3D Printing News Digest

3D printing industry news sliced: SLM Solutions, Stratasys, nTopology, Rapid Shape and more 

In this edition of Sliced, the 3D Printing Industry news digest, we cover the latest business developments, partnerships, and acquisitions across our industry. 

Today’s edition features updates on the additive manufacturing industry’s ongoing COVID-19 efforts, a host of new collaborations from within the industry, additive investment from the US government, and even the “world’s first” waterproof 3D printed shoes. 

Read on for the most recent updates from LuxCreo, Liniar, FELIX, Siemens, RPD, DOMO Chemicals, 3D Hubs, and more. 

Business: SLM launches shares, Wayland’s new site and Stratasys success

Beginning with the latest business news, German metal 3D printer manufacturer SLM Solutions has made €15m worth of 2.00% convertible bonds available to shareholders. The offer was made to existing SLM backers, and to those that purchased 2017/2022 convertible bonds issued by the company in 2017. While the latter is expected to be delivered on July 15th, 2020, the interest will be paid quarterly in arrears, starting on October 15th, 2020. 

SLM Solutions’ share price has struggled since a failed takeover bid by GE. Shares in the company once reached almost 2,700. The price is now below 10. The latest financial results show the company is struggling with revenue down 31.7 percent.

Bonds will initially be sold at €6.75 per share and be convertible from July 2022. The company does not currently intend to apply for a listing of the new convertible bonds on any domestic or foreign stock exchange. SLM Solutions will use the net proceeds to support its current business operations and to continue to invest in its machines, services, and its sales network.

“Many of our existing shareholders and holders of the Convertible Bonds 2017/2022 have exercised their subscription rights thereby signalling their support of our current strategy,”  said Meddah Hadjar, CEO of SLM Solutions. “We will use the additional funds to steer SLM Solutions safely through the COVID 19 pandemic, and to resolutely continue the effective measures already initiated in order to return to a path of successful development.”

SLM Solutions at Formnext 2016. Photo by Michael Petch.
SLM Solutions at Formnext. Photo by Michael Petch.

Wayland Additive, the metal 3D printing start-up based in West Yorkshire, UK, has launched a “brand new and comprehensive” websiteUsing its new site, the company aims to promote the advantages of its proprietary NeuBeam technology as an alternative to conventional Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) 3D printing processes. According to Wayland, laser PBF methods cause internal residual stresses to parts meaning that supports are required, and eBeam processes are characterized by inherent instabilities. 

The Neubeam process, on the other hand, neutralizes these issues using core physics principles developed within the semiconductor industry. By creating components in a “hot part” process rather than a “hot bed” one, the production technique is reportedly capable of producing parts that are free of residual stresses, and without residual sinter caking. In addition, Wayland’s 3D printers offer built-in real-time in-process monitoring, allowing for tuning during the manufacturing process, and are compatible with a range of printing materials. 

“At Wayland we feel that this is a pivotal moment for considering the ways in which manufacturers apply metal AM to harness its advantages, and the only way to accelerate its adoption is to overcome the inherent issues with existing processes,” said Will Richardson, CEO of Wayland. “Our new website explains in detail not just our new NeuBeam metal AM system, but also alerts manufacturers to the critical pit-falls to avoid and opportunities to exploit when assessing the incorporation of metal AM processes.”

Lastly, UK-based uPVC specialist Liniar has hailed the benefits of adopting Stratasys 3D printers within its plastic mixing facilities. The company has integrated 3D printing into its plant located in Derbyshire, which produces 32,000 tonnes of material per year for the production of windows, doors, and garden furniture. Adding a Stratasys F370 3D printer to its existing fleet of Objet260 Connex3 systems has allowed Liniar to print rather than machine parts such as saw blocks or drill jigs. 

“The biggest cost saving is time. Rapid prototyping allows us to develop new products faster. We can design products, assemble them, make some changes, re-print it and try it again, all in the space of a day,” said Tom Roberts, Product Design Manager at Liniar. “We design a lot of products with gaskets and sealing, so it’s been really useful that we can print both of those materials together and produce realistic components. That just wasn’t possible before.”

Liniar's facility in Derby (pictured), produces 32,000 tonnes of material each year. Photo via Liniar.
Liniar’s facility in Derby (pictured), produces 32,000 tonnes of material each year. Photo via Liniar.

