Considering that someone had to prove the technology out for medical applications, Medical Modeling bought the S12 and set to work.
“Going from plastics to metals was not trivial, and it was so expensive, especially with all the other kit that’s needed,” Christensen said. “We brought on a metallurgist and the smart people on our staff helped figure things out.”
Medical Modeling did figure things out, producing the first FDA-cleared 3D-printed titanium part—a hip cup for orthopedic-surgery applications—in 2010 for Exactech in Gainesville, FL. Medical Modeling also produced the first FDA-cleared titanium spinal cages for Texas-based 4Web Medical in 2011.
With these successes, Christensen realized the possibility of a solid business case for personalized production of implantable devices.
“I could see it, but just couldn’t make it work,” he told Grimm. “Today, there’s a story there that keeps getting better. It has taken 10 or 15 yr., and most of the business still is making off-the-shelf devices in assorted sizes. Patient-specific devices are an emerging application. It’s there and is being proved, but some of the early promises haven’t been delivered.
“Many head, neck and facial surgeries,” he continued, “use personalized tools and plans, models, guides, and implants. But orthopedics is a much bigger market. Orthopedic applications for personalization, while still a small segment, should get much bigger.”
Christensen also discussed efforts to better-standardize reimbursement for planning, modeling and implanting work, and related consultation with medical professionals.
“I could never figure out the reimbursement puzzles for what we were providing to the surgeons in hospitals,” he explained. “We tried three times to get nomenclature established through the American Medical Association for reimbursement coding, and finally decided to forget it.”
Temporary codes recently have been established, Christensen reported as a current working member on teams seeking such coding.
“I’m really excited to be playing a role in seeing this come to fruition,” he said. “It’s been needed for 20 yr.—amazing that it’s still not done.”
Concluding his Innovators Showcase interview with Grimm, Christensen dispensed some advice for AM startups and entrepreneurs.
“For a small business, I have some keys,” he said. “First, cash is king. You need to be solvent, and accounts receivables are very important. Second, consider leverage. As a small company, you’re always struggling for leverage—trying to work with much bigger companies without having leverage. When you get leverage, hold on to it and use it.”
Also, don’t spread out by taking on too many projects.
“Small companies say yes to everything just to try getting money coming in,” Christensen offered. “When looking for that killer application, you want to say yes to everything, but you must pare it down. To a certain degree, you must in some ways hold yourself back, and pick some bets to go deeper. Even when you think you should be looking at 500 things, pare down to the four things that have some chance to succeed.”
AMUG Conference keynote speeches offered an automotive focus, with Kevin Czinger, founder, lead inventor and chief executive officer of Divergent 3D and Czinger Vehicles, and Ellen Lee, technical leader of AM research at Ford Motor Co., taking the stage to discuss innovations and changes in the automotive sector.
Czinger discussed development of the 1250-hp road-ready Czinger C21 Hybrid Hypercar, which travels 0 to 60 mph in 1.9 sec. Production calls for 80 of these mostly 3D-printed vehicles. He also discussed Divergent’s digital production system, Divergent Adaptive Production System (DAPS), which “radically transforms auto manufacturing economics and environmental impact using a data-driven approach for designing and building vehicle structures,” according to company officials.
DAPS, as described by Czinger, is a software/hardware solution designed to replace traditional vehicle manufacturing—a complete modular digital factory for complex structures. Given a set of digital requirements as input, the machine automatically engineers, additively manufactures and assembles any complex structure. The system can move seamlessly between manufacturing different vehicle models. While much detail remains proprietary, some can be gleaned at Divergent 3D’s website, www.divergent3d.com.
Lee, who has spent her entire 23-yr. career at Ford, informed attendees via her presentation, Automotive Manufacturing to Additive Manufacturing: From History to the Future of Mobility. She shared how key events and needs in the history of mobility have influenced the advancement of modern manufacturing, such as the moving assembly line, development of new materials and creation of new technologies. Building on that insight, she discussed the continued drive for innovation in new aspects, such as mass customization, decentralized supply chains and digital manufacturing—and how AM will play a critical role in meeting those needs. Ford, as Lee pointed out, has invested significantly in metal- and nonmetal-AM technology to produce assembly-line tools, fixturing and even parts for some lower-production models.
Lee also described Ford’s Integrated Tether System (FITS) for select vehicles, a series of slots at the rear of the center console and the under-seat storage bins designed to be used with accessories. FITS works not only with Ford accessories, but also with accessories that owners 3D-print on their own. Ford even supplies CAD print files for accessory customizing. The automaker rolled out FITS earlier this year for its Maverick pickup. Find out more at www.ford.com/support/how-tos/owner-resources/vehicle-documents/how-do-i-use-3d-printing-to-customize-my-ford-maverick-pickup.
AMUG 2022 conference sessions kicked off with the awarding of two scholarships. Akila Udage, pursuing a doctorate in Architectural Science with research focusing on AM for lighting at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, was awarded the Guy E. Bourdeau Scholarship for students in AM, and Frank Marquette, professor of practice at Troy University, Troy, AL, earned the Randy Stevens Scholarship for AM educators.
Udage was exposed to AM while pursuing his master’s degree at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. As a graduate research assistant, he focused on integrating AM into LED lighting systems. Through Udage’s research, he has been analyzing the advantages and challenges of developing structural, thermal, electrical and optical components for LED systems using AM.
Udage’s efforts on 3D-printed optics focus on the printing of novel lenses for illumination applications, and he has been involved in the characterization of 3D-printed reflective and transmissive optical components. He’s recently been involved in projects to build custom architectural lighting through 3D printing to take lighting to a more creative level.
