3Diligent Selected by NIST-MEP to Deliver 3D Printing Webinar

I’m pleased to report that over the past several months, we’ve been working closely with NIST MEP on a nationwide webinar series to educate its members on 3D printing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, NIST is the National Institute for Standards and Technology.  Its goal is to use measurement science to advance innovation and it is in charge of maintaining all of the physical measurement standards for science and industry. In fact, if you are a stickler for knowing the time down to the second, you can set your clock by the official US time clock, which is maintained by NIST.

NIST engages with industry as part of its innovation mission and the MEP – or Manufacturing Extension Partnership – is one of its programs to do that. MEP is a nationwide collection of manufacturing consultancies in each state that helps small to medium-sized manufacturers.

NIST MEP has a huge impact on small and medium-sized manufacturers, providing consulting and support resources from its network of 51 MEP centers across the country and through a network of 1,300 trusted advisors. In 2016 alone, more than 25,000 manufacturers have leveraged NIST MEP.

Per Connie Palucka of Catalyst Connection, one of the MEPs that helped develop the series with us:

"MEP helps manufacturers improve their operations, increase revenue and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. We partnered with America Makes and 3Diligent to develop this webinar series to educate manufacturers about the benefits of additive manufacturing. Together, our goal is to de-risk this advanced technology, facilitate its adoption and help manufacturers realize the full value of additive manufacturing." –Connie Palucka, NIST MEP

The last organization to help sponsor the webinar series is the America Makes learning initiative, which is committed to sharing information about additive manufacturing and accelerating its adoption across the US.

3Diligent is an ideal education partner for NIST-MEP in development of this series given its tremendous breadth of additive manufacturing technologies, its status as a member of America Makes, and its belief in the NIST-MEP mission to support small to medium manufacturers.

As a company that supports enterprise customers from multinationals and independent inventors alike, we welcome the opportunity to share information about this incredible technology and provide small and medium businesses a means to access the latest and greatest additive manufacturing has to offer, in addition to our machining, casting, and injection molding capabilities.

The 3-part webinar series focuses on three major topics: introduction to additive technology, process tradeoffs and applications, and practical next steps for companies that are interested in using additive manufacturing technology for prototyping, tooling, replacement parts, or production applications.

The webinar series was initially shared with MEP centers in the greater vicinity of America Makes headquarters in Youngstown, Ohio and is currently being shared with clients from MEP centers in that area.  We are in discussions about expanding the program to other geographies in the coming months.

We're thinking of bringing this content to the rest of the manufacturing world via our own seminar series. Let us know if you would be interested in this content by filling out the form below so that we can let you know when we’ll be presenting the series.

3Diligent CEO Shares Metal 3D Printing Expertise at WESTEC

It’s been a busy year for 3Diligent and we’ve been all over the country for different conferences, meeting with our peers and customers and sharing our expertise in 3D Printing. I’m excited to share that this week though, we’ll be staying near our headquarters in Los Angeles, Calif. for the West Coast’s leading manufacturing event – WESTEC.

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3Diligent CEO Cullen Hilkene presenting at Westec.
WESTEC will take place today, September 12 through Thursday, September 14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I’ll be speaking in a few hours at 1:00 pm PT on “Metal 3D Printing – Tradeoffs & Applications.” In my presentation, I’ll provide a summary overview on each of the key metal 3D Printing processes in market, outlining pros, cons, and applications commonly served. I’ll also touch on some of the emerging technologies grabbing headlines and how they might fit into the broader ecosystem. My presentation will be at the WESTEC Huddle Ups Theater (318).

If you’re able to attend the presentation, I’d love to meet you so please introduce yourself afterward! If you’re attending WESTEC but can’t make the presentation, send us an email to set up an introduction with our team.

We’re looking forward to being a part of another major manufacturing event and hopefully meeting some of you! Stay tuned to our blog to find out where 3Diligent is headed next!

