Bound Metal Firm AIM3D Relaunched with Replique and Create It Real as Partners

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AIM3D has developed a series of machines capable of producing metal, polymer, and ceramic parts. Using its Voxelfill technique, which enhances Z-strength, the company also uses pellets, making its process low-cost. In addition to being a cost-effective way to make polymer parts, polymer and metal composite pellets can be heated post-print job in a second machine. The polymer melts away, leaving the metal or ceramic, which can then be turned into a part.

AIM3D was funded by the HZG Group and started in 2017. While the technology has always been interesting, adoption has been slow.

Parts 3D printed with AIM3D's pellet extruder.

The company ran out of money but has now been restarted. As part of this, it will cooperate with MRO platform Replique to print ULTEM 9085. PEI 9085 is extensively used in aerospace and industrial applications. The amorphous material has high temperature resistance, is flame retardant, and has good strength and chemical resistance. Although expensive, it meets many requirements for manufacturing components for industrial and aerospace applications. ULTEM 9085, a SABIC material, has been certified for use in trains, buses, and some aircraft components. AON3D sent a part made of ULTEM 9085 to space, and companies like Stratasys, Lamborghini, and others also use the material. In the defense industry and certain under-the-hood automotive applications, the material is also utilized.

However, for serial production, printing needs to be improved, and material costs need to be decreased. If AIM3D can achieve this, it can move into producing high-value components with Replique. The company claims that its extruder design can lead to better repeatability and surface quality over time. AIM3D cites high energy costs and a lack of Capex spending as reasons for its previous financial difficulties.

 “In this difficult market environment, it was not possible for us to stick to our initial development goals. This resulted in a reorganization of the shareholder structure and new strategic partnerships. During the restructuring phase, we continued to meet our customers’ needs and proceeded with the further development of our granulate printing technology. We now believe more than ever in our CEM technology and the established team at AIM3D. 3D pellet printers offer the unique option of mapping the properties of conventionally manufactured parts in a very cost-effective manner with an additive manufacturing strategy,” AIM3D CEO Vincent Morrison started.

“In the run-up to the relaunch of AIM3D, we continued to pursue our development goals for 3D pellet printing: Improving cost efficiency, strengthening material independence, higher quality, component load capacity, reproducibility and process stability,” CTO Clemens Lieberwirth added.

¨The use of a 3D pellet printer will not only make existing applications more cost-effective in the future. In fact, we will see new 3D applications of ULTEM 9085, which were not economically feasible in the past. New horizons are opening up, especially in the aerospace sector,” Replique CEO Max Siebert said.

A part 3D printed using AIM3D’s PPS 40 material. Image courtesy of AIM3D.

Previously, Replique collaborated with AIM3D on a panel for Alstom. It seems likely that the big application they’re alluding to is cabin interior monuments and other cabin dividers. These elements, along with large panels used for galleys and toilets, have long been staid and boring. However, lighter weight and more versatile large interior elements have been on the wish lists of airlines for a long time.

Another cooperation agreement with Danish firm Create it Real will hopefully lead to the optimization of part properties through better software. This will improve slicing in the company’s slicing software, SlicEx, which it white labels from Create it Real. The company is hopeful it can enhance properties while printing at 150 cm³/h and believes a single machine could produce one to four tonnes of parts. I’m glad that AIM3D got a management buyout and a new chance to commercialize its technology.

Repeatable industrial-scale pellet technologies have the potential to significantly reduce the costs of building polymer objects with additive manufacturing. No one has yet really cracked the right balance in cost, print productivity, final results, and post-processing time to tackle true production. However, in boats, trains, specialty vehicles, and aircraft, such applications are numerous. If AIM3D focuses on large-scale production of 9085, the company could very well find itself with a high-value future.

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