3D Printing Industry Year in Review: April 2021


April has been a month of change for 3D printing overall, with the introduction of new technologies, ever larger and more ambitious prints, and new approaches to everything from supply chain security to cultured meat. , making headlines.

Read on for notable developments in April from BEAMIT, Materialise, UpNano, EOS, Xometry, Shapeways, SLM Solutions, Ingersoll Machine Tools, In-Vision, Covestro, Weber Beamix, MeaTech and more.

The disruption caused by the Ever Given continued to make waves in the manufacturing world in April 2021. Image via Freightwaves.

The Ever Given continues to disrupt

Following the mishaps of a certain container ship called the Ever Given in late March, which caused massive disruption to global supply chains, early April was a period of reflection for many industrialists. In particular, some of those affected by the shipping crisis have begun to reconsider how they source and transport their goods, with many 3D printing companies seeing this as an opportunity.

Speaking to the 3D printing industry, Xometry Director of Application Engineering Greg Paulsen said that “the ability to seamlessly source the same parts from multiple vendors in a network, offers both a parallel capacity advantage as well as geographic flexibility”, and 3D printing could have a vital role. role to play in this area.

However, according to Ward Ripmeester of 3D printing service provider Shapeways, “AM is challenging with a high barrier to entry, especially for companies that have been slow to embrace digital manufacturing.” As a result, he explained how the company set out to “simplify these complexities by helping businesses around the world transition to digital manufacturing”, through its purpose-built software platform.

Climate initiatives are progressing

Along with other disruptive events, such as Brexit and the ongoing pandemic, the Ever Given shipping crisis has also left many wondering if it’s worth going back to the old way of do things. With this in mind, the 3D printer manufacturer EOS agreed to participate in the 50 Sustainability and Climate Leaders initiative in mid-April, with the aim of defining a plan to reduce emissions from the industry.

At the time, the company’s CEO, Marie Langer, said that “sustainable thinking has always been in her DNA” and that she “has the innovative power and mindset to make the difference”. To contribute to this fundamental change, Langer therefore called on the company’s “partners and customers to join it on its journey and support its goal of establishing responsible manufacturing as the new normal”.

Similarly, later that month, the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed it would be pouring $6 million into projects investigating the potential of turning coal into 3D-printable materials. Funding winners have since begun working with the National Energy Technology Laboratory to advance their technologies, which at the time were intended for deployment in “economically distressed” areas.

A rendering of a MeaTech production facility.
MeaTech continued to expand its product portfolio throughout the year. Image via MeaTech.

2021: year of cultured meat

April also saw the continuation of another disruptive trend in the 3D printing industry: the continued growth in the commercial viability of cultured meat products. Earlier this month, Israel-based MeaTech revealed that it had completed its acquisition of Peace of Meat, in a deal that would allow it to begin developing cultured bird fat products.

Along with the release of its financial results for fiscal 2020, the company revealed that it had also raised a total of $28 million through its Nasdaq listing, generating funds that it would continue to invest to expand its lineup. of marketable products throughout the year.

“We are pleased with our execution throughout 2020,” company CEO Sharon Fima explained in April. “The world is looking for more sustainable farming practices, and we believe cultured meats – created without slaughtering livestock – can be a significant step towards that goal.”

Large format AM scales again

More conventional 3D printing technologies also started reaching new heights in April 2021, with several new large-format metal prints and concrete structures unveiled during the month. As part of one of these projects, SLM Solutions worked with Safran Landing Systems to 3D print a new lightweight landing gear part for business jets.

In another, Ingersoll Machine Tools has partnered with aircraft company Bell to 3D print a 22-foot-long vacuum compensation tool designed for casting helicopter rotor blades. Made using Ingersoll’s MasterPrint gantry 3D printer with 5-axis milling capability, the project needed to produce a part with the same integrity and resilience as before, while generating significant time savings.

