New materials and methods in 3D printing

Components for vehicles and cars, individual medical implants or even building facades and entire houses: Additive manufacturing, also known informally as 3D printing, is revolutionizing manufacturing technologies. An expert conference at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) illustrates the wide spectrum covered by this technology and provides an insight into the broadly deployed expertise of TUM.
Additive manufacturing includes a number of different processes in which the workpiece is built by applying one level or element of building material at a time. This type of manufacturing has many advantages: Designers have more freedom in creating objects, certain functions can be integrated directly in the workpiece, and the manufacture of individually customized products is economically viable, even with small production batch sizes.

Researchers at TUM are using and researching these processes in a number of projects. At the Chair of Timber Construction and Structural Design in the TUM Department of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering, concrete components are being produced using a 3D printer. A concrete pipe whose interior contains intricate ribbing would for example be impossible to make using classic concrete casting.

Many functions can already be integrated in a facade being produced with a 3D printer at the TUM Department of Architecture, Associate Professorship of Architectural Design and Building Envelope. Among others, these functions include thin tubes that let air circulate from one side of the facade to the other, guaranteeing optimum ventilation.

The Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management (iwb) at the Department of Mechanical Engineering can already look back on more than 20 years of experience in the field of Additive manufacturing. In 150 square meters the scientists conduct research on various aspects of the procedure.

Here research begins well before the actual printing process. Simulations are used in the hope of achieving error-free production as early as the first run, eliminating the need for post-processing. However, calculating the desired mechanical properties of these products is a substantial challenge.

Quality management is another important aspect, since in particular for products which are later to be used for example in aviation applications it is important that the properties of the components are always exactly the same, i.e. reliable reproduction is necessary. However, variations often occur even though the same settings are used and the same basic parameters apply.

Variances can occur in materials as well. Here metals still present a particular challenge: Thus for example magnesium is an ideal material for use in medical technologies because it is highly biocompatible. However, when magnesium, which is highly reactive, comes into contact with oxygen, the result can even be explosive reactions.

TUM has also generated a large number of spin-offs in area of additive manufacturing. These include the publicly traded company voxeljet, founded at TUM in 1999. It offers 3D printing systems for industrial use and is specialized in powder binder jetting with plastic and sand. The company employs a headcount of approximately 300.

The enormous future potential of this technology will be discussed by TUM experts and others at the “Second Munich Technology Conference on Additive Manufacturing”, organized by the Swiss technology company Oerlikon and scheduled to take place at TUM on October 10 - 11.

Oerlikon and TUM have agreed on future collaboration in the field of additive manufacturing. The focus is on intelligent materials and components with integrated functionalities.”