNL’s Michael Kirka.

Murtfeldt AS & Q.BIG 3D Print Modular Cockpit for Helicopter Simulator

3D cockpit module manufactured at Murtfeldt Additive Solutions. Image courtesy of Q.BIG 3D, Backnang, Germany.

In an interesting use case for 3D extrusion printing of large-volume plastic components, Reiser Simulation and Training commissioned fellow German company Murtfeldt Additive Solutions to make a 3D printed modular cockpit for a full-flight helicopter simulator. The goal of the project was to get around the limitations of conventional manufacturing, such as longer lead times and higher tooling costs, by using Q.BIG 3D‘s Queen 1 printer, which is powered by its variable fused granulate fabrication, or VFGF, technology. Additionally, this mold-free method for oversized components enables the use of commercially available granulate, as opposed to the more expensive filaments used in FDM printing. All the assembly components of the 2,260 x 1,780 x 1,705 mm cockpit were printed on the Queen 1 over the course of a month, and because 3D printing is also good for lightweighting, the whole thing weighs just 200 kg.

The Queen 1 allowed Murtfeldt AS to achieve high surface quality and a very accurate fit of the components, thanks to its build space, active temperature control, and a variable nozzle control system, which automatically adapts to the characteristics of each distinct geometry in a part. For instance, large infill areas on the cockpit’s thick pillars were printed in a fast mode to increase stability while reducing build duration. Using VFGF 3D printing for the cockpit also made it possible to control distortion in the large, complex components, as well as ensuring tight tolerances of gap dimensions, a high-quality surface, and functional integration as a result of the 3D assembly. To print the frame of the cockpit, Murtfeldt AS used Q.mid GF25, a partially aromatic polyamide with 25% glass fiber content with high dimensional stability, stiffness, temperature stability up to 200°C, and great paintability.

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