Ingersoll CEO Chip Storie described MasterPrint’s progress as “relentless” at the time, while suggesting that his short-term goals for the machine were “aerospace 3D printing molds that preserve the geometric properties and tolerances, vacuum integrity and resiliency of the autoclave normally achieved”. with traditional technology, but with the reduction in cost and time that only AM can offer. »

Finally, in the 3D printing construction segment, BAM and Weber Beamix announced that they too intend to push the limits of their technologies, by building the longest printed pedestrian bridge in the world. Five months later, the companies confirmed they had completed the 29.5-meter-long structure, which would have broken the old record held by Tsinghua University, and its 86-foot concrete bridge in Shanghai.

The 29 meter 3D printed bridge.  Photo via Municipality of Nijmegen/Michiel van der Kley.
3D printed bridge finished by BAM and Weber Beamix. Photo via Municipality of Nijmegen/Michiel van der Kley.

In-Vision and UpNano unveil new technology

Elsewhere, one of April’s most notable technology launches came from Austrian optical device developer In-Vision, which unveiled its first 4K UV light projector for use with resin-based DLP 3D printers. Known simply as “Phoenix”, the company’s new light engine has been specifically designed to meet the needs of industrial OEMs who demand their machines have higher light intensities and be capable of faster cure times. .

“We are constantly striving to improve the optics of our projectors, in particular the transmission of light because the light intensity is very critical for our customers”, explained at the time Florian Zangerl, CEO of In-Vision. “I have to admit I’m proud of what we’ve achieved with the Phoenix.”

That month, two-photon polymerization (2PP) 3D printer manufacturer UpNano also announced a dramatic change in direction, with the release of its first bio 3D printer: the NanoOne Bio. The machine was not only supposed to be able to produce nanoscale 3D tissue structures, but it was launched alongside a custom Xpect INX bio-ink, which allowed users to drop cells directly onto it.

“The combined skills of UpNano in developing 3D printing devices and Xpect INX in designing innovative materials for 3D bioprinting have gelled well,” UpNano co-founder Peter Gruber told about new launches. “We have co-developed X Hydrobio INX U200, a highly biocompatible hydrogel, and at the same time we offer a two-photon 3D printing device that offers the widest range of printed dimensions on the market.”

The UpNano NanoOne Bio with its incubation chamber.  Photo via UpNano.
UpNano’s first 3D bio-printer: the NanoOne Bio, alongside its incubation chamber. Image via UpNano.

3D printing consolidation continues

Finally, in our April roundup, the busy business year of 3D printing acquisitions continued with several major changes announced. One of the first to be finalized was Covestro’s purchase of DSM’s 3D printing division, in a deal which, according to Andrew Graves, head of additive manufacturing arm equipment partnership acquired, would help “bring the benefits of the SLA to DLP users”.

Belgian 3D printing software and services provider Materialize also revealed that it had acquired the rights to buy Link3D. Originally intended to help Materialize complement its cloud platform and expand its user base in the North American, European and Asia-Pacific markets, the deal was finally closed five months later in November.

Similarly, on the service desk front, BEAMIT Group announced the acquisition of 3T Additive Manufacturing from parent company AM GLOBAL in April. BEAMIT Chairman Mauro Antolotti hailed the move, saying it opened up “new ways for him to leverage synergies”, while the company itself described it as a first step on its roadmap to growth. expansion, which has allowed its capacity to increase to more than 10,000 pieces per year. .

Antolotti added: “We are now better equipped than ever, having consolidated and strengthened our AM service offering, established a presence in the UK and prepared for further expansion and growth with our customers in the years to come.”

Headquarters of 3T additive manufacturing.  Photo via 3T additive manufacturing.
BEAMIT acquired 3T Additive Manufacturing in April 2021 (photo of the headquarters of its new subsidiary). Photo via 3T additive manufacturing.

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Featured image shows the container ship Ever Given which became trapped in the Suez Canal at the end of March 2021. Image via Freightwaves.


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