Press Release: New 3D Printing Support Cleaning Apparatus Features Large Capacity for Stratasys FDM Systems

PADT-Press-Release-IconBuilding on the worldwide success of previous products in the family, PADT has just released the new SCA 3600, a large capacity cleaning system for removing the support material from Stratasys FDM parts.  This new system adds capacity and capability over the existing benchtop SCA-1200HT System.

A copy of the press release is below.
At the same time, we are also launching a new website for support removal: www.padtinc.com/supportremoval.

The SCA 3600 can dissolve support from all the SST-compatible materials you use – ABS, PC, and nylon. A “no heat” option provides agitation at room temperature for the removal of Polyjet SUP706 material as well. The SCA 3600’s versatility and efficient cleaning performance are built on the success of earlier models with all the features you have come to expect, in a larger and more capable model.sca_3600-3pics

Since the launch of the original SCA-1200 in 2008, PADT has successfully manufactured and supported the SCA family of products for users worldwide. Common requests from desktop SCA users were for a larger system for bigger parts, the ability to clean many parts at the same time, and the option to remove supports from PolyJet parts. The SCA 3600 is the answer: Faster, larger, and more capable.

sca-logo3-web7SCA 3600 Key Features are:

  • Removes soluble support from ABS, PC, and nylon 3D printed FDM parts
  • Removes soluble support from PolyJet 3D Printed parts
  • User-selectable temperature presets at 50, 60, 70, and 85°C and “No Heat” for PolyJet
  • User-controlled timer
  • Uses cleaning solutions from Stratasys
  • Unique spray nozzle optimizes flow coverage
  • 230 VAC +/- 10%, 15A
  • Whisper-quiet operation
  • Includes rolling cart for easy movement, filling, and draining.
  • Capacity: 27 gal / 102 L
  • Size: 42.8″ x 22.8″ x 36.5″/ 1,086 x 578 x 927 mm
  • 16” x 16” x 14” / 406 x 406 x 356 mm removable large parts basket
  • Integral hinged lid and small part basket
  • Stainless steel tub and basket
  • Over temperature and water level alarms
  • Automatic halt of operation with alarms
  • Field replaceable sub-assemblies
  • Regulatory Compliance: CE/cTUVus/RoHS/WEEE

You can download our new brochure for both systems:

SCA 3600 Spec Sheet

SCA-1200HT Spec Sheet

If you are interested in learning more or adding an SCA 3600 to your additive manufacturing lab, contact your Stratasys reseller.

Official copies of the press release can be found in HTML and PDF.

Press Release:

New 3D Printing Support Cleaning Apparatus Features Large Capacity for Stratasys FDM Systems

Offered Worldwide, the SCA 3600 is Big Enough to Handle Large 3D Printed Parts, Effortlessly Dissolving Support Material

TEMPE, Ariz., November 17, 2016 – Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT), the Southwest’s largest provider of simulation, product development, and rapid prototyping services and products, today introduced its new SCA3600 3D Printing Support  Cleaning Apparatus (SCA). The systems are sold exclusively by Stratasys, Ltd. (SSYS) for use with its FORTUS line of 3D Printers. The hands-free support removal technology is a huge advantage to people who use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) systems for their 3D Printing.

“With more than 10,000 of our benchtop SCA units in the field, we gathered a wealth of knowledge on performance and reliability,” said Rey Chu, Co-owner and Principal of PADT. “We used that information to design and manufacture a system that cleans larger parts, or multiple small parts, while keeping the speed, easy maintenance and great user experience of the benchtop system.”

A powerful upgrade over PADT’s successful SCA-1200HT and SCA-1200 support removal products that have been in use around the world since 2008, the SCA 3600 features a simpler, more user-friendly design. The new versatile SCA offers temperature choices of 50, 60, 70 and 80 degrees Celsius, as well as no-heat, that readily cleans supports from all SST compatible materials – ABS, PC and Nylon. The SCA 3600 also features a large 16” x 16” x 14” parts basket, 3400 watts of heating for faster warm-up and a wheeled cart design for mobility.

The advantages of the system were highlighted by Sanja Wallace, Sr. Director of Product Marketing and Management at Stratasys, Ltd. when she commented, “the addition of the SCA 3600 as an accessory to our very successful FORTUS systems simplifies the support removal process with increased speed and capacity for multiple large parts.”

Once parts are printed, users simply remove them from their Stratasys FDM system, place them in the SCA 3600, set a cleaning cycle time and temperature, and then walk away.  The device gently agitates the 3D printed parts in the heated cleaning solution, effortlessly dissolving away all of the support material. This process is more efficient and user friendly than those of other additive manufacturing systems using messy powders or support material that must be manually removed.

More information on the systems available at www.padtinc.com/supportremoval. Those interested in acquiring an SCA 3600 should contact their local Stratasys reseller.

About Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies

Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT) is an engineering product and services company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and Rapid Prototyping solutions. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.” With over 80 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, and from offices in Torrance, California, Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Murray, Utah, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at http://www.PADTINC.com.

###

Media Contact
Alec Robertson
TechTHiNQ on behalf of PADT
585-281-6399
alec.robertson@techthinq.com
PADT Contact
Eric Miller
PADT, Inc.
Principal & Co-Owner
480.813.4884
eric.miller@padtinc.com

 

Students 3D Print and Assemble Prosthetic Hands for School Project

hand1What do you get when you combine a motivated student leader, enthusiastic classmates, a worldwide online community, and the latest 3D Printing technology from Stratasys? You give children around the world a cool way to hold things again.  That is what happened when high school student Rahul Jayaraman of Basis Chandler decided to take part in a project called Enabling The Future. They describe themselves as “A global network of passionate volunteers using 3D Printing to give the world a ‘helping hand'” by designing a wide variety of prosthetic hands for kids that can be printed and assembled by volunteers.

Local news station, KSAZ FOX 10 Phoenix stopped by PADT while we were printing three hands in our Stratasys FORTUS 450 to interview Rahul and talk to us about the project.  It gives a great summary:

And Channel 3, KTVK, came to the assembly event at Basis Chandler:>

azfamily.com 3TV | Phoenix Breaking News, Weather, Sport

 

As did Channel 12, KPNX:

3D Printing is a fantastic technology for one simple reason, it enables almost anyone to manufacture parts. All you need is a good design. And that is where the people at Enabling the Future come in.  Check out their website to see some great examples of how their volunteer work changes so many lives. Have a box of tissue handy if you watch the videos…

This is how the project works.  A leader like Rahul takes the initiative to sign up for the project. He then chooses which of the many designs he wants to make.  For this first go around, he picked a general design from Thingiverse called the Raptor Reloaded.  Next they needed the hardware you could not 3D Print – screws springs, velcro, and bits and pieces that hold the design together.  For this they needed to raise $25 per hand so Rahul was given the opportunity to learn how to raise money, a very useful skill.

hand2PADT’s Dhruv Bhate and the rest of our 3D Printing team worked with Rahul to get the design just right and then 3D Print the hands.  That will be done this week and this weekend the next phase will take place. Rahul and a large number of his classmates from Basis Chandler will get together at the school this weekend to put thirty or so hands together.  They will then box them up and another volunteer group, www.HandChallenge.com, will ship them to kids in the developing world that need them.

