AMBER unveils €4.3m 3D printing lab with first-of-its-kind machinery
06 March 2018
AMBER has unveiled an additive manufacturing (AM, commonly known as 3D printing) research laboratory. The AR-Lab will focus on research that will innovate new materials, printing methods and extend the capability of 2D and 3D printing to enable revolutionary, new medical, electronic, mechanical, optical, acoustic, heat transfer, and sensing devices.
Additive manufacturing refers to technology that can produce 3 dimensional objects via layer by layer deposition of materials.
Allows the fabrication of complex shapes
This approach allows the fabrication of complex shapes, forms and designs without the need for complex moulds, forming or subtractive shaping.
It will be a major driver of technologies such as the internet-of-things, wearable and flexible devices as well as personalised healthcare products.
Additive manufacturing will change how goods are produced in the future with a shift in emphasis from mass production to mass customisation where bespoke products can be manufactured at scale for low cost.
Size of AM market to reach $0.6 trillion by 2025
The size of the AM market is projected to reach $0.2 to 0.6 trillion by 2025, with between 30 and 65 per cent cost savings for the industrial sectors adopting it.
AMBER will partner with existing and new industry partners enabling next generation products from innovative SMEs and multinationals.
AMBER’s AR-Lab features a combination of both Irish and world first equipment and 3D printers – allowing industry a unique partnership opportunity.
Full spectrum of materials from ceramics, metals to polymers and biomaterials
The SFI Research Centre AMBER has invested in a suite of 3D printing technologies which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics, metals to polymers and biomaterials.
The ability to 3D print ceramic materials is of particular interest. These materials have application in a wide range of sectors from telecommunications to biomedical implants but, due to current constraints on manufacturing techniques, are limited in their use and performance.
For example, it is envisioned that advanced free-form lightweight 3D printed ceramic objects could ultimately be used in the future as orthopedic implants designed to promote tissue and bone growth.
Other applications for AM found in aerospace, defence, automotive and healthcare
Other applications for AM can be found in aerospace, defence, automotive, healthcare, and other industries.
This is due to its many advantages, including design flexibility, product customisation, and minimisation of material waste, compared to subtractive manufacturing.
The use of additive manufacturing also has the potential to add significant advancement to medical device development, as geometries will no longer be constrained to the limited base stock (i.e. flats sheets or circular tubes) that components are machined from.
Fundamental material science challenges
AMBER director Professor Michael Morris said: “AMBER’s AR-Lab will be a pivotal component of AMBER’s research focused on the fundamental material science challenges associated with 3D printing, for example, the range and complexity of the materials that can be printed, the size of these features and how a number of material sets can be integrated into a functioning device.
“We have invested in a customised suite of 3D printing technology which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics and metals to polymers and biomaterials.
“This investment will play a leading role in the emerging 3D printing national research ecosystem. It will enable AMBER to build on our foundation of innovative excellence in materials science and become leaders in this emerging technology which is critical to the manufacturing industries that support the Irish economy.”
“AMBER’s new additive research lab highlights another new market entry for Ireland – one of crucial importance for industry in the future,” said Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys.
‘Another great opportunity for Ireland to grow our global reputation’
“With potential applications in industries such as healthcare and automotive, this is another great opportunity for Ireland to grow our global reputation for excellent and impactful research.”
Dr Patrick Prendergast, provost, Trinity College Dublin, said: “Additive manufacturing is being hailed as part of the ‘fourth industrial revolution”, marked by emerging technologies including nanotechnology, biotechnology, and the internet of things.
“However, the materials and techniques needed to progress from a niche area into widespread application requires intense research.”
“Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the establishment of a new additive manufacturing laboratory at the AMBER SFI Research Centre through the latest SFI Infrastructure Call,” said Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government.
‘Ireland has built a reputation for cutting-edge science and engineering’
“Ireland has built a reputation for cutting-edge science and engineering and now attracts top international talent from across the globe. We are also educating the next generation of innovators here.
“However, this knowledge base must be underpinned by state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Such infrastructure, provided by Science Foundation Ireland, provides the scientific community with the platforms they require for continued progress and achievement.”
