Brief Update on 3D Printing: Metal Powder, Additive Construction and More – December 2, 2023


Starting off today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, we focus on business. The national mineral research organisation of South Africa, Mintek, has acquired an AMAZEMET machine. We then explore three additive construction stories, moving onto sustainable resin research, and research into tiny sensors that can identify flow and environmental changes. We finish with a study of 3D printing in microgravity and a 3D printed commercial delivery van.

Mintek Boosts AM in South Africa with Acquisition of AMAZEMET Machine

Following a procurement process that took several years, South Africa’s national mineral research organisation, Mintek, has at last secured the rePOWDER ultrasonic atomization and alloy development machine from AMAZEMET. The intention is to utilise this machine to elevate and fortify South Africa’s minerals-based and 3D printing sectors. Currently, Mintek is in the process of acquiring a metal 3D printer to pair with the rePOWDER. Together, these devices will CREATE AND EVALUATE button castings and powders. This could help validate the experimental modelling of innovative metal alloys. The machine is capable of processing almost all feedstock materials into spherical, homogenous powder particles with outstanding flowability. Unlike gas atomizers, this ultrasonic model can produce castings and utilize small quantities of metals, crucial for R&D projects that require precious metal resources. Mintek’s chief engineer, Dr. Hein Moller, is in charge of coordinating South Africa’s precious materials development network. A significant challenge, he stated, is sourcing the material for experimental work due to the high cost of metals. The rePOWDER can also provide a recycling solution by taking incorrectly 3D printed parts and re-atomizing them back into a powder.

“Our metal 3D printing community in South Africa is highly active, but we lack the infrastructure needed to produce the powders,” stated Dr. Holler. He mentioned the importance of South Africa keeping pace in its AM ventures. The acquisition of the AMAZEMET rePOWDER machine will undoubtedly aid in addressing this concern.

3D Concrete Printing & Traditional Architecture Combine in Hexastone

Revealed at Northern Europe’s Nordbau 2023 construction trade exhibit in Germany, the Hexastone project joins the forces of traditional architecture with 3D concrete printing (3DCP). The project was the result of a joint effort by Professors Herrmann and Spaeth from the Technische Hochschule Lübeck, along with additive construction (AC) companies Vertico and Sika. The Hexastone dome consists of 102 interlocking stones, each with a 4.5-meter diameter. Computational form-finding procedure using simulations was employed to establish the structural configuration of the shell structure. Its geometry was cut into square, hexagonal modules, the connections between the stones were refined using the tessellation method. Unlike standard brickwork that creates curvature through tapered mortar joints, the hexa-shell achieves curvature using an inclined edge for each stone, which results in consistent crevices. Vertico stated that it only took two days to build each unique stone thanks to the application of 3D printing technology.

Defying the conventional method of “build and demolish”, Vertico launched a pavilion solution statementaimed at lasting into the future. Post its showcase at Norbau 2023, the pavilion will be taken apart and reassembled at another location yet to be confirmed. This “Design for Disassembly” approach significantly reduces waste and highlights a sustainable construction method. As the seams between the stones are only subjected to compressive forces, the mortar is solely used to adjust for tolerances. Therefore, a non-adhesive agent was applied to the stone surfaces to prevent potential tensile force transmission and enable easy disassembly.

College Architecture Students Build Inexpensive 3D Printed Home

Image Credit: KABC

On the Burbank campus of Woodbury University, you can now find a trendy, environmentally-friendly, and affordable 3D printed home, created by a group of architecture students. The 425-square-foot, open plan property, called the Solar Futures Home, is powered by renewable energy, and was built using sustainable materials. Plus, while the average home in Burbank costs around $1.2 million, this house is less than a quarter of that price, as it only cost the students $250,000 to build it. The house, which was created as part of a national collegiate competition from the Department of Energy, took 24 students about 15 months to build.

Recent graduate Jade Royer said, “I think it looks really nice. I’m glad that we kept it raw concrete… we didn’t add any paints or anything like this on top of it so we can see all of the different layers and the actual material.”

“I also enjoy the kitchen because it uses a lot of sustainable materials as well,” said fellow graduate Jessica Gomez. “The dining chairs and the table are made from recyclable paper, so we try to think sustainably from the building but also with how we wanted to furnish it.”

First 3D Printed Social Housing Project in Europe

The first publicly funded multi-family house to be 3D printed in Europe is underway. This social housing project, located in the former coal mining center of Lünen, Germany, combines 3D concrete printing (3DCP) with public housing subsidies to build a three-story apartment building. Each floor will have two units, ranging from 670-890 square feet, for a total of six apartments, and while the first two floors will be 3D printed, the top floor is being built with a timber hybrid construction method. Furthermore, conventional construction methods will be used to build the foundation, base, and filigree slabs for the building, and the top floor will be cladded using façade panels. This is the third larger-scale construction project in Germany this year alone that PERI 3D Construction has worked on with COBOD International‘s printers.

