3D Printing Industry Year in Review: April 2021


April was globally a month of change for 3D printing, with the introduction of new technologies, ever bigger and more ambitious prints and new perspectives on everything from supply chain security with cultured meat making the headlines.

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

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

The Ever Given continues to disrupt

Following the misadventures of a certain container ship called the Ever Given at the end of March, which caused massive disruption of global supply chains, the beginning of April was a period of reflection for many manufacturers. In particular, some of those affected by the shipping crisis have started to reconsider the way they source and transport their goods, with many 3D printing companies seeing 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 within a network, offers both a parallel capacity advantage as well as geographic flexibility, ”and 3D printing could have a vital role to play in this regard.

According to Ward Ripmeester of 3D printing service provider Shapeways, however, “AM is difficult 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 make the transition to digital manufacturing”, through its specially designed 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 made many people question whether it is worth going back to the old way of doing business. things. With this in mind, 3D printer maker EOS agreed to participate in the 50 Sustainability and Climate Leaders initiative in mid-April, with the aim of developing a plan to reduce emissions from the industry.

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

Likewise, later in the month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) revealed it will invest $ 6 million in projects studying the potential of turning coal into 3D printable materials. Funding recipients have since started working with the National Energy Technology Laboratory to advance their technologies, which at the time were intended for deployment in “economically troubled” areas.

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

2021: year of cultivated 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. During the month, Israeli firm MeaTech revealed that it has completed the acquisition of Peace of Meat, as part of a deal that would allow it to begin developing cultured products made from avian fat.

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 it would continue to invest to expand its lineup. products marketable 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 that cultivated meats – created without slaughtering livestock – can be a significant step towards this goal. “

Large format AM adapts again

More conventional 3D printing technologies also began to reach new heights in April 2021, with several new large-format metal prints and concrete structures unveiled during the month. One of these projects saw SLM Solutions working with Safran Landing Systems to 3D print a new lightweight business jet landing gear.

In another, Ingersoll Machine Tools partnered with aviation company Bell to 3D print a 22-foot-long vacuum sealer tool designed for molding helicopter rotor blades. Performed using Ingersoll’s gantry MasterPrint 3D printer with 5-axis milling functionality, the project would have produced a part with the same integrity and resilience as before, while still generating significant savings in lead time.

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

Finally, in the construction segment of 3D printing, BAM and Weber Beamix have announced their intention 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.
The finished 3D printed bridge from 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 tech 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 the “Phoenix”, the company’s new lightweight motor has been specially designed to meet the needs of industrial OEMs who demand their machines have higher light intensities and be capable of faster curing times.

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

This month, two-photon polymerization (2PP) 3D printer maker UpNano also announced a radical change of direction, with the release of its first 3D bio-printer: the NanoOne Bio. Not only was the machine capable of producing nanoscale 3D tissue structures, it was also launched with a custom Xpect INX bio-ink, which allowed users to drop cells into it directly.

“The combined skills of UpNano in developing 3D printing devices and Xpect INX in designing innovative materials for 3D bioprinting have combined well,” said Peter Gruber, co-founder of UpNano, 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 provides 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.

The consolidation of 3D printing continues

Finally, in our April report, the commercial year full of 3D printing acquisitions continued with the announcement of several major movements. One of the first to be finalized was Covestro’s purchase of DSM’s 3D printing division, in a deal that Andrew Graves, head of the additive manufacturing arm’s equipment partnership, said. gained, would help “bring the benefits of SLA to DLP users”.

Belgian 3D printing software and service provider Materialize also revealed that it has acquired the right to purchase Link3D. Originally slated to help Materialize complete its cloud platform and expand its user base in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific markets, the deal was eventually reached five months plus late in November.

Likewise, on the office service side, the BEAMIT group announced the acquisition of 3T Additive Manufacturing from the parent company AM GLOBAL in April. BEAMIT President Mauro Antolotti hailed the move, saying it opened up “new ways to leverage synergies,” while the company itself described it as a first step in its roadmap. expansion, which has enabled its capacity to increase to over 10,000 pieces per year. .

Antolotti added: “We are now more well 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. “

3T additive manufacturing headquarters.  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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The image shown shows the container ship Ever Given which became trapped in the Suez Canal at the end of March 2021. Image via Freightwaves.