Materialise and Sigma Labs partner over metal AM

Metal 3D printers and the technology is starting to become more widely used

Metal heat exchanger produced by Materialise at its Bremen facility.
Metal heat exchanger produced by Materialise at its Bremen facility.

Materialise, which has developed software, services and hardware for 3D printing, has worked with Sigma Labs, which mostly develops quality assurance software for 3D printing. The two companies have combined the Materialise Control Platform and Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D sensor technology to help users identify and correct problems when 3D printing metal items.

There are a number of metal 3D printers and the technology is starting to become more widely used. However, there can be some inconsistencies in the print process that can affect the properties of the final parts. This can be a serious issue since metal 3D-printed parts tend to be used in situations that demand particular properties such as strength or chemical resistance. It means that most metal additive manufacturing is followed by a post-build inspection and quality assurance stage that adds time and cost.

The Materialise Control Platform is an embedded hardware solution that gives end-users more control over the additive manufacturing or AM process. Integrating this with the PrintRite3D sensor technology allows users to identify quality issues and intervene to correct them in real time. This should greatly improve productivity and reduce scrap rates, making it cheaper for manufacturers to use metal 3D printing in serial production.

The new platform can be retrofitted to existing 3D printers to improve manufacturing processes or offered as an add-on to new machines for metal AM. In addition to the platform, Materialise and Sigma Labs will collaborate with end-users and machine producers to refine processes for their applications. To this end, the two companies are looking for partners in various industries who are interested in expanding their use of metal AM in serial production.

Bart van der Schueren, CTO of Materialise, says this new approach eliminates a common problem for serial production of metal 3D printing, noting: “The platform is open and flexible allowing manufacturers to take control of their specific processes to fit their unique applications. This makes it possible for customers to leverage their expertise and truly take advantage of the customisation and localisation benefits that AM provides.”

Mark Ruport, president and CEO of Sigma Labs, added: “I am very pleased with our long relationship with Materialise and the close collaboration between our engineering teams. We believe the combination of the Materialise Control Platform with Sigma’s real-time melt pool monitoring, and analytics software has created a significant breakthrough in the additive manufacturing industry. I look forward to future opportunities to collaborate and find ways to continue to improve the quality and consistency of 3D metal printing as more companies go into production in the coming years.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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