In a series of recent announcements, 3D Systems has shown that its technology has applications in a wide range of industries, from F1 racing to the medical and dental industries. The company has not only provided 3D printers to the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team but has also launched a medical modeling service and two 3D printers dedicated to the dental industry. Let’s take a look at each bit of news in order of release.
Metal 3D Printers
As promised by 3D Systems CEO Vyomesh Joshi, 3D Systems is expanding its entry into the dental space. The company released two new metal 3D printers for the dental industry, the DMP 100 and DMP Flex 100. The DMP 100 is an entry-level system for dental labs that can print with Chromium materials and, based on internal company testing, can print 90 crown copings in under four hours in a single print run, followed by 25 minutes of heat treatment. The DMP Flex 100 has twice the throughput of the DMP 100, produces thin walls, and has a petite build volume of 100 x 100 x 80 mm (3.94 x 3.94 x 3.15 in). It can print a wider range of materials as well, including titanium and stainless steel, as well as chromium.
Though we’ve seen 3D Systems’ medical modeling firsthand, Stratasys beat the company to launching an anatomical modeling service, specifically one that relies on Stratasys’ full-color PolyJet technology. However, now that 3D Systems has officially begun its On Demand Anatomical Modeling Service, customers will have access to an expertise that has participated in planning over 100,000 surgeries and manufacturing over 600,000 medical devices.
The service gives medical professionals the ability to 3D print models from digital files for surgical planning and patient education. Whereas Stratasys’ BioMimics seems to involve working with the company hand-in-hand for anything beyond generic models, which include bone and heart tissues with specific pathologies, medical professionals can upload medical models to the On Demand Anatomical Modeling Service website, select a material, and print it. Selected areas can be highlighted in the model and materials are chosen depending on use. The customer is then given an instant quote and, once they decide to make a purchase, the product will be shipped in just five business days.
3D Systems also sells its D2P software for converting medical data into 3D models. The software features direct integration into the website for a more streamlined printing process, as well as a module for Volume VR, making it possible to create a virtual reality environment from an entire patient scan. For professionals who don’t have pre-prepared data for 3D printing, 3D Systems offers patient-specific anatomical modeling, in which a team at the company’s Healthcare Technology Center in Littleton, Colorado, can work with a patient’s CT or MRI data to create the necessary model.
Sauber Motorsport, which is running the Ala Romeo Sauber F1 team, is using five new ProX 800 stereolithography (SLA) printers at its facilities in Switzerland. The company has been working with 3D Systems for the past 10 years, including reliance on six selective laser sintering (SLS) machines, but decided to augment its SLA capabilities. The SLA printers are being used for wind tunnel testing, tooling for carbon laminating, and vacuum casting for silicon parts.
The F1 team performs wind tunnel testing on a 60 percent scale model of the car, which features front wings, brake ducts, suspension covers, engine covers, internal ducts and hand deflectors all 3D printed with SLS or SLA machines. Additionally, Sauber 3D prints 200 to 300 plastic parts per day for its third-party customers.
Final parts are then made from carbon fiber using 3D-printed and traditionally made molding. Sauber also relies on 3D printing for tools used in vacuum casting sealings. All of this makes it possible to quickly produce complex parts, such as duct systems.
Joshi explained to us in our last interview with him that the company is working on creating a successful business model for each vertical in which it is involved. This has begun with the medical and dental market and, as is demonstrated by the case of the Sauber F1 team, is now being extrapolated to other industries, such as the automotive market. It’ll take time to see if 3D Systems is back on its feet, after its previous management left the business, but it seems as though Joshi has found himself settled behind the wheel.