As we consider existing 2022 trends and opportunities for additive manufacturing, coupled with the recent CHIPS and Science Act news (latest from Department of Commerce), as an industry we have some exciting times ahead. According to a National Science Foundation news post, NSF grows future U.S. manufacturing technologies and jobs, the White House published the U.S. National Strategy for Advanced Manufacturing (53-page PDF download) which includes how Additive will have an impact on sustainability as well as materials innovations. The strategy report references Additive Manufacturing dozens of times with much of it centering on materials, sustainability, bioprinting, and software.
In fact, early in 2022, many experts talked about the importance of materials science advances in metals and ceramics (or polymer hybrids that fuse in one or both of those), and growth in healthcare with personalized medical AM growing. Here are some of the recent news reports impacting these two trends, including artificial intelligence (AI) and software tools that can make a difference.
Given that National Nanotechnology Day is celebrated in October, let’s look at the small end of 3D Printing which, of course, includes a fair amount of materials science leaps. BMF announced a Micro 3D Printing Initiative that is adding potential to micro-manufacturing. Other Massachusetts nano 3D printer companies are also making waves with the news that Nano Dimension Acquisition Creates Metal & Ceramic Additive Manufacturing Portfolio and Nanoscribe Extends 3D Microfabrication to Print Centimeter-Sized Structures.
On the software front, three big pieces of news around digital software optimization and automation. First, Carbon Acquired ParaMatters to Expand Design Software Optimized for Additive Manufacturing which will “expand Carbon’s current software capabilities to include topology optimization.”
ExLattice Receives NSF SBIR Phase I Award to Accelerate Engineering Simulation for Additive Manufacturing. NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. The NSF program is called “America’s Seed Fund” and is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The third software news item is Materialise introducing a new, open software platform: Materialise Announces CO-AM Software Platform to Advance Serial AM Production.
If you wonder how our Federal agencies get involved in additive manufacturing, it does not take much to learn that it is deeply committed to researching and developing materials as we see with the NSF news. Elementum 3D Secures DARPA Funding to Develop 3D Printing Process for Rhenium Metal (one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust and it is used to make high-temperature superalloys. Think: turbine blades in aircraft engines.) NASA may be trying to get a jump on the superalloy market with a new material NASA Alloy GRX-810: NASA’s New Additive Manufacturing Material Built to Withstand Extreme Conditions.
Materials for additive manufacturing move from a light jog to full sprint depending on customers and industry needs. We know, for instance, that rare earth elements are harder to source (as in we’re running out of many of them), and so more abundant, sustainable materials are being explored. Simplifyber, Inc., a sustainable Additive Manufacturing clothing company, received a $3.5M Investment. The company has dramatically cut the steps to make clothing and reduced materials by 35 percent with its novel, biodegradable approach. Another bio-based material comes from Materialise with its Polyamide 11 (PA11), a 100 percent bio-based polymer made from sustainably farmed castor beans for sustainable eyewear.
Innovation in materials is absolutely essential, but equally critical is when materials are qualified on various machines and for specific needs. Desktop Metal made two announcements this year, increasing its qualified material list to 18 (with 12 more in the research and development works): Nickel Alloy Inconel 625 Now Qualified on All Desktop Metal 3D Printing Systems, including the Shop System™. They also qualified the well-known Loctite thread-locking solution: Desktop Metal Expands Partnership with Henkel, Qualifies Loctite® Materials on Xtreme 8K.
When you need a flexible, smooth material, head over to see what Markforged is doing. The company just introduced Smooth TPU 95A to Produce High Quality, Flexible Parts.
When the White House and Federal agencies get involved in investing, it raises awareness and interest in a major way, and that can be an excellent boost to the manufacturing and related industries. By need alone, ours is an innovative space due to the fact that we face intractable problems and challenges that can only be addressed through change and new methods. After all, making things demands creativity and relentless inquiry, and manufacturers of all sizes know how to do that. The CHIPS and Science Act will simply jumpstart more of us.