Paulo Núñez

Paulo Núñez

Thursday, 06 May 2021 14:08

Printshop Workflow – Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 to represent the fourth revolution that has occurred in manufacturing industry, it refers to the transition to an autonomous process using modern technology, machine-to-machine communication and the Internet of Things (IoT), all enhanced by data analysis and machine learning; this revolution is here to stay and it is no longer optional, businesses that transition to it tend to become more profitable and successful in their own segment when compared to a non-automated industry.

Automating your print production process offers several benefits, including the opportunity to improve the company’s financial health, optimizing production task execution times, thus helping increase efficiency, and improving production output. A key benefit of automation is that it breaks bottlenecks, meaning it helps reduce or eliminate the inefficiencies and limitations of manufacturing that affect productivity and a mayor cause of reduced profits.


A standard printer workflow consists of several steps and in most cases, a little proportion or none of it is automated.


Key Strategies and Tactics for Leveraging Automation

According to HP’s "Strategies for Leveraging Automation to Enhance Performance", here are some of the key findings:

  • Even a modest degree of automation goes a long way in improving production speed and productivity.
  • Respondents reporting higher levels of automation are more likely to invest in software than respondents reporting less automation.
  • Survey participants with highly automated workflows report producing more jobs per day than respondents with less automation. High throughput links directly to profitability because it minimizes non-chargeable plant time.
  • Respondents reporting higher levels of automation accepted more jobs from customers via online submission portals compared to those reporting less automation. Online print job submission is an essential step in workflow automation.
  • The factors seen as most potentially problematic with regard to bottlenecks was relying on expensive labor or high-touch processes. Given that reducing labor expense and eliminating needless touches are exactly what workflow automation is meant to accomplish, this finding alone underscores the wisdom of adding more automation wherever the need for it exists.
  • Overall, respondents report that producing and managing a high number of small jobs was unlikely to create bottlenecks. This indicates that the industry is learning how to cope with the decline of long print runs and the rise of on-demand production in small quantities.
  • Workflow

    It’s important to remember that the printing industry version of Industry 4.0, doesn’t mean to remove humans from the equation, it means that machines do the work that machines do better than humans do, and humans do the work that machines can’t do.

    Many of today’s workflow solutions handle the creation and distribution of documents through a variety of new channels, including mobile and internet based; we are seeing some of these solutions offering the ability to manage, proof and produce 3D products. Solutions are also being refined to address the specific needs of market verticals, such as manufacturing, retail and many other.


    Automated workflows present tremendous opportunities, but they aren’t “set it and forget it.” They require ongoing attention, investment and focus if they are to continue to produce results.


    The best practice is to adopt workflow method and solution that helps automate processes, while focusing on efficiency, decreasing the operational costs while still increasing throughput and depending less on human intervention, in order to have employees invest time in more productive tasks.

    Investments in Automation

    Holding back investment in automation means holding back growth potential, a mistake that no printing business can afford to make in an environment where growth and profit increasingly belong to the most efficient producers.

    The main takeaway from the Industry 4.0 is that it works, and for the most part, the printer industry know it works. The awareness of the added value is irrefutable. What’s needed is wider adoption so printing businesses can take full advantage of all the benefits workflow automation offers them.

    Tuesday, 06 April 2021 18:59

    3D printing, Recycled filament

    Plastic pollution has become one of the most persistent environmental concerns, as a constant increase of the demand and production of disposable plastic products, overpassing the environment’s ability to decompose them. Sadly, the plastics industry fails to recognize the propagation of social and political changes regarding single-use plastics, especially, plastics made from fossil fuels.


    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    Today, single-use plastics account for more than 40 percent of the plastic produced every year (ourworldindata.org)


    Plastic pollution is an issue that stresses worldwide cooperation, similar to climate change. Studies reveal that the production of plastics from fossil fuel is only cost effective when the components not used for plastics are used for energy production, treating plastic more as a byproduct of the industry. Therefore, if the industry transitions away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable resources, then the production of wasteful single-use plastic could be severely reduced, if not completely eliminated.


    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    Plastic filament is one of the most used raw materials to 3D print, FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printers are the most common type of 3D printers available. There are several types of filament available with different properties, ranging from color, type of plastic and other mechanical properties, nevertheless some eco-friendly filaments do exist; varying from the CO2 footprint to the chemical properties and environmental impact when disposed.


    Regardless of the benefits, 3D printing generates large amounts of waste, to enumerate some, starting from the result of failed prints to rejected support structures. Furthermore, the ability to create components without machining or tools causes that many prints are used as disposable prototypes.


    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    Support material is generally required with complex geometry 3D prints, specially where overhangs exist.


    Generally, most “Eco-Friendly” plastic filaments aren’t easy to find and neither a cheap alternative, but recycled filament could be an option that helps reduce the CO2 footprint, following the criteria of the 6R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Remanufacture), PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the most promising regarding the fabrication of “green” filament, ranging from a factory process to a domestic plastic extruder.

    ABS is a petroleum derivate product, generally recyclable and PLA is biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic derived from resources such as corn, roots, sugarcane and other renewable resources.


    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    PET Translucent Re-filament, made from old PET bottles, up to 90% recycled (re-filament.com)


    Nowadays, market offers various filaments made from second hand PLA, PET, ABS, and HIPS. Re-Filament, a Dutch startup company made filament from recycled plastic bottles (PET) and old car dashboards (ABS), other commercially available filament spools from HIPS are made from old refrigerators or automotive parts.


