GE reveals 3D Printer for one meter metal objects and system will scale to larger sizes

GE revealed the beta version of the world’s largest 3D printer for metals, which uses a laser and a powder bed to make parts. It is capable of printing parts as large as 1 meter in diameter directly from a computer file by fusing together thin layers of metal powder with a 1-kilowatt laser. The machine has the potential to build even bigger parts, due to the nature of the scalable technology. Customers are already requesting machines with build volumes of more than 1 meter cubed.

GE used the beta machine to print a jet engine combustor liner.

GE uses proprietary technology to control powder dosing, reducing powder consumption by 69 percent compared to traditional machines “on its first attempt.” The machine will also print faster than today’s machines. GE can configure the design and allows customers to add more lasers.

The new printer will also take advantage of Predix, GE’s software platform for the industrial internet, to monitor the printing process and also the health of the machine. Concept Laser’s new M2 printers already come with data analytics using Predix to monitor machine utilization and production and look for potential problems before they occur.

Several GE businesses are already using additive manufacturing to make and develop new products. GE Aviation is printing fuel nozzles for the LEAP family of jet engines. The company is also building the Advanced Turboprop, the first commercial aircraft engine in history with a large portion of components made by additive manufacturing methods, which include 3D printing. The designers reduced 855 separate parts down to just 12. As a result, more than a third of the engine is 3D printed. GE Healthcare, GE Power and the oil- and gas-field services company Baker Hughes are also using the technology.

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DISTRO: Researchers create digital 3D objects from incomplete 3D scanning data

Oct 20, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from Germany’s Saarland University and Max Planck Institute for Informatics have joined Intel to improve digital 3D object creation using incomplete 3D scanning data. “VConv-DAE” is a convolutional volumetric auto encoder that learns volumetric representation from noisy data.

3D scanning has a wide range of applications, from reverse engineering in the automotive and aerospace sectors, to gathering anatomical data for customized foot orthotics, to simply making 3D printed selfies.

But get yourself an incomplete or distorted 3D scan, and the resulting data can be rendered useless. This isn’t an infrequent occurrence either: improper lighting, movement during 3D scanning, and various other factors can result in badly generated 3D models.

The best way to combat these problems is, of course, to eliminate them at the source, by investing in proper lighting equipment, stable rotating platters, and various other tools. But when those options aren’t available, other routes must be explored.

One potential route has just been developed by a multi-skilled and widely sourced group of researchers, consisting of representatives from computing giant Intel and two German institutes: the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Munich, and Saarland University in Saarbrücken.

Together, this multidisciplinary team has developed VConv-DAE, a deep volumetric shape learning encoder that learns volumetric representation from noisy data by estimating voxel occupancy grids.

The researchers say the tool is perfect for “challenging tasks like de-noising and shape completion” that can arise during 3D scanning applications.

“Although…3D scanning technology has made significant progress in recent years, it is still a challenge to capture the geometry and shape of a real object digitally and automatically,” says Mario Fritz, leader of the “Scalable Learning and Perception” group at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics.

The kind of 3D scanning equipment Fritz is talking about isn’t necessarily high-end equipment, but things like the Microsoft Kinect, a motion-sensing input device generally used for video gaming on Microsoft Xbox gaming consoles.

One weakness in Kinect-style hardware is an inability to accurately recognize a wide range of textures. This means that surfaces that are too reflective, mottled, or otherwise hard to discern may result in inaccurate 3D data—something that can have knock-on effects for 3D printing.

“The resulting flawed or even incomplete 3D geometries then pose a real problem for a range of applications, for example in virtual or augmented reality, working together with robots, or 3D printing,” Fritz says.

In order to solve these problems, the newly developed VConv-DAE tool uses a special deep learning neural network to generate 3D models from incomplete datasets.

The secret to the encoder’s success, according to the researchers, is avoiding the intuitive mistake of assigning every object with a label: “training as well as the resulting representation are strongly and unnecessarily tied to the notion of object labels,” they say, arguing that their voxel occupancy grid estimation method works much better.

Interestingly, the new technique offers “competitive performance when used for classification,” while also providing “promising results for shape interpolation.”

Ultimately, this could contribute to a new generation of 3D scanning tools that allow simple hardware like the Kinect to produce highly accurate 3D data with no missing information. This, the researchers say, is more a necessity than a hope.

“In the future, it will have to be possible to capture real-world objects simply and quickly, and project them in a realistic way into the digital world,” says Philipp Slusallek, professor of computer graphics at Saarland University and scientific director of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).

Slusallek is a leading figure in the European joint research project “Distributed 3D Object Design,” or DISTRO, a network bringing together leading laboratories in Visual Computing and 3D Computer Graphics across Europe “with the goal of training a new generation of scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs” in the field of distributed 3D object design, customization, and fabrication.

Posted in 3D Scanning

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Impossible Objects raises $6.4M to grow staff in marketing, sales and R&D

Additive manufacturing startup Impossible Objects just stacked up a $6.4 million Series A.

Returning investor OCA Ventures led the round, which was also joined by IDEA Fund Partners, Mason Avenue Investments, Huizenga Capital Management and Inflection Equity Partners.

“3D printing is on a trajectory to disrupt traditional manufacturing,” said CEO Larry Kaplan. “We believe that we’ll accelerate that trajectory and be at the forefront of it.”

Impossible Objects uses composite-based additive manufacturing technology –– or CBAM –– to create functional parts and tools quickly and at scale.

Like most 3D printing, this technology relies on adding layers of material on top of each other to create a three-dimensional object. But Impossible Objects’s technology lets users use higher-strength materials and print at a faster pace.

To Kaplan, those features mean 3D printers can replace some of the equipment used in traditional manufacturing.

“The process involves feeding 2D sheets of composite materials into what is essentially an ink jet printer,” Kaplan said. “Ordinary [ink jet] heads wet the part shape onto the fabric, and the sheet goes through a system that drops thermoplastic powder across it. The powder sticks to where the sheet was wet, and the final stack of sheets is heated and pressed. The polymer bonds the sheets together to form the part.”

Impossible Objects is currently forming partnerships with original equipment manufacturers to test pilot versions of its printers. The company’s flagship printer, the Model One, will be commercially available sometime in 2018. 

Kaplan says the company’s printers have the capability to produce everything from automotive parts to medical devices.

“Impossible Objects is leading the way by using its technology to transform how the largest corporations manufacture,” said OCA Ventures general partner Ian Drury in a statement. “The market opportunity for a revolutionary industrial additive manufacturing solution such as Impossible Objects’ CBAM is enormous and the company has huge momentum right now.”

Impossible Objects plans to use its funding to grow its research and development team along with its sales and marketing staff. The company has a current headcount of 17 full-time employees, and Kaplan said he could easily foresee the team doubling in size during 2018.

 

Image via Impossible Objects.

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Software Updates, Partnerships, a New CEO and the MOARstruder: Big News from Aleph Objects …

LZB0020LO_AlephLogo_WEBWhile CES 2017 previews and special events have been going on all week, the largest technology trade show in the US didn’t officially open until today – and now that it has, the news floodgates are open. Companies are unveiling new hardware, software, business news, or, in the case of Aleph Objects, creator of the popular LulzBot 3D printers, all of the above. The Colorado 3D printer manufacturer can be counted on to introduce some exciting things at trade shows. Their last major release was the TAZ 6 3D printer, introduced last May at RAPID 2016, and as CES 2017 opens, Aleph and LulzBot haven’t disappointed.

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Harris Kenny

First of all, Aleph Objects announced some big changes within the company as Vice President of Marketing Harris Kenny has been promoted to the role of President and CEO, replacing current CEO and founder Jeff Moe, who will remain involved in the company’s daily operations. Kenny joined the company in January of 2014 as Communications Manager, then moved into the position of Marketing Manager and finally Vice President of Marketing. Prior to that, he worked in management and ERP consulting after receiving an MBA from the University of Denver Daniels College of Business and a BA in Economics from Pepperdine University. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA).

