Additive manufacturing could bring space fuel tank production back to the UK

Today, the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), Scotland, and Airbus Defence and Space launched a project that may see additive manufacturing applied to the production of fuel tanks. The project to be undertaken between the two partners aims to reshore space propellant tank manufacture in the UK. Independent welding research organization TWI has been enlisted to help decipher which method is best suited for competitively producing the tanks. Efforts are being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Example space propellant tanks on the exterior of ESA's LISA Pathfinder. Photo via ESA

Renato Bellarosa, Head of Tank Products and Research and Technology (R&T) Manager at Airbus DS, comments, “Propellant tanks are key strategic items that we currently must procure from Germany or the United States, and we are working to re-establish the capability to make them in the UK. We had this in the past, but it was lost when the parent company of the firm involved took the production back to Germany.

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3D printing will only boost profit, market share of a few companies – report

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are scaling their adoption of 3D printing technology, especially in the construction sector

Few industries are witnessing widespread adoption of 3D printing technology, which represents only 0.1 percent of the total $13.1 trillion value added through the global manufacturing industry.

Creative professionals checking blueprints and model building. Image used for illustrative purpose

Advisory firm Moody’s Investors Service says that 3D printing technology is used in niche applications and will help boost companies’ profitability and market shares in a limited number of industries.

Manufacturers of consumer goods such as eyewear and footwear are among the industries with the strongest near-term growth prospects for the adoption of 3D printing. Other industries that will benefit include aerospace, medical devices, automotive and capital equipment, but to varying degrees, according to Moody’s report.

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Additive Manufacturing put to the test by new $1.5M X-ray CT system at Auburn University

The Center for Additive Manufacturing at Auburn University, Alabama, is now home to a $1.5 million x-ray CT system. The new machine is to be applied to the nondestructive testing (NDT) of 3D printed parts, essential to the university’s programs to produce “mission critical” parts for aerospace and aviation industries.

The system was acquired with a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Professor Bart Prorok, Director of Auburn’s Analytical Microscopy Center, is principal investigator on the NIST grant, and has called the x-ray CT system “a real game changer” for the center’s additive manufacturing research.

“With this new system,” Professor Prorok explains, “we can take two-dimensional x-ray pictures of a metal structure for real-time process monitoring or a series of 2D images in 360 degrees of rotation that are then reconstructed into a 3D representation of the build.”

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3D software solutions: the first step in implementing 3D printing for manufacturing

Recently, many new 3D software startup companies entered the market offering various solutions mainly for industrial users. It goes from decision-support solutions for better utilization of 3D printing, generative design/topology optimization, to workflow management and parts IP protection. Each of them seems to be focused on specific challenges heavy users face, challenges that will only increase in the foreseeable future as 3D printing moves from prototyping to manufacturing.

Why is there a need for such 3D software solutions and what are the gaps they are trying to fill? And where does it position the large software conglomerates that have been the main players in the market for many years? Let’s understand the bigger picture first.

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Granite Geek: You know how 3D printing has been a dud? Well, maybe not …

You’ve probably heard of the technology hype cycle, which goes like this: Something new is developed and everybody thinks it’s going to change the world, but it falls short so everybody gives up on it. Finally, when nobody’s looking, the real potential slowly develops. 

Over the years I’ve followed 3D printing through the first two stages: “It changes everything!” and then “It’s a complete dud!”

Now, judging from a conference going on at Dartmouth College right now, 3D printing is moving into the third stage: “Sometimes it’s very useful in ways we didn’t expect.”

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How 3D printing is changing production models

Additive manufacturing is no longer just for prototypes. Its increasing popularity and technical capabilities have pushed it into position to change the way manufacturers manage their spare parts inventory.

No matter how technologies change, or what new innovations break into the mainstream, the basic goals of manufacturing remain the same: Reduce unplanned downtime, reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary waste, etc. How fortunate it is that 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) is one of those cool, innovative technologies that is finding itself a very nice spot in the realm of day-to-day cost and time savings. Not only can it be used to produce interesting and previously impossible designs, it has also become a useful way to change spare parts management.

When a system goes down, making the repairs needed to get it back up and running can be time-consuming. Even more so if the part that needs replacing is no longer readily available. With the right program in place, additive manufacturing can build that part on demand—whether through reverse engineering, digital files from the component supplier, or perhaps through the supplier itself.

In recent years, advances in the printing technology, in the materials that can be used, and the software control of the end-to-end workflow have fundamentally changed the way parts can be made with additive manufacturing, says John Nanry, co-founder and chief product officer at Fast Radius, which provides 3D printing services.

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3D printing adds up

3D printing continues to displace traditional manufacturing methods

Computer 3D printing (3DP) is being widely adopted in high-volume industrial sectors such as aerospace, automotive, healthcare and defense. Universities and other educational institutions also have incorporated 3DP into their technical training programs.

“3DP addresses the issues of cost, weight and reliability,” says Debbie Naguy, chief of the Product Support Engineering Division at the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in Dayton, Ohio. “It is prevalent everywhere, from aviation to automotive.”

3D printing is also called additive manufacturing (AM). Traditional manufacturing starts with a slab of material and eliminates whatever is unnecessary to form an object, creating waste that carries financial and environmental consequences. Additive manufacturing, by contrast, layers powdered alloys to build a three-dimensional object. The improved accuracy, enhanced product design and shorter time to market demonstrably lower costs. Leftover material can be reused. AM requires design to be done on computers, so it can be uploaded to the 3D printers.

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3D metal printer to shorten military supply chain

In an attempt to shorten the U.S. military’s supply chain, the United States Army Research Laboratory has awarded a $15 million contract to 3D systems to develop a metal printing 3D printer.

The company will team up with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to develop the “largest, fastest, most precise metal 3D printer.”

3d metal printer

The intent is to add capabilities to military supply chains developing and manufacturing combat vehicles, helicopters, missile defense capabilities, long rang munitions, and more.

The project is a part of the United States Army’s Additive Manufacturing Implementation Plan that uses 3D printing technologies to refurbish and create military parts and tools.

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Brazil ruling on tax treatment of 3D printing could have global implications

3D printing classified as a manufacturing process means some retailers are liable for IPI excise tax

The International Tax Review reports that a tax ruling issued by the Brazilian Federal Revenue Service on whether 3D printing should be classified as a manufacturing process for a business could mean retailers are liable for excise taxes. These are indirect taxes on the sale of a particular good or service such as fuel, tobacco and alcohol. Indirect means the tax is not directly paid by an individual consumer — instead, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) levies the tax on the producer or merchant, who passes it onto the consumer by including it in the product’s price.

The growth of the digital economy is the result of transformative processes brought about by information and communication technology (ICT) and is changing business models. This is very important from a tax perspective. and can have implications all over the world. In fact, Because of this, the OECD issued BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) Action 1, which deals with the tax challenges of the digital economy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) promotes policies that seek to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. It provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.

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A glimpse of 3D

3D printing of food is turning from pipe dream into commercial reality, as nutrition supplements firm Nourish3d is about to prove.

Nourishe3d founder Melissa Snover shares her dream for personalised nutrition using 3D printing

While the idea of 3D printed food might still seem in the realms of a sci-fi novel, the technology s very much present and already being deployed by, in particular, baking industry professionals for cake or pastry decoration.

At present, the technology is limited and relatively expensive, with the lowest cost of a 3D printer being around $1,000 (£784). Using extrusion, current 3D printers can only handle paste or puree ingredients, such as chocolate, cream or batter. However, the technology is beginning to gain traction, with users understanding how it can help to meet changing demands from consumers.

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