Here is a video from Tom Fergus from Fox10 showing a closeup of the hand in action:

We at PADT love projects like this because it is win-win-win.  The students get a chance to run a complicated project by themselves, learning the skills they will need later in life to organize, manage, and finish a project. PADT wins because we can contribute to our chosen area of charity, STEM education, in a way that benefits others beyond a given school. And the big winners are the kids around the world that receive a new and cool way to grab hold of life.

We will have sample hands at our open house next Thursday: Nerdtoberfest as well as an update when we get feedback from the distribution of the hands.

On the Biocompatibility of PolyJet MED610

Is PolyJet MED610 truly biocompatible? And what does that mean anyway?

IMG_0144
Figure 1. Our PolyJet Eden 260V dedicated to running MED610

A couple of months ago, our product development team contacted me to see if I could 3D print them a small bio-compatible masking device that was needed for temporary attachment to an invasive device prior to insertion for surgery. That led me to investigate all the different bio-compatible materials we did have access to at PADT on our FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and PolyJet machines. Given the tiny size and high detail required in the part, I decided to opt for PolyJet, which does offer the MED610 material that is claimed to be biocompatible. As it so happens, we have an Objet Eden 260V PolyJet machine that has been dedicated to running MED610 exclusively since it’s installation a year ago.

We printed the mask, followed all the post-processing instructions per supplier recommendations (more on that later) and delivered the parts for further testing. And that is when I asked myself the questions at the top of this post.

I set off on a quest to see what I could find. My first stop was the RAPID conference in (May 2016), where the supplier (Stratasys Inc.) had a well-staffed booth – but no one there knew much about MED610 apart from the fact that some orthodontists were using it. I did pick up one interesting insight: one of the engineers there hypothesized that MED610 was not very popular because it was cost-prohibitive since its proper use required machine dedication. I then went to the Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (a service bureau owned by Stratasys) booth, but it turned out they don’t even offer MED610 as a material option for service jobs – presumably because of the low demand for this material, consistent with our own observations.

So I took a step back and began searching for all I could find in the public domain on MED610 – and while it wasn’t much, here is the summary of my findings that I hope help anyone interested in this. I categorize it in three sources of information: claims made by the supplier, published work on in vitro studies and finally, some in vivo animal trials. But first, we must ask…

What does it mean for a Material to be Biocompatible?

A definition by Williams (The Williams Dictionary of Biomaterials, 1999) is in order: “Biocompatibility is the ability of a material to perform with an appropriate host response in a specific application.” So if PolyJet MED610 is to be called biocompatible, we must ask – what application do we have in mind? Fortunately, the supplier has a recommendation.

IMG_0152
Figure 2. PolyJet MED610 printed “Hydrogel Hand Bone Scaffolds” [Design Attribution: dotmatrix, Published on December 11, 2015, www.thingiverse.com/thing:1193425]

Supplier Claims

MED610 was launched by Objet in 2011 (Objet was acquired by Stratasys in 2012) as a biocompatible material, ideal for “applications requiring prolonged skin contact of more than 30 days and short-term mucosal-membrane contact of up to 24 hours“. Stratasys claims that parts printed according to Objet MED610 Use and Maintenance Terms were evaluated for biocompatibility in accordance with standard “DIN EN ISO 10993-1: 2009, Biological Evaluation of Medical Devices-Part 1: Evaluation and testing within a risk management process. This addresses cytotoxicity, genotoxicity, delayed hypersensitivity, and USP plastic Class VI, which includes the test for irritation, acute systemic toxicity and implantation”. Unfortunately, the actual data from the biocompatibility study conducted by Objet have not been made publicly available.

It is important to remember that Stratasys publishes a “Use and Maintenance Terms” document that details the steps needed not just to clean the part after printing, but also on the proper setup of the machine for ensuring best chances of meeting biocompatibility requirements. These are published online at this link and include a 3 hour soak in a 1-percent NaOH solution, a 30 min soak in IPA and multiple water jet rinses, among other steps. In other words, the claimed biocompatibility of MED610 is only valid if these instructions are followed.  These steps are primarily driven by the need to completely remove supports and any support-residue, but it is not clear if this is needed if a part can be printed without supports. Given such strong process dependencies, it is only to be expected that Stratasys provide a disclaimer at the end of the document clarifying that the users of their machines are responsible for independently validating biocompatibility of any device they make with MED610.

The next question is: have there been any relevant published, independent studies that have used MED610? In my search, I could only find two instances, which I discuss below.

Primary Human Cells Response (In Vitro)

In a recent (January 2016) study published in the Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, Schmelzer et al. studied the response of primary human cells to four 3D printed materials in vitro: ABS, PC, PLA and MED610 – the only such study I could find. All samples instead went through a 100% ethanol brief rinse and were washed 5 times with de-mineralized water – this seems like a less stringent process than what the supplier recommends (3 hour 1-percent NaOH solution soak, 30 minutes IPA soak and 10 times waterjet blasting) but was designed to be identical across all the materials tested.

There were some very interesting findings:

  • Different cells had different responses:
    • MED610 had the most negative impact on cell viability for keratinocytes (epidermal cells that produce keratin) – and the only material that showed statistically significant difference from the control.
    • For bone marrow mesenchymal (stem) cells, a different effect was observed: direct culture on ABS and PC showed significant growth (7X compared to control) but MED610 and PLA showed no significant effect
  • Surface Roughness influences cell attachment and proliferation:
    • In agreement with other work, the authors showed that while rougher surfaces promote initial cell attachment, subsequent cell proliferation and overall cell numbers are higher on smoother surfaces. The MED610 samples had rougher surfaces than the FDM samples (possibly due to the use of the “matte” finish option) and could be one of the contributors to the observed negative effects on cell viability, along with the leached contents from the specimen.

Glaucoma Drainage Device (In Vivo, Rabbit studies)

A group of Australian researchers published a 2015 paper where they designed and used PolyJet MED610 to manufacture a Glaucoma Drainage Device (GDD). They selected PolyJet because of its ability to resolve very fine details that they needed for the device. Importantly, the purpose of this study was to assess the effect of different design parameters on the effectiveness of the device (relieving intraocular pressure). The device was implanted into rabbit eyeballs where it remained for up to 4 weeks.

The devices were printed on a Connex 350 PolyJet machine, after which the supports were removed from the devices with a water jet and “were repeatedly washed and inspected for consistency and integrity.” Tubes were attached with Silicone adhesive and the entire assembly was then “washed and sterilized with a hospital-grade hydrogen peroxide system before use”. The researchers did not examine the cellular and extracellular reactions in great detail, but did conclude that the reactions were similar between the MED610 device and the more standard polypropylene injection-molded device.

A short video recorded by some of the researchers as part of a Bioprinting course also provides some details into the 3D printing aspects of the work done.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, the question I posed at the start of this post (Is PolyJet MED610 truly biocompatible?) is too simplistic. A process and a material together are not sufficient – there are procedures that need to be defined and controlled and further and more importantly, biocompatibility itself has to be viewed in the context of the application and the specific toxicity and interaction demands of that application. And that brings us to our key takeaways:

  • MED610 is only recommended at best for applications requiring prolonged skin contact of more than 30 days and short-term mucosal-membrane contact of up to 24 hours and there is no data to dispute the suppliers claim that it is biocompatible in this context once all recommended procedures are implemented
  • The work done by Australian researchers in using PolyJet MED610 for devoloping their Glaucoma Drainage Device in animal trials is perhaps the best example of how  this material and the technology can be pushed further for evaluating designs and hypothesis in vivo when really fine features are needed. Stratasys’s FDM PC-ISO or ABS M30i materials, or other FDM extrusion capable materials like PLA, PCL and PLGA may be better options when the resolution allows – but this is a topic for a follow-on blog post.
  • More in vitro work needs to be done to extend the work done by Schmelzer et al., which suggests that MED610 potentially has leachables that do impact cell viability negatively. Specifically, effects of surface finish (“matte” vs “gloss”) and sterilization on cell viability is a worthwhile follow-on step. In the interim, MED610 is expected to perform well for mucosal membrane contact under 24 hours (and why this is a great technology for dental guides and other temporary in-mouth placement).