    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    ABS Recycled Plastic filament made out from old car dashboards, developed by Re-Fil. (re-filament.com)



    3D-printing-recycled-filament

    There are other alternatives to make your own recycled filament, such as buying an existing Filament extruding machine or even building it by yourself. (filabot.com)


    Tuesday, 09 March 2021 03:32

    3D Printing Food

    For the inexperienced, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three dimensional solid objects from a digital 3D model. Objects are usually created layer by layer. 3D printing is revolutionizing the 21st century production industries, from shoes, to airplane and car parts, to medical devices, and more.

    Simplifying the definition, 3D printed food is nothing more than what Its name suggests, regular edible ingredients processed by means that they can be extruded through a nozzle onto a surface, the goal, to produce a meal on demand or with peculiar or complex shapes and geometries that are either impossible to reproduce manually or would take an extraordinary amount of time or resources.


    Brill, Inc., has introduced a full-color, professional-grade culinary 3D printing system, powered by 3D Systems. (brill3dculinarystudio.com)


    3D Printing Chocolate

    The 3D printing industry has reached many food markets so it is no surprise that it made impact on the chocolate industry. Several big brands such as Hershey and Nestlé had been experimenting with 3D printed chocolate, 3D printing brings creativeness and innovation to the cacao based franchise, 3D models can be turned into an edible chocolate creation.


    Hershey Kiss being printed by their CocoJet 3D printer. (www.3dsystems.com)


    Most chocolate 3D printers work with the same principles of a regular FDM 3D printer. Instead of a filament, chocolate 3D printers use a syringe, which is loaded with molten chocolate and then it keeps the chocolate at temperature as it prints. The extruder head moves around and lays down the melted chocolate with the shape desired in layers. The chocolate eventually cools and becomes solid. The whole system needs to be compliant with food safety standards in order for the 3D printed figure to be edible.

    Chocolate 3D printers haven been around for around 6 years, so the chocolate industry has yet to expand and learn what more could be done with 3D printers. Chocolate 3D printers aren’t suitable for mass production but it is perfect for gourmet, visually attractive food presentations, or just design new shapes. The main problem with chocolate 3D printers is the temperature, the chocolate has to be heated enough to melt and maintain melted in the syringe, at the same time it must be cool and dry enough to maintain its shape as it is laid into its final shape.


    3D printing chocolate allow chefs make unique creations and reproduce them rapidly and affordably, no matter how intricate or specific the design (sculpteo.com)


    3D Printing Meat

    Meat alternatives are leaving a mark and some companies like Impossible Foods have already partnered with big franchises Like Burger King, plant-based meat went from something very few had heard of to something that now trends between vegans and meat eaters; this is a glimpse into a different future for meat. Total emissions from global livestock are around 7 Gigatonnes of Co2-equivalent per year, representing 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Promoters of meat alternatives say these meatless meats could help change and gradually help the climate crisis.

    Redefine Meat is applying proprietary 3D printing technology, meat digital modeling, and advanced food formulations to produce animal-free meat with the appearance, texture and flavor of whole muscle meat (which they call Alt-Meat products).


    The Israeli-based company conducted a largest-scale public blind-tasting. The food truck concept was named “There’s a new meat in town”. (redefinemeat.com)


    Until recently, alternative meat has replicated ground beef or similar products that have a uniform consistency. 3D printing uniquely enables the production of precise geometries and patterns that can duplicate the muscle and fat structures found in cuts of meat. 3D printing also offers the flexibility to print different shapes, sizes, or combinations of fat and synthetic muscle without retooling or resetting the machines


    NovaMeat have managed to reproduce a realistic fibrous fleshy meat alternative steak product. (novameat.com)


    Another startup named NovaMeat creates realistic meat alternatives by 3D-printing plant-based proteins, one of the pioneers to simultaneously replicate both the texture and appearance of a cut of an animal’s muscle. Unlike burgers and meatballs, steak and other whole muscle cuts, such as chicken breast and pork chops, are difficult to imitate with only plant ingredients given their depth of texture.


    NovaMeat employs protein from rice, peas and algae fibers, natural plant-based colorants, and some fats such as canola, olive and coconut oil in their meat paste formulation. (novameat.com)


    It’s safe to consume 3D printed food as long as it has been prepared in an appropriate machine in a clean environment (as with any other kitchen). In addition to creating amazing-looking meals, there are other positives in 3D printing food such as the personalized meal and required daily diets (making food have the specific required nutritional values a person requires); with 3D printed meat we saw the potential global benefits to the environment, but another advantage to consumable 3D printed goods is the easy reproducibility of products, and the precision and time in which this can be produced. Only time will tell how things will work out for the 3D printed food industry but our hopes and expectations certainly aim high.

    Thursday, 04 February 2021 18:24

    3D Printing in 2020

    In 2020, 3D printing persistently advanced its path towards industrialization and innovation. The developments that pushed 3D printing to where it is today will continue further into 2021, indicating that new projects will surge, technological necessities will need to be satisfied, and new challenges will need to be overcome, all bringing forward new applications for 3D printers and expanding towards new horizons.

    Let’s go through what the 2020 brought to the 3D printing world and what it implies for the future.

    3D printing during the pandemic

    The Coronavirus pandemic brought challenges to almost every single country, the most difficult where how to manage and stop the spread of the virus and how to get enough medical supplies (valves for reanimation devices, etc.), we saw a fast response of the global 3D printing community aiding to these specific problems.


