Year in Review: An Overview of the 3D Printing Industry in August 2023

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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.


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.”

Triastek, a Chinese pharmaceutical company specializing in 3D printing, has finished the first First-in-Human (FIH) trial for their 3D printed drug, referred to as T21. This medication is developed to treat moderate to severe ulcerative colitis. It’s produced using Triastek’s own Melt Extrusion Deposition (MED) method, ensuring controlled drug release in the digestive tract.

In a joint effort, the University of Sydney and the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) successfully 3D printed functional human tissues that simulate organ architecture. By combining 3D photolithographic printing with various techniques in bioengineering and cell culture, they taught stem cells to become special.

The researchers generated minute mechanical and chemical signals to guide the cells into organizing organ-like structures accurately. This innovative approach was used to construct a bone-fat assembly that mirrors bone structure and tissues that reflect early mammalian development processes.

In related news, a team of researchers from the Queen’s University Belfast crafted 4D printed breast implants as a treatment for breast cancer. This exploration supposedly marked the inaugural application of 4D printing in the creation of breast implants.

Thanks to the use of “smart materials” that can morph after 4D printing, these implants can be set to alter size to more accurately fit into a patient’s tissue cavity. Plus, the 4D printed implants can directly discharge chemotherapy drugs at the point of need.

Merger and acquisition activity

Merger and acquisition events again ruled the 3D printing news cycle. The saga among Stratasys, 3D Systems, Nano Dimension, and Desktop Metal extended into its fourth successive month in August.

It was initially expected that a partnership would materialize between 3D Systems and Stratasys, but the Q2 2023 financial reviews of the two organizations painted a contrasting picture.

“Contrary to our initial optimism about forming a collaboration with Stratasys at this moment, such an agreement is currently not attainable,” said Dr. Jeffrey Graves, the Chief Executive Officer and President of 3D Systems, during an investor call. “Frankly, our expectation was that this deal would have been declared by now and the slow pace and devoid of any progress towards the merger pact is disappointing.”

Furthermore, Nano Dimension discarded its intentions to purchase Stratasys, leaving Desktop Metal as the sole contender remaining in this multi-corporate tussle. In the wake of the month, the anticipated merger between Stratasys and Desktop Metal seemed more probable, as a date for a “Desktop Metal exclusive assembly” was scheduled.

The assembly, planned for September 28, would convene the shareholders of Stratasys to cast their votes on the proposed amalgamation of the two firms. To know the conclusion of this vote, refer to the September edition of our year 2023 review series.

Global print and digital document corporation, Xerox, has divested its additive manufacturing unit, Elem Additive Solutions, to the American metal additive manufacturing firm, ADDiTEC. This move, entailing the forfeiture of their 3D printing abilities, aligns with the corporation’s rededication of its strategy and investment towards its foundational printing, Information Technology, and digital services.

The term “Sustainability” emerged as a prominent theme in 2023, with the month of August reflecting a significant prevalence of sustainability-related news in the 3D printing milieu.

Global trade organization Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) disclosed initial findings of a Life-cycle Analysis (LCA) for metal 3D printing. The study showed a reduction in carbon emissions by 38% in binder jetting compared to traditional casting methods of metal.

The LCA was facilitated by the Yale School of the Environment together with 3D printing company, Desktop Metal. The benchmark for the environmental impact assessment of binder jet 3D printing was derived from the production of a steel scroll chiller with a Trane Technologies’ HVAC system. Based on the research findings, significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to lower energy consumption during the process of production.

Manufactura, based in Mexico, collaborated with furniture manufacturing and design studio La Metropolitana to 3D print sustainable structures from recycled wood. The project named “The Wood Project” or “UN PROYECTO DE MADERA,” uses daily production of sawdust from La Metropolitana that amounts to 5-6 bags, each weighing 40 kg.

With a KUKA KR-150 industrial robotic arm assembled with an extruder, the team was successful in 3D printing three test pieces of architectonic-scale partition walls. Reportedly, these pieces are easily replicable and can be assembled, and are able to be sustainably created in a circular fashion sourcing raw materials from the waste produced by La Metropolitana.

Elsewhere, researchers from the University of Tokyo presented a novel method of rapid 3D object fabrication. This unique 4D printing method self-folds temperature-sensitive material into complex 3D shapes. Unlike conventional 3D printing processes which often generate extensive waste materials, this process is reportedly waste-free. The researchers view fashion design as a key application of this new technology. Indeed, the fashion industry often grapples with material wastage, especially in the production of bespoke designs.

Formnext + PM South China 2023

In August, 3D Printing Industry traveled to Shenzhen to attend Formnext + PM South China 2023. This year’s event saw 275 companies showcase their manufacturing technology, a third of which were dedicated solely to 3D printing.

During the show, the China-based 3D printer manufacturer EasyMFG drew a significant amount of attention by demonstrating 3D printed smartwatch cases. These cases, 3D printed in 316L stainless steel with the company’s binder jetting technology, reportedly experience a reduction in size of between 18-20% following sintering.

This display indicates the growing interest in the application of additive manufacturing for the mass production of consumer goods. In August, several reports cited that the global consumer electronics company, Apple Inc. is using metal 3D printers from both Farsoon Technologies and Bright Laser Technologies to manufacture critical components for its smartwatches.

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