“This project continues the trend that we have seen the last couple of years, where the technology has made some remarkable leaps forward, moving away from just being used for small houses on one floor to also being used for larger and larger projects with multiple floors also outside the residential market,” said Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder and General Manager of COBOD International.

“PERI’s German projects in 2023 including the data center, football clubhouse and now an apartment building are a testament to this trend.”

Penn State Developing Plant-Derived Materials to Replace AM Plastics

Doctoral degree candidates James Godwin, left, and Kassem Bokhari inspect a 3D-printed tensile-testing specimen. Credit: Michael Houtz/Penn State. All Rights Reserved.

A team of agricultural and biological engineers from Penn State received a three-year, $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) to develop a sustainable, plant-derived material that could replace the plastics often used in large-format stereolithography, or SLA 3D printing. They’ll work to develop chemical transformations of the plant-derived biomaterials nanocellulose and lignin for the creation of renewable SLA resins that also contain soybean oil. Then, these materials can hopefully be used as a substitute for costly, highly-engineered resins that are mixed from petrochemical components.

“Our project team’s long-term goal is to develop new and sustainable bioproducts from lignocellulosic biomass — or dry plant matter — that economically enable a low-carbon bioeconomy. The objective of this proposal, which is a step toward our long-term goal, is to create a renewable resin material comprised of agriculturally derived components that will enable large-format 3D printing by stereolithography,” explained team leader Stephen Chmely, assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Virginia Commonwealth University Researchers 3D Printing Cilia Sensors

Nanoscience and nanotechnology doctoral candidate Phillip Glass, and his advisor Daeha Joung, PhD, from the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Physics, were moved by the capabilities of tiny hair-like cilia to enhance a person’s senses and detect slight environmental variations. They applied this inspiration to their work on mechanosensing. This is a method the body uses to gather external stimuli, such as light, temperature, or motion, and transmit it to the brain. The organs or cells that perform this sensing are referred to as mechanoreceptors.

The pair is utilizing 3D printing to create tiny sensors that resemble hairs. These can be used for various purposes, like minimally-invasive surgical robots, industrial machines for measuring air or water flows, and even robots capable of reading braille. To create these sensors, a customized 3D printer was used. The sensors are made of polycaprolactone (PCL) mixed with conductive graphene. Thanks to the flexibility of the technology, a diverse range of sensor sizes can be easily produced.

“One of the key benefits of our technology is the ability to print different-sized hairs, which can interpret the stimulus distinctly. Longer hairs bend more easily than shorter ones, allowing them to be more sensitive to a wider range of stimuli. Hence, unlike other kinds of airflow sensors that can only detect a specific range of flow, we can print our cilia in various sizes and spacings to improve their sensitivity,” Glass explained.

You can learn more in their published research article.

3D Printing in Microgravity to Advance Space Colonization

It’s necessary to manufacture important equipment and materials onsite when you’re on an extended outer space mission, because it’s so time-consuming, heavy, and expensive to transport the items from Earth. The Microgravity Research Team from West Virginia University is exploring how 3D printing in a weightless environment could help advance and support long-term space habitation and exploration. Their recent focus has been how microgravity affects 3D printed titania foam, which has great potential for applications like water purification and blocking ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The work allows them to see the role gravity plays in how the foam is extruded out of the nozzle and spreads onto a substrate, and they also experiment with changing other variables in the print process, such as extrusion pressure and writing speed, to see how all the parameters interact to tune the filament’s shape in a weightless environment.

“Transporting even a kilogram of material in space is expensive and storage is limited, so we’re looking into what is called ‘in-situ resource utilization. We know the moon contains deposits of minerals very similar to the titanium dioxide used to make our foam, so the idea is you don’t have to transport equipment from here to space because we can mine those resources on the moon and print the equipment that’s necessary for a mission,” explained co-author Konstantinos Sierros, associate professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who’s overseen the Microgravity Research Team’s titania foam studies since 2016.

You can learn more in their published research article.

3D Printed Electric Delivery Van First in Range of Commercial Vehicles

Finally, British sustainable mobility company HELIXX announced its first demonstrator vehicle, which is to be the first in a full range of commercial vehicles. The all-electric delivery van, with an aim to “support sustainable economic development in emerging megacities,” uses 3D printing for all of its cosmetic and structural body parts. According to TopGear, the idea is to build the van in local flat pack “mobility hubs” around the globe, because the body only features five key parts that simply “click and bond” together, without any welding required. HELIXX believes this will simplify the vehicle manufacturing process by up to 50%.

This 3D printed commercial delivery van is a single-seater vehicle with a central driving position, and measures only 3.2 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, but it has a 500 kg payload and 1,200 liters of space in the back; with a 140 cm long load bay and 110 cm wide rear door, a shipping pallet can easily fit inside. Starting with this delivery van, HELIXX is planning to develop a whole range of commercial vehicles, including a pickup truck, closed-body taxi with back seats, and an open-bodied rickshaw vehicle. Production for the van is set to begin in 2024, with a run of 100 vehicles built in the UK.

Original source


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