Annual Review 2023: Overview of Developments in the 3D Printing Industry for August

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Developments in the medical sector dominated 3D printing news in August 2023. Throughout the month, 3D Printing Industry reported on a number of advancements which leverage additive manufacturing to treat long-term health conditions.

All the 3D Printing News from 2023

Elsewhere, fervent acquisition and merger activity continued into August, whilst several companies demonstrated the sustainability benefits offered by 3D printing. Formnext + PM South China 2023 concluded August with a showcase of emerging additive manufacturing innovations.

Read on for key August 2023 3D printing news highlights from Apple, Triastek, 3D Systems, Stratasys, Desktop Metal, Xerox, ADDiTEC, Manufactura, Farsoon Technologies, Bright Laser Technologies, INTAMSYS, and more.

Shenzhen World Exhibition and Convention Center, where Formnext + PM South China was held. Photo by Michael Petch.

3D printing innovations in the medical sector

Leading 3D printer manufacturer 3D Systems continued its long-term regenerative medicine efforts in August by announcing a strategic partnership with biopharmaceutical firm Theradaptive.

Through this collaboration, the companies are integrating Theradaptive’s protein-engineering technology with 3D Systems’ 3D printed orthopedic implants. This will enable localized delivery of implants, optimizing healing outcomes for patients and signifying a notable step in the regenerative medicine space.

“Uniting these two world-class technologies promises to provide safer and more effective treatment options for patients who currently have few options,” commented Luis Alvarez, CEO and founder of Theradaptive. “This partnership sets the stage for many new products that will have the potential to significantly improve patient care.”

Chinese pharmaceutical 3D printing company Triastek has publicized the completion of its initial First-in-Human (FIH) trial of its 3D printed medication, named T21. This medication is specifically created for moderate to severe ulcerative colitis treatment. The pills are manufactured using the company’s proprietary Melt Extrusion Deposition (MED) method, providing exact control of the drug’s release in the gastrointestinal tract.

Researchers from University of Sydney and Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) worked in collaboration to 3D print functional human tissues that replicate an organ’s structure. With the help of 3D photolithographic printing, the researchers employed a mixture of bioengineering and cell culture techniques to guide stem cells to specialize.

Through the generation of microscopic mechanical and chemical signals, the scientists directed the cells to shape accurate organ-like structures. This methodology was employed to fabricate an assembly of bone and fat that emulates bone structure and a tissue assembly resembling processes during early mammalian development.

In another development, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast invented 4D printed breast implants for breast cancer treatment. This reportedly marked the first instance where 4D printing was utilized for the creation of breast implants.

Thanks to the use of “smart materials” that can change morphology after 4D printing, these implants can be programmed to change size to better fit into a patient’s tissue cavity. Additionally, the 4D printed implants can release chemotherapy drugs directly at the point of need.     

Merger and acquisition activity 

Merger and acquisition developments again prevailed in the 3D printing news cycle. The saga between Stratasys, 3D Systems, Nano Dimension, and Desktop Metal continued into its fourth consecutive month in August. 

Anticipations had been high for a prospective deal between 3D Systems and Stratasys, but the revelation of their Q2 2023 financial results suggested otherwise.

“We had been hopeful to announce a deal with Stratasys today, unfortunately, we are not in a position to do that,” declared Dr. Jeffrey Graves, President and CEO of 3D Systems, during a conversation with investors. “Frankly, we believed that this transaction would have been announced by now and we are irritated by the slow progress and the lack of engagement on the merger agreement.”

Furthermore, Nano Dimension pulled back from its intent to acquire Stratasys, hence leaving Desktop Metal as the sole competitor in this multi-company tug-of-war. Towards the end of the month, the potential merger between Stratasys and Desktop Metal seemed to be nearing reality, as a date was finalized for the “Desktop Metal special meeting.”

This meeting, scheduled for September 28, would assemble Stratasys shareholders to cast their vote on the proposed amalgamation of the two companies. For the outcome of this vote, review our September edition of the 2023 review of the year series.

In other news, the international print and digital document company Xerox has decided to sell its additive manufacturing subdivision, Elem Additive Solutions, to the US-based metal additive manufacturing company, ADDiTEC. This decision was made as Xerox plans to recenter their strategic focuses and capital on their main print, IT, and digital services.

Eco-Friendliness and 3D Printing

The year 2023 saw extensive buzz around sustainability, with August sharing its portion of 3D printing news pertaining to eco-friendliness.

Global trade group Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) has unveiled the initial findings of a life-cycle analysis (LCA) on metal 3D printing, indicating a reduction in carbon emissions of 38% through binder jetting when compared to conventional metal casting methods.

This LCA was executed by the Yale School of the Environment in association with 3D printer producer Desktop Metal. To assess the ecological impact of binder jet 3D printing, they took into account the manufacture of a steel scroll chiller using a HVAC system developed by Trane Technologies. The study suggests that the marked decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was due to lowered energy consumption during the production stage.

In Mexico, Manufactura collaborated with furniture manufacturing and design workshop La Metropolitana to create sustainable structures using 3D printing with recycled wood. The so-called “The Wood Project” or “UN PROYECTO DE MADERA” involves the daily disposal of 5-6 bags of sawdust by La Metropolitana, each weighing 40 kg.

Using an extruder that is affixed to a KUKA KR-150 industrial robotic arm, the team 3D printed three architectural-scale partition wall test elements. They are reportedly simple to replicate and assemble, and can be sustainably made in a circular method using waste materials sourced from La Metropolitana.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo introduced a new approach to quickly fabricate 3D objects. The innovative 4D printing technique self-folds temperature-sensitive materials into complex 3D forms. This method differs from the standard 3D printing methods that often generate large volumes of waste, as it is reported to be waste-free. The scientists foresee fashion design as a leading application for this emerging technology, as the fashion sector regularly faces material waste, particularly in creating tailor-made designs.

Formnext + PM South China 2023

In August, 3D Printing Industry visited Shenzhen to participate in Formnext + PM South China 2023. The event this year featured 275 companies displaying their manufacturing technology, one-third of which were solely dedicated to 3D printing.

During the show, China-based binder jet 3D printer manufacturer EasyMFG drew a lot of attention by showcasing 3D printed smartwatch casings. These casings were 3D printed in 316L stainless steel using binder jetting technology, resulting in a reported shrinkage of 18-20% after sintering.

This demonstration points to an escalating interest in the application of additive manufacturing for recurring and large-scale production of consumer products. In a report from August, several 3D printing news stories noted that global consumer electronics giant Apple Inc. is utilising metal 3D printers from Farsoon Technologies and Bright Laser Technologies to construct key components for its smartwatches.

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