Behind the Scenes with Multi Jet Fusion: An Interview with HP’s Ramon Pastor

Behind the Scenes with Multi Jet Fusion: An Interview with HP’s Ramon Pastor

RamonPastorhi-res
Ramon Pastor
The HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printer is a significant breakthrough in an industry that is used to breakthroughs. With dramatic print speed, enhancements to support lower overall printing costs, the Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer family represents a meaningful step in 3D Printing’s transition from a prototyping technology to true production option. To get a deeper perspective on this machine – parts from which are offered through 3Diligent network – CEO Cullen Hilkene conducted the following email interview with Ramon Pastor, vice president & general manager, HP 3D Multi Jet Fusion Business.

Multi Jet Fusion can achieve faster production speeds for certain print builds than traditional selective laser sintering (SLS). Tell us a bit about how this is possible (i.e., binding agent, detailing agent, chemical reaction, heat)?

HP’s Jet Fusion 3D Printers deposit fusing and detailing agents onto a layer of powder in one pass thanks to our Pagewide technology, before a set of infrared lamps to fuse the designated areas. This process not only allows the printer to produce more geometrically complex parts than with SLS, but it also allows for continuous printing and increasing the speed of production. Also, new HP cooling technologies cut the cool-down time to a fraction of what is needed in SLS.

Based on our understanding of the Multi Jet Fusion process, it would seem bulkier parts with some challenging details – the same parts that historically have been time-consuming and expensive to produce with 3D Printing – are really where this technology shines, because a jetting pass and a heat lamp pass can go much faster while still providing accuracy on the small details.  Is that true? 

HP 3DP PA 12 Mesh
HP used its Multi Jet Fusion Technology to print this High Reusability PA 12 30L (13g) mesh part, which was assembled as it was printed.
That’s correct. Speed is achieved thanks to our Pagewide technology (all agents are laid down in a single movement), while our drop accuracy is maintained at 20 microns, making it possible to consistently get the most exceptional detail. The use of detailing agents is key to preventing thermal bleed, and ensuring that even the smallest details are preserved.

We’ve supported a number of projects with the HP system, but at a corporate level, in which industries have you seen the greatest resonance so (e.g., industrial products, consumer products)?

We're seeing exciting uses of Multi Jet Fusion in both consumer products as well as industrial production. We are not releasing details at this time, but we've been working with leading global brands including Nike, BMW, Johnson & Johnson, and Jabil to leverage 3D printing for both consumer and industrial use. We see incredible use potential across all major industries: automotive, aerospace, medical technology, consumer goods, electronics, heavy industry, engineering, the list goes on.

What sorts of applications have you seen customers note the greatest impact of the new technology?

Among the greatest benefits of Multi Jet Fusion for customers across industries is the ability to iterate design and production with unprecedented flexibility, which accelerates innovation and creates shorter go-to-market timelines. And one of the most compelling things about HP’s ecosystem model is the Open Platform and Materials Development Kit, which enables customers and partners to work directly with HP at its innovative 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab on custom-designed materials to meet their specific needs.

What are the standard tolerances off the machine?  Do these vary with part size?  Do tolerances vary much in the x, y, and/or z?  Do you experience some degree of shrinkage, as with SLS printers? 

Linear dimensions: ±0.2mm for dimensions smaller than 100mm  // ±0.2% for dimensions larger than 100mm. This applies for all directions and geometries.

What is the standard Ra finish level off of the build tray?  Some say it is better than SLS, especially on downward facing surfaces.  Could you speak to that?

On PA12 we are measuring following roughness between 8-10 um. This can be greatly improved with postprocessing methods.

What about isotropy…do you see weakness in the Z axis or is it consistent?

HP 3DP Finished Part
3D part printed and painted for use in HP’s own HP Jet Fusion 3D Processing Station
Parts built with Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing are also significantly more isotropic and boast a significantly higher Z-direction strength than SLS technologies, thanks to the bonding between fused layers. The time that a fused voxel is exposed to heat is 1000 times longer than in SLS, being a major contributor to isotropy.

We know that Nylon 12 is the first material for HP, and Nylon 6 and 11 are in the pipeline.  What’s the timeline on those?   

We're committed to introducing and certifying new materials for HP 3D printers, but we are not releasing details at this time.

How about color printing?  Timeline on that? 

We are not releasing details at this time.

Can you tell us more about the finishing station?  It appears to perform a number of functions.  Can you speak to those and whether there are any other features planned for the future (e.g., inspection)?

The finishing station comprises a few different functions for the start and completion of the printing process. It connects 3D Materials Cartridges to the HP 3D Build Unit to load material before a print job. At the end of a print job, you can reconnect the Build Unit into the finishing station to engage the enclosed unpacking and material collection system to collect and reuse unused materials. These unused materials are collected in the HP Jet Fusion 3D External Tank, which filters this material back into the cartridges. It also enables fast cooling and continuous printing for increased productivity.

Great! Thanks for all of those insights Ramon. We look forwarding to introducing the benefits of these innovations to our customers as you continue to roll them out.

3Diligent’s New Services – 3Diligent Direct

Over the course of our years supporting a wide variety of customers, we’ve come to understand how different customers need and want to be supported.  In response, we recently introduced 3Diligent Direct, 3Diligent Free Marketplace, and 3Diligent Premium Marketplace.  This is the first of a series of blog posts helping you understand these new services better and the sorts of projects that are best suited to that service level.

Today we tackle 3Diligent Direct.

What is 3Diligent Direct?

3Diligent Direct is our service to support those projects that require a bit more hands-on support.

How Does 3Diligent Direct Work?

When you Create an RFQ, we ask whether you’d like to submit your job to 3D Direct or 3D Marketplace.  If you select 3D Direct, it flags your RFQ to be held up for a formal discussion of the specifics of your project.  Selecting 3D Direct also exposes the “Confidential” check box on the second page of the Create RFQ form, allowing for our stringent Confidentiality Provisions to be applied to the project.  Neither of the Marketplace options provide this feature.

We will consult with you on the project, including a deeper discussion of your project objectives, acceptable trade-offs with respect to material, process, and finish, and perhaps most importantly, how you’d like for us to engage with our vetted supplier base.  Typically, we’ll identify the top three suppliers for that specific project type, gather preliminary feedback from them on the project, and then circle back with you to identify a single partner with which to complete the project.  With that being said, we can utilize as little as one partner on a project to minimize the number of eyes that ever see your project.  Furthermore, the customer may never know it was you who submitted the project, providing another layer of confidentiality protection.

As the project unfolds, we’ll play a direct project management role, serving as an intermediary to handle all the nitty gritty elements of your project management.  You’re welcome to call or email us throughout the course of the project, where we’ll play a hands on role and loop in the engineers running the project as necessary.

In the abstract, what kinds of projects are best for 3Diligent Direct?

The best projects for 3Diligent Direct are the ones that are either a) confidential, b) not particularly well defined, or c) high leverage.

Confidential projects are a great fit, because it’s only through 3Diligent Direct that you can opt into our confidentiality provision.  Our confidentiality provision was drafted with an understanding and expectation that we’d be supporting customers with highly sensitive information, but that we’d need to share some of that information with our production partners.  We have drafted a very rigorous confidentiality provision so as to ensure that whatever NDA you’d like for us to sign, the obligation our suppliers have to us to protect your information is even stronger.

Projects that aren’t especially well defined are a great fit, because 3Diligent Direct pricing assumes a degree of project management and direct consultation about the different options for the project.  If you aren’t sure which process or material may suit you best, simply submit your RFQ through 3D Direct, and we’ll take a hands on approach in sorting through different options for you and arriving at the best final solution.

High leverage projects – those that are of critical importance – are also great fits for 3Diligent Direct.  While you can get great quality parts from any aspect of our service, with 3Diligent Direct projects, we’re personally handling the drafting of a bid and ongoing oversight of production.  This can be well worth the additional cost of project management baked into our 3Diligent Direct prices relative to Marketplace jobs.

In other words, if you want to limit the number of companies eligible to bid your project or if you’re wide open with respect to the materials and processes that might fit for your project, 3Diligent Direct is the right play.  Such projects really aren’t a great fit for Marketplace, which opens the project up to more of our supply partners for bidding and where suppliers aren’t in a very secure position to coach you through the early stages of your

More specifically, which applications use 3D Direct?