If you have any thoughts on this matter or would like to collaborate with us and take advantage of our access to a PolyJet printer that is dedicated to MED610 or other bio-compatible FDM materials, as well as our extensive post-processing and design & analysis facilities, please connect with me on LinkedIn or send us a note at info@padtinc.com and cite this blog post.

Thanks for reading!

References

  1. Stratasys Bio-compatible Materials Page: http://www.stratasys.com/materials/polyjet/bio-compatible
  2. PolyJet MED610 Data Sheets: http://www.stratasys.com/materials/material-safety-data-sheets/polyjet/dental-and-bio-compatible-materials
  3. Schmelzer, E., Over, P., Gridelli, B., & Gerlach, J. (2016). Response of Primary Human Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stromal Cells and Dermal Keratinocytes to Thermal Printer Materials In Vitro. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 36, 153-167.
  4. Ross C, Pandav S, Li Y, et al. Determination of Bleb Capsule Porosity With an Experimental Glaucoma Drainage Device and Measurement System. JAMA Ophthalmol.2015;133(5):549-554. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.30.
  5. Glaucoma case study in online course on Bioprinting, University of Woolongong, Future Learn, https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/bioprinting/3/steps/87168

Full Color 3D Printer Road Show: J750 Wows in Scottsdale, Including Local TV Coverage

Stratasys-J750-Road-Show-partsOur loop around the Southwest with the new Stratasys J750 Full Color 3D Printer finished strong with a well attended gathering at ASU’s Skysong in Scottsdale.  The event was so popular, Channel 10 did a story on it. Over 130 people signed up to learn more about this fantastic device, get caught up on latest industry trends, and talk with other users of Additive Manufacturing.

Stratasys-J750-Road-Show-lectureThis event had a great mix of users from multiple industries as well as students and people wanting to just learn more about the technology.

The presentations were a big hit from every seminar, and Dhruv’s was especially popular in Arizona.  You can download the presentations here:

Eric Miller’s Presentation on Design for 3D Printing:
PADT-Design-for-3DPrinting-2016_07_29-1

Dhruv Bhate’s Overview of Additive Manufacturing:
PADT-Introduction-to-Additive-Manufacturing-2016_07_29-1

James Barker and Mario Vargas’s Introduction of the Stratasys J750:
PADT-Introduction-Stratasys-J750-2016_07_29-1

Stratasys-J750-Road-Show-group

During the breaks and after the presentations, we had a chance to interact one-on-one with customers, show off parts, and answer questions.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 480.813.4884 or info@padtinc.com.

Lastly, we were visited by local TV channel 10, KSAZ who did a short but really informative segment on the show and the Stratasys J750:

Full Color 3D Printer Road Show: Salt Lake City Event Focuses on Real World Applications

slc-i4The second stop on our trip around the Southwest for Stratasys’ new J750 Full Color 3D Printer was in fantastic downtown Salt Lake City. This device is reinventing 3D printing, and we are showing it off in person so people can see it up close along with holding incredible parts it makes in their hands.

Next stop if Phoenix – sign up here!

The 3D Printing community in Utah is very mature and the attendees were mostly very experienced users of many different additive manufacturing technologies.  So we focused on real world applications for the J750 as well as other Stratasys systems.

slc-i1
slc-i2We were fortunate enought to have a customer, Ultradent, present the fantastic ways that they use their FDM and Polyjet printers to make prototypes, tooling, and production parts. slc-i3

As is usual in this type of an event, the discussion between and after presentations are the best part.  People from Aerospace, sporting goods, medical devices, and consumer products swapped stories, suggestions, and tips.

It was also a family affair. with Jame Barker’s latest family addition was in attendence to help spread the word on the value of 3D Printing with Stratasys solutions:slc-baby-1Beyond the little guy, the other hit of the afternoon was the J750.  As seasoned additive manufacturing profesionals they see the incredible leap forward this machine represents – truly reinventing 3D Printing and opening up a huge range of oportunities.

Full Color 3D Printer Road Show: First Stop a Success Including Radio Broadcast

ICOSA_07169Denver was the first stop on a trip around the Southwest for Stratasys’ new J750 Full Color 3D Printer.  We are showing this machine that is reinventing 3D printing off in person so people can see the device up close and hold the incredible parts it makes in their hands.

You can still sign up for the Salt Lake City or Phoenix events.

ICOSA_70965The Denver event was hosted by St. Patrick’s Brewery in Littleton, right down the street from PADT’s Colorado Office. Several customers and PADT employees gave talks on how to better use 3D Printing, including a presentation from Mario Vargas on the new Stratasys J750.

On top of all of that, local radio station KDMT, Denver’s Money Talk 1690, did a live broadcast from the event.  You can listen in here. Again, PADT employees and customers talked about 3D Printing as well as the new Stratasys J750.

ICOSA_30368We also made the local paper, check that out here.

Be One of the First to Witness 3D Printing Reinvented

 

stratasys-j750-color-3d-printer-head

According to some, the novelty of 3D printing has been wearing off — its mentioned in daily conversations, used on Grey’s Anatomy episodes, incorporated in high school and college classes. Most iPhone-wielding millennials know what it is and how it works. It’s not a “new thing” anymore, right?

Wrong.

Coming to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Phoenix — Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies (PADT) invites you to be one of the first to meet the Stratasys J750 3D Printer: the latest introduction in the portfolio of PolyJet 3D Printers. The Stratasys J750 is the first-ever full-color, multi-material system, which finally addresses the frustration of designers who want realistic models but have to contend with inconsistent color results and rough finishes from current technology.

Ready to register now? Click here and jump right to it! Or keep reading . . .

Unlike other 3D printers currently in existence, the Stratasys J750 can operate with five different colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white — all of the primary colors in the CMYK color process, just like day-to-day 2D full-color printers. The Stratasys J750 also achieves very fine layer thicknesses, enabling high surface quality and the creation of models and parts with very fine, delicate details, where current 3D printers usually result in relatively rough surface finishes.

What does this mean for those who use 3D J750_Hand2 - High Resolution JPGprinting? The Stratasys J750 not only delivers incredible realism but it’s also the most versatile 3D printer available. Designers and producers can say goodbye to the days of adopting multiple 3D-printing technologies and still resorting afterwards to extensive post-processing, such as sanding, painting and bonding.

Before the Stratasys J750, no single 3D printer could deliver full color, smooth surfaces and multiple materials. Now, however, you can print realistic prototypes, presentation models, Digital ABS injection molds, jigs, fixtures, educational and promotional pieces, production parts – or all of the above, with one system.

