Norsk Earns Boeing Approval for Titanium Parts

Additive manufacturing pioneer Norsk Titanium (Hall 4, Stand 41430) comes to Farnborough International Airshow 2018 on the heels of announcing its U.S. Plattsburgh Development and Qualification Center (PDQC) in New York state has been added to Boeing’s Qualified Producers List. Dedicated last October, PDQC began qualified production of 3D printed structural titanium components for the 787 Dreamliner in mid May, making it the world’s first industrial-scale metal additive manufacturing plant.

At FIA, the Norwegian company is presenting a display of its proprietary Rapid Plasma Deposition (RPD) technology.

Norsk’s RPD process uses titanium wire with plasma torches to print titanium structural components on an industrial scale, and the company claims it is manufacturing the industry’s first FAA-approved, 3D-printed, structural titanium parts. RPD can be used to produce large structural components weighing more than 100 pounds, is 50 to 100 times faster than powder-based systems and uses 25 to 50 percent less titanium than incumbent forging processes, according to Norsk. A modular manufacturing capability, the process can be integrated into any production line that manufactures titanium alloy parts, allowing for lean manufacturing infrastructure and overall efficiency improvements.

PDQC has nine of Norsk’s RPD titanium printing machines, created in partnership between Norsk and the state of New York, representing the advancement of technology that originated at the company’s Engineering and Technology Center in Norway, which continues to operate qualified and approved RPD machines. Each machine at PDQC is estimated to have an annual fabricating capacity of more than 20 metric tons.

Last summer Norsk announced a 60 percent expansion of the PDQC facility, which will produce aerospace components for Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, and other aerospace manufacturers. The future site of the planned Norsk Titanium Production Center is less than half a mile from PDQC.

“Receiving this qualification from Boeing, now qualifying two Norsk sites for production across the globe, is a true vote of confidence in our service, quality, and disruptive RPD technology,” said Norsk COO Tamara Morytko.

Norsk sees growing demand for titanium parts in aerospace. Nearly half of the airframe of a modern airliner is composed of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic and other composites, which goes hand in hand with an increased use of titanium in place of aluminum where structural loading indicates metal is a preferred material system. Titanium can withstand comparable loads better than aluminum, has minimal fatigue concerns, and is highly resistant to corrosion. In the Boeing 787, titanium use has been expanded to roughly 14 percent of the total airframe.

Norsk estimates each Lockheed Martin F-35, at 30 percent titanium, requires the purchase of 30,000 pounds of the metal, most of which leaves the factory as scrap, waste that could be eliminated with RPD. Increases in commercial satellite constellations over the next few decades present additional opportunities, according to the company.

Last November Norsk announced a “significant investment” from Rose Park Advisors’ Disruptive Innovation Fund, known for its application of the theory of Disruptive Innovation developed by co-founder Clayton Christensen.

Recognizing the breakthrough RPD represents, in March Norsk shared with Boeing the Laureate Award from Aviation Week for extraordinary achievement in the global aerospace arena for creating the first additively manufactured structural titanium parts for a commercial aircraft. Additionally, consultancy Frost & Sullivan honored Norsk’s RPD with its 2017 Europe Technology Innovation Award.

Indiana University and Lung Biotechnology Partner to Advance 3D Printing of Organs

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One of the reasons why I really enjoy writing about 3D printing is because it is a fabulous mix of the fun and the important. The stories we cover can be anything from the enjoyable experience of standing before a giant 3D printed skeleton to the very serious nature of fabricating necessary objects on a 3D printer onboard the International Space Station. The work done by these machines and the people that operate them has, time and again, proven to offer a helping hand (sometimes literally as in the case of prosthetics) to boosting the quality of life of a growing number of individuals.