FELIX becomes vendor to US government, In-Q-Tel backs nTopology 

Netherlands-based desktop 3D printer manufacturer FELIXprinters has announced that it has become an official vendor to the US government. As part of the ‘3D products and services contract’, agreed via its reseller Team One, the company’s 3D printing platforms, and accessories are now available on GSAadvantage.com for US government procurement. In addition to becoming available for federal purchase, state and local governments throughout the USA will also gain access to FELIX 3D printers. 

“We are delighted to be working with Team One in the States, and are extremely encouraged by our inclusion on this US government contract,” said Wilgo Feliksdal, Co-founder of FELIXprinters. “We continue to innovate, to listen to customer requirements, and then serve them with competitively priced 3D printing solutions which have at their core ease of use and above all else accuracy, reliability, and repeatability.”

New York-based software company nTopology, meanwhile, has announced a partnership with non-profit organization In-Q-Tel. The strategic investor identifies and supports cutting-edge technologies that could be used by the CIA and other U.S. government agencies, and the deal will see the company’s software become available for IQT’s government partners. nTopology’s platform is a tool for generative design and customizable workflows, that will give government engineers the tools to create optimized lightweight parts using lattices, gyroid infill, and topology optimization. 

“The investment from IQT validates the powerful capabilities of nTop Platform, nTopology’s design-engineering software suite,” said nTopology Solutions Architect Nicky Soane, PhD. “We are excited to join In-Q-Tel’s portfolio of companies and work together on digital design and advanced manufacturing technologies with their partners.”

LuxCreo crowdfunding for waterproof 3D printed shoe

3D printing solutions provider LuxCreo has launched a kickstarter campaign for what it describes as “the world’s first waterproof 3D printed shoes.” Using its patented LEAP 3D printing technology, the company has created the breathable BISCA360, which features  “superior” shock absorbance compared to previous additive efforts. Moreover, because the footwear’s lattice structure allows them to be tailor-made to the wearer, fewer shoes will need to be discarded due to wear and tear. 

“Americans throw away over 300 million pairs of shoes each year. These shoes end up in landfills and can take 30 to 40 years to decompose,” stated the company. “Since our lattice structure provides infinite foot support, it decreases the need to throw away shoes and allows for continued use as if the shoes are brand new. For every pair of BISCA360 shoes, we eliminate two regular pairs from being thrown into the landfill.”

Software updates from CADENAS and CT Core Technologies

In software news, German CAD software company CADENAS has announced that it will now provide planning data for automation and switching technology products from Siemens. Users of Siemens solutions will now have direct access to digital components such as switches, controls, and relays, enabling engineers to quickly integrate them into their product designs. 

Previously, access to planning and CAD data for the company’s 50,000 products and services, was only available via its own online platform, the Siemens Industry Mall. Thanks to the deal, users of Siemens PLM solutions can now insert them directly into their product design without changing systems or the need to store the files locally. Additionally, its digital product catalog is now available via various channels, including the CADENAS mobile app. 

“The aim of the cooperation between CADENAS and Siemens is to support manufacturing companies by improving the flexibility and efficiency of their design and production processes, helping bring products to market faster,” said Thorsten Reichenberger, Senior Business Development Digital Business at Siemens. “This consistently increases efficiency, minimizes the error rate and significantly shortens development cycles. All in all, this means a sustained increase in competitiveness for companies.”

3D printing software manufacturer CT CoreTechnologie has launched a new version of its 4D Additive platform, which includes a function for the automatic labeling of 3D printed parts. The version 1.2 update allows printed components to be marked automatically with a new labeling tool, which generates unique and reliable identification numbers for each individual part. This enables users to create test specimens without time-consuming manual work, and the markings could allow customers to optimize their process, by correlating the finish created, with the position of the part on the build platform. 

What’s more, the placement of the tags can be defined as desired by using CAD models, and multiple markings on one body or surface are possible too. A range of automatically generated information about the respective part can also be used to generate ID numbers, or record information including the center of gravity, manufacturing position, date, or part size. In the next version of the software, which is expected to be launched in autumn 2020, the company plans to add QR code functionality and compatibility with external tools. 

Core Technologie's updated software (pictured) allows users to label 3D printed parts. Image via Core Technologie.
Core Technologie’s updated software (pictured) allows users to label 3D printed parts. Image via Core Technologie.

Partnerships for Rapid Shape, Keystone, DOMO and RPD

German 3D printer manufacturer Rapid Shape has validated Keystone Industries’ dental 3D printing materials for use with its D20+, D30+, D20 II, D30 II, and D40 II 3D printers. Keystone’s 3D splint and KeySplint Soft materials were validated using open-source Rapid Shape lab printers, which were able to produce parts quickly and effectively. KeySplint Soft is tough and durable, yet soft for patient comfort, and has regulatory clearance in the USA, Canada, EU, and Australia. As part of the deal, biocompatible resins like KeyGuide, KeyTray, and the upcoming KeyIBT also have been tested and will be made available to Rapid Shape users.

“We are excited about partnering with Keystone to validate and develop the KeyPrint line for optimal use with the Rapid Shape systems,” said Andreas Schultheiss, CEO of Rapid Shape. “In Keystone we have an innovative, expert material partner on our side, with whom we can offer our customers access to high-end technology and differentiated 3D printing materials. The material parameters for the comfortably soft yet very strong and clear KeySplint Soft resin are now available for our customers via our Rapid Shape engine.”

3D printing materials company DOMO Chemicals has formed a strategic partnership with Austria-based Rapid Product Development (RPD). Working together, the companies are developing a range of dedicated Sinterline PA6 Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) powders, which will be complemented by a complete package of support services. The collaboration will combine RPD’s expertise in application development and SLS technology, and the integrated component design capabilities of HUB by Sinterline. 

Their newly-enhanced product portfolio will allow customers to produce fully functional 3D printed components for use in automotive and other demanding applications. Moreover, their enlarged set of available services will now cover the full product development cycle, from material database to part validation. RPD and LSS last collaborated in 2017 with the establishment of R&D platform DISTech, which operates out of a 3D printing Competence Center in Austria. 

“As our Sinterline Technyl PA6 powders continue to set new standards in functional 3D printed applications, we are delighted to join forces with RPD,” said Dominique Giannotta, Sinterline Program Leader at DOMO Chemicals. “This partnership opens up new opportunities for SLS customers in near to small series automotive and other higher-volume application areas beyond prototyping.” 

DOMO and RPD are working together to develop a new range of dedicated Sinterline PA6 SLS printing powders. Photo via RPD.
DOMO and RPD are working together to develop a new range of dedicated Sinterline PA6 SLS printing powders. Photo via RPD.

Structo’s additive efforts to fight COVID-19 

Finishing with the latest on 3D printing’s battle against COVID-19, Singapore-based 3D printing start-up Structo has begun 3D printing nasopharyngeal (NP) testing swabs. Working in collaboration with the Singaporean authorities and healthcare professionals the company has now produced over 1 million 3D printed NP testing swabs, with deliveries starting this week. Structo’s 3D printed swabs are FDA registered medical devices, which adhere to strict manufacturing guidelines, and each of the swabs is individually sterilized and packaged before being delivered.

The company is now rapidly scaling its production, to fulfill orders from healthcare institutions and other key parties across Singapore, and will soon have the capability to produce over 1 million 3D printed swabs per week. Whilst Singapore has deployed effective contact tracing mechanisms to curb the spread of the virus, continued large scale testing is seen as critical in allowing it to return to a state of normality.

“In this climate, we recognize the importance of the availability of testing kits and the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the economy and supply chains worldwide,” said Huub van Esbroeck, Founder of Structo. “We hope that our in-house manufacturing capabilities will be able to help alleviate some of those problems and help us avoid a shortage of critical testing equipment globally.”

Finally, Filemon Schoffer, the Co-founder and CCO of on-demand manufacturing platform 3D Hubs, has called on the British government to extend its furlough scheme for strategic industry sectors by six months. “The manufacturing industry has passed the point of return,” said Schoffer. “While the short-term government support measures such as furloughs are critical, we must build a new industry by changing how it operates.”

“Digital technology has already reshaped transport, finance, and commerce – now it’s manufacturing’s turn. It is the time to change the archaic industry by embracing a new transparent supply chain system that encourages local production,” he added. 

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows the Sliced logo on an image of a Stratasys F370 print farm, the same systems that Liniar uses at it’s plastics facility. Photo via Stratasys.