What is MXT®? (Metering Extruder Technology)

At the height of additive manufacturing’s growth, a promise was made to advance 3D printing technology to enable anyone to produce anything anywhere. BigRep is proud to have developed the revolutionary Metering Extruder Technology (MXT®) to finally meet that promise and provide industrial manufacturers of any size the dependable tools they need to produce without limits.

As FFF extrusion technology reaches the peak of its development cycle, it becomes less likely that the technology’s quality will meaningfully improve. Additive manufacturing must be rethought from its foundation, the extruder, to achieve the long-sought goals of repeatable end-use parts with engineering-grade materials.

Featured on the upcoming BigRep PRO and EDGE large-format 3D printers, MXT has taken on the challenge and is setting the new additive manufacturing standard.

Find out why New York’s Boyce Technologies upgraded to a BigRep PRO
in our free use case, “Boyce Technologies’ Additive Solutions to Win Business.”

How Does it Work?

If FFF 3D printing is like a hot-glue gun, MXT is a syringe.

In the FFF process material is melted as it passes through an extruder’s hot end. Unlike FFF, MXT melts filament in advance and stores it in an internal reservoir. This extra step enables unprecedented speed and precision in the printing process by working with material that is stored at its ideal temperature and is uniformly viscous throughout the print.

Using a reservoir of molten filament allows MXT to print with unprecedented control due to the local force exertion. Where traditional FFF technologies push solid filament through extruders by exerting force at a distance from the hot end, thus creating a gap of time between the cease of force and actual filament extrusion. MXT has implemented a servomotor to feed the reservoir and a metering pump just above the hot end powered by a servo motor as a source of controlled, local force. With this highly accurate feeding combination, MXT pushes an incredibly measured volume of uniformly viscous filament through the hot end locally. This eliminates time gaps between the mechanical systems and drastically improves printer precision, enabling better results at a faster pace.

The process makes printing five times faster than traditional FFF printers with a throughput of up to 500 cubic centimeters per hour (cm3/h) at maximum extrusion rate with its finest 1-millimeter nozzle. Because of its level of accuracy and liquid-filament deposition, MXT extruders don’t need to take the extra steps that FFF printers do when turning corners, stopping, or rapidly starting and stopping; drastically reducing print time.

MXT also eliminates oozing by implementing a secondary force called retraction, where the extruder’s metering pump runs in reverse to eliminate pressure in the nozzle, stopping or pulling any filament already past the reservoir to halt extrusion accurately and instantly.

Why Does it Matter?

With traditional FFF extruders, speed is limited by the necessity of melting filament as it passes through the hot end. If material is pushed through too quickly it won’t melt and users risk delamination – layers of printed parts separating. MXT avoids this issue entirely by heating filament to ideal extrusion temperature in the reservoir.

Upon announcing MXT, Fabbaloo’s Kerry Stevenson called it “the single most important advance in 3D printer extrusion technology I’ve yet seen.” It’s an advancement that will enable the industry to continue its exponential improvement of additive hardware – making printing faster, better quality, with more materials.

As FFF extrusion technology reaches the peak of its development cycle, changing to the base technology evolving the foundation – extruders – becomes the only way to continue advancing the technology’s capabilities and industry applications.

Repeatability, speed, precision and the problems of force and excess inherent in the FFF printing process can only be resolved by reinventing the extrusion process.

Find out why New York’s Boyce Technologies upgraded to a BigRep PRO
in our free use case, “Boyce Technologies’ Additive Solutions to Win Business.”

Integrating CAD and additive learning into general education

Digital design and manufacturing has become increasingly relevant in a, sometimes surprisingly, eclectic mix of industries. In dentistry, fashion, manufacturing itself or any other of the plethora of industries that have evolved with the integration of 3D printing, it’s apparent that an understanding of additive manufacturing and the skills to create 3D printable designs in CAD software are now a necessity.

It’s important, then, as industries increasingly depend on digital design that students are given the opportunity to learn this crucial aspect of many industries as they study.

Enterprising educators are already getting ahead of the curve. At TH Wildau – Wildau, Germany’s Technical University of Applied Sciences – instructors have developed structures to teach non-technical students the fundamentals of CAD and additive manufacturing. They secure students’ understanding of what has become a cornerstone in many industries at a crucial time in their education. Under the instruction of teachers like Dr. Dana Mietzner, students from disciplines as broad as business management, law, and business informatics learn about CAD and additive manufacturing processes in detail.