    Ventilator valves where really scarce during the COVID19 outbreak, and thus the 3D community ran to model and print working prototypes to be used in hospitals. (REUTERS)


    The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a significant shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) worldwide. Professional additive manufacturing providers, makers, and designers in the 3-dimensional (3D) printing community have posted free COVID-19–related 3D printer designs on their websites.

    In reaction to the acute shortage of protective wear for medical personnel during the pandemic situation, professional additive manufacturing providers, makers, and designers in the 3D printing community quickly developed and mass-produced protective face shields.


    Prusa3D came out with a final design called Prusa PRO Face Shield, which meets the standard of EN 166:2001 for protection against drops and sprays (protection class 3) . (prusa3D.com)



    3D printing communities across the world became a massive driving force in the effort to produce protective wear for those, who need it the most. (prusa3D.com)


    Development for 3D printed structure on the Moon

    ICON is a company that has won NASAS 3D printed habitat challenge, and has become the selected to develop a fully operational 3D printer capable of sustaining the harsh conditions of the moon’s surface, this while printing enhanced lunar structures and building a sustainable site for Off-Earth exploration. As part of its Artemis program, NASA is attempting to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, and it has already used 3D printing to develop rocket engine part.


    “Building humanity’s first home on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology, and architecture to literal new heights,” said Jason Ballard, Co-founder and CEO of ICON. (iconbuild.com)


    NASA has pointed that, through the Artemis program, the Moon will be the first Off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration. Building a sustainable presence on the Moon requires more than rockets. Robust structures will need to be built on the Moon to provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection.

    Direct-to-Textile 3D Printed Clothing

    3D printing continues to offer fashion designers greater freedom in creating complex geometries with fabric, the European Union has funded a research project called Re-FREAM, an effort uniting artists, designers, and scientists as they combine 3D printing and textiles to rethink the manufacturing process of the fashion industry.

    The Re-FREAM goal is to develop new concepts for the future of fashion by means of new processes and aesthetics that are inclusive and sustainable.

    Stratasys first introduced its PolyJet technology back in January 2020, a technology that creates objects by jetting fine droplets of photopolymers, materials that solidify when exposed to UV light. Last year, Stratasys started working with fashion designers to show their PolyJet direct-to-textile printing technology, from design through to production, demonstrating the possibility for localized manufacturing and mass customization.


    PolyJet 3D Printers are scaled to meet diverse needs in capability and production capacity. The printers fall within two groups: single material at a time and multi-material simultaneously. (Stratasys)


    This collaboration follows closely not only of their unveiling the new ability to 3D print onto regular textiles, but also onto sustainable fabrics in vivid colors, creating a shimmer effect when the clothing is in motion, while maintaining the comfortability of regular fabric outfits.


    Japanese-style kimono designed by Ganit Goldstein using direct-to-textile PolyJet multi-color 3D printing. (Stratasys)


    Another advantage of Stratasys PolyJet™ 3D Printers is that they are certified by Pantone, as meeting the PANTONE validated standards of color quality and realism. Backed by this authentication, PolyJet solutions are perfectly aligned to meet the strict requirements of design studios as they match the design-to-manufacturing process.


    This validation allows for simple and accurate color communication between designers and manufacturers. (pantone.com)


    High-volume 3D printing is around the corner

    At the moment, 3D printing is generally viewed as a technology suitable for low level to mid-volume production. That it will most likely be the case in 2021, but every year we also see more opportunities and developments that will help us achieve higher-volume production with 3D printing.

    Conveyor belt 3D printers, have max printing size limitations on X-Y axis but with a theoretically infinite sized z-axis print size or even a continuous production of 3D printed parts, the limitation of this technology is its speed and supported materials, thus not a viable alternative for High-volume 3D printing.


    Continuous production of 3D printed parts is a possibility with this technology, it isn’t required that all the printed parts are of the same model. (Blackbelt3D)


    Another approach to achieve a high-volume production of 3D printed parts is deploying hundreds of 3D printers and making a Printing Farm, large scale 3D printing is generally less expensive than injection molding below an average of 50000 units/parts, the downside of this continues to be the manufacturing speed (of each 3D printer) and the increase in control required for all the deployed printers, this to ensure quality and reduction of errors.


    The whole point of a 3D printing farm: On-demand, efficient manufacturing. (all3dp.com)


    On the long run, the on demand nature of additive manufacturing can make production cheaper than other large volume processes, it even has the advantage of customization and personalized production batches, as each printer can lay-out different 3D models, another advantage is the no tooling costs involved, meaning products are brought to market at a much faster rate.

    Thursday, 14 January 2021 21:36

    Continuous 3D printing tech

    3D printing is now possible using relatively small and low-cost machines, it is generally a slow process with some size limitations. This is because 3D printers require a series of steps to cure, refill, and reposition themselves for each additive cycle. Several companies have developed in the past years several methods to try and overcome this limitations, one of the methods we will show in this article is specially made to have an “infinite” axis of print size.


    Back in 2017 BlackBelt released a 3D printer that combines 3 print heads with a conveyor belt system. (3dforms.co.za).


    3D printers with a similar configuration as the previously shown, have max printing size limitations on X-Y axis but with the Z-axis, taking the form of a conveyor belt, allows for theoretically infinite sized horizontal parts or even a continuous production of 3D printed parts without the need for interaction of another mechanism to remove finished prints.


    Possibilities with a conveyor belt configuration on the z axis. (Powerbelt3D).


    Unlike regular FDM 3D printers, this setup uses tilted nozzles when printing. This configuration brings several advantages on the final print and the geometrical limitations of the 3D print, including for less support material needed in most prints, especially with more extreme overhangs that can be 3D printed, but there are some more other simpler limitations.


    The new obtained infill pattern helps for rigidity on most designs, also helps reduce the layer adhesion issues generated on regular FDM printers. (Powerbelt3D).


    Some limitations of this 3D printer configuration are bed adhesion, compatible filament materials (ABS is not suitable for this method), and one of the more complex is the Printing software, Conveyor belt 3D printers require special modified versions of the already available slicing software, they require several parameters modified in order to work correctly, but most of the already available conveyor belt 3D printers come with the proper documentation.

    There are several 3D printers out there with a conveyor belt configuration, most recently, Creality launched their own variant, the 3DPrintMill (CR-30), a conveyor belt 3D printer with a resolution of 100 micrometers.


    The CR-30 has the possibility of a roller attachment for extra-long 3D prints. (Powerbelt3D).


    Blackbelt 3D has been around for a while and their conveyor belt 3D printers have great quality and support, they took 3 years to develop their first conveyor belt printer and are currently the brand with the widest and highest printing area with 340mm on each axis plus the infinite “z-axis” length.


    Blackbelt also sells a roller attachment for extra-long 3D prints. (Blackbelt3D).


    So, why buy a conveyor belt 3D printer?

    There are several reasons why, but the main ones are the capability of serial and semi-automated production and the ability to print parts that are larger than the printer itself.

    Wednesday, 16 December 2020 13:22

    BIGREP Pro, Fast Industrial 3D Prints

    Founded in Germany, 2014, BigRep’s vision is to innovate the 3D printing and manufacturing business. Opening to a new dimension of 3D printing and 3D manufacturing.

    BigRep has developed machines that prints with engineering-grade materials to ensure users can manufacture the applications they need, in large scale.

    BigRep printers are designed for industrial applications, BigRep developed its proprietary Metering Extruder Technology (MXT®), unlike from regular FDM (fused deposition modeling) also known as FFF, MXT is a faster and more accurate extrusion technique, this helps reduce regular FDM extrusion issues and helps to produce faster prints, thus eliminating some limitations of FFF extrusion.


    MXT® technology relies on a chamber of fused filament that is later pushed by a highly accurate servo motor.


    The inclusion of a Bosch Rexroth CNC Control System brings new IoT features to industrial additive manufacturing for industry 4.0 integration. With tools like remote operation, data collection, cloud-based analytics and more, the BigRep PRO ensures seamless production by enabling print quality monitoring and fleet management anytime and anywhere.

    Most recently BigRep introduced a 3D printer rental service, this leasing platform is available across North America.

    “For the first time, our service makes a large-format industrial 3D printer available to new customers or small- to mid-sized businesses looking for a hassle-free and flexible turnkey AM solution at an affordable rate,” says Frank Marangell, BigRep CBO and President of BigRep America. “Facing a challenging economic environment and volatile markets, customers today want quick and flexible solutions without big investments or long-term obligations. By making 3D printing available today, BigRep is helping companies stay ahead of the curve with an agile manufacturing solution to be even more competitive tomorrow.”


    BigRep has a variety of 3D printers, for different industrial needs , from left to Right, BigRep Studio (special for abrasive material Industrial 3D printing), BigRep One (large format accessible Industrial 3D printer) and BigRep Pro (fast and reliable large format industrial 3D printer).


    All in all, the BigRep machines are a viable option for small businesses and manufacturers looking for an industrial-grade 3D printer that is relatively affordable and has a larger build volume, especially to industries and processes where reliability and repetitive prints are a must.


    BigRep studio is a large format 3D printer with a fully enclosed, temperature-controlled chamber, with a build size of 1000 x 500 x 500 (mm).


    Friday, 23 October 2020 17:54

    3D Printing Magnets

    Most off the shelf magnets have a simple design and work with one side as the north pole and the opposite as the south pole. Programmed magnets or polymagnets on the other hand are customized structures of magnets that alternate polarity in a specific designed patter to achieve a desired behavior, by designing different magnetic fields on the same side is possible to achieve different mechanical performances as a latch or spring without requiring a physical spring or many movable parts.

    Correlated magnets have the unique characteristic of having alternating North and South poles on one side, resulting in simultaneous attract and repel forces or event to attract or repel at a certain spatial orientation. Correlated magnets can usually be designed to interact only with other specific programmable magnets. Correlated magnets can even be programmed to attract and repel at the same time. Compared to conventional magnets, the correlated magnet provides five times stronger holding force (attraction force) and thus higher shear resistance.


    There are four main functions that correlated magnets can achieve: align, attach,
    latch, and spring. (ifixit.com)


    Correlated Magnetics Research (CMR) was developed to pursue research and development of the programmable Magnets technology, CMR co-founder and Chief Scientist, Larry Fullerton, was inspired by youthful imagination to create a self-assembling toy to spark his grandchildren’s interest in math, science, and physics; Fullerton inspired by this idea experimented and finally created this programmable magnets, the idea is so unique that CMR has already filed over 100 patents.

    One of their more promising developments are magnetic gears, where conventional gears use mating surfaces of mechanical interlocking teeth, magnetic gears employ alternating magnetic fields to transmit torque removing friction by contact; nevertheless, the achievable torque density of magnetic gears is indeed considerably lower than the one of their mechanical counterparts, although, on the plus side, they also do not suffer irreparable damage if their specified torque is exceeded.


    The programmable magnetic gears developed by CMR may allow for smaller, more efficient
    magnetic gears with higher torque density in the future (polymagnet.com)


    The world first's 3D magnetizing printer was developed by CMR, which is called MagPrinter. This printer consists of a magnetizing coil in a cabinet with a motion-control system. A polymagnet can be easily made from reprogramming a conventional magnetic material in a few minutes.

    The MagPrinter imprints Polymagnets in batch mode on a large, movable stage with maxel (magnetic pixels) sizes ranging from 1mm to 4mm. By overlapping maxels, the printer can produce very high-resolution patterns and even images embedded in the magnetic material itself. The MagPrinter produces Polymagnets on the strongest Neodymium magnets, flexible materials, ferrites and specialized materials such as Samarium Cobalt.


    The Mini MagPrinter. Half the size of the original MagPrinter (polymagnet.com)


    CMR Mini MagPrinter could be the most fantastic toy to hit Makerspaces since desktop 3D printers. The only downside is that even this mini version is still quite expensive at $45,000, but on the other hand, a batch of traditional made-to-order magnets cost will quickly elevate to thousands of dollars too. CMR’s technology will largely be limited to research institutes and universities, but well-funded makerspaces might also have a shot at it.


    The Mini MagPrinter. will do for magnetics what 3D printing systems did for mechanical prototyping (polymagnet.com)


    Friday, 04 September 2020 23:18

    3D Printing Glass

    Additive manufacturing is the base of 3D printing, it has several methods but the most used and common are SLA (Stereolithography) or SLS (selective laser sintering) and FDM (fused deposition modeling). Both generally use polymers as the main material to produce prints and here is where things can get complicated, in this article we will cover the use of glass and its raw materials used to produce 3D prints.octype html>


    Back in 2015, MIT researchers developed a 3D printer that melts glass to later extrude it to a desired form (mit.edu)


    3D printing glass is not an easy task, there have been a few organizations and scientists that were able to produce a 3D printed glass piece. Most of these methods rely on high temperature to help reach the glass melting point to later mold it into the desired form, glass will require temperatures around a 1000 ºC to reach its fusion point.


    MIT 3D printed glass pieces are beautiful and of complex shapes. (mit.edu)


    A team of engineers from the University of Washington succeeded by using glass powder and a binder solution to make particles react and thus being able to lay them and form a desired glass object. The technique allows a new type of material (glass) to be used in a typical powder based 3D printing system.


    This 3D printing method was named Vitraglyphic process and was created in 2009 (washington.edu)


    In 2017, a German group of researchers from KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) used an SLA process to create intricate glass objects. In SLA printing, light is used to selectively harden liquid materials into solid parts, layer by layer. The team applied the SLA process to a special ink containing glass nanopowder suspended in a photocurable polymer, and then they fired the piece at 1,300 ºC to burn off the polymer and densify the glass.




    Complicated high-precision structures made of glass can be manufactured with this method (kit.edu)


    Most recently (November 2019), ETH Zürich have used a similar method as the KIT researchers, they have developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded, the resin can be cured by UV Light using commercially available DLP 3D printers.


    Complex objects can be made from different types of glass, or even combined in the same object using the technique (ethz.ch)


    After the resin is cured into the desired form, the piece is subjected to two different temperatures: at 600˚C to burn off the polymer framework and then at around 1000˚C to densify the ceramic structure into glass. During the firing process, the objects shrink significantly, but become transparent and hard like window glass.

    The revolutionary AMpolar i2 brings several features and advantages to printing Additive Manufacturing parts on a truly industrial scale.

    First introduced in Formnext 2019, the AMpolar i2’s patented Additive Manufacturing process uses an array of Xaar 1003 printheads to jet parts at volume, and at a significantly reduced cost when compared to traditional 3D printing machines.

    The highly productive single-pass printing process delivers build volumes of up to 700 liters across its pioneering, continuously rotating print platform.


    dppolar

    The printer employs the manufacturer’s proprietary technology, called High-Speed Rotative AM Process (HSR), which as its name suggests uses a one of a kind, constantly rotating print platform to create several parts at a time. (dppolar.de)


    In terms of capabilities, the printer has a multi-process ability where additional automated equipment can be integrated within the printing process.


    dppolar

    For example, it is possible to combine the rotating print platform with a fully automated pick-and-place process that will pick up parts and place it in a position as printing is resumed to complete the fixture. (dppolar.de)


    The 3D printer has two different modes of production, the Manufacturing Mode and the Prototyping Mode. In the MM mode, the user will benefit from the platform’s large build volume for series production. On the other hand, in the PM mode, the focus will be to enable high speed rapid prototyping due to shorter cycle-time.


    dppolar

    In fact, the AMpolar i2 is equipped with three individual print stations, allowing the production of multi-material parts very quickly. (dppolar.de)


    The German company dp polar has partnered with ALTANA AG, a leading specialty chemicals company, to offer tailored materials for its platform.


    dppolar

    Cubik Ink is their material suite, with each material available in transparent and various colors. (dppolar.de)



    dppolar

    Another feature on the AMpolar i2 are the water soluble support materials that allows quick and automatic removal of all support structures. There is no need for additional chemicals or mechanical treatments. (dppolar.de)


    As we covered in previous articles, the Xaar 1003 printhead combines highly accurate drop placement, consistent drop volume and high frequency jetting with variable drop size capability to deliver precise functional fluid control. This is essential for precise production patterns and surface characteristics.

