“It’s not about products anymore. It’s about providing complete solutions: 3D systems on new 3D printers, partnerships and more

For 3d systems, the past year has been a year of expanding, investing, divesting and applying its technologies to markets where it matters. Stroll around the stand of the 3D printing pioneer at Next Forms, you might see the culmination of that with a busy, but focused, set of apps and new products.

“We’re taking a new approach now,” says Shell Haffner, 3D Systems vice president, Product Management, as he takes TCT on a tour of what’s new. “It’s not about products anymore. It’s about providing a complete solution.

There are, however, many new products to master (“We’re going to be moving a lot,” Haffner informs me as we make our first stop at metals), each with specific industries in mind, and paired with software. and materials, reinforcing the “application-centric strategy,” Jeff Graves, CEO of 3D Systems, shared in an interview with TCT late last year.

Perhaps the best example is the launch of what the company calls a “next generation” workflow for selective laser sintering (SLS). This includes the new SLS 380 3D printer, DuraForm resins, 3D Sprint tools and a partnership with a post-processing specialist. AMT (which also launched a new generation of products at the event), promising to deliver “more efficient and effective digital manufacturing”.

Haffner explains how the company has incorporated several new features into the SLS 380 to ensure consistency of large quantities of parts, adding that the machine is “built for production.” The first is a built-in IR camera, capable of capturing over 100,000 samples of thermal data per second, which Haffner says will help combat the “number one” factor for room variation: temperature control. The camera works in tandem with eight separately calibrated heating elements, allowing there is also a new material handling system, the MQC 600, which can serve up to four machines simultaneously to ensure the optimum ratio of fresh powder to recycled.

The pieces on display are incredibly smooth, to the point that without their intricate geometries you wouldn’t know they were 3D printed. This is thanks, in part, to AMT’s PostPro system which provides automated depolding and chemical vapor smoothing for polymer laser sintered parts.

“You can’t stop at the printer,” Haffner said, stressing the need to integrate finishing into the AM workflow, which 3D Systems will do through a reseller partnership with AMT. “You have to look at the rest of the workflow and the thing about [AMT’s] the equipment is it really reduces manpower, reduces the cost per part and keeps the theme of consistency.

The booth is divided into two distinct areas: Healthcare and Industry, reflecting the structure of the company itself, amplified by the hiring of Dr David Leigh as Chief Technology Officer for Additive Manufacturing and the positioning of founder Chuck Hull as CTO for Regeneration. Medicine earlier this year. On the medical side, Haffner presents one of three new metal machines, the DMP Flex 200, designed to meet the needs of the dental market with increased build capacity (140 x 140 x 115 mm) and laser power (500 W) for applications such as crowns, bridges, removable partial dentures and implant bars.

“We took our industrial design from [DMP Flex] 100 and the lasers of the [DMP] 350 and married them together, ”Haffner explained.

Ease of use is at the forefront and Haffner says the machine comes with 3D Sprint so dentists “don’t have to learn the whole CAD side”, while its compact size, plate clamping system process and its simple material change (from with titanium and cobalt-chromium) has also aroused the interest of research institutes preparing to deploy the machine for materials development.

Nearby, I spot a number of 3D printed metal hip cups and spinal implants. Both of these applications are well established in the AM industry, but 3D Systems hopes to bring productivity to a new level with the launch of two more machines, the DMP Flex 350 Dual and the DMP Factory 350 Dual. These dual laser systems are for small parts that can be stacked next to each other to benefit from their increased laser power “so you can double your productivity” for not only medical, but also aerospace, turbomachinery, semi. -conductors and automobiles. . Improvements to its 3DExpert 17 software, also announced at the event, are expected to further accelerate this with higher throughput and faster print times for these two DMP systems.

Sticking to healthcare, while not necessarily new to 3D systems, but definitely a start for many visitors, was bioprinting. Since announcing its intention to invest in bioprinting and regenerative medicine in January, 3D Systems has been working on applications in tissue engineering, human organs and new drug therapies in partnership with United Therapeutics and CollPlant, and via the acquisition of the Philadelphia-based developer. of Allevi bioprinting solutions. Speaking of his enthusiasm for this emerging area of ​​application, which has long seemed like a world far removed from reality, Haffner said, “It helps humanity. Without a doubt, it is number one.

Back on the industrial side, another part arouses the same enthusiasm as Haffner asks me to take a large metal stand. The part, a topologically optimized orbital-class RF chassis developed with Thales, is incredibly light and took 71 hours and 36 minutes to manufacture on the DMP Factory 350. It is an example of the type of customers with which 3D Systems works within its application innovation group. , which seeks to help companies design and scale their AM applications by developing solutions in-house and providing technology transfer.

“[Customers are] think about parts, ”Haffner said, further emphasizing the demand for end-to-end applications. “They don’t want to think about machines, and we have to do everything. We just can’t just print.

The weightlessness of the chassis is due to the material, Scalmalloy, a high-strength aluminum alloy that 3D Systems added to its portfolio of certified materials after development with APWORKS in September. Ideal for aerospace and automotive applications due to its attractive strength-to-weight ratio, Scalmalloy’s properties focus on load-bearing components, structural and fluid management applications, and thermal management structures for the semiconductor space. . Features like these underscore a message that is repeated throughout our conversation: Materials are essential.

“Customers want parts […] and it all starts with the materials, ”Haffner said. “If you’re an engineer and think of a 3D printed material, it’s all about the properties, but more importantly, it’s about things like long-term stability. This is crucial for an engineer to decide on which parts to use. We start an effort, we go through all our technical sheets and we present all the information. Not everyone does this, but it’s very important to engineers and they love it.

This also applies to polymers, including a new DLP resin, Figure 4 Rigid 140C Black. This two-part epoxy / acrylate hybrid material is designed to provide production-grade parts with long-term mechanical stability and dramatically reduced cure cycles. With an HDT of 124 ° C at 1.82 MPa and a toughness similar to that of injection molded polybutylene fiberglass, the resin would be ideal for automotive applications under the hood and in the interior cabin.

“It’s an important material. When you get started in consumer goods, you often need this flame retardant when you get started in certain certified applications like transportation and aerospace. The other thing about this is that it will be introduced in Figure 4 first but as we saw with the AMX Rigid Black we move the materials in Figure 4 to our SLA machine when we want to enlarge [and] move to larger production. We will do this over time. It’s just standard procedure for us now.

While materials remain at the heart, there is another factor that Haffner would like to point out: the people. He describes a culture of collaboration, sharing how, while on paper the industrial and medical departments of 3D Systems are separate, “internally you would never know” and that there would be a lot of knowledge sharing between the teams. .

“I am proud of our people. You need these people in place, you need the materials. Otherwise, the app just doesn’t happen. That’s why I maintain we have an advantage because we have the knowledge, many years of activity, and again I’m biased, but we have some of the best materials scientists in the world.

Everything is very positive and with each of these new machines expected to be available in the first quarter of next year, it portends a busy 2022 for the company, which will hopefully also bring updates to its High Speed ​​Fusion collaboration with Jabil, unveiled in return. in February. However, with this solution-oriented philosophy in mind, Haffner maintains that materials is the area he is most excited to approach in the New Year, not only for this new product line, but also to allude to “new things” on the horizon.

“[Materials] opens up new apps, new customers, people who aren’t even thinking of 3D printing right now, that’s exciting for me. […] It turns the hardware people on. When you have a new material, they want their equipment to perform as well as possible. So, it’s kind of like the main load.

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