3D printing innovators crowned at Purmundus Challenge 2021 awards ceremony

The winners of the Purmundus Challenge have been unveiled at the Formnext 2021 trade show.

Tasked with devising unique 3D printable designs in keeping with the contest’s ‘innovation in progress’ theme, this year’s winners did not disappoint. At a live ceremony, a total of eight entries, ranging from an ETH Zurich bike brake caliper to an Aidro toucan beak, were awarded the contest’s coveted gold trophy, for their role in proving that innovation in the industry is very much alive and well. 

The winners of the 2021 Purmundus Challenge.
The winners of the 2021 Purmundus Challenge. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.

Innovation in progress 

Now in its ninth edition, the Purmundus Challenge is a 3D Printing Industry-backed contest that invites engineers from around the world to 3D print their way around common design problems. Hailing from all sorts of different industries, previous award winners have come up with everything from Stealth Keys to 3D Music Instruments, and the 2021 competition has attracted 35 impressive finalists. 

According to the Challenge’s organizers, this year’s finalists have taken the idea that 3D printing can be a ‘mass-customization enabler’ to the next level, with designs covering an array of VR, robotics, medical, e-mobility and powertrain applications. 

Ultimately, these entries were narrowed down to just eight award winners, which were honored at Formnext’s ‘AM4U’ stage on November 18 2021. However, while the competition for this year’s Purmundus prizes has been as hot as ever, many of the runners up still entered some highly-impressive product designs, such as MX3D’s large-format elevator cart and Altair Engineering’s spiky ‘BushBot-Chair.’

For the lucky few that were awarded one of the competition’s prestigious trophies, they also gained a share of prizes worth €30,000, along with the praise of the Purmundus Challenge organizer Cirp GmbH’s Dennis Lang, who said he was “delighted with this year’s entries,” and complemented the “part consolidation” exhibited by many of the winning designs. 

Act'ble's patented 3D printed ballet shoe sole design.
Act’ble’s patented 3D printed ballet shoe sole design. Image via the Purmundus Challenge.

Act’ble takes this year’s top prize 

The competition’s top prize went to German start-up Act’ble and its elaborate ‘new pointe’ 3D printed sole for classical ballet and contemporary dancers. Designed alongside pro athletes, the shoe’s uniquely-integrated upper is said to make it last five times longer than normal slippers, while “creating new possibilities for individual artistic expression.”

Second place went to the ‘Travel Sax,’ a portable 3D printed electronic saxophone that its creator Odesei Music says is the smallest and lightest of its kind in the world. Already played by more than 1200 musicians worldwide, the instrument features keys that are modeled on those of regular saxophones as well as laptop and smartphone compatibility, thus it allows users to play melodies on the move. 

Now in its second iteration, the award-winning device has been made available for pre-order via Odesei Music’s store site at €495, with shipping expected to begin in May 2022. 

In third place came HEXR and its custom-fitted PA11 cycle helmet. To customize the honeycomb-shaped headgear, the company first 3D scanned a test subject, before uploading the resulting data to an app, capable of automatically generating personalized helmet designs. Once modelled, the firm 3D printed its internal structures and smaller parts, then added its shell, straps and padding. 

Elsewhere, the 2021 Altair Simulation Driven Design Award went to Desktop Metal subsidiary Aidro for its ‘toucan beak’ bio-inspired heat exchanger. Produced using a laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) system, the part incorporates intricate microchannels that enable it to reduce pressure drops. This, in addition to its optimized size and weight, could lend the device future high-end industrial applications, according to its creators.

Engineers from academic institutions ETH Zurich and SUTD were also recognized for their respective bio-inspired soft robotics and 3D printed ‘integrated brake caliper’ research at the Purmundus ceremony, while Roberto Trunfio’s ‘Delijuice’ won the contest’s Public Choice Award, and macu4’s modular customizable prosthetics gained a special mention too.

HEXR's award-winning 3D printed helmet.
HEXR’s third-placed 3D printed helmet. Image via the Purmundus Challenge.

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Featured image shows the winners of the 2021 Purmundus Challenge. Photo by Paul Hanaphy.