“Students start to think about future fields of application of 3D technology,” Mietzner said. “They try to figure out what the status of the technology is today and what could be future fields of application. For that purpose, it’s very important for the students to understand the technology – how it works and what is behind the concept of 3D printing.”

Understanding 3D printing as a physical process is incredibly important to learning CAD software. Designers using CAD need to understand what the various kinds of 3D printers are physically capable of to ensure that even the complex geometries, achievable only with additive, are designed with best practices in mind for an optimal outcome. This kind of understanding can inform designers about which method of additive manufacturing they should use for an application, like deciding between FFF and SLA technologies for an application, or when it might be better to opt for traditional reductive methods like CNC instead.

Not only will understanding the best production method for a CAD model help in designing processes, creating a design that’s conducive to successful printing, but it will help future business leaders in the disciplines Dr. Mietzner teaches understand when a process can be done with more cost and time efficiency. For example, introducing additive in favor of traditional supply chains can drastically alter how a business chooses to source parts. As more businesses move to additive manufacturing to produce end-use parts, this is increasingly important.

There’s a wealth of other disruptions additive manufacturing is causing to traditional business models and it’s vital for future leaders to understand these implications to make choices for their success. Accessible manufacturing is enabling businesses with smaller financial backing to enter production without massive investment, highly personalized products can enter the market without prohibitive price tags, and traditional workflows are being optimized with 3D printed tooling.

Clearly, it’s paramount to the future of successful businesses that there is a healthy understanding of the additive process, and therefore CAD, in a wealth of disciplines.

Learn the benefits of Large-Format Additive with our
Guide to Integrate Large-Format Additive Manufacturing.

As industries continue to evolve additive manufacturing is becoming more pervasive, making many niche applications require very specific expertise. The boom of 3d printing within the medical field serves as an excellent example of this. The medical industry was an early adopter of additive manufacturing, leveraging SLA long before it was an accessible technology. Today, a plethora of companies are racing to develop 3D printable replacement body parts as intricate as organs. To achieve such a novel goal, the initial model’s designer would not only need extensive practice with CAD software but also with anatomical design, likely benefitting from a background as a medical practitioner or as a medical illustrator.

While less demanding artistically than the design of anatomically correct organs, a common use of mainstream FFF additive technology is the design and creation of highly customizable orthopedics. Here, an extensive background in kinesiology is a must-have for any designer creating the model. For a brace to be effective, extensive knowledge of the part of the body being mended is completely necessary – form the position that best aids the healing process to the potential risks of an incorrect placement.

Without experience in additive manufacturing and CAD software, the design of these products would require extensive extra steps and risks design instructions being lost in translation.

A plethora of prominent institutions have developed prototyping-focus’ within their courses, with classes and labs being used as an accessible space for learners to transform their ideas into reality. The most effective utilize technologies that allow for broad applications – a goal that large-format additive is uniquely positioned to address. For future-ready institutions that prepare learners for careers of dynamic change with relevant knowledge and life-long skills, additive manufacturing has proven to be an effective investment for those taking aim at superior teaching and experimentation, for a variety of disciplines.

Find out how prominent institutions like TH Wildau, targeting additive learnings beyond engineering students, and other are using BigRep’s additive technology to prepare their students in BigRep’s Guide to Large-Format for Education and Research.

Personalised fingerprint stool, customer manufacturing with BigRep

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Additive manufacturing has offered ungated access to affordable manufacturing solutions and unprecedented reductions in the cost of low-volume high-mix manufacturing. Because of these combined possibilities, a wealth of personalized products have become available to the market from all sizes of businesses.

The affordability of large-format additive technology has even changed the way professionals are introduced to manufacturing processes, which now often begins during post-secondary education with in-house industrial 3D printers. Universities everywhere are integrating additive into their curriculums in a variety of disciplines that allow students to have hands-on experience with manufacturing technology before entering the workforce.