The AR-Lab (Additive Research Laboratory) was established with a €4.3 million investment from Science Foundation Ireland and the European Research Council as well as strategic funding from Trinity and the institutional support these large initiatives require.
Information on Instruments and Equipment at AM Lab:
Lithoz Cerafab 7500
A ceramic additive manufacturing tool – the first of its type in Ireland, and specifically modified for AMBER
to be the highest resolution tool of its type in the world. It is capable of 3D printing a wide range of advanced engineering, and biomedical grade ceramics into highly complex geometries. Historically, technologies available to process ceramics into complex shapes, particularly at small dimension feature sizes, have been limited by material fragility. Applications using this technology include (but are not limited to) bone implants, high temperature/wear/corrosive environments, space and aerospace and communications technologies.
Nanoscribe Photonics Professional GT
A highly specialized stereolithography tool, capable of 3D printing a range of UV curable polymers from
sub-millimetre down to nano-scale dimensions. Feature sizes at these lower dimensions will enable research into applications such as photonics and optics, bioengineering, bio-mimetics, micro-fluidics,
interfacial surface interactions and metamaterials.
Realizer SLM 50
The highest resolution conventional metal powder bed selective laser melting (SLM) tool available on the
market and the first one of its type in Ireland. It is capable of 3D printing the broadest range of conventional SLM powdered metal alloys, some precious metals, but particularly metals for the design of bone implants. This system has been designed using an unusual laser configuration which enables a high
degree of flexibility and control of alloy melt processing – exactly what is required for bio-metal materials
science research and delivering personal therapies to patients.
3D Systems ProX DMP200
This metal powder bed SLM tool – the first one of its type in Ireland – was originally developed for the processing of dry powdered ceramics. This unusual capability increases the flexibility of the tool for processing very fine and nonregular metal powders (those doped with nanomaterials for example),
that may not be ‘optimised’ for use on other, more conventional, SLM platforms. A knock-on benefit of this
is a much wider design-form/shape envelope than many SLM tools, enabling applications in aerospace,
energy and bio-engineering where the value proposition involves breaking form-function constraints.
Optomec AerosolJet 300 System
This is a printing platform uniquely specified for spatially depositing AMBER’s bespoke liquid exfoliated
nano-materials, that form the backbone of research for Professor Jonathan Coleman’s European Research Council (ERC) Advanced award into nano-ink printed electronics, and Professor Valeria
Nicolosi’s ERC Consolidator award into 3D printing of nano-materials for next generation energy storage. This piece of equipment is unique in the field world-wide due to its ability to co-print 2 nano-inks simultaneously in continuously varying proportions (“spatial grading”).
MicroDrop Autodrop Gantry
A bespoke ink-jet platform again matched for use for the deposition of AMBER’s bespoke nano-material
inks. This tool is complementary to the AerosolJet platform above, for the same research purposes — but it has the additional capability of being a precision micro-fluidic instrument that enables specific performance figures of merit to be accurately correlated to nano-material devices across both platforms.
Nikon XTH225 ST
This is an essential non-destructive characterisation platform for evaluating the shape/structure and
materials design properties of AM parts fabricated on the above toolsets. Sequential X-ray images are
used to image completed AM parts through 360 degrees. From this, advanced graphical rendering and
processing software can re-image the part in 3-dimensions – down to 1 micron in minimal resolution.
Qualitative and semi-qualitative information on defects, geometry, voids/inclusion, microstructure
and dimensional stability can be obtained, which will inform the need for further higher resolution
materials characterisation, available in AMBER’s adjoining Advanced Microscopy Laboratory.
Brabender KETSE 20/40 EC
A powerful and highly accurate polymer twin-screw compounder-extruder. This is a materials feedstock
support platform for our polymer fused filament fabrication AM capability, which will produce bespoke polymer filaments to support centre research into nano -composites, hierarchical co-polymers, bio-engineering and filtration applications. This will lead to new classes of printable polymers and so enable
a broad use of this technology.