The Stratasys J750 even goes one step past versatile, simultaneously being the fastest, simplest, and easiest 3D printer to use. The printer includes several user-requested upgrades, such as server functionality, six-material capacity, and even three print modes that are suitable for different priorities: high speed, high mix and high quality. Additionally, where some 3D printing processes must run in a dedicated facility due to the possible hazard of the materials, chemicals and post-processing steps involved, the Stratasys J750 3D Printer uses a clean, easy process, with no hazardous chemicals to handle.

The Stratasys J750 is one choice among an ever-growing array of 3D printers in the marketplace. But its capabilities and versatility make it more than just a 3D printer; It’s a solution-maker.

In other words, Stratasys has just invented 3D printing. Again. PADT’s 3D Printing team can help you pick the best printer for your job and provide you with one-on-one engineering and prototype support.

If you’re at all interested in technology, you won’t want to miss this printer’s big coming-out day.

Check out times and locations below.

Denver – Monday, July 25th    J750 Shoes 1

Saint Patrick’s Brewing Company

3:00 pm to 6:00 pm

REGISTER

Salt Lake – Wednesday, July 27th

Hilton Salt Lake City Center

3:00 pm to 6:00 pm

REGISTER

Phoenix – Friday, July 29th

ASU SkySong

2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

REGISTER

   

 

Technology Trends in Fused Deposition Modeling

A few months ago, I did a post on the Technology Trends in Laser-based Metal Additive Manufacturing where I identified 5 key directions that technology was moving in. In this post, I want to do the same, but for a different technology that we also use on a regular basis at PADT: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

1. New Materials with Improved Properties

Many companies have released and are continuously developing composite materials for FDM. Most involve carbon fibers and are discussed in this review. Arevo Labs and Mark Forged are two of many companies that offer composite materials for higher performance, the table below lists their current offerings (CF = Carbon Fiber, CNT = Carbon Nano Tubes). Virtual Foundry are also working on developing a metal rich filament (with about 89% metal, 11% binder polymer), which they claim can be used to make mostly-metal parts for non-functional purposes using existing FDM printers and a heat treatment to vaporize the binder. In short, while ABS and PLA dominate the market, there is a wide range of materials commercially available and this list is growing each year.

Company Composition
Arevo Labs CF, CNT in PAEK
CF in PEEK
Fiberglass in PARA
Mark Forged Micro-CF in Nylon
CF
Fiberglass
Fiberglass (High Strength High Temperature)
Kevlar

2. Improved Properties through Process Enhancements

Even with newer materials, a fundamental problem in FDM is the anisotropy of the parts and the fact that the build direction introduces weak interfaces. However, there are several efforts underway to improve the mechanical properties of FDM parts and this is an exciting space to follow with many approaches to this being taken. Some of these involve explicitly improving the interfacial strength: one of the ways this can be achieved is by pre-heating the base layer (as being investigated by Prof. Keng Hsu at the Arizona State University using lasers and presented at the RAPID 2016 conference). Another approach is being developed by a company called Essentium who combine microwave heating and CNT coated filaments as shown in the video below.

Taking a very different approach, Arevo labs has developed a 6-axis robotic FDM process that allows for conformal deposition of carbon fiber composites and uses an FEA solver to generate optimized toolpaths for improved properties.

3. Faster & Bigger

A lot of press has centered around FDM printers that make bigger parts and at higher deposition rates: one article discusses 4 of these companies that showcased their technologies at an Amsterdam trade show. Among the companies that showcased their technologies at RAPID was 3D Platform, that showed a $27,000 3D printer for FDM with a 1m x 1m x 0.5m printing platform. Some of the key questions for large form factor printers is if and how they deal with geometries needing supports and enabling higher temperature materials. Also, while FDM is well suited among the additive technologies for high throughput, large size prints, it does have competition in this space: Massivit is one company that in the video below shows the printing of a structure 5.6 feet tall in a mere 5 hours using what they call “Gel Dispensed Printing” that reduces the need for supports.

 4. Bioprinting Applications

Micro-extrusion through syringes or specialized nozzles is one of the key ways bioprinting systems operate – but this is technically not “fused” deposition in that it may not involve thermal modification of the material during deposition. However, FDM technology is being used for making scaffolds for bio-printing with synthetic, biodegradable or bio-compatible polymers such as PCL and PLGA. The idea is these scaffolds then form the structure for seeding cells (or in some cases the cells are bioprinted as well onto the scaffold). This technology is growing fast and something we are also investigating at PADT – watch this space for more updates.

5. Material Modeling Improvements

Modeling FDM is an important part of being able to use simulation/analysis to design better processes and parts for functional use. This may not get a lot of press compared to the items above, but is a particular interest of mine and I believe is a critical piece of the puzzle going to true part production with FDM. I have written a few blog posts on the challenges, approaches and a micromechanics view of FDM printed structures and materials. The idea behind all of these is to represent FDM structures mathematically with valid and accurate models so that their behavior can be predicted and designs truly optimized. This space is also growing fast, the most recent paper I have come across in this space is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison that was published May 12, 2016.

Conclusion

Judging by media hype, metal 3D printing and 3D bioprinting are currently dominating the media spotlight – and for good reasons. But FDM has many things going for it: low cost of entry and manufacturing, user-friendliness and high market penetration. And the technology growth has no sign of abating: the most recent, 2016 Wohlers report assesses that there are over 300 manufacturers of FDM printers, though rumor on the street has it that there are over a thousand manufacturers coming up – in China alone. And as the 5 trends above show, FDM has a lot more to offer the world beyond being just the most rapidly scaling technology – and there are people working worldwide on these opportunities. When a process is as simple and elegant as extruding material from a hot nozzle, usable innovations will naturally follow.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Properties: A Micromechanics Perspective

Have you ever looked at the mechanical properties in an FDM material datasheet (one example shown below for Stratasys ULTEM-9085) and wondered why properties were prescribed in the non-traditional manner of XZ and ZX orientation? You may also have wondered, as I did, whatever happened to the XY orientation and why its values were not reported? The short (and unfortunate) answer is you may as well ignore the numbers in the datasheet. The longer answer follows in this blog post.

FDM_01

Mesostructure has a First Order Effect on FDM Properties

In the context of FDM, mesostructure is the term used to describe structural detail at the level of individual filaments. And as we show below, it is the most dominant effect in properties.

Consider this simple experiment we did a few months ago: we re-created the geometry used in the tensile test specimens reported in the datasheets and printed them on our Fortus 400mc 3D printer with ULTEM-9085. While we kept layer thickness identical throughout the experiment (0.010″), we modified the number of contours: from the default 1-contour to 10-contours, in 4 steps shown in the curves below. We used a 0.020″ value for both contour and raster widths. Each of these samples was tested mechanically on an INSTRON 8801 under tension at a displacement rate of 5mm/min.

As the figure below shows, the identical geometry had significantly different load-displacement response – as the number of contours grew, the sample grew stiffer. The calculated modulii were in the range of 180-240 kpsi. These values are lower than those reported in datasheets, but closer to published values in work done by Bagsik et al (211-303 kpsi); datasheets do not specify the meso-structure used to construct the part (number of contours, contour and raster widths etc.). Further, it is possible to modify process parameters to optimize for a certain outcome: for example, as suggested by the graph below, an all-contour design is likely to have the highest stiffness when loaded in tension.

FDM-02

Can we Borrow Ideas from Micromechanics Theory?

The above result is not surprising – the more interesting question is, could we have predicted it? While this is not a composite material, I wondered if I could, in my model, separate the contours that run along the boundary from the raster, and identify each as it’s own “material” with unique properties (Er and Ec). Doing this allows us to apply the Rule of Mixtures and derive an effective property. For the figure below, the effective modulus Eeff becomes:

Eeff = f.Ec + (1-f).Er

where  represents the cross-sectional area fraction of the contours.

FDM-3

With four data points in the curve above, I was able to use two of those data points to solve the above equation simultaneously and derive Er and Ec as follows:

Er = 182596 psi
Ec = 305776 psi

Now the question became: how predictive are these values of experimentally observed stiffness for other combinations of raster and contours? In a preliminary evaluation for two other cases, the results look promising.

FDM-4

So What About the Orientation in Datasheets?

Below is a typical image showing the different orientations data are typically attributed to. From our micromechanics argument above, the orientation is not the correct way to look at this data. The more pertinent question is: what is the mesostructure of the load-bearing cross-section? And the answer to the question I posed at the start, as to why the XY values are not typically reported, is apparent if you look at the image below closely and imagine the XZ and XY samples being tested under tension. You will see that from the perspective of the load-bearing cross-section, XY and XZ effectively have the similar (not the same) mesostructure at the load-bearing cross-sectional area, but with a different distribution of contours and rasters – these are NOT different orientations in the conventional X-Y-Z sense that we as users of 3D printers are familiar with.

fdm-5

Conclusion

The point of this preliminary work is not to propose a new way to model FDM structures using the Rule of Mixtures, but to emphasize the significance of the role of the mesostructure on mechanical properties. FDM mesostructure determines properties, and is not just an annoying second order effect. While property numbers from datasheets may serve as useful insights for qualitative, comparative purposes, the numbers are not extendable beyond the specific process conditions and geometry used in the testing. As such, any attempts to model FDM structure that do not account for the mesostructure are not valid, and unlikely to be accurate. To be fair to the creators of FDM datasheets, it is worth noting that the disclaimers at the bottom of these datasheets typically do inform the user that these numbers “should not be used for design specifications or quality control purposes.”

If you would like to learn more and discuss this, and other ideas in the modeling of FDM, tune in to my webinar on June 28, 2016 at 11am Eastern using the link here, or read more of my posts on this subject below. If you are reading this post after that date, drop us a line at info@padtinc.com and cite this post, or connect with me directly on LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading!

~

Two related posts:

Spinning Gears: 3D Printing Awards for 2016 AZ SciTech Festival Sponsors

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-2For several years now PADT has 3D Printed special thank you awards for the fantastic companies that sponsor the Arizona SciTech Festival.  This year we decided to stick with the color of the Stratasys Connex3 but add some moving parts. This gear design spins around and was made as one part, we just wash the support material out of the gaps between parts.

This is a great example of going directly from a CAD model to a custom part.  Each award has the recipient’s name printed on the smaller gear.  Everything was designed in an hour or so and it took about another hour to add in the 30 or so names.  We think these may be the best awards we have made so far.

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-1

SciTech-Festival-Award-2016-3

Here is a video showing off how they spin:

Awards are kind of simple and fun. But the same technology is applied by PADT to help our customers design and build better medical devices, rockets, aircraft engines, computers, and pretty much any physical product you can think of.  Give us a call at 1-800-293-PADT or email info@padtinc.com to see how “We Make Innovation Work”

Unexpected Joys at Rapid 2016

While much has been (justifiably) written about HP and XJet releasing new, potentially game-changing products at RAPID 2016, I wanted to write this post about some of the smaller, unexpected joys that I discovered. If I sound overly enthusiastic about the people and companies behind them, it is likely due to the fact that I wrote this on the flight back, staring out at the clouds and reflecting on what had been a wonderful trip: I own no locks, stocks or barrels in any of these companies.

1. Essentium Materials – Carbon Nanotubes and Microwaves to improve FDM mechanical properties
Over the past year, I have studied, written and made presentations about the challenges of developing models for describing Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) given their complex and part-specific meso-structure. And while I worked on developing analytical and numerical techniques for extracting the best performance from parts in the presence of significant anisotropy, the team at Essentium has developed a process to coat FDM filaments with Carbon nanotubes and extrude them in the presence of microwave radiation. In the limited data they showed for test specimens constructed of unidirectional tool-paths, they demonstrated significant reduction in anisotropy and increase in strength for PLA. What I liked most about their work is how they are developing  this solution on a foundation of understanding the contributions of both the meso-structure and inter-filament strength to overall part performance. Essentium was awarded the “RAPID Innovations award”, first among the 27 exhibitors that competed and are, in my opinion, addressing an important problem that is holding back greater expansion of FDM as a process in the production space.
Website: http://essentiummaterials.com/

2. Hyrel 3D – Maker meets Researcher meets The-Kid-in-All-of-Us
I only heard of Hyrel 3D a few days prior to RAPID, but neglected to verify if they were exhibiting at RAPID and was pleasantly surprised to see them there. Consider the options this 3D printer has that you would be hard pressed to find in several 3D printers combined: variable extrusion head temperatures (room temp to 450 C), sterile head options for biological materials, a 6W laser (yes, a laser), spindle tools, quad head dispensing with individual flow control and UV crosslinking options. Read that again slowly. This is true multiple degree-of-freedom material manipulation. What makes their products even more compelling is the direct involvement of the team and the community they are building up over time, particularly in academia, across the world, and the passion with which they engage their technology and its users.
Website: http://www.hyrel3d.com/

3. Technic-Print: New Chemistry for Improved FDM Support Removal
If you manufacture FDM parts with soluble supports, keep reading. A chemist at Technic Inc. has developed a new solution that is claimed to be 400% faster than the current Sodium-Hydroxide solution we use to dissolve parts. Additionally, the solution is cited as being cleaner on the tank, leaving no residue, has a color indicator that changes the solution’s color from blue to clear. And finally, through an additional agent, the dissolved support material can be reclaimed as a clump and removed from the solution, leaving behind a solution that has a pH less than 9. Since PADT manufactures one of the most popular machines that are used to dissolve these supports that unbeknown to us, were used in the testing and development of the new solution, we had an enriching conversation with the lead chemist behind the solution. I was left wondering about the fundamental chemistry behind color changing, dissolution rates for supports and the reclaiming of support – and how these different features were optimized together to develop a usable end-solution.
Website: http://www.technic.com/techni-print-lp

 

4. Project Pan: Computationally Efficient Metal Powder Bed Fusion Simulation
I presented a literature review at AMUG (another Additive Manufacturing conference) last month, on the simulation of the laser-based powder bed fusion. At the time, I thought I had captured all the key players between the work being done at Lawrence Livermore National Labs by Wayne King’s group, the work of Brent Stucker at 3DSIM and the many academics using mostly commercially available software (mostly ANSYS) to simulate this problem. I learned at RAPID that I had neglected to include a company called “Project Pan” in my review. This team emerged from Prof. Pan Michaleris’s academic work. In 2012, he started a company that was acquired by Autodesk two months ago. In a series of 3 presentations at RAPID, Pan’s team demonstrated their simulation techniques (at a very high level) along with experimental validation work they had done with GE, Honeywell and others through America Makes and other efforts. What was most impressive about their work was both the speed of their computations and the fact that this team actually had complex part experimental validations to back up their simulation work. What most users of the powder bed fusion need is information on temperatures, stresses and distortion – and within time frames of a few hours ideally. It seems to me that Pan and his team took an approach that delivers exactly that information and little else using different numerical methods listed on their site (novel Hex8 elements, an element activation method and intelligent mesh refinement) that were likely developed by Pan over the years in his academic career and found the perfect application, first in welding simulation and then in the powder bed fusion process. With the recent Autodesk acquisition, it will be interesting to see how this rolls out commercially. Details of some of the numerical techniques used in the code can be found at their website, along with a list of related publications.

Website: http://pancomputing.com/

5. FDA Participation: Regulating through education and partnership
On a different note from the above, I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of the FDA, represented by Matthew Di Prima, PhD. He taught part of a workshop I attended on the first day, took the time to talk to everyone who had an interest and also gave a talk of his own in the conference sessions, describing the details of the recently released draft guidance from the FDA on 3D printing in medical applications. It was good to connect the regulatory agency to a person who clearly has the passion, knowledge, intelligence and commitment to make a difference in the Additive Manufacturing medical community. Yes, the barriers to entry in this space are high (ISO certifications, QSR systems, 510(k) & Pre-Market Approvals) but it seems clear that the FDA, at least as represented by Dr. Di Prima, are doing their best to be a transparent and willing partner.
Website: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/3DPrintingofMedicalDevices/default.htm

What really makes a trip to a conference like RAPID worth it are the new ideas, connections and possibilities you come away with that you may not stumble upon during your day job – and on that account, RAPID 2016 did not disappoint. As a line in one of my favorite song’s goes:

“We’ll never know, unless we grow.
There’s too much world outside the door.”
– Fran Healy (Travis, “Turn”).

PADT and ASU Collaborate on 3D Printed Lattice Research

The ASU Capstone team (left to right): Drew Gibson, Jacob Gerbasi, John Reeher, Matthew Finfrock, Deep Patel and Joseph Van Soest.
ASU student team (left to right): Drew Gibson, Jacob Gerbasi, John Reeher, Matthew Finfrock, Deep Patel and Joseph Van Soest

Over the past two academic semesters (2015/16), I had the opportunity to work closely with six senior-year undergraduate engineering students from the Arizona State University (ASU), as their industry adviser on an eProject (similar to a Capstone or Senior Design project). The area we wanted to explore with the students was in 3D printed lattice structures, and more specifically, address the material modeling aspects of these structures. PADT provided access to our 3D printing equipment and materials, ASU to their mechanical testing and characterization facilities and we both used ANSYS for simulation, as well as a weekly meeting with a whiteboard to discuss our ideas.

While there are several efforts ongoing in developing design and optimization software for lattice structures, there has been little progress in developing a robust, validated material model that accurately describes how these structures behave – this is what our eProject set out to do. The complex internal meso- and microstructure of these structures makes them particularly sensitive to process variables such as build orientation, layer thickness, deposition or fusion width etc., none of which are accounted for in models for lattice structures available today. As a result, the use of published values for bulk materials are not accurately predictive of true lattice structure behavior.

In this work, we combined analytical, experimental and numerical techniques to extract and validate material parameters that describe mechanical response of lattice structures. We demonstrated our approach on regular honeycomb structures of ULTEM-9085 material, made with the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process. Our results showed that we were able to predict low strain responses within 5-10% error, compared to 40-60% error with the use of bulk properties.

This work is to be presented in full at the upcoming RAPID conference on May 18, 2016 (details at this link) and has also been accepted for full length paper submission to the SFF Symposium. We are also submitting a research proposal that builds on this work and extends it into more complex geometries, metals and failure modeling. If you are interested in the findings of this work and/or would like to collaborate, please meet us at RAPID or send us an email (info@padtinc.com).

Our final poster and the Fortus 400mc that we printed all our honeycomb structures with
The final poster summarizing our work rests atop the Stratasys Fortus 400mc that we printed all our honeycomb structures on

Press Release: 3D Printing Expertise from PADT Advances Aerospace Industry

ula-rocket-duct-made-from-3d-printed-partsMany of you may have seen the recent launch of an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA).  We are honored to have lent our expertise to ULA’s 3D Printing efforts that resulted in the use of parts on that rocket made with additive manufacturing.   We will be talking about that and other ways we help the Aerospace Industry at the 32nd Space Symposium this week in Colorado Springs Colorado.  Please stop by!

Read more in the press release.  A PDF can be found here.

Press Release:

3D Printing Expertise from PADT Advances Aerospace Industry

Product design and development leader provides additive manufacturing support for United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.April 11, 2016PRLog — Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies Inc. (PADT), the Southwest’s largest provider of Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and 3D Printing services and products, is highlighting its expertise this week at the 32nd Space Symposium,  the premier global, commercial, civil, military and emergent space conference.

During the symposium, PADT experts in additive manufacturing will be on hand to discuss the company’s technical expertise, logistics, sales and service capabilities in the exciting aerospace sector, which contributed to the successful launch on March 22 of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V rocket made use of lightweight thermoplastic 3D printed parts, with the application of Stratasys technology supplied by PADT and consulting from PADT on how best to apply that technology to engineering, tooling, and production.

Stop by and visit PADT’s booth 1310 at the 32nd Space Symposium, April 11-14, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. http://www.spacesymposium.org/.

“PADT continues to be both a great supplier of both polymer and metal additive manufacturing technologies and an additive manufacturing technical consultant to ULA, supporting our Atlas V, Delta IV and future Vulcan Centaur launch vehicles,” said Greg Arend, ULA manager, Additive Manufacturing. “By consulting with PADT, we were able to understand how these technologies enhance our design and manufacturing process, saving time, money and weight. PADT’s knowledge of the use of both polymer and metal materials was instrumental in helping us achieve our success.”

In addition to supplying ULA with Stratasys’ polymer 3D Printing machines, PADT consulted with them early on andled a tour of Oakridge National Labs to help them understand the state of the art for both metal and polymer applications and produced a technological roadmap for both technologies that has largely been followed.  Assisted by PADT, both companies made use of additive manufacturing for engineering prototypes, then advanced to the production of tooling for manufacturing and developed the confidence needed to move to flight hardware.

The founders of PADT have been involved with additive manufacturing since the late 1980’s and the company was the first service provider in the Southwest in 1994.  Over the years, PADT has built a reputation for technical excellence and a deep understanding of how to apply various 3D printing technologies to enable real world applications.  Their sales team has shown the ability to sell sophisticated engineering products to companies large and small, and to provide excellent support to their customers.

“3D Printing is not just about makers, nor is it just about engineering prototypes,” said Rey Chu, co-owner, principal and director of Manufacturing Technologies at PADT. “Every day users are creating production hardware to produce usable parts that save them time and money. Ducts for rockets are a perfect application of 3D printed parts because they are complex, low volume, and can make single parts that need to be made in multiple pieces using traditional methods.”

About Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies

Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, Inc. (PADT) is an engineering product and services company that focuses on helping customers who develop physical products by providing Numerical Simulation, Product Development, and Rapid Prototyping solutions. PADT’s worldwide reputation for technical excellence and experienced staff is based on its proven record of building long term win-win partnerships with vendors and customers. Since its establishment in 1994, companies have relied on PADT because “We Make Innovation Work.” With over 80 employees, PADT services customers from its headquarters at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Arizona, and from offices in Torrance, California, Littleton, Colorado, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Murray, Utah, as well as through staff members located around the country. More information on PADT can be found at http://www.PADTINC.com

— End —

 

Support Design and Removal for 3D Printed ULTEM-9085 (Case Study: Intake Manifold)

ULTEM-9085 is one of my favorite materials to 3D-print: one of the reasons is it is a high performance polymer that can and has been used for end part manufacturing (see my blog post about ULTEM in functional aerospace parts), but the other is because it is a demanding material to print, in ways that ABS, Polycarbonate and even Nylon are not. What makes it demanding is primarily that ULTEM supports are not soluble and need to be removed mechanically. An additional challenge comes from the fact that the support is best removed when the part is at a high temperature (175-195 C), which requires the use of gloves and reduces the user’s dexterity. For complex geometries with internal channels, this is particularly challenging and occasionally results in an inability to print a certain part in ULTEM-9085, which runs contrary to the design freedom this technology otherwise enables.

In this post, I accumulate what I have learned through working (and failing) on many an ULTEM-9085 job, as well as through discussions with other users, and share this here in terms of design and process guidelines. To demonstrate these guidelines, I use a recent geometry that we printed for the Arizona State University’s (ASU) SAE team for an engine intake manifold. These guidelines apply to the Stratasys Fortus platform (for Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM) using the Insight software that accompanies these tools. The screen shots are from Insight 10.6, and a Fortus 400 was used to print the parts shown.

Summary of Guidelines:

  1. Orient the part to eliminate supports in regions where you cannot remove them
  2. Use the box support style
  3. Optimize parameter settings (support angle, contour width, layer thickness)
  4. Remove the supports as soon as the part comes out of the build chamber
  5. Other observations: the interface of separation

1. Part Orientation

The single most important factor in simplifying support removal is part orientation. Most users of the FDM process know that part orientation determines the amount of support material consumed and also impacts the time to build the part. When working with ULTEM-9085, the additional challenge is that it is possible to design in supports that cannot be removed and will require you to scrap the job. This is especially true of internal features. While the automatic orientation feature in Insight allows you to minimize supports, it does not account for the difficulty of removing them. Thus when you are dealing with internal features, you may need to manually orient your part such that the internal features are aligned as close to the vertical as possible, and above the support angle (to be covered later).

As shown in Figure 1, for the intake manifold, I oriented the internal pipe structure close to the vertical and had to iterate a few times and verify that I had no support in the hard-to-reach areas. While I did have supports internally, they were limited to areas that were easy to access.

Figure 1. Engine intake manifold, to be printed out of ULTEM-9085
Figure 1. Engine intake manifold, to be printed out of ULTEM-9085
Figure 2. Part orientation to avoid any internal supports
Figure 2. Part orientation to avoid any internal supports in inaccessible regions

2. Box Supports

In a recent software upgrade, Insight added the ability to create box supports. The support structures consist of adjacent boxes instead of a continuous raster, which has the effect of allowing for easier separation of the support, though does slow down the build time. In my experience this support strategy does help with removal – the one parameter to consider here is the “Perforations” setting, though the default values were used for this part. The perforation is a layer of model material that is inserted into the support to make for easier breaking off of the support material. All cleavage surfaces in Fig. 3 are at perforation edges and you can see the building like construction with each floor distinguished by a layer of model material. When you have supports in hard to access regions, consider increasing the interval height so as to ensure you get separation at the model-support interface on the part before it occurs within the support on a perforation layer.

Figure Box Supports
Figure 3. Box Supports after removal from an ULTEM-9085 part

3. Optimize Process Parameters

While orientation will have the most significant impact on the support you need, another variable to be aware of is the “Self-Support Angle” parameter. This angle is measured from the horizontal, and represents the minimum angle of the part wall that will be built without supports. As a result, to reduce support requirements, you want this number to be as low as possible so that a greater volume of the part can be self-supported. Stratasys recommends default values, but these scale as a function of the contour width, and layer thickness, as shown in Fig. 4. The values bottom out at 40 degrees for the 0.013″ layer thickness and 43 degrees for the 0.010″ layer thickness. Thus, all other things being equal, you will be able to reduce the support needed by choosing a 0.013″ layer thickness and a 0.026″ or larger contour width. Note that both of these will impact your ability to resolve thin walls and fine features, so ensure you scan through all the tool-paths to validate that the geometry is accurately filled in.

Figure 4. Graph showing how the default values of the self-support angle vary as a function of contour width for the two layer thickness options available for ULTEM. Lower the angle, less the support needed.

4. Remove Supports Immediately

Supports are best removed when the model-support interface is hot. The best time to do this is right after you remove the parts from the print chamber, which is held at 195 C for ULTEM-9085. Ensure you have safety glasses on, work with thermal gloves and have a plier handy to pull out the support. In theory the parts can be re-heated again (175 C is a reasonable value for the oven), but Stratasys suggests that each re-heat cycle actually strengthens the interface, making it harder to remove. As a result, the best time to remove the supports is immediately out of the printer. Figure 5 shows the results of support removal for the intake manifold parts, including the build sheet.

Figure 5. Support removal can be a messy affair as you beat the clock against the cooling parts. Ensure you have gloves, a plier and safety glasses on.
Figure 5. Support removal can be a messy affair as you beat the clock against the cooling parts. Ensure you have gloves, a plier and safety glasses on.

5. Other Observations: the Interface of Separation

It helps to visualize what we are trying to do when we remove supports. There are two interfaces in question here, as shown in Figure 6. One is the model-support interface, the other is the support-box structure interface. We need separation at the model-support interface since removing the thin piece of interface material can prove challenging if the box supports have broken off (as happened for the piece below). What this means is as you remove support, you need to not just pull the supports but also add some peeling force that creates the separation. Once you create separation at the correct interface, you can pull the supports and should have proper cleavage.

Figure 6. (top) Support-model interface surface, and (bottom) support structure interface - it is important to get separation at the former interface
Figure 6. (top) Support-model interface surface, and (bottom) support structure interface – it is important to get separation at the former interface

One final point to keep in mind is that in some cases, eliminating internal supports may be impossible, as shown for a different part in Figure 7 below. The point is to eliminate the support in places you cannot reach with your pliers and get enough peeling force applied to. In the case below, I chose to have supports at the wide opening since I had adequate access to them. With practice, you will get a better sense of what supports can and cannot be removed and use that intuition to better shape your design and process layout decisions before you print.

Figure 6. Support in internal features are alright as long as you have access to them
Figure 7. Support in internal features are alright as long as you have access to them
Figure 7. The final part!
Figure 8. The final part
The ULTEM intake manifold runner and plenum being put through its paces at the ASU Formula SAE test rig
Figure 9. The ULTEM intake manifold runner along with a plenum that we also printed, both being put through their paces at the ASU Formula SAE test rig (Photo Ack: Michael Conard)

Show your support for ASU’s Formula SAE team at their Facebook page and see a video about the endeavor here.

The 3D Printing Value Proposition

At a recent Lunch-n-Learn organized by the Arizona Technology Council, I had the opportunity to speak for 10 minutes on 3D printing. I decided to focus my talk on trying to answer one question: how can I determine if 3D printing can benefit my business? In this blog post, I attempt to expand on the ideas I presented there.

