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A new AU$30 million research facility launched last week by Melbourne’s RMIT University is set to house what the university claims will be the “world’s first” rapid 3D nanoscale printer.
The new MicroNano Research Facility (MNRF) was launched at the university’s city campus in Melbourne’s CBD by vice-chancellor and president Margaret Gardner, who said the opening of the new laboratories and clean rooms is the start of an exciting new chapter in cross-disciplinary nano research.
“At the heart of the MicroNano Research Facility’s mission is bringing together disparate disciplines to enable internationally leading research activity,” said Gardner. “RMIT has long been a pioneer in this field, opening Australia’s first academic clean rooms at the Microelectronics and Materials Technology Centre in 1983.
“Over three decades later, this investment in the world-class MNRF will enable RMIT’s leading researchers to continue to break new ground and transform the future,” she said.
The AU$30 million MicroNano Research Facility.
(Image: RMIT University)
Among the equipment available to researchers in the 1,200 square-metre facility will be the rapid 3D nanoscale printer, which, according to the university, will be capable of producing thousands of structures — each a fraction of the width of a human hair — in seconds.
Director of the MNRF James Friend said that 10 research teams would work at the new facility on a broad range of projects, including the development of energy harvesting techniques that change the way batteries are recharged, and the building of miniaturised motors to retrieve blood clots from deep within the brain.
“This facility is all about ensuring researchers have the freedom to imagine and safely realise the impossible at tiny scales and beyond,” said Friend, who is also a vice-chancellor’s senior research fellow in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
“Having access to purpose-designed laboratories and leading-edge equipment opens tremendous opportunities for RMIT and for those we collaborate with, enabling us to advance the development of truly smart technology solutions to some of our most complex problems,” he said.
The launch of the new research centre comes as Australian additive manufacturing technology company 3D Group embarks on research into utilising graphite-derived graphene in nanoscale 3D-printing applications.
Todd Grimm, president of T.A. Grimm & Associates, provided an introductory overview at RAPID 2014 of all the latest and greatest in 3D printing innovations, and encouraged attendees to visit those companies exhibiting at the show to see for themselves these exciting new products.
One of the most exciting new products in the equipment category is the Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine (BAAMci), developed in a partnership agreement between Cincinnati Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The BAAMci is a large-scale additive manufacturing system capable of printing polymer components up to 10 times larger than currently producible, and at speeds 200 to 500 times faster than existing additive machines. According to a spokesperson at Cincinnati’s booth, the BAAMci has a one-gallon per hour material deposition rate.
Grimm noted that this machine addresses a number of the issues surrounding the AM process including throughput, part size constraints and provides hybrid additive and subtractive processes, all of which are needed to compete with injection molding to make AM competitive.
3D Systems has developed a number of new products recently including the Projet 4500, a plastic binder-jet printer using powdered acrylate and offering full color printing. The Projet 5500x offers a second jetting head for two-material printing that can bond or blend on the fly, Grimm explained. The ProX 500 is a photopolymer machine pushing toward production part manufacturing, going after injection molding with better part quality and higher throughput.
Stratasys also comes in big with its Objet500 Connex3, with a third print head and the ability to create multi-material over-molded components on the fly. It combines colors with multi-material printing, with the ability to mix rigid, flexible (rubber like), transparent and opaque colors to provide optimum versatility to design and produce products faster, according to Stratasys.
Asiga is also addressing the build-envelope size with its new Freeform Pro 50 (96 x 54 x 200 mm) and Freeform Pro 75 (144 x 81 x 200 mm) to enable larger part builds, and with a 50 micro resolution.
Arcam launched its Arcam Q20, a new Electron Beam Melting AM system designed specifically for manufacturing in the aerospace industry. Grimm also noted the size of the build box in the Q20 – 15″ x 18″ to accommodate large parts.
Concept Laser’s LaserCUSING powder-bed based laser melting process was showcased in the company’s latest in its X-Line products: the 1000R – a 1000-watt laser melting system with one of the industry’s largest build boxes: 630 x 400 x 500 mm (25″ x 15″x 20″). According to Concept Laser, one of its customers recently manufactured a transmission part from aluminum that measured 474 x 367 x 480 mm, not including the height of the build platform. It has a build rate of 65cm3 per hour.
German AM machine maker envisionTEC showcased its PerfactoryXede with a large build area (444.5 x 355.6 x 500 mm) offers a fast build speed of 25mm in z per hour, and according to the company makes the machine an excellent choice for automotive and aerospace components. The PerfactoryXede accommodates a wide range of materials including high temperature resistant (up 140oC) resin for under-the-hood applications. It also provides excellent XY resolution of 65 microns a Z down from 150 to 25 micron depending on the material.
