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3D Printed Production Parts: Meeting Aerospace Demands

Upgrading in the Time of Pandemic

Stratasys, Ltd, a global leader in manufacturing of 3D printers and 3D production systems for office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions, has announced winning one of its largest single orders to date.

Latvia-based AM Craft, the specialist aerospace additive manufacturing service provider, has purchased four large-scale production-grade Stratasys F900 3D Printers to provide certifiable 3D printed parts for a much wider range of aircraft interior applications. This includes everything from aircraft seating, panelling and ducting. This development has enabled Stratasys to make it more affordable for AM Craft to introduce customization within their plane cabins.

AM Craft has been aware of the growing demand for 3D printed production parts among major aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers or OEMs. The pandemic has shaken the aerospace industry in the last months, but efforts are ongoing to return to business. OEMs are using this time to remodel passenger planes for cargo shipments, to increase customer safety measures and improve the inflight customer experience. They are thinking, for example, of providing mobile device charging stations and Wi-Fi infrastructures.

AM Craft has noted Stratasys’ capabilities in highly-repeatable FDM-based 3D printing technology in conjunction with aerospace-grade materials like ULTEM™ 9085 resin. To AM Craft’s advantage, they will be able to meet the strict rules and regulations of certification requiring the highest level of repeatability and traceability with every manufactured part.

This new and latest investment of AM Craft will complement their existing line-up of four Stratasys Fortus F450mc 3D Printers. Together, the eight FDM-based machines will be the core of their new facility in Riga, the capital of Latvia, dedicated to additive manufacturing. The site will focus specifically on fulfilling the application requirements of the company’s customer base of aircraft suppliers and airlines. This will make the company one of the largest independent aerospace-focused 3D printing service providers in the European, Middle Eastern and African region.

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3D Printed Programmable Filaments and Applications

Not Just About Colors

We have been used to single-color fused filament fabrication (FFF) and are excitedly inclined to explore the potential of multi-colored, multi-material printing, typically reserved for higher end binder jet and inkjet technologies. Generally, multi-color printing allows more opportunities, particularly if with add-on hardware. Programmable Filament, a novel technique that enables multi-material printing using a commodity FDM 3D printer, requires no hardware upgrades.

Researchers from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Texas A&M University (working also with researchers from Japan) have developed an interactive system for 3D printing with multiple colors and multiple materials using a single printhead – and without any hardware updates necessary.

Working with existing, inexpensive 3D printers, Programmable Filament splices multiple filament segments into a single thread. At the start, the process prints a new strand of filament made up of different existing filament strands. The filaments are of different colors and used different materials, and are built upon computational analysis and experiments. After splicing, one long spiral is produced.

The new rainbow filament can be used just like standard 3D printing filaments. As it is programmable, it can be adjusted as to thickness, roundness, and more, including how much material is needed and how long the length. Programmable Filament is meant to streamline previous challenges found in dual printing, cutting down on shifting and mixing of colors and materials between segments. Most helpful of all, as the filament has already been pre-processed, all the printer has to do is to fabricate the multifaceted filament.

One application for the programmable filament is customized filament manufacturing on-demand. Specifically in medical and the healthcare fields, in electronics and other industrial productions, programmable filaments may be needed as smart electron emission controllers for hot filament when and where needed.

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Accessibility and Affordability

Like what 3D printing companies say – what makes 3D printing so exciting and watchable? That’s because there’s always advances in new hardware, software, and materials to catch on.

3d-printing

What 3D Printing Is All About: A Beginner’s Guide

3D Printing Industry

3D printing is also known as “additive manufacturing” because every finished 3D printed product (if opened up sliced) is found to have thin layers of the printing material layed one of top of the other. They were added as such from the bottom-up by the extrusion nozzle of a 3D printer. The object is created from a digital file from a 3D model of it. The computer model is sliced into hundreds or thousands of layers and fed to the 3D printer.

What is the benefit of this system?

Traditional manufacturing is the old or usual way of manufacturing products, using, in contrast, subtractive manufacturing – removing parts of a block of material in order to create the desired shape. For example cutting wood or other materials. Additive manufacturing sees to it that even complex shapes can be created much more easily, uses less materials, and reduces time and wastage significantly. Parts and products can be printed on-site, hence, limiting transport needs. One-off items can be printed quickly and easily eliminating the burden of economies of scale. Products can be customized and redesigned as often as needed. 3D printing uses a variety of printing materials that are readily available – such as plastic, metal, powder, concrete, liquid, and others.

3D printing has been used in many applications and has impacted many industries, notably, the automotive industry, medical and healthcare, aerospace and construction. Others are manufacturing, architecture, design, education, entertainment and fashion.

Some of the most common examples that have been 3D printed came from a wide range of applications and many manufacturing settings. These products are airplane and spacecraft parts, car parts and accessories, running sneaker soles, mannequins and apparel, jewelries, body part prosthesis, robotics, furniture, small houses and buildings, as well as boats and bridges.

On the other hand, here are some examples or amazing, unusual and thought-provoking products: bones and muscles, including ovaries, bionic eyes, blood vessel networks, skin grafts, among others. Likewise, there’s food stuff like pizza, pastries and chocolates. Others are artificial coral reefs, replicas of archeological finds, sculptures, and more. Some homes have their own personal 3D printer that can pretty much churn up common, everyday items.

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A Crisis of Short Supply Addressed by 3D Printing

A Call to The Supply Chain Community

Additive manufacturing can impact the end to end global supply chain. For one, on-demand manufacturing rather than traditional manufacturing can keep less physical inventory on-hand. Likewise, manufacturers can make small changes to digital files quickly at no additional charge. This provides more agility in the manufacturing process. Indeed, manufacturing times are improving. 3D printing companies are helping during this time of the pandemic, when supply chains are disrupted and there are shortages of essential medical equipment.

US hospitals have been overwhelmed by the volume of patients and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), like facemasks, gloves, eye protection, and clothing, putting frontliners at high risk. There’s also a shortage of testing swabs, kits, respirators, and ventilators that sometimes lead to rationing life-saving pieces of equipment and possibly re-using masks. Shortage will continue to place an emotional and physical strain on medical workers. The CDC recommends wearing masks, also in short supply, by the general public to slow down the spread, apart from the more important social distancing.

3D Printed Supplies

The 3D printing industry is helping to address these shortages. A few examples of how 3D printing is helping medical supply shortages.

Massachusetts-based Formlabs, a manufacturer of 3D printers, is now using 250 printers in its Ohio factory to manufacture 100,000 nasal swabs for testing each day. NASCAR has put on hold its manufacture of composite parts of stock cars to do PPEs for healthcare workers, running 18 hours a day making face shields to donate to hospitals. Ford is working with GE Healthcare to build air-pressured ventilators, aiming 50,000 units in the next 100 days. Chevrolet is partnering with Ventec Life Systems to build ventilators and produce more than 50,000 face masks per day. Toyota is building face shields and collaborating with medical device companies to speed the manufacturing of ventilators.

A Spanish consortium (Consorci de la Zona Franca (CZFB), HP, Leitat, SEAT, Consorci Sanitari de Terrassa (CST), and the Parc Taulí Hospital, Sabadell) designed the 3D printable respirator that works as an emergency device, aiming between 50 and 100 units on a daily basis. Copper3D has put online an open source file for a 3D-printable N-95 mask.

Supply chain practitioners know the potential for additive manufacturing to print spare parts as needed, rather than having to store parts that are rarely ordered. This pandemic may open more supply chain practitioners to the possibilities of 3D printing.

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Saving Grafted Blood Vessels from Failing: 3D Printing

Artificial Blood Vessels Like Real Ones

Did you know that 450,000 patients in the US per year are treated by surgeons for blood clots, coronary disease, stroke damage and more? They replace the damaged part of a blood vessel with a grafted blood vessel. They follow-up by monitoring with CT scans, ultrasounds and other costly imaging procedures. Still and all, a significant 40-50% of those grafted vessels fail.

Over at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, materials science engineers are developing a new, 3D printed artery graft that is made of a flexible composite. The artificial blood vessel, when implanted, allows real time monitoring, even remotely, so that doctors and patients can track its health or issues it may have.

3D geometry constructed the vessel that can produce electric pulses based on the patient’s pressure fluctuation which can tell the blood pressure with precision in that vessel without any other power source. Doctors can tell if there is an irregular motion due to blockage inside in the very early stages.

This is a long-term project by the team with their interest in new soft, flexible materials that are piezoelectric or able to produce an electric charge from mechanical stress, and biocompatible, meaning it will not be damaged or rejected by the body. They used a combination of materials that are capable of flipping polarity when an electric field is applied. Only a regular 3D printer was used that extruded the material through a strong electric field close to the nozzle to polarize the particles, giving the structure its piezoelectric property. When done, the artificial blood vessel was hooked up to an artificial heart system then simulated high blood pressure, blockages, and other issues that beset blood vessels. Due to the unique material used changes in force and pressure within the artery were easily detected.

So what is next for the team? They want to optimize the production of the new ferroelectric composite and the 3D printing process, find ways to make the printed 3D structure even more sensitive, and collaborate with other researchers to test the artery with even more realistic models of the circulatory system. They foresee using the new material to print artificial heart valves.
This new study was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

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