3D printing – technology, news and products and manufacturing

Materials World magazine
2 Mar 2016

Khai Trung Le looks at the latest news and products in the additive manufacturing industry.

CEO receives 3D printed crown

NextDent B.V., a subsidiary of Vertex-Dental B.V., the Netherlands, has fitted the world’s first 3D printed Micro Filled Hybrid (MFH) crown on a suitable patient – its CEO, Rik Jacobs, to demonstrate the company’s hopes of promoting 3D printing as a future tool of dental technology.

Starting with a 3D printed resin mould of Jacobs’ teeth, through which an implant screw is fitted into his mouth, a replica of his teeth line is printed using the biocompatible MFH, available in a range of colours to aesthetically match existing teeth, before the crown is isolated and smoothed into shape. NextDent claims the process is quicker than regular crown operations and can be performed to greater comfort due to the bespoke nature of moulds and implants.

Daniel Wismeijer, Professor of Oral Implantology and Prosthetic Dentistry at the Academisch Centrum Tandheelkunde Amsterdam, who performed the operation, said, ‘It is amazing how efficient the 3D printing technique is. Normally, patients need to undergo various treatments, but with the use of the 3D digital workflow, this can be reduced significantly.’

Jacobs is confident that additive manufacturing has a role to play in the immediate future of dentistry, noting, ‘Our conviction is supported by a recent publication by SmarTech Markets Publishing, which states that the global dental 3D printing market will expand from US$1 billion to more than US$3 billion over the next five years.’

Johnson & Johnson partners with Carbon 3D

Medical and consumer goods manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has partnered with Carbon3D, USA, to produce custom surgical devices, focusing on the 3D printing company’s Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) technology that ‘grows’ products from a pool of resin instead of being printed. CLIP projects light through an oxygen-permeable window into a pool of UV curable resin, and through controlling the oxygen flux within this window creates what Carbon3D refer to as ‘the dead zone’, a thin later of uncured resin between the window and object that allows shaping the resin without stopping. CLIP is reportedly between 25 to 100 times faster than current leading 3D printing technologies.

There are numerous examples of additive manufacturing supporting medical procedures, many created following CT and MRI scans and used to increase the predictability of a surgical procedure. However, Carbon3D has yet to use a material in CLIP that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in surgery.

Stratasys share price plummets

One of the world’s leading 3D printing manufacturers and production systems companies, Stratasys has experienced a dramatic reduction in value. With market capitalisation just more than US$800 million, the company’s share price is now one-tenth the value it was 18 months ago.

Many attribute Stratasys’ acquisition of MakerBot in 2013, the company’s attempt to break into the 3D printing consumer market, for the rapid decline. MakerBot’s net value has experienced a steep reduction since, and Stratasys appears to have abandoned its plans for consumer 3D printing, with no new products unveiled at CES 2016.

However, with a clean balance sheet – having repaid its credit line in full in Q3 2015 – and annual sales estimated around US$700 million for 2015, an increase of almost 50% from 2013, Stratasys may be a tempting target for acquisition as 3D printing continues to attract attention from multinationals, including Google’s recent US$100 million investment in Carbon3D.

Professor heads new Cambridge 3D printing team

Neil Hopkinson, former University of Sheffield Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will be heading a new 3D printing department at Cambridge-based inkjet specialist Xaar.

Lead inventor of the additive manufacturing process High Speed Sintering (HSS) – using inkjet print heads and infrared heating technology to manufacture products from polymer powder materials – during his tenure at Loughborough University, Professor Hopkinson will be tasked creating a team to support the development of HSS technology within Xaar.

Hopkinson commented, ‘Industrial 3D printing is entering an important phase of maturation and I am excited to be joining Xaar at this critical time. It is clear that inkjet printing will be an important enabling technology as the 3D printing sector scales up to be an integral part of mainstream manufacturing.’

Renishaw explores metal 3D printing

Following the release of two new 3D printing machines in late 2015, Renishaw is seeking to position itself as the only UK company that designs and manufactures metal powder 3D printing machines, according to a report from the Financial Times, following predictions that the metals segment will be worth US$3.9 billion by 2025.

Developed in the company’s Gloucestershire factory, the lineup of Renishaw metal powder 3D printers include the RenAM 500M, the AM 400 and AM 250.  CEO and co-founder Sir David McMurtry said, ‘The potential is enormous. Additive manufacturing is in its infancy, so at the moment what can be done is only a fraction of what will be done. The number of components that we believe we can do far better than any other conventional means is huge.’

Nick James, Research Analyst at Numis Securities, believes 3D printers could make up 5% of Renishaw’s sales in 2016. ‘The drivers of growth aren’t going away. Companies are looking for better efficiencies out of manufacturing, or to make greater products.’

Delcam begins additive manufacturing software research

Identifying metal additive manufacturing as the fastest-growing segment in industrial 3D printing, UK-based CAM/CAD software supplier Delcam, a subsidiary of Autodesk, has acquired an ABB robotic arm outfitted with a Fronius Cold Metal Transfer Advanced welding head in its efforts to research programming of robots for metal additive manufacturing.

The new ABB robot will run on PowerMILL Robot, an interface add-on specifically designed for programming multi-axis robots from Delcam.

The robotic arm is equipped with a Fronius CMT Advanced welding head, capable of joining materials with different properties, specifically steel and aluminium, in a stable, reproducible deposition.

Next month's Spotlight is on testing and inspection

If you would like news or products to be featured in Spotlight, contact Khai Trung Le at +44 20 7451 7327 or email khai.trung_le@iom3.org