Standards in Additive Manufacturing

This article is fairly length and discusses:

You can click on any of the links above to jump to those specific sections.

Additive manufacturing (AM) has – and continues to – evolve dramatically in the sophistication of its technologies, processes, and materials.  A broad range of industries ranging from aerospace to consumer products is using AM to refine the development and production of products. The explosive growth in AM and how practitioners are deploying it is supported by a wide number of metrics, including the 20 fold gown in AM-related patents and the astounding growth in the sale of industrial AM systems over the past 4 years.

Fueled by growth of Industry 4.0 and the digital thread, AM has emerged as a catalyst in reshaping underlying assumptions about product complexity, supply chain logistics, and possibly even the manufacturing business model itself.

DEFINITION – Industry 4.0 : Industry 4.0 is a reference to what might otherwise be called the the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention.

DEFINITION – Digital Thread: Tech Target defines the digital thread as “a communication framework that connects traditionally siloed elements in manufacturing processes and provides an integrated view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle.”

However remarkable the growth thus far, challenges lie on the horizon that if unaddressed could impede broader implementation of AM in industrial settings. And among those challenges, the lack of a widely accepted comprehensive set of technical standards within AM looms large.

Why do standards matter?

Standards are necessary to ensure that such rules of the game are established, adhered to, and respected by all parties. Standards have been a fundamental part of the manufacturing background for decades, they are essential as they outline the parameters that must be met to deliver a quality product.

It’s no different for AM

In many ways, AM is a ‘democratization’ of the production process. A digital file designed by one person can be modified and produced differently by a hundred different people by changing any number of settings used in the items creation. Given the capacity for endless variations, standards become all the more important because they define quality, pro­vide benchmarks and best practices.

Quality end-use, functional parts are already being produced via AM but widely ad­opted standards would help the quality over longer production runs. Ongoing efforts to establish AM standards should define the requirements for AM production, helping to enhance operational consistency and ensure quality as pro­duction and market adoption grows. As standards help assure quality for a larger volume of parts, the AM industry can scale, reach new levels of efficiency, and garner additional benefits from AM use.

Quality standards can also be particularly im­portant for AM because there are arguably more factors to consider than for conventional manufac­turing; now, digital design standards, interoperabil­ity standards, layer-by-layer material/build process parameters, microstructure strength, porosity, and post-processing/curing standards, among others, should all be considered. In a complex industry with a host of variables at play, AM standards should provide the “guidebook” for implementation.

Below is a shortlist of potential benefits that can arise from the application of standards to the use of AM:

  • Risk Mitigation: While standards will not mitigate all risks associated with any manufacturing process, adopting them can mitigate and control risks in ways that cross many domains such as worker safety, security of in­formation, intellectual property, the manufacturing process, and supply chain management.

  • Improved Repeatability: In the highly customizable environment represented by AM, standards can define key parameters — materials, print process, material storage, etc. In effect, stan­dards should provide a sense of predictability and repeatability within the AM ecosystem.

  • Quality Benchmarks: Quality is explicitly “the use of a standard against which other things of similar kind are com­pared.” As such, standards provide the benchmark criteria against which the quality of a company’s AM process—and products of that process—can be com­pared. A primary aim of standards should be ensure that designs, printers, and settings achieve a desired quantifiable and quality outcome.

  • Greater Efficiencies: By virtue of helping to accomplish the first three benefits, AM standards may also provide an opportunity for companies to focus their processes and practices in a more optimally efficient and less wasteful way. For example, the use of a standard output file format for the instructions needed to print a part would reduce the need to develop a custom file format and, in the process, enable greater interoperability—and effi­ciency—among different players across the AM eco­system. This can also reduce the need for rework during production, thus again reducing waste and improving return.


That seems like a big list of features and you would be right to ask…how exactly?

  • Part Design: AM enables the creation of parts that can ex­ceed traditional design limitations, even mimicking a variety of organically shaped, nongeometric bio-inspired design. These new designs allow parts to exceed previous constraints and dem­onstrate increased feats in strength, weight reduc­tion, and even product performance. But in order to allow a quality assurance process to gauge whether the production is being controlled, for instance, traditional standards may not suffice.

    Revised and new standards have begun to evolve to bridge industry specific gaps to reflect de­sign within the AM ecosystem.

  • Production and Materials: Many traditional manufacturing standards are well estab­lished and may be applied to AM as well. However, there are areas where ad­ditional research is required address uncontrolled variables introduced by AM production processes. For instance, powdered bed fusion metal printing processes may trap miniscule amounts of gases within the printed material creating potential anomalies in the final part. Analysis and the introduction of production standards would be beneficial to account for such anomalies.

    Since materials used in AM are commonly found in traditional manufacturing processes, stan­dards related to storage, handling, and transporta­tion are relatively well articulated. It is still im­portant consider what the printing process itself does to the material, and how this may be used to improve the product. For example, AM may introduce inherent molecular de­formations which can actually prove beneficial in high-stress end-use cases where temperature, pressure, or material can actually be balanced out by the material stresses.

    This would require standards against which materials, printing processes, and in­herent material stresses can be judged.

  • Digital Thread: Applying standards on the data produced from the AM processes is the final and perhaps most challenging area. Our digital world is developing at an exponential pace as data formats and processing requirements seem to evolve every few years. With the “thread” approach to manufacturing becoming increasingly pervasive, it could be almost essential to consider the longevity of the AM digital presence and how rapidly anything we produce digitally will likely no longer be transferrable to the next file for­mat.

    While standards such as the .STL—a standard format for sending instructions to the 3D printer— exist and are widely applied today, there is an ever-present desire for something better. A major chal­lenge facing the application of data standards is how to build in longevity into the standard. Thus, AM should begin to invest effort in producing data and information standards that can be easily updated and copied to the next generation of hardware and computers.

Needs Assessment

Recognizing your organization’s need to identifying

  • Needs Assessment: This first step is likely the most important. Define your parameters and conceptual benchmarks and steps in the process where the company needs a standard. This includes determining your expectation of success.

  • Determine the Variables: As an example, determine printer settings available, then print using each variable and measure the outcome to understand the impact of the setting on the part printed.

  • Data Collection: Determine how you will measure the results of each pass of your process and variable settings. An example might be to identify how you will measure if your additively manufactured part met reliability requirements or how you plan to measure the humidity inside a printer during operation.

  • Experiment: Run your experiment several times, testing each variable in isolation, and measure your results.

  • Observe and Analyze: Analyze the data collected to see which variable settings provide the best outcome or best achieves your AM objectives. The best settings may likely become your new standard where industry standards do not exist.

Partial List of Existing Standards

Despite its relative newcomer status on the manufacturing stage, AM has garnered a fair amount of attention from standards organizