Knowledge Session 3D Printing in practice - visitors report


24 October 2017


Visitors report


Knowledge Session 3D Printing in practice. What could be in it for me? 


On 28 September 2017, a Knowledge Day called '3D Printing in Practice' was organised by DSPE and Fontys Hogescholen at the premises of the Fontys Centre of Expertise HTSM (CoE HTSM) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.


 It was an interesting afternoon with presentations by Sjef van Gastel and Rein van der Mast (both Fontys CoE HTSM), Jan Eite Bullema (TNO, AMSYSTEMS Center) and Bart Vanderbeke (Materialise) plus a short hands-on workshop by Martijn Kok (student assistant at Fontys) on the use of the CURA software as a preprocessing data-prep tool for the Ultimaker 3D printer.

From the presentation, workshop and discussions the participants could not draw any other conclusion than that 3D printing is here to stay and the transition from a prototyping technique to a production technique is happening as we speak. From the presentations we learned for example that every ASML machine currently already contains over forty 3D-printed parts, but also that Adidas will start producing large numbers of '4D shoes'.


 Sjef van Gastel presenting the current state of the art of 3D printing


 Participants of the Knowledge Day during the CURA workshop


3D Printing has found its way to education and at the Fontys ObjexLab for example a well-equipped 3D-printing lab has been established. It was initially set up for educational purpose but it also provides consultancy services to SMEs, such as the so-called 'Killer Application Identification' by groups of students under the guidance of Sjef van Gastel, Director Innovative Production Technologies. Also, in cooperation with Mechatronics Academy and The High Tech Institute, a 3-day hands-on short course, 'Design for Additive Manufacturing', has been developed by Van Gastel and Rein van der Mast, Revelator AM Design Paradigm. It combines theory and hands-on practices; the first run will be on 13 to 15 December 2017Design for Additive Manufacturing course.


At the Knowledge Day, Van Gastel and Van der Mast gave an overview of the current state of the art including available techniques, advantages & disadvantages plus some killer applications in which the unique properties of 3D-printing reach their full potential. They showed that 3D printing could improve the competitive position of Dutch high-tech industry considerably by adding new functionality to products, like freeform shapes, topology optimisation, mass reduction, and intelligent structures.


Jan Eite Bullema of AMSYSTEMS Center, a joint innovation centre of TNO and the High Tech Systems Center of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e HTSC), illustrated the transition by showing striking examples of the benefits of 3D-printed parts ranging from 'personalised human spare parts' to the optimised conventional parts with either improved mass properties for aerospace applications (lighter) or improved thermal behaviour for high-precision equipment.


The audience also learned that cross-disciplinary research at the boundaries of 3D printing and 'deep learning'

 is also taking place at various institutes and companies. Autodesk for example has high expectations of what they call 'Generative Design'. Their website states: "Generative Design mimics nature's evolutionary approach to design. Designers or engineers input design goals into generative design software, along with parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost constraints. Then, using cloud computing, the software explores all the possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives. It tests and learns from each iteration what works and what doesn't."


Materialise, which employs over 1,500 employees worldwide, offers a range of software solutions, engineering and 3D-printing services. The applications that senior project manager Bart Vanderbeke showed range from prototype car seats and turbine blades with cooling channels to baby-heart artifacts that enable the surgeon to exercise the final operation. Adidas actually is targeting to produce 100.000 pairs of Futurecraft 4D shoes by 2018 and then continue to scale up production into the tens of millions.

Despite the fact that surface finish and dimensional accuracy are topics requiring continued research to stretch the application limits, it is clear that 3D printing has a bright future & present. Completely in line with this observations was the title of Jan Eite Bullema's presentation, "Stop prototyping – start producing". A fitting conclusion for a successful DSPE Knowledge Day.