R&D Projects are commonly 3D Direct jobs.  They are typically competitively sensitive and oftentimes have unanswered elements when it comes to material and process that will be best for the project.

Production runs are also commonly 3D Direct jobs.  These types of projects generally benefit from a deeper level of hands-on interaction with the 3Diligent team.

Lastly, projects with very high quantities – especially on tight timelines – are a great fit for 3D Direct.  3Diligent brings to bear manufacturing capability across North America…on projects where we can bring to bear dozens of machines at once – something very few companies can do – our capability shines.  Stitching together these different suppliers is easier done by us on a 3D Direct job than you on a 3D Marketplace submission.

Where can I go from here?

If you’re interested in submitting a 3Diligent Direct RFQ, simply get signed up, click RFQ, and you’re off.  Just be sure to click 3D Direct on the first question!

direct select choice

Have a look at this YouTube video to see the Create RFQ process.  It’s also posted as a user tutorial on the 3Diligent Dashboard.  We look forward to supporting you on a project soon!

 

More Big News from the 3DP World: Carbon gets $80M+ Investment – Commentary

Silicon Valley investors and business partners invest in a CLIP future

Within a week of GE’s announcement it was spending $1.4B to purchase two major players in the metal printing market, we have more big investment news from the 3D Printing world.  This time, the buzz comes from Silicon Valley, and it is Carbon’s announcement that they’ve secured a more than $80M Series C round of financing.  So what do we make of this development?  Who is Carbon?  Why are they getting all this cash?  What do they intend to do with it?  And what implications does this have for the additive manufacturing market more broadly and Carbon’s competitive set specifically?  Below I try to offer a few thoughts on each question.

Who or what is Carbon?

Carbon is an additive manufacturing equipment manufacturer that developed the Continuous Light Interface Process (CLIP).  It manufactures the M1 Printer, which utilizes CLIP technology to create custom parts – currently in a handful of urethane materials.  With CLIP, a focused UV-light projector is shined on a panel at the bottom of a pool of photo sensitive resin.  The image projected on each layer cures that layer of material, then pulls the cured material upward allowing for the next layer of resin to flow into the void to be selectively cured.  CLIP technology is similar in many respects to Digital Light Processing (DLP), another “vat photopolymerization” process that utilizes projected light to “grow” parts.  The main difference, Carbon highlights, is the panel of oxygen it uses to accelerate the pace at which the resin is cured.

It is that speed which helped Carbon burst onto the scene a year and a half ago.  At a Ted Talk, Carbon’s CEO Joseph DeSimone dramatically completed an interview on stage while a latticed ball gradually materialized out of the pool of resin in a nearby M1 Printer.  It was a striking moment – one that captured the imagination of many – especially considering DeSimone mentioned Terminator 2’s liquid metal villain as a source of inspiration for the technology.

Why are they getting all this cash?

From that day to now, Carbon has done a solid job of advancing its technologies, developing promising partnerships, and demonstrating great marketing savvy.  So part of this investment is rooted in execution to date.

The second leg of this is the promise of a 3D Printed production future.

As it sits, 3D Printing is a metaphorical gnat relative to the elephant that is global manufacturing.  As of the latest Wohler’s and Associates estimate, 3D Printing represents around a $5B global market, which is still less than 1% of the $10.5T global manufacturing industry.  But while 3D Printing is still small in relative terms, its growth has been meteoric, at a roughly 30% year-over-year clip for the last half decade.  It also carries the promise that it will not simply displace existing manufacturing applications like machining, molding, and casting, but create new opportunities.  The consensus feeling is that 3D Printing is turning a critical corner from being a prototyping technology to a production technology.  I can attest to this transition – 3Diligent was born because engineering grade plastics and metals for heavier duty applications were coming to market and we believed an online platform to access these emerging technologies and materials seamlessly and on-demand would provide huge value to customers and service providers alike.

Carbon is riding – and on some level doing a significant bit in building – this same wave.

Leveraging DeSimone’s experience as a material science professor at the University of North Carolina, Carbon has developed a number of custom urethanes that they believe are superior to competing resins produced by industry incumbents.  Carbon runs these materials on their M1 machines using parameter sets developed and refined by Carbon based on every part build.   The hope of Carbon and its investors is that combining their speedy hardware, software processing, and material science will roll up into truly functional custom parts that can be built at scale.

This is the same vision being pursued by 3D Systems, Stratasys, HP, and Envisiontec, Carbon’s key competitors in the polymer 3D Printing space.  Notably at this weeks International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, both Stratasys and 3D Systems unveiled systems geared toward production rather than prototyping.  It remains to be seen whether this investment will get Carbon to true production runs in the tens of thousands of parts first.

What are they going to do with the funding?

An investment in Carbon right now signals that Carbon and its partners believe they are truly onto something, have demonstrated sufficient market traction, and should start investing in a full-fledged build-out of its technology.  The first thing this will likely extend to is a ramping up of their manufacturing capability.  DeSimone anticipates growing from 50 installed units now to 100 by year end and 500 next year.  Scaling up manufacturing – both for M1 hardware and related consumable resins – is a costly endeavor.

Beyond ramping up production, it appears that Carbon also has designs on pursuing global growth.  Whereas it has primarily focused its growth in the United States to date, it seems to recognize that companies around the world are looking to position themselves for a 3D Printed future.  The extent to which Carbon can be the machine of choice that R&D engineers, designers, and plant managers across the world can become that technology of choice has to be top of mind for DeSimone and his team at Carbon.

Lastly, you can assume that Carbon will push some of that capital toward existing operations.  Carbon has offered up a roadmap to extend beyond the five materials they currently offer – that will require material science research funding.  And while Carbon has stated with its subscription model that it should be able to simply perform “over-the-air” updates to keep its machines up to date, it stands to reason that Carbon will continue to explore enhancements to its hardware and explore ways to broaden the application of its technology.  Currently, Carbon’s printer has a relatively tall and thin build chamber, meaning that there are certain part geometries that isn’t currently well equipped to build (e.g., an iPad) without splitting into pieces for assembly.  It’s possible that it will allocate some resources to a future model with a larger build chamber.

What are the implications of this for the industry?

At this time, it’s safe to say that incumbents 3D Systems, Stratasys, and Envisiontec all must recognize that there’s another new kid on the block.  Less than a year since HP signaled it’s going all in on 3D Printing as well with its new Multi Jet Fusion technology, Carbon has secured the funding to really go toe-to-toe with the biggest in the industry.  This investment values the company at over $1B, which puts it within 70% of the market cap for 3D Systems – the original 3D Printing company and inventor of the stereolithography technology that CLIP builds upon – and nearly the same value as Stratasys, the other major publicly traded polymer 3D Printing company.

Aside from the fact that Stratasys, 3D Systems, and Envisiontec face another credible threat for market share beyond the threat that HP poses, my sense is that this doesn’t necessarily serve as a signal for consolidation in the market.  Whereas GE’s deal last week creates a single player in the metal printing market with disproportionate resources, the polymers space remains fragmented with a number of viable players.  I think you can expect these companies – plus some others that are also making a push for this market at a global level (e.g., Prodways) – to continue duking it out for a while before any clear winners emerge.  It’s possible you could see pairing up in an effort to consolidate the market in the face of these new competitive threats – or potentially another purchase from GE (they’re invested in Carbon) or HP.  But because the polymers market is older, the growth is a bit slower, and the battle lines longstanding, the calculus in polymer 3D Printing doesn’t add up in quite the same way as it does in the metals market.

What are the implications of this for you?

If you’re reading this as someone who uses or is interested in using 3D Printing technology, this is good news for you.  Whereas GE’s play in the metals market may deter competitive investment, accelerate consolidation, and potentially deter innovation, Carbon and HP being added to the mix has demonstrably pushed market incumbents to take notice and try to innovate at a faster pace.  The likelihood that we’ll arrive at true production 3D Printed polymer end-use parts – and distributed mass production of custom goods – has gone up with this announcement.

While we wait for any sort of clear leader to be established – if that day ever truly comes – 3Diligent is the perfect partner to support you with our 3D Printing services.  3Diligent was built on the premise that this sort of tectonic shifting in the market was inevitable and likely to continue for at least the next decade, if not longer…the market opportunity is just too big for us not to see more players pursuing innovation breakthroughs and market share.  That’s why we are focused on developing innovative procurement software and developing relationships with service providers that are investing in and developing expertise with these different technologies.  We are pleased to offer 3D Printing services across Carbon, 3D Systems, Stratasys, Envisiontec, and more than a half dozen other brands across plastics, metals, and more.

We look forward to supporting you on a project soon – perhaps with a Carbon printer manufactured with the proceeds from this funding round…

 

Cullen Hilkene is CEO of 3Diligent, “the 3D Printing Partner for Every Business,” an online rapid manufacturing service that supports designers, R&D engineers, and procurement officials across a multitude of industries.  He is an alumnus of Princeton University, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Deloitte Strategy and Operations Consulting.  

 

The Evolving State of American Manufacturing

Automation driving productivity gains but retraining programs needed

A really insightful article was published by Ylan Q. Mui of the Washington Post today.  It spoke about the current state of American manufacturing, which has obviously been a topic of immense focus in this election cycle.

What the article tells us is that American manufacturing is actually doing very well, at least from an aggregate production standpoint.  In fact, total output is nearing the all-time high levels that occurred immediately prior to the Great Recession.

american manufacturing, automation impacts on productivity
The Fed notes that total American manufacturing production has climbed significantly in the last few decades.

It is true that the total number of Americans employed in manufacturing has gone down significantly in recent years.  But that inherently implies that the people doing the manufacturing are reaching new levels of productivity on a per person basis.

We can speak to this first hand.  Every day at 3Diligent, we interact with companies pursuing more effective production of their next generation prototypes, production parts, replacement spares, and custom tools to support some of their traditional manufacturing processes.  All of these companies recognize that advancements in technology are providing them new and better ways of doing things.  Injection Molding, CNC Machining, and most recently Additive Manufacturing (a.k.a. 3D Printing) are all examples in that progression.  Our rock star contract manufacturing partners utilize those tools to accelerate innovation and make our customers more competitive in the global marketplace.

Automation is a good thing.  It allows us to innovate faster and produce more products locally that otherwise would need to be sent overseas to be price competitive.  While the pace of change can sometimes make us uncomfortable, we have to recognize that short of an international truce on technological advancement, continued automation is going to happen.  Because America doesn’t have a monopoly on processors, memory chips, and the internet, trying to pump the brakes on technological advancement only stands to leave us behind those countries who are pushing forward aggressively.  Better to be the ones doing the innovating and creating the next generation technologies than the ones having to buy them from overseas once foreign countries have developed them.

With that said, whether it be to automation or overseas labor, there are a significant number of manufacturing professionals who have been lost in the shuffle.  So for all the macro benefits that faster times to market and lower unit costs provide the American economy, at the micro level, there are some very real consequences for those individuals displaced by technological advancement and their families.

The number of American workers in the manufacturing sector has declined in recent years
The number of American workers in the manufacturing sector has declined significantly in recent years

It is of critical importance then that America develops retraining programs for manufacturing workers displaced by automation and globalization.  Such retraining programs can equip those displaced workers with the skills to tackle jobs for the new manufacturing economy or transition them into other industries.

That is one of the reasons that we at 3Diligent are big supporters and proud members of America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.  In addition to funding a wide number of research programs helping foster American innovation in the area of 3D Printing, they are also starting to really tackle the challenge of helping train the next generation of American manufacturers in how to get the most out of additive manufacturing technology and take this innovation from the R&D lab to the shop floor.

American manufacturing is doing admirably but it isn’t without some serious growing pains.  We are excited to support innovative companies that are embracing this evolution and organizations like America Makes doing the right things to help retrain American manufacturing workers to succeed in these times of rapid change.