After Australia’s University of Technology Sydney (UTS) acquired a BigRep ONE large-format 3D printer for their fabrication lab, ProtoSpace, they were eager to flex their new additive muscles and create a publishable case study. The task was taken on by Dr James Novak, at the time a postdoctoral researcher at UTS (now a Research Fellow in additive manufacturing at Deakin University) who set out to create a showcase-worthy design that would test the BigRep ONE’s capabilities and highlight its potential to produce highly customizable products.

Novak took personalization to the next level in his design, literally incorporating himself into the project by creating a stool from he and his wife’s fingerprints.

“It was designed when my wife and I got engaged and features the ring fingerprint impressions from both of us,” said Novak. He noted the project was conceived in part because of the absolute individuality of a fingerprint, highlighting the unmatched level of personalization that additive manufacturing offers.

The highly-organic design connects the fingerprint ridges, weaving support through empty space before merging in the design’s open mid-section.

Novak explained, “as the fingerprints merge through the center of the design, an organic form emerges that can only be manufactured using 3D printing, and there is no support material needed.”

To simplify the printing process, it was decided to print the design with a support raft that ensured the first layers – which are otherwise unconnected – wouldn’t warp, but Novak noted that the same result could be accomplished with the right build platform adhesive.

The resulting design is an excellent example of the unique capabilities of 3D printing: an entirely personalized end-use product with a complex geometry that can only be produced with large-format additive manufacturing.

Novak’s stool is also demonstrative of large-format additive’s unmatched potential for lean manufacturing, allowing for the creation of highly customizable products in small batch production. Combined with accessible price points and transferable design skills, large-format additive clearly presents an enviable solution at all levels of business.

Using only a small portion of the BigRep ONE’s build volume, multiple independent designs like Novak’s stool can be easily completed in the same production run, and production speed can be easily increased by taking advantage of large-format’s scalability – adding to existing machines by opting for performance enhancements like a second extruder to run in tandem.

With this unparalleled flexibility and potential for customization, large-format additive presents an accessible, future-ready manufacturing solution.

World-first airless motorcycle tyres, featured on BigRep’s award winning Nera e-bike

An investment in new technology should do more than provide a business with an immediate boost to productivity and capability. It should promise a capacity for future applications as soon as they inevitably arise. It’s a simple consideration, but it could prevent unnecessary future investments and establish an early edge in new applications.

BigRep is dedicated to pushing its technology to the limit internally with our innovation consultancy agency, NOWLAB, to ensure our reliable large-format 3D printers can handle the wealth of future-applications that regularly become realities. NOWLAB designs and creates future-ready products to inspire and aid businesses developing their own innovations around the world. Through their work, NOWLAB dispels many of the assumed limitations of additive technology and demonstrate how an investment in additive manufacturing can not only meet businesses needs today, but open doors in the future.

Last week, BigRep was proud to win best Creative Use of 3D Printing at the 3D Printing Industry Awards for NOWLAB’s NERA eBike, the world’s first fully 3D printed e-motorcycle. The NERA was unveiled on November 13, 2018 at Formnext and it went viral! But one impressive innovation integral to the NERA can be easily overlooked: the crucial, fully 3D printed airless tires and rims.

Airless Tires Breaching the Consumer Market

Michelin and General Motors recently unveiled their brand-new 3D printed Uptis airless tire prototype at the at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility. They announced research plans to validate the design and introduce it to the consumer market as early as 2024. Michelin says the tires will combat the waste generated by the approximately 200 million rubber tires that are prematurely disposed of every year due to damage from puncture, improper air pressure and other common forms of wear.

Michelin and General Motors’ announcement is the most recent in a long line of airless tires releases, but it does mark a divergence from applications focused on lighter or slower vehicles – like all terrain vehicles or tractors – by brands like Goodyear, Bridgestone, and Hankook.

Airless tires require careful consideration from design teams to ensure the safety requirements of a vehicle’s wheels are met. Factors from weight resistance to surface grip and a variety of associated properties need to be carefully balanced to ensure such an unconventional component will work in the demanding conditions of the real world. When designing the NERA’s airless tires and rims, project lead Marco Mattia Cristofori and NOWLAB’s design team needed to consider the appropriate balance of rigidity and flexibility with respect to both components to ensure their safety and functionality. The end-use materials had to be rigid enough to keep its form but flexible enough to have shock absorbing traits on obstructed terrain.