While a full analysis of the Return-On-Investment would require a more rigorous and quantitative approach, I believe there are 5 key drivers that determine the value proposition for a company to invest in 3D printing, be it in the form of outsourced services or capital expenditure. If these drivers resonate with opportunities and challenges you see in your business, it is likely that 3D printing can benefit you.

1. Accelerating Product Development

3D printing has its origins in technologies that enabled Rapid Prototyping (RP), a field that continues to have a significant impact in product development and is one most people are familiar with. As shown in Figure 1, PADT’s own product development process involves using prototypes for alpha and beta development and for testing. RP is a cost- and time effective way of iterating upon design ideas to find ones that work, without investing in expensive tooling and long lead times. If you work in product development you are very likely already using RP in your design cycle. Some of the considerations then become:

  • Are you leveraging the complete range of materials including high temperature polymers (such as ULTEM), Nylons and metals for your prototyping work? Many of these materials can be used in functional tests and not just form and fit assessments.
  • Should you outsource your RP work to a service bureau or purchase the equipment to do it in-house? This will be determined by your RP needs and one possibility is to purchase lower-cost equipment for your most basic RP jobs (using ABS, for example) and outsource only those jobs requiring specialized materials like the ones mentioned above.
PADT's Product Development process showing the role of prototypes (3D printed most of the time)
Figure 1. PADT’s Product Development process showing the role of prototypes (most often 3D printed)

The video below contains several examples of prototypes made by PADT using a range of technologies over the past two decades.

2. Exploiting Design Freedom

Due to its additive nature, 3D printing allows for the manufacturing of intricate part geometries that are prohibitively expensive (or in some cases impossible) to manufacture with traditional means. If you work with parts and designs that have complex geometries, or are finding your designs constrained by the requirements of manufacturing, 3D printing can help. This design freedom can be leveraged for several different benefits, four of which I list below:

2.1 Internal Features

As a result of its layer-by-layer approach to manufacturing a part, 3D printing enables complex internal geometries that are cost prohibitive or even impossible to manufacture with traditional means. The exhaust gas probe in Fig. 2 was developed by RSC engineering in partnership with Concept Laser has 6 internal pipes surrounded by cooling channels and was printed as one part.

3D Printed Exhaust Gas Probe (RSC Engineering and Concept Laser Inc.)
Fig 2. 3D Printed Exhaust Gas Probe with intricate internal features (RSC Engineering and Concept Laser Inc.)

2.2 Strength-to-Weight Optimization

One of the reasons the aerospace industry has been a leader in the application of 3D printing is the fact that you are now able to manufacture complex geometries that emerge from a topology optimization solution and reduce component weight, as shown in the bracket manufactured by Airbus in Figure 3.

Titanium Airbus bracket made by Concept Laser on board the A350
Fig 3. Titanium Airbus bracket made by Concept Laser on board the A350

2.3 Assembly Consolidation

The ability to work in a significantly less constrained design space also allows the designer to integrate parts in an assembly thereby reducing assembly costs and sourcing headaches. The part below (also from Airbus) is a fuel assembly that integrated 10 parts into 1 printed part.

Airbus Fuel Assembly 3D printed out of metal (Airbus / Concept Laser)
Fig 4. Airbus Fuel Assembly 3D printed out of metal (Airbus / Concept Laser)

2.4 Bio-inspiration

Nature provides several design cues, optimized through the process of evolution over millenia. Some of these include lattices and hierarchical structures. 3D printing makes it possible to translate more of these design concepts into engineering structures and parts for benefits of material usage minimization and property optimization. The titanium implant shown in Figure 5 exploits lattice designs to optimize the effective modulus in different locations to more closely represent the properties of an individuals bone in that region.

Titanium implant leveraging lattice designs (Concept Laser)
Fig 5. Titanium implant leveraging lattice designs (Concept Laser)

3. Simplifying the Supply Chain, Reducing Lead Times

One of the most significant impacts 3D printing has is on lead time reduction, and this is the reason why it is the preferred technology for “rapid” prototyping. Most users of 3D printing for end-part manufacturing identify a 70-90% reduction in lead time, primarily as a result of not requiring the manufacturing of tooling, reducing the need to identify one or more suppliers. Additionally, businesses can reduce their supplier management burden by in-sourcing the manufacturing of these parts. Finally, because of the reduced lead times, inventory levels can be significantly reduced. The US Air Force sees 3D printing as a key technology in improving their sustainability efforts to reduce the downtime associated with aircraft awaiting parts. Airbus recently also used 3D printing to print seat belt holders for their A310 – the original supplier was out of business and the cost and lead time to identify and re-tool a new supplier were far greater than 3D printed parts.

4. Reducing Costs for High Mix Low Volume Manufacturing

According to the 2015 Wohlers report, about 43% of the revenue generated in 3D printing comes from the manufacturing of functional, or end-use parts. When 3D printing is the process of choice for the actual manufacturing of end-use parts, it adds a direct cost to each unit manufactured (as opposed to an indirect R&D cost associated with developing the product). This cost, when compared to traditional means of manufacturing, is significantly lower for high mix low volume manufacturing (High Mix – LVM), and this is shown in Figure 6 for two extreme cases. At one extreme is mass customization, where each individual part has a unique geometry of construction (e.g. hearing aids, dental aligners) – in these cases, 3D printing is very likely to be the lowest cost manufacturing process. At the other end of the spectrum is High Volume Manufacturing (HVM) (e.g. semiconductor manufacturing, children’s toys), where the use of traditional methods lowers costs. The break-point lies somewhere in between and will vary by the the part being produced and the volumes anticipated. A unit cost assessment that includes the cost of labor, materials, equipment depreciation, facilities, floor space, tooling and other costs can aid with this determination.

Chart showing how volumes drive unit prices and where 3D Printing can be the cheaper option
Fig 6. Chart showing how volumes drive unit prices and where 3D Printing can be the cheaper option for low volumes and high mix manufacturing

5. Developing New Applications

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of 3D printing is how people all around the world are using it for new applications that go beyond improving upon conventional manufacturing techniques. Dr. Anthony Atala’s 2011 TED talk involved the demonstration of an early stage technique of depositing human kidney cells that could someday aid with kidney transplants (see Figure 7). Rarely does a week go by with some new 3D printing application making the news: space construction, 3D surgical guides, customized medicine to name a few. The elegant and intuitive method of building something layer-by-layer lends itself wonderfully to the imagination. And the ability to test and iterate rapidly with a 3D printer by your side allows for accelerating innovation at a rate unlike any manufacturing process that has come before it.

Dr. Anthony Atala showing a 3D printed kidney [Image Attr. Steve Jurvetson]
Fig 7. Dr. Anthony Atala showing a 3D printed kidney [Image Attr. Steve Jurvetson, Wikimedia Commons]

Conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction, if you or your company have challenges and needs in one or more of the 5 areas above, it is unlikely to be a question of whether 3D printing can be of benefit to you (it will), but one of how you should best invest in it for maximum return. Further, it is likely that you will accrue a combination of benefits (such as assembly consolidation and supply simplification) across a range of parts, making this technology an attractive long term investment. At PADT, we offer 3D printing both as a service and also sell most of the printers we use on a daily basis and are thus well positioned to help you make this assessment, so contact us!