“This company is changing the world,” Kenny said. “Our team is ready to continue scaling up, serving users, engaging the community, and exploring the frontier of Free Software, Libre Innovation, and Open Source Hardware.”

Chief Operating Officer Steven Abadie will also be given an expanded role. Abadie is the longest-tenured employee in the company, having joined in 2011 after working as an artist, instructor, and early RepRap developer. He received an MFA from the University of Georgia and BA in Visual Arts from Southeastern Louisiana University, and contributed to the book Building Open Source Hardware by Alicia Gibb.

“In 2017 we plan to further prove that manufacturing can not only be achieved but flourish with Free Software, Libre Innovation, and Open Source Hardware,”  Abadie said. “We will further integrate our manufacturing and supply chain operations into a world-class Free Software Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) through collaboration with the Odoo Community Association (OCA).”

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The MOARstruder

In other news, LulzBot is introducing some new hardware. The open source company is known for their wide variety of extruders and toolheads, and the newest addition to the collection is the LulzBot TAZ MOARstruder Tool Head, a high-output tool head that features an extra-long heater block, dual print cooling fans, and a 1.2 mm diameter nozzle. Like LulzBot’s other extruders, the MOARstruder hardware is compatible with third-party filaments and can be easily mounted on the modular tool head carriage with a single screw and a plug for a fast upgrade.

“The LulzBot TAZ MOARstruder Tool Head enables high speed and high strength 3D prints, with the robustness and reliability that users expect from the LulzBot platform,” Kenny said. “This tool head is ideal for prototyping in labs, offices, classrooms, libraries, and workshops.”

The MOARstruder is capable of printing 100 grams (0.22 lbs.) of material per hour, with layers of 0.3 mm to 1.2 mm thick, and quickprint profiles will be available in Cura LulzBot Edition. Like everything else LulzBot offers, the extruder is completely open source, and the files can be found here. It will be available in the first quarter of 2017. Check out the MOARstruder in action below:

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Speaking of Cura, Aleph Objects also announced the publication of the alpha version of Cura 2 (LulzBot Edition). The current version of Cura, now in version 21.03, has also been updated, and can be downloaded here.

“While our company is known for hardware products like LulzBot 3D printers, Aleph Objects is both a Free Software and a Open Source Hardware company,” said Kenny. “We are investing to improve the user’s experience with our own software and to advance the large and growing 3D modeling/design/printing ecosystem that respects user freedom.”

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Monkeyprint sample print – Medieval Tower by boldmachines

In addition, Aleph Objects has partnered with the Blender Institute, an avowed fan of LulzBot 3D printers, for the Blender 101 project, which will create a streamlined version of the Blender 3D creation suite that will make 3D modeling and design easier for less experienced users while continuing to prioritize user freedom. They’ll also be working with the Monkeyprint community to help advance the development of the free resin-based print control software by fixing bugs and adding new features.

Those aren’t the only partnerships Aleph Objects announced today. The company has a pending partnership with US electronics retailer Fry’s Electronics, which has 34 retail locations plus a large online store.

“Fry’s is known for offering its customers a wide variety of leading-edge tech products for home and office,” said Fry’s spokesman Manuel Valerio. “Fry’s is thrilled to add another such product line by carrying the LulzBot family of products in all our Stores and at Frys.com. We’re confident our customers will also be excited by this new offering.”

The news comes shortly after the announcement of a partnership between Aleph Objects and filament manufacturers Polymaker and twoBEars, which will expand the materials available for LulzBot printers. According to Aleph, more partnerships are in the works as well, with more details to be announced in the first quarter of 2017.

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This 300-hour print, printed with the MOARstruder, is on display at LulzBot’s CES booth.

2017 is starting off on a great note for Aleph Objects, which was named the fastest-growing company in Northern Colorado by BizWest and the second-fastest-growing company in the state by Inc. Magazine for the second year in a row. If you’re at CES, you can visit Aleph and LulzBot at their booth in the 3D Printing Marketplace, Sands Expo, Level 2, Halls A-D, Booth #42524.

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