The design goal extended beyond simple functionality, however. Airless tires have functionally existed in niche applications, like space vehicles, for years. Since NOWLAB set out with the NERA project to demonstrate realistic consumer market item, the aesthetic of the airless tire and rim had to be considered – adding an extra layer of difficulty to the product’s design.

“We realized that large-format additive manufacturing and airless tires are a powerful combination,” said Cristofori. “Full customizability is necessary to adapt different design parameters, and with additive the same machine can produce different scales, patterns and other customizations without changing settings or hardware parameters.”

NOWLAB’s 3D Printed Airless Tire Design Process

NOWLAB dove into designing the airless tire’s internal structure by considering biomimicry engineering. A strategy in many NOWLAB projects, biomimicry makes use of functional designs found in nature to create similar properties in human-designed products. In the case of NERA’s tires, a honeycomb design was chosen to provide the tire internal stability for its efficiency in balancing the required rigidity and flexibility. The geometry proved strong enough to take full advantage of a flexible material, BigRep’s TPU filament, which has proven capable of keeping shape under weight with the chosen geometry but maintains its properties well enough to mimic the soft function of a traditional tire.

After choosing the honeycomb pattern that would be the design’s basis, the team needed to ensure the product’s overall properties would meet their needs. Mirek Claßen, NOWLAB Head of Innovation and Generative Design Applications, helped apply algorithm-based parametric design to ensure the tire would meet its requirements for the specific customized range of weight-resistance and size that was needed for its function on the NERA, a process that also ensures the airless tire is easily adaptable for future applications with different functional requirements.

“Combining the possibilities of generative and parametric design allowed us to unlock the full potential of large-format 3D printing,” said Claßen. “Within our algorithm-based design model we could iterate unlimited design variations to find the perfect version to suit our needs and fulfill all technical requirements.”

Both the NERA’s airless tires and rims are fully 3D printed, demonstrating the functional and impressive ability of BigRep’s TPU and Pro HT materials to withstand a vehicle and driver’s weight. BigRep’s NERA was designed to hold passengers over 110 kilograms, but the design can be altered to support even more weight for heavier vehicles or heavier loads like multiple passengers.

Pro HT was an apt choice for the NERA’s rims for the same reason TPU was suited for the tire – it has the perfect balance of rigidity and flexibility for its application. Overall the rims require far more rigidity than the rubber-like tires, of course, but striking a balance ensures the rims remains solid and sturdy but aren’t so brittle as to crack under weight. The material’s marginal flexibility also adds an amount of shock absorption to the wheels, making for a smoother ride.

Beyond the airless tires, BigRep’s materials like TPU allowed for embedded functionalities in a unique way. The NERA’s bumper, seat and handles were all printed with TPU to fulfill functions that usually require complex mechanical constructions like hydraulic suspension systems.

Market-Viability of Airless Tires

To the average consumer airless tires might seem like a novelty, but beyond the innovation’s charm and environmental benefits there are practical applications that extend beyond the niche uses observed so far. For one, an average rubber tire weighs about 10 kilograms whereas the NERA’s 3D printed airless tires only weigh six kilograms, a 40% weight reduction. Complicated supply chains can make acquiring new tires an expensive challenge in remote locations, but with access to a large-format 3D printer the tires can be created locally without the costs and environmental impact of shipping.

Most concerning for the average consumer, however, is the durability and additional safety the technology provides. Removing the need for air-filled tires eliminates the risk of blow-outs that can create dangerous scenarios on the road. The exponentially improved durability of airless tires also eliminates the egregious expenses associated with regular tire changes, not to mention the fuel-economy that comes with a significantly reduced vehicle weight. Overall, airless tires on the consumer market would be a joyful innovation for all concerned.

“Coming out with the idea was pretty natural,” said Cristofori. “We researched the possibility of airless tires, read about what exists so far and their future potential. It was absurd to us that no one else had 3D printed one for bicycles or motorcycles before.”

