The iPrint Institute’s “Advanced Manufacturing (AM)” research group works together with partners from several industries to help them create efficient manufacturing workflows and novel solutions for complex problems. The term “Advanced Manufacturing” combines additive, subtractive and hybrid manufacturing technologies. This research group focuses on evaluating, selecting, testing, and implementing new solutions with different levels of industrialization. Our core competence in inkjet technology can bring high value to the field of AM with new materials and process technologies.
Nowadays, additive manufacturing is increasingly used for the production of prototypes and individual parts in small, medium and large series often referred to as mass customization. Furthermore, the design freedom of the 3D layered build process finds applications in more function-oriented designs, such as to create internal structures, and to integrate several parts into one. This enables saving time and cost. AM has also grown exponentially these last years with breakthrough technologies and novel applications. Additive manufacturing is used for parts with a high degree of detail, delicacy and multi-material/multi-functional capabilities and subtractive manufacturing is used where traditional methods suffice or to finish operations on the parts produced by additive manufacturing. Additional processes such as pick and place, pre and post treatment processes used during the AM process could create unique products impossible to create by traditional manufacturing.
The iPrint Institute research pays deep attention as well in the future of 4D printing. 4D Printing is referred to as “3D printing transforming over time. Thus, a fourth dimension added is: time. Objects transform themselves into another structure over the influence of external energy input as temperature, light or other environmental stimuli”. 4D printing allows manufacturing at a level rather difficult to achieve by other techniques. At iPrint we envision to go beyond the dimension of time and look at other new functions inspired by nature such as taste, smell, tactile and haptics effects using tailored inks and novel print designs.
There are some interesting advantages such as programmed architectures in the printed objects, shape morphing, phase changing, functional transformation etc. that can be applied to several innovative application fields. We quote a few examples: In the medical field stent or valves can be printed that deploy into their programmed structure at the target area in the body due a thermal or mechanical response.
Space applications such as antennas or solar sails can benefit from small form factors of 4D printed objects that deploy in space. Another interesting opportunity is the ability to add functionality during the printing process that can render intelligence to the printed product.
This can be applied for example to the automotive or building sector to produce sustainable structures, which have integrated heating, cooling, electronics, energy harvesting/generation etc. saving space and energy. Smart textiles are another exciting field that could benefit from shape changing or integrated climate control for better fit, comfort and performance.
All these potential applications seem very inspiring and promising for the future of advanced manufacturing.
The iPrint Institute research groups are multidisciplinary and they are working on real life issues, brought by industries.