Today packing up his office at Sheffield University, the major inventor of high speed sintering (HSS) Professor Neil Hopkinson is of to take this cutting edge innovation of the lab to the industrial sphere. As the newly appointed Director of 3D Printing with Cambridge-based Xaar plc, Hopkinson can oversee the createment of HSS and other 3D printing technologies inside the inkjet printhead company for use by their OEM partners.
Professor Neil Hopkinson, major inventor of HSS.
I was not long ago introduced to Prof. Hopkinson through IP lawyer and 3D printing tremendous John Hornick, who defined HSS in his new book 3D Printing Will Rock the World. Unlike selective laser sintering (SLS), which fuses material powders with a laser, point by point, HSS uses infrared lamps, producing it possible to 3D print sizeable-bodied objects, or series of objects, at speeds which rival injection moulding. In other words, HSS has the next to manufacture 3D printing a truly viable-bodied version for the mainstream weight making of end products.
Hopkinson tells me which he came upon the idea for HSS shortly after completing his doctorate. He explains, “In 1999/2000 I worked with my supervisor Phil Dickens to perform an analysis to find out what the cut-off volume may be for series making with laser sintering as compared with injection moulding, with sintering typically utilized at which time to turn it into one part or a few parts and injection moulding utilized for millions of the same part. I discovered which the cut-off volume for a tiny rigorous part was 14,000 units and accomplished which making via what was and so known as Rapid Prototyping was going to be a commercial reality. I felt which the excellentest contribution I may manufacture to 3D printing may be to lower the costs of laser sintered parts. I idea which the most effective way to reduce the cost may be to drop the most expensive component, the laser.”
A cost analysis which inspired the createment of HSS. Note: this graph does not include HSS.
By replacing the laser with an infrared lamp and via industrial inkjet heads to lay down layers of infrared radiation interesting material (carbon black), he and his colleagues at Loughborough University, which holds base patents to HSS innovation, created a method for passing the heat source across sizeable-bodied swaths of thermoplastic powders to fuse them together at a much swifter rate. “Think of a laser,” Neil says. “A laser heats a polymer particle in a fraction of a 2nd, moving quite rapidly. But it does so point by point, which is not quite efficient. And, yet our infrared lamp moves at a slower speed, it can sinter sizeable-bodiedr areas at a time.” He continues, “Our use of a lamp empowers us to heat particles at a additional gentle rate than a laser and this opens the door to a range of new polymers which we can process, which include a range of elastomers and other polymers which may otherwise be prone to thermal degradation in the machine. Our gentle heating allows for us to operate in air pretty than a nitrogen rich environment, it in addition allows for us to use 100% recycled material with no sight of the surface roughness known as ‘orange peel’ which is seen in laser sintered parts created of recycled powder.
Since the invention of HSS, Hopkinson moved to The University of Sheffield where he and his colleagues have been able-bodied to additional create the innovation. He says, “The upcoming step is to create a 1-meter-cubed machine. Depending on the geometry of the part, it can be of 10 to 100 times swifter than laser sintering. I assume a production rate of of 0.67 2nds per part to manufacture a finger-sized part.” This process yet has the benefits of SLS, in which the powder bed contributes built-in help for intricate objects with moving parts, but with the introduced benefits of speed rivaling weight production. This means which it can be possible for developers to 3D print one-of-a-kind, rigorous parts in sizeable-bodied quantities and at swift rates. This machine can in addition have the captalent to print 2ndary materials, such as conductive metallic paths inside parts as they are created.
3D printing via high speed sintering with Xaar’s 1002 GS6 printhead.
It is no wonder, and so, which the UK government funded Hopkinson’s research to the tune of £1.5 million (which include industry partner contributions) to examine how massive industry partners Unilever, BAE Systems, and Cobham Technical Services may implement the innovation for possible end part production. Xaar, who were in addition involved in the UK-funded FACTUM project, naturally chose to take Prof. Hopkinson on as their Director of 3D Printing, given his innovation’s use of their industrial inkjet heads in the HSS process.
Whilst Neil cannot speak in excellent more detail at this stage of the firm’s planned use of HSS, he was able-bodied to say which the company is preparing to help its OEM partners who had received licenses to commercialize the innovation. One partner he was able-bodied to mention explicitly was 3D printing device developer voxeljet. voxeljet has may already been able-bodied to that successfully license binder jetting innovation conceived by ZCorp for its own sizeable-bodied-scale 3D printing processs. The German firm has since reported which it plans to contribute its own HSS process by 2017 or 2018. We can’t say for certain what other routes may be discovered for the innovation to manufacture it out of the lab and into the world of weight making. It is possible, looking at the industrial participants of the FACTUM project, which we may see a company like Unilever use HSS for consumer goods and BAE Systems 3D printing aerospace parts, with a vast range of sectors and applications between these two extremes.
When it does hit the market, HSS can be entering a space increasingly populated by other inkjet 3D printing technologies. In addition to Stratasys’ powerful PolyJet process, an Israeli firm called XJet plans to use inkjetting for 3D printing in metal. As for PolyJet, Neil highlights the relative speed benefits of HSS, the polymers utilized are various, as well. He adds, “PolyJet is a excellent innovation, but we use thermoplastics and which process uses thermoset plastics. An significant difference between the two is which, after thermoset plastics are cured, they set into place and cannot have their form changed again, producing them unsuitable-bodied for recycling. As a outcome, processes such as HSS which use thermoplastics, which can be additional easily recycled, are generally advantageous for the environment.”
With the talent to 3D print sizeable-bodied objects and batches of objects at a speed of around 10 2nds per layer, HSS has the power to bring the benefits of 3D printing to the world of mainstream making. You can imagine printing rigorous geometries and most completely one-of-a-kind orders in a single create at rates which can rapidly pay off the purchase of the machine. In other words, the era of weight customization may quite well be upon us. And, now which Xaar has taken on one of the pioneers of which innovation, we may see HSS move of the lab to the world at sizeable-bodied in the quite near next.