From left to right: Lester Smith, PhD, Burcin Ekser, MD, PhD and Ping Li, PhD [Image:Eric Schoch, IUSM]

One area in which 3D printing is making particularly important contributions is in the field of medicine. Over the past several years, we have seen stories about students getting hands-on experience through 3D printed models and of improved patient outcomes as a result of preparation and the fabrication of custom surgical equipment for the medical team. With the introduction of bioprinting, the ultimate dream in medicine has been to advance to the point of being able to 3D print whole organs that could be used to replace those that are failing in patients. Thus far, that is still a dream for the future, but important advances are being made in that direction, sometimes great strides, other times only baby steps.

One of the most recent steps forward has come in the form of an agreement between faculty at Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine and the Maryland-based company Lung Biotechnology PBC, that is focused on organ transplantation technologies. The hope is that the $9 million project will result in the knowledge necessary to make the dream of 3D printing organs into a reality. They won’t be starting from scratch; the IU team is already able to generate tissues, but they will use the funding provided through this partnership to analyze the tissues and their structures in order to possibly unlock the key to more advanced organ creation. Dr. Lester Smith, an Assistant Professor of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at IU School of Medicine and the head of the research team, explained the prolonged nature of any such investigation:

“[I]f someone has a skin burn, maybe we can replace skin. Or if someone has a bad liver then we can replace the liver entirely. But this is way down the road. Most of our tissues which make up our organs have a lot of different cell types. They are also vascularized, which means they have a lot of blood vessels that are basically channeling through them. When we get there that’s when I can tell you how long it took. That’s because the body is so complex and there’re so many different parts and so many responses. I couldn’t tell you how long it would take but we’re on the road to that destination.”

Luckily, Indiana University and Lung Biotechnology don’t have to make all the headway by themselves; there are a large number of organizations, from large to small and public to private, pursuing the dream of fabricating organs. This is more than just an effort to do something to see if it can be done; there are people dying every year because they cannot get access to the organs that they need, and further deaths and astronomical medical expenses to deal with for those whose bodies strongly reject the foreign organs. Should it become possible to create a custom organ for someone using their own cells, the entire process from the surgery to simple day to day functionality would be vastly improved, and this partnership should help push that research closer to the gold standard.

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Indiana Public Media]

Technological disruption holds few fears for female leaders

KPMG chairman Alison Kitchen says the female leaders’ positive attitude is a welcome surprise.

Nearly half of senior female executives are comfortable with disruption occurring in their business caused by new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and 3D printing, despite the low numbers of younger women who study computer sciences and go into technology roles.

A global study of 700 women in the C-suite by professional services firm KPMG found that 48 per cent of respondents were either comfortable or very comfortable with technology developments and the impact these might have, while only 14 per cent were uncomfortable or very uncomfortable.

KPMG chairman Alison Kitchen says the female leaders’ positive attitude is a welcome surprise.

“If you go back to all of the discussion we have around the need for more women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), I think it’s very pleasantly surprising to see the level of comfort with these sorts of areas,” Kitchen says.

“The results of this milestone survey show that global female leaders have a thorough understanding of the strategic and operational requirements of the digital age,” she says.

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Analysis by Catalyst, a global organisation that aims to remove employment barriers for women, found that in Australia in 2016 women made up fewer than one in five students earning degrees in information technology and accounted for fewer than one in eight engineers. As of August 2017, women made up 21 per cent of those employed in computer system design and related services.

Compared with the overall leaders’ survey, senior female leaders were more cautious about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the workforce. While 62 per cent of global chief executives expected AI would create more jobs than it eliminated, just 47 per cent of senior women thought the same.

Opportunity versus threat

Compared with the overall survey, where female executives comprised 15 per cent of respondents, senior women were far more inclined to view organic growth as the main driver of growth over the next three years.

Senior female leaders were more cautious about the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Senior female leaders were more cautious about the impact of artificial intelligence on the workforce. Kiyoshi Ota

Some 45 per cent of women said they expected growth would come from innovation, research and development, capital investments and recruitment, against 28 per cent of leaders overall who said the same. One third of respondents to the global overall survey said that strategic alliances with third parties would be the most important growth driver over the next three years. Just one quarter of senior women leaders felt the same.

