The world’s first three-dimensional printing machine has been installed at a major Swiss building material manufacturing plant, marking the start of a new era of industrial design and manufacturing.
The building materials used in the new additive manufacturing system at the Sperling Centre for Industrial Materials in Basel, a city near Zurich, are used in cars, furniture, home appliances, electronic components and even aircraft.
The new printer is a joint venture between Swiss-based engineering company Sperning and French-based company Pareto.
The company has been using the technology to produce materials used by carmakers, industrial equipment makers and even a few small companies.
The Sperngers first printed in a lab is a plastic sphere weighing a few grams.
The material can be used to print plastic items that can be folded up and stored.
It is one of several new 3-D printers being introduced in the industrial space, including the printer in Basels factory and a 3-axis printer for the pharmaceutical industry.
“The new 3d printing system is a completely new way of printing,” Sperring chief executive Peter Wieland said in a statement.
“It allows us to rapidly adapt and make changes without having to spend huge amounts of money.”‘
A new era’The new Spernning system is similar to the type of printer that is used in car factories and the pharmaceutical sector, but has the advantage of a much larger capacity to print materials.
The printer can print as many as two grams (less than an ounce) of material at a time, which means it can fit into a large bag, Wielan said.
“This is a new technology, which can create materials of enormous dimension in a matter of weeks,” he added.
“We have the ability to print almost any material in a day, with the new printers capacity to do more.”
In addition to printing plastics, the printer can be printed with metals such as copper, iron, nickel and zinc, and other materials.
The Spernting Centre for the Advanced Development of Printing is one component of a consortium that is developing a new generation of 3-dimensional printers, according to the company.
The printers can also be used for building materials and components that are difficult to produce in conventional ways, such as ceramics and textiles, according Wielander.
“These new printers can be made of a single material, and this allows us, as designers and manufacturers, to change the shape of a whole building without having the cost and the effort of using an existing model,” he said.
The additive manufacturing process is one that has been around for decades and is being trialled in many different industries, from automotive to pharmaceuticals.
But it has been difficult to find a commercially viable solution to the problem of building materials that are prone to failure, and new 3DS printers have been developed to address that issue.
The 3D printers are able to produce a complex number of different materials, from a thin layer of polymers to a thick one, according the company, and it is possible to print these materials at high temperatures.
“With a single printer, you can build all kinds of building parts with a few lines of code, and we have a tool that allows us that to do it,” said Sperding’s head of design and development, Christian Lecuiz.
The team plans to bring the technology into production soon, with an initial batch of the printers set to go online in 2017.
Sperning said the 3D printer has been designed specifically for the SPernning Centre, which is a facility for the development of the advanced industrial design process and materials.