    Mike Seal, Xaar’s Business Development Manager, Advanced Manufacturing and 3D Printheads said; “dp polar’s use of the Xaar 1003 printhead and the innovative design of the AMpolar i2, shows the natural progression of photopolymer jetting from a prototyping technology to a true manufacturing process; a transition we are seeing more and more within functional inkjet applications”.


    dppolar

    the Xaar 1003 printhead family is a versatile line with several use cases, including 3D printing (Xaar.com).


    Friday, 10 July 2020 18:24

    Color changing Inks

    There are several mechanisms in which color changing of an ink can occur, in this article we cover specifically two, photochromic and thermochromic. The first meaning that a specific light type (wavelength) triggers the ink and changes its color, thermochromic means that color change will occur depending on the temperature it has been designed to activate.


    Color-changing-Inks

    Photochromic T-shirt on its passive state (left) and activated by UV Light (right) (colourchange.com)


    Photochromic inks are invisible under artificial light and will appear visible once exposed to outdoor sunlight or UV / black light. These inks can be applied to papers and boards or to textiles. This type of inks and dyes change their molecular structure from a clear or white color and darken revealing its true color (on exposure to specific types of light of enough intensity, most commonly ultraviolet (UV) light sources, (UV light in the range of 300 to 360 nanometers).


    Color-changing-Inks

    Photochromic pigment of different colors activated by a concentrated UV-light source (nanomatrixsecure.com)


    Photochromic dyes are reversible, when placed into sunlight or a UV-Light source they become activated, in an “excited” state, and depending on the manufacturer it takes from 10 to 20 seconds to allow the photochromic compound to turn into a darker color. In the absence of activating light when the UV light source fades, the effect is reversed and they return to their clear state after 5 minutes or less.


    Color-changing-Inks

    Photochromics are great on white t-shirts but not limited to be used on it (sfxc.co.uk)


    Thermochromic ink or fabrics change color in response to temperature fluctuations, meaning heat will enable it to change color at its designated temperature, color change activation occur at temperatures from -10°C up to +70°C, they usually are reversible, changing either way as the ink warms or cools. There are two primary types of thermochromic coatings: liquid crystals and leuco dyes.


    Color-changing-Inks

    Thermochromic fabric, color change is activated by body temperature.


    Liquid crystals dyes rely on liquid crystals contained in tiny capsules. The liquid crystals are cholesteric, this refers to the arrangement of molecules, which means that its molecules arrange themselves in a very specific helical structure. These structures reflect certain wavelengths of light. As the liquid crystals heat up, the orientation of the helices changes, which causes the helices to reflect a different wavelength of light. To our eyes, the result is a change in color. As the crystals cool down, they reorient themselves into their initial arrangements and the original color returns.

    Leuco dye inks, are a darker color when cooler than their temperature activation point, and lighter in color or virtually clear when warmer than their activation point, temperature uses of these inks generally fall into three areas: cold, body temp and hot.


    Color-changing-Inks

    A black thermochromic ink (with body temp activation) screen printed over and obscuring a litho printed image or words, can become clear and reveal the litho image when it is touched or rubbed. (sfxc.co.uk)


    A black thermochromic ink with a higher activation temperature can be screen printed onto a coffee coaster, so that the thermochromic ink becomes clear when heated by a hot mug, revealing the message or branding also printed on the coaster.


    Color-changing-Inks

    Heat-sensitive vans shoes will change color temporarily when exposed to body heat and return to original color at room temperature (vans.com)


    Friday, 19 June 2020 20:36

    UV-Degradation in Plastics

    Some plastics can be susceptible to damage when they come into contact with Ultraviolet (UV) rays for a prolonged time, leading to cracks or color fading and even the disintegration of the plastic. This raises the question; Which plastics are UV stable or can withstand UV exposure better?

    Ultraviolet radiation consists of photons with high energy relative to visible light, this radiation is split into three types, these are UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.

    UV-A has a wavelength range of 400-320 nm, while UV-B has a range of 320-280 nm. Meanwhile, UV-C’s range stands at around 280-200 nm.

    UV-C is not present in our perceived sunlight, because wavelengths lower than 300 nm are absorbed by the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, the general effect of UV-C is killing bacteria and microorganisms by disrupting their DNA, so we can focus on UV-A and UV-B.

    UV effects on different types of plastics

    UV energy can excite photons, when absorbed by plastics, in turn, can create free radicals. This is the beginning of degradation. As a matter of fact, several pure plastics simply cannot absorb UV radiation.

    The most common ways you can detect if a plastic is being affected BY UV are:

  • You may notice a pale appearance or color fading on the surface of the material
  • The plastic’s surface becomes brittle or cracked

  • UV-Degradation-in-Plastics

    Notable color fading in exposed to sunlight (UV radiation) Nylon rope. (quora.com)


    The most widespread UV damage mechanism in plastics is called chain scission by photolysis, this is the breaking of long chain polymers into shorter ones. This almost always results in a degradation of physical properties such as strength or degradation of visual properties such as color and texture.

    UV resistant plastics

    Some polymers are more stable to UV exposure than others, there is a class of high-performance polymers called fluoropolymers that exhibit excellent UV resistance. Teflon has become a genericized name for all fluoropolymers. fluoropolymers are exceptionally resistant to UV degradation. Accordingly, PTFE or FEP are almost always used for wire insulation on UV lamps or in UV equipment.

    Here is a short list of them:

  • Polyethylene
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
  • Fluorinated ethylene-propylene (FEP)
  • Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)

  • UV-Degradation-in-Plastics

    With their high performance against UV come high prices, fluoropolymers are among the most expensive polymers.


    UV coatings and other protection

    UV protective curable coatings are composed of acrylate functionalized resins, which polymerize or cure instantaneously upon exposure to UV light, thereby being easy to apply and efficient. Energy-curable resins can be 100% solids materials or can be diluted with solvents for ease of application, since coatings on plastic parts are mostly spray-applied, solvents are used to reduce viscosity.

    In terms of the components more likely to be at risk of UV damage, automotive parts are high on the list. The effects will predominantly result in a change of the material’s surface layer – and some plastics, if damaged by UV, will ultimately lead to the component failing altogether.

    The best coatings are multi-layer systems. The coating of plastics begin with the application of a primer, which has a binding effect on the basecoat, that is then applied over the primer. Finally, a clear-coat containing the light stabilizers for UV protection seals the coating system protecting the plastic.

    Source: UV solutions Mag

    Mimaki has just introduced their 3rd 3D printer, they first debuted the Mimaki 3DUJ-553 back in September 2017, a 10 million-color 3D printer; In contrast their new product, the Mimaki 3DGD-1800 is a large-sized/high-speed 3D printer, to be precise a machine that can print at a maximum speed of 35cm (height) per hour, this in a special UV curing resin.


    Mimaki 3DGD-1800, a large format 3D printer

    This massive 3D printer is capable of producing 1.8-meter height prints (Mimaki.com).


    The Mimaki 3DGD-1800 is a solution developed in association with Massivit 3D, the pioneer in large format 3D printers, the printer’s available molding area is 1.45 x 1.11 x 1.8 meters (57.1 x 43.7 x 70.9"), the printer has 2 gel dispensing extruders giving the machine the ability to print 2 different objects at the same time, basically the same specs the Massivit 1800.


    Mimaki 3DGD-1800, a large format 3D printer

    This massive 3D printer is capable of producing 1.8-meter height prints (Mimaki.com).


    Just like the Massivit 1800, the Mimaki 3DGD-1800 uses the Gel Dispensing Printing (GDP) technology developed by Massivit, this guarantees fast curing times and reduces the need for support material, this is done thanks to an ultraviolet photosensitive gel-type curable resin, the resin is laid out in a similar way as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers do, with the difference being the material used.


    Mimaki 3DGD-1800, a large format 3D printer

    The UV-curing resin is laid by the extruder while some high power UV-LED’s let it cure almost instantly (Massivit3D.com).


    Mimaki first announced their latest 3D printer, the 3DGD-1800, back in march, and has made it available since April 1st 2020

    In the following table you can see the complete specs of the Mimaki 3Dgd-1800:

    3DGD-1800

    3D printing method

    Gel Dispensing Printing / Dual print

    Printhead

    2

    Nozzle size (dia.)

    1.8 / 2.6 mm (Replaceable)

    Max. printing size / Weight

    W1,450 × D1,110 × H1,800 mm / 150 kg

    Printing speed (*1)

    Height 350 mm/h

    Layer pitch

    Normal

    1.3 mm

    Quality

    1.0 mm

    High Resolution

    0.8 mm

    Printing material

    MG-100W (White UV curable resin)

    3D data format

    stl, obj, 3ds, ply, blend

    Slicer software

    3DGD Slicer

    Operating
    specifications

    Power

    3×25A、380-400VAC±10%、50/60Hz

    Air pressure

    600 to 800 kPA

    Power consumption

    10kW (Printing)

    Temperature

    16 to 30 degC.

    Interface

    Ethernet

    Dimensions (W x D x H)

    3,000 × 2,200 × 2,800 mm

    Weight

    2,500 kg


    Source: Mimaki


    Monday, 18 May 2020 23:54

    Printshop Workflow Automation

    Every print shop faces some common challenges when it comes to managing their workflow, process automation is usually found in large print shops, with large print volumes and where jobs are printed over and over again.


    Printshop-workflow-automation

    Workflow Automation Software works in combination with other programs running in your print shop, it is important to note that some of your actual software infrastructure may already have some automation processes involved. To further automate the workflow is important to be able to communicate one software with another, in most cases, specific Workflow Automation software may not be required.

    Software

    Generally, print shops have one or more of the following software running:

    • Web to Print Software
    • Variable Data Composition
    • MIS Print Management
    • Color Management

    A web to print software has many advantages and functionalities, first it gives your shop a front store, helping users find their way into what they will need and letting customize their final product, it helps the owner determine a print order management.

    Variable data printing enables the mass customization of documents with text and image changes for groups of addresses based upon which segment of the market is being addressed. Customization and personalization allows a company to connect to its customers using a variety of software solutions.

    MIS (Management Information Systems) help print shops collect and manage their own information for decision making, this software integrates with existing systems to help handle real time information and tasks, harvesting information and letting other connected applications take actions is essential for workflow automation.

    Color Management it is the measurement and control of each and every step in your production process, maintaining as a goal to know exactly what your output is going to look like, before you actually print.

    Sometimes, specific software may comply with many of the above-mentioned functions, for example:

    Agfa has developed a complete, automated Sign & Display production hub called Asanti, the software includes a color management solution, integration with the latest version of Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE), highly specific functionalities (e.g. nesting, see-through concept, proofing support) and fast, automatic pre-flighting.


