Accelerate - June 2013
3D printing companies pride themselves on creating one-off objects or working parts when wider-scale production is too expensive or time consuming. But the stakes usually aren’t as high as, say, in Ethiopia, where a small hospital was without electricity thanks to a defective turbine wheel.
The clinic, in Walga, Ethiopia, did not have the funds to replace the commonly used, yet very intricate Francis wheel. The clinic worked with German 3D printing firm voxeljet technology GmbH (voxeljet.de), which created a mold for a replacement wheel via its 3D printing technology.
voxeljet produced a 250-mm mold for the wheel in about five hours. voxeljet says accuracy reached 0.2mm on the X- and Y-axes. That’s one of the smaller molds for voxeljet, whose large-format printers have churned out objects sized 4 x 2 x 1 meters.
The molds were forged based on CAD designs and created in layers made of 300-mm thick quartz sand that were glued together with a binder via the system’s print head. Once the printing was done, and the mold cleaned of excess sand, it was ready for casting.
“In this case, we decided on a combination of a 3D-printed sand core for the complicated turbine geometry and a conventionally produced exterior mold,” said voxeljet CEO Ingo Ederer. “This means that we use the advantage of 3D printing where it pays off the most—for the production of the complicated interior. Instead of many individual core segments which are strung together, the mono sand core impresses with higher component accuracy, smaller tolerances and fewer cleaning requirements, and does away with the need for many core separation devices.” Also contributing to the project was German steel foundry Wolfensberger AG, which cast the wheel; and solar and heat technology firm H. Lenz AG from Switzerland.
Inserting the 3D-printed core into the conventional sand mold.
The rough wheel cast in steel.
botObjects (botobjects.com) is a startup that’s shaking up the color wheel of 3D printing with the release of its ProDesk3D.
Like conventional 3D printers, the ProDesk3D still makes models by melting and forming PLA, PVA and ABS materials. But instead of a fixed set of colors, the ProDesk3D lets users select a custom hue blended from five different PLA cartridges. The machine disburses layers of material through a dual extruder head, layers that can be as thin as 25 microns.
Cased in anodized aluminum, with the material floating inside like a lava lamp, the ProDesk is a vision for what 3D printing should look like in five years, say its creators.
“We wanted to create a product with a sense of maturity, representing its advancements inside the product, as well as a casing with a strong artistic presence—we wanted customers to be proud to show off the ProDesk3D on their desk,” Mike Duma, chief technology officer and co-founder said.
Pricing hasn’t been announced. botObjects says it plans to start taking early orders this month. (June 2013)
The new ProDesk3D from botObjects lets users different colors to create a custom hue for a 3D printed object.
3D Systems (3dsystems.com) continues its growth path by purchasing Rapid Product Development Group (rpdg.com), an on-demand additive and traditional manufacturing company. RPDG was included in the 2012 Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. 3D Systems says it plans to integrate RPDG’s capabilities into its Quickparts services.
“We are very pleased to add a proven service provider and innovator of RPDG’s reputation, experience and scale to our rapidly growing, global network of on-demand parts services,” said Ziad Abou, vice president and general manager, Quickparts Services for 3D Systems.
Meanwhile, one of the first online 3D printing communities, Shapeways (shapeways.com), also is in growth mode with a $30-million series C venture capital investment led by Andreesen Horwitz. Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital, also contributed to the round.
“Our vision is big; we want to make 3D printing affordable and accessible for everyone worldwide. This funding will help us realize our vision at an even faster rate,” said Shapeways Co-Founder and CEO Peter Weijmarshausen.
On Shapeways.com consumers are able to make, buy and sell custom products. They range from the trinket department, such as iPhone cases and jewelry, to functional parts.
With a community totaling 300,000 members, Shapeways has printed and shipped more than a million 3D products this far. The company says 60,000 new designs are uploaded each month.