“Global female leaders seem to have a strong entrepreneurial approach regarding growth,” Kitchen says.

More than three-quarters of female leaders said they saw technological disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat, although only 51 per cent said their company was actively disrupting the industry in which it operated.

Asked to nominate the most important attributes for their success, active personal networks and strong communication skills were the most common answers among senior women. Just 4 per cent cited quotas for female leadership.

Globally, 67 per of leaders were confident about the international economic outlook, up from 65 per cent in 2017, the KPMG survey found.

ECCO Steps Forward with 3D Printed Custom Silicone Midsoles

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German company ViscoTec, which manufactures systems required for conveying, dosing, applying, filling, and emptying medium to high-viscosity fluids for multiple industries, including automotive, medical, and aerospace, is well-known in the 3D printing world for its two-component print head for viscous materials like silicone. The Bavaria-based company, which began working with 3D printing four years ago, employs about 200 people worldwide, and is now putting its print head to the test through a collaboration with Danish heritage footwear brand and manufacturer ECCO.

ECCO, a family-owned business founded in 1963 with factories and subsidiaries in China, Indonesia, Portugal, Slovakia, Thailand, and Vietnam, has a vision of becoming the top premium brand for leather goods and shoes. The latest innovation to be introduced by the Innovation Lab of ECCO is called QUANT-U, an experimental footwear customization project.

QUANT-U relies on three core technologies: real-time analysis, data-driven design, and in-store 3D printing. The project combines these technologies to create custom, personalized midsoles, in just two hours, out of a heat cured two-component silicone.

Most everyone likes personalized products such as shoes, but due to the necessary cost, production time, and expertise involved in making custom footwear, they’re typically not available to everyone. But thanks to ECCO’s partnership with ViscoTec, this is going to change.

3D printing of silicone midsoles with ViscoTec printhead.

In order to specifically coordinate the material properties and the process, ECCO had to rethink its approach to customization, and now plans to utilize ViscoTec’s print head technology and two-component silicone to 3D print customer-specific midsoles for its customers, so each person can enjoy their own tailored fit and comfort.

According to the Innovation Lab ECCO website for QUANT-U, “A midsole is the functional heart of the shoe. It plays a key role in the performance and comfort of your footwear. Two years of research has proven that replacing the standard PU midsoles with 3D printed silicone can tune its inherent properties; viscoelasticity, durability and temperature stability.”

The QUANT-U process has three steps, starting with using scanners and wearable sensors to measure the customer’s feet and build a unique digital footprint. This biomechanical data is then evaluated and interpreted using a sophisticated algorithm, and a unique configuration is generated through structural simulations and machine learning.

This augmented pattern is optimized for each person’s respective feet and activity level by making adjustments to its densities, patterns, and structures, and the final 3D printed midsoles are personalized according to the customer’s own orthopedic parameters for a far more comfortable fit than you’d get with typical store-bought midsoles. Within just a few hours, you’re able to take home your custom 3D printed midsoles, along with your chosen pair of ECCO shoes.

Thermal cross-linking of the individual silicone layers.

By 3D printing the two-component silicone, ECCO is able to optimally counteract the high mechanical stresses we often deal with in everyday life; this is thanks to the midsole’s algorithmic designs combining with the silicone’s unique properties. By utilizing 3D printing, ECCO will be able to fabricate large quantities of personalized midsoles.

Using ViscoTec’s print heads gives ECCO several unique advantages, such as the usage of heat cured two-component silicone and precise 3D printing results, in addition to making sure that the silicone is uniformly mixed in the static mixing tube.

The footwear industry, which often utilizes 3D printing, has been growing fast over the last few years, with its global market expected to reach $371.8 billion by 2020. We often see 3D printed insoles and midsoles available for purchase now, and ECCO’s collaboration with ViscoTec and its unique 3D print head will certainly help keep it in the game.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Images provided by ViscoTec]