    Printshop-workflow-automation

    Asanti is sold as a scalable workflow tool that distributes input from various sources over multiple hardware systems. (agfa.com)


    Another good example is Durst Workflow software, claimed to be an All-In-One solution, which includes all steps of the pre-press and production process in one single application, modules are available for different processes such as: Label Workflow, Large Format Workflow and Corrugated Workflow.


    AT-Inks-UV-UV-LED-Inkjet-Ink

    Durst Print Workflow can also be integrated into an existing ERP/ MIS environment, and is said to be an all-in-one solution thanks to its Job management and reporting tools, color management and data and print preparation. (agfa.com)


    Workflow

    You need to determine the existing kind of production workflow currently being used in your print shop, if the work is built around a software-based flow of work, or from the point of quoting to the point of delivery, or do you have semi-automated processes linked by spreadsheets and/or different software, sticky notes, whiteboards, phone calls, regardless of any, if your workflow is not efficient, neither is your production process.

    Possible and existent current workflow inefficiencies could be:

    • Customer interactions and order entry.
    • Too many persons involved in same tasks, generating bottlenecks.
    • File checking and prepress preparation.
    • Print programming and physical printing.
    • Finishing, shipping and fulfillment.

    AT-Inks-UV-UV-LED-Inkjet-Ink

    Usually these workflow inefficiencies lead to bottlenecks, the mayor bottleneck in any print shop is preparing files to properly be printed, this process can be automated in most cases.


    There are several bottlenecks but the most common ones are listed below:

    • Dealing with a high number of small jobs
    • Increasing throughput; shortening production times
    • Keeping up with change; training users
    • Customizing the workflow to specific needs
    • Complexity of software

    Deciding to move to any new software for production workflow (MIS or similar) usually comes after evaluations of current productivity and researching for the right tool or correct operation processes. Reconsidering strategy often leads to new initiatives that include reexamining workflow initiatives.

    For smaller shops, costs control is a must, so automation and use of modern print and workflow management tools becomes an investment that can convert into a risk, due to the potential expenses involved in implementing it, but at the end, it is all the cost of success.

    Workflow initiatives and enhances

    • Add workflow to offer new products & services.
    • Improvement of process automation.
    • Integration of workflow components.
    • Improvement of customer interactions via web-based systems.
    • Improvement of operational efficiency (billing, invoicing, CSR).

    AT-Inks-UV-UV-LED-Inkjet-Ink

    Print shop workflow depends on your infrastructure, equipment and resources.


    The best practice is to adopt workflow method and solution that helps automate processes, while focusing on efficiency, decreasing the operational costs while still increasing throughput and depending less on human intervention, in order to have employees invest time in more productive tasks.

    Plastics and “green choice” usually don’t go together as most plastic materials are made from petroleum, these include: polyethylene, PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyester, nylon and acrylic.


    plastics-in-the-ocean

    Most plastics don’t decompose. This means plastic can stick around indefinitely, destroying marine ecosystems. (noaa.gov)


    In the past decades, the search for an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum based plastics has led to the development of several bioplastics; materials specifically made from renewable resources and therefore diminishing the amount of energy required to produce them. Some are made from plants, most often from sugar cane or cornstarch, although they can also be produced from potatoes, or other plants, these plastics are often referred to as PLA (PolyLactic Acid or PolyLactide) or Cellulose Acetate.


    plastics-in-the-ocean

    To transform corn into plastic, corn kernels are immersed in sulfur dioxide and hot water, where their components break down into starch, protein, and fiber. The kernels are then ground and the corn oil is separated from the starch. (columbia.edu)


    Bioplastics are generally considered to be more eco-friendly than traditional plastics, this isn’t necessarily true, and bioplastics have a significantly lower carbon-footprint than traditional plastics over their lifetime. But in order to degrade bioplastics, most of them need high temperature industrial composting facilities to break down the material in less than 3 months, but it will take about 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill.


    Landfill-full-of-plastic-waste-Drowning-in-Waste-WOIMA-Corporation

    Landfills prevent waste from biodegrading, especially plastics. (thisisplastics.com)


    Very few cities have the infrastructure needed to degrade bioplastics and the problem magnifies when these plastics are not separated correctly from other plastic types such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate). The problem is when plastics get recycled, they are not compatible and the resulting plastic batch may get rejected as a consequence.


    plastics-recycling-centers

    Plastics need to be classified in order to be recycled correctly.


    The alternatives bioplastics are limited, PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) is one of them, a plastic made from living things. PHA is a unique polyester made naturally by certain bacteria, generally from organic waste. It is used to make plastic bags and single use containers; in the medical field is where this material shines, thanks to its biodegradability it can be used to make sutures, bone plates, orthopedic pins, etc.


    PHA-bioplastics

    Plastic bags and other articles made from PHA plastic. (wur.nl)


    PHA is biocompostable and marine degradable and has no toxic effects, but currently is difficult and expensive to produce.

    Source: University of Florida, Columbia University

    Columbia University
    https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2017/12/13/the-truth-about-bioplastics

    University of Florida
    https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/flagler/sea-grant/pdf-files/microplastics/Bioplastics-vs-petroleum-plastic-final.pdf

    Keep up with the latest trends about de digital printing industry and learn more about different technologies, equipment, media & substrates, inks, etc.

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