The 3ZPRO by Solidscape.
An engine manifold created by the Solidscape 3ZPRO.
A complex aluminum part produced by researchers at the University of Exeter using a new method.
The thermoplastic polyurethane material shapes an athletic shoe tread.
Solidscape’s 3ZPRO, Wireless Production
The newly released 3ZPRO printer wants to conquer three dimensions, especially space—as in the space between the operator and the machine.
Solidscape’s (solidscape.com) new direct manufacturing system can churn out models and castings remotely via wireless connection. The machine is designed with an icon-driven touchscreen interface for those humans within arm’s reach. The touch screen includes self-testing and auto-calibration functions.
Solidscape, the Stratasys (stratasys.com) subsidiary, says resolution on the 3ZPRO is 5000 x 5000 dpi in X and Y and 4,000 dpi in Z. The machine’s footprint is 21.4 x 18 x 16-in. and it weighs 80 lb. If offers a build envelope of 6 x 6 x 4 in.
“Operators only need to refill materials and replace the build plate, similar to what they already do with their home printer,” said Fabio Esposito, Solidscape vice president of Worldwide Sales and Marketing.
Accompanying the machine are two new materials, the 3ZMODEL and 3ZSUPPORT. The 3ZMODEL is Solidscape’s most durable material, with a 23% strength advantage over its plusCAST material and is 100% castable without shrinking. With 3ZSUPPORT, the printer jet distributes droplets to create a support structure, encasing the part. After printing, that structure dissolves in a liquid solution to create a more intricate wax master that’s ready for casting.
A 3-Year Project For Better 3D Materials
Specialized polymer maker PolyOne Corp. (polyone.com), along with a handful of manufacturers, has signed on for a three-year project with the University of Dayton Research Institute to develop new materials and production parts via 3D printing. The other companies working with PolyOne and the university include GE Aviation (geaviation.com), Rapid Prototype & Manufacturing Inc. (rpplusm.com), and Stratasys (stratasys.com).
The focus of the project is developing and producing polymer formulations for specialty applications in the aerospace and automotive industries. The project is funded by a $3-million grant from Ohio Third Frontier (thirdfrontier.com).
Powerful Powders, Thriftier Aluminum Parts
Researchers at the University of Exeter’s (exeter.ac.uk) Centre for Additive Manufacturing say they’ve developed a new (and more frugal) way to make three-dimensional aluminum composite parts—anything from brake discs to drive shafts to pistons—by blending several less expensive powders.
The researchers used a laser to melt a mixture of powders made up of aluminum and a reactive reinforcing material, such as an iron-oxide combination. The reaction between the powders formed new particles between 50 and 100 nanometers in size. Those particles act as reinforcements that are distributed evenly throughout the composite material.
The structural strength byproduct of the method not only has the potential for engineering more intricate metal shapes, but also requires less power to produce them thanks to the process’s chemical reaction, the scientists note. The technique is cheaper than casting and mechanical alloy processes that directly blend powders to manufacture composites, according to the findings published in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds.
“This new development has great potential to make high performance parts for car manufacturing, the aerospace industry and potentially other industries,” said Exeter PhD student Sasan Dadbakhsh of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. He added, “Additive layer manufacturing technologies are becoming increasingly accessible, so this method could become a viable approach for manufacturing.”
An SLS Material That Minds the Gap
A lower material melting point means less energy input, and theoretically, less financial output.
This is the thinking for Bayer MaterialScience (materialscience.bayer.com) and Solid Composites GmbH (solidcomposites.de), which are partnering to develop thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) powders for selective laser sintering, the process of fabricating three-dimensional structures using a laser to bond the powdered materials.
The TCU material hits the sweet spot between mostly soft, elastic materials and rigid thermoplastics, such as polyamide. The multinational Bayer awarded the startup Solid Composites a brand license to market the materials under the name “Desmosint.” Solid Composites develops and supplies thermoplastic powders for electrostatic coating in addition to SLS materials.
Desmosint X 92 A-1 is the first of the TPU offerings. The material can be processed at 80 °C for proper sintering into layers. That compares to processing materials such as polyamide, which requires processing just below its melting point, between 210 °C and 220 °C.
“Our TPU products, with their high toughness, elasticity and strength, have now closed the gap between these material classes. And that opens the door to good application opportunities,” said Jürgen Hättig, TPU marketing specialist at Bayer MaterialScience.
The TPU products could also find uses in specific, high-volume production such as athletic shoes, helmets and prosthetics, where intricate geometries raise injection-molding costs. The TCU material also is recyclable at the end of the product life.