Marquette had a career in manufacturing before entering higher education. Based in New Zealand, his company delivered projects such as automatic guided vehicles for Disney Imagineering ride systems and sets for motion pictures, including “The Lord of the Rings.”
In addition to AMUG, 3D Metal Printing also attended RAPID + TCT 2022, May 17-19 in Detroit, MI. Billed as North America’s largest and most influential AM event, the exhibition and its accompanying conference attracted nearly 9000 attendees from 40 countries, who spied more than 200 new products on display from 400 exhibiting companies. The event also provided more than 100 hours of educational content and more than 250 speakers.
The RAPID + TCT event happens May 2-4, 2023, in Chicago; we look forward to seeing you there.
The RAPID + TCT event happens May 2-4, 2023, in Chicago; we look forward to seeing you there.
He was awarded a professorship at Troy University in 2017 and has been teaching design and the implementation of automation for fabrication and manufacturing. In 2020 he launched a minor and associate of science degree in 3D printing for art and industry. These courses begin with design fundamentals and offer extensive applied learning experiences in the 3D printing lab. The program’s emphasis is large-format printing and sustainable materials, and it attracts a variety of students, from dance to computer science majors.
“It has been wonderful having students with different interests learning from each other’s unique perspectives and strengths,” Marquette says. “Put an electronic engineering student on a project with a graphic design major and watch what happens.”
The latest front for Marquette and his students is 3D concrete printing, where he brings more than 30 years of experience in concrete mix designs and a strong background in automation.
The Guy E. Bourdeau Scholarship—founded by Guy’s wife, Renee Bourdeau, and financially supported by Cimquest, Inc. since 2019—is awarded annually to one college student. The Randy Stevens Scholarship, founded by Randy’s former employer, In’Tech Industries, is awarded annually to an educator who focuses on AM.
Contributions Recognized via DINO Awards
Recognizing tenure in the AM industry, years of service, contributions to the industry and active support of the users group, AMUG presented three individuals with its DINO (Distinguished INnovator Operator) Award: Ben Arnold of Massivit 3D, Matthew Donovan of VulcanForms and Nick Licari of Computer Aided Technology.
“This award recognizes not only experience but also character and passion,” offered Gary Rabinovitz, DINO Selection Committee chair and director at large.
“Ben Arnold is well known in the AM industry and often described as a mentor, educator or coach brimming with passion,” Rabinovitz said in presenting the award to Arnold. “He is always ready to step up to help out, as he did last year when we needed to fill a last-minute gap in our presentation agenda.”
“Matt Donovan has been a consistent presenter and panelist over the years, and when he participates in other industry events, he is quick to speak out on the value of AMUG,” offered Shannon VanDeren, a member of the DINO Selection Committee and recently elected AMUG vice president, when presenting Donovan his award. Donovan also serves on the ASTM F42 committee, which works to standardize AM.
In presenting the DINO to Licari, Derek Ellis, chair of the AMUG New Member Committee and a former co-worker of his, noted that “Nick has been on the New Member Committee since the beginning. He strives to keep the committee fresh by introducing new ideas. As chair of that committee, Nick will be my righthand man moving forward.” Ellis also cited Licari’s work ethic and willingness to share.
Over its 35-yr. history, AMUG has awarded 177 DINOs. Nominations for 2023 DINO candidates will be accepted beginning October 1, 2022.
Competition Showcases Metal-AM Excellence
Of key interest at AMUG 2022 was the Technical Competition, which provided a fascinating look at an array of AM concepts, designs and builds among the record 32 entries.
Among metal-AM-related entries, Nanci Hardwick of Meld Manufacturing received first place in the Advanced Concepts category for a representation of the U.S. Army plans for Meld’s metal-AM technology in its Jointless Hull Program. The solid-state process unique to Meld essentially stirs plastically deformed metal. The Army’s program seeks to employ the technology in a gantry-style printer with a build envelope of 20 by 30 by 12 ft.—reportedly the largest metal printer on the planet—to build monolithic hulls. Hardwick’s entry featured a hull section printed from aluminum and weighing more than 200 lb.
Judges’ comments on this entry included “fascinating, novel AM technology that enables large-scale manufacturing,” and “maybe the most impressive new AM technology here.”
Andreas Vlahinos of Advanced Engineering Solutions earned second place in the Advanced Concepts category for the design and build of an avionics heat exchanger. Jason Jones of Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies earned third place for his entry, “Using PBF to Enable DED in a CNC.”
In the new Members’ Choice category, AMUG attendees recognized Jung Kyu Im and Daniel Goncalves of Custom Prototypes Inc. for their 3D-printed stainless-steel bathroom faucet. The faucet’s custom design incorporates water channels within the organically shaped ‘stems’ that twist as they rise to connect with the ‘flower’ that discharges the flow of water.
Im and Gonclaves used laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) technology from Renishaw to print the faucet, noting that its complex shape—including the water channels designed to avoid the need for internal supports—could be produced only via LPBF.
Set for Next March in Chicago
Following the conference, AMUG announced new boardmembers. Mark Abshire, Shannon VanDeren and Jason Dickman will serve as president, vice president and director of membership, respectively. Abshire, who recently retired from Computer Aided Technology, replaces Carl Dekker, who has served as AMUG president for three terms. VanDeren is president of Layered Manufacturing and Consulting and senior business development manager at VulcanForms, and Dickman is chief technology officer of ClasIQmfg.com.
The board currently is planning for AMUG 2023, March 19-23, in Chicago, IL. Registration opens October 1. See you there! 3DMP