As vehicles rapidly evolve to meet modern environmental requirements, now is the time to rethink every aspect from the ground up to redevelop everyday technology with the modern tools that enable novel designs and processes. BigRep understands the importance of the re-thinking process to innovative designers and industrial manufacturers. By taking on inspirational projects like the NERA eBike, NOWLAB not only proves the prowess of BigRep’s large-format additive technology but also gains the expertise to consult on innovations even before they’re fully realized by prominent manufacturers; ensuring our tools and training position our partners for success.

“We’re happy to see that we inspired other companies,” Cristofori added. “That’s what we do at BigRep. Besides producing reliable 3D printers, we innovate and make sure their full capabilities can be taken advantage of. We research and develop innovations to inspire while we are also inspired by others.”

How can a consultancy for additive design benefit your business? 

Contact CES Printing now to find out. Call +44 1454 887931 or email sales@ces3dprinting.com

Ready to fly: The world’s first fully 3D printed high-tech airline seats to be premiered by BigRep at Aircraft Interiors EXPO in Hamburg

Two innovative aerospace seats envisioned with Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the industry solution experience “Passenger Experience” / The Retro Seat saves 50 percent of original seat weight, while the cutting-edge bionic Aero Seat offers an all-new passenger experience.

Hamburg / Germany, April 1, 2019 – BigRep, the global leader in large-scale 3D printing (FFF segment) for industrial applications, will unveil the world’s two first fully 3D-printed aerospace seat systems with Dassault Systèmes at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg (April 2-4, 2019). Both prototypes have the potential to re-define aircraft interiors’ design as well as the passenger experience in air travel.

Opening a new dimension for Additive Manufacturing (AM) in the aviation industry, the prototypes, designed by NOWLAB, the BigRep innovation consultancy department, and manufactured on BigRep’s large-scale 3D printers, include the Retro Seat, an original airline seat which has been refurbished by using AM, and the Aero Seat, a bionic passenger seat. Strikingly elegant, both seats present visionary design unprecedented in 21st century aircraft interior composition.

Both full-size seat systems were created using Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform and the industry solution experience “Passenger Experience”. Engineers use 3D printers to produce optimized parts by leveraging the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to design and simulate highly optimized parts based on space allocation, loads, constraints, manufacturing processes, and multi material requirements.

“Our Retro Seat saves 50 percent of weight, creating huge benefits for sustainable aircraft engineering and operational costs. Our prototypes demonstrate the massive benefits of 3D printing for manufacturers and airlines,” said Daniel Büning, co-founder and Managing Director of NOWLAB at BigRep. “In addition, jigs, fixtures and other cabin interior parts can be printed on site and on demand. In cabin interior design, 3D printing will push the limits of engineering creativity. For designers, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will be a key tool in this process.”

“3D printing is in the process of re-defining the aviation industry, and we’re ready to fly! Our new 3D printer PRO offers an unprecedented level of precision, quality and speed, enabling us to use the high-performance, innovative printing materials the aviation industry requires.” said BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer, PhD.

BigRep and Dassault Systèmes will show how AM can be applied to any part of the cabin – from seat to armrest to sidewall panel as well as how AM enables design of individual end-use parts starting from lot size one to small series production.

Making full use of the unique technical possibilities of 3D-printing, the Retro Seat offers groundbreaking high-tech features such as inductive charging that permits wireless charging of smartphones. The back of the headrest is equipped with “Bring your own device” outlets to connect to tablets or other devices as well as multiple USB ports. The seat is also embedded with blue LED light panels, creating ambiance during night flights, while the arm rest is equipped with a smart cabinet solution to safely store laptops during takeoff and landing.

The Aero Seat presents a game-changing passenger seat for autonomous driving technology. This exciting seat shell design has an almost bionic touch, look and feel as the seat will adapt to the driver’s or passenger’s individual body shape: Using a 3D body scan prior to the seat production, the shell will provide its users with an unprecedented level of comfort to reduce stress and physical discomfort during long trips. Last but not least, flexible materials are being used for printing seat cushions (incl. softness factor).

Both designs are not a simple adaptation of existing, convectional airline seat frameworks, but were specifically envisioned for large-format FFF technology, setting a benchmark example for truly creative design by breaking the limits of traditional engineering. For example, both seats have a fully integrated design, i.e. any bearings or electronics can be integrated during the printing process.

BigRep will be present at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo at Dassault Systèmes’ booth 6C90E in the Hanse Pavilion.