Not to be left behind in the drive toward larger build envelopes, EOS, an innovator in Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), displayed its new EOS M 290 system, the successor to its “market-leading M 280 system,” according to EOS. With a build volume of 250 x 250 x 425 mm (9.8″ x 9.8″ x 12.8″), the M 290 offers flexible and economic additive manufacturing of metal components.
Andrew Snot, Seniro VP of EOS of North America, told PlasticsToday that the M 290 will help reduce part cost through the reduction in Argon gas usage (3 liters/minute) and with built-in monitoring of the melt pool for greater consistency for parts for the aerospace industry.
“EOS is positioned as an industrial 3D printer solution provider, not only for prototypes but production technology as well,” Snow said. “Additionally, on the plastics side of our business we have the P-760 with a dual laser and a build platform of 27″ x 24″ x 15,” which has recently been qualified by Boeing.”
Snow added that “acceptance [of the new equipment] is based on consistent platform-to-platform and build-to-build. That’s what we test for from our M 270 to the M 290 and all equipment in between.”
In the wee hours of one morning, Joe Lutgen came across the Mojo 3D printer, priced around $9,900 retail. Joe, who owns and runs his own engineering consulting business RSI Mechanical LLC, is no stranger to 3D printing. He has used it while working with clients in the medical equipment, automotive, and aerospace sectors.
“Maybe I have a shot at this,” Joe thought. So he entered his name. A few weeks later, he received a call from DE‘s publisher Tom Conlon. That’s how Joe found out he was about to become the owner of a brand new Mojo.
Joe recalled working on a start-up company’s design for a device that attaches to a hand. “We went through probably 70 iterations just on that one design. 3D printing, SLA — the [prototyping] methods we used were extremely important,” he said. “The ergonomics of the hand played a role in the device. It was critical that we turn around an idea in a couple of days.”
For manufacturers without in-house production facilities, turning ideas into tangible mockups is no quick act. Even with the dramatic speed and flexibility offered by 3D printing nowadays, Joe knows the process still takes about three to four days at service bureaus. Now that he has a Mojo at his disposal, Joe plans to augment his consulting business with printing services.
“My hope is to develop a small printing service for [clients], so if they have components from other engineers or from myself, I’ll be able to print their parts overnight.” When that becomes a viable business, Joe may expand from a single Mojo to multiple 3D printers.
Part of Joe’s prize was the WaveWash 55, a unit for rinsing off support materials from printed parts. The first thing Joe printed on his Mojo was a custom-designed basket for checking the rinse progress and retrieving components from the rinse chamber. (Think of it as sieve to catch and check on 3D-printed parts during the rinsing process.)
Joe has three sons — the three special clients he may be supplying free printing services to for years to come. Since they’re fans of the Minecraft video game, they put the Mojo to use by printing Minecraft avatars found at a 3D content site. “I want to get them started on possibly becoming an engineer like myself,” Joe said. He plans to offer his sons’ robotic class free printing services.
Stratasys‘ tagline for the Mojo as “the idea engine” is a fitting description for how Joe plans to use his prize. “As an engineer, someone with an inventive mind, I’d go around the house and think of how I could do things better. With this printer, I can now create the idea in CAD and print it out and try it. Maybe I need a cellphone holder for my bike,” he contemplated. “The ability to create what you think is the best solution and print it out — to me, that’s amazing.”
Over the years Joe has had many ideas. Some are fleeting thoughts; others could be promising and patent-worthy product concepts. “But I’ve never taken them to market,” he said. “This [Mojo] gives me an opportunity to work on those inventions that are in the back of my mind. Now I have no more excuse. I need to start working on the ideas I want to get out to the public, to the market. It’s an opportunity for me to create whatever I come up with in a short amount of time,” he reasoned.
Since the arrival of the Mojo coincides with the holiday season, the machine also contributed to the family’s Christmas spirit. In the living room of the Lutgens’ Southern California home, a number of 3D-printed ornaments dangle from the Christmas tree.
DE would like to thank Geoff Huston of Cross Spectrum Media (otherwise known as Joe’s nephew) for capturing the arrival of the Mojo in video and granting permission to reuse the footage as part of the video below.
You can contact Joe’s business, RSI Mechanical LLC by emailing joe.lutgen [at] rsimechanical.com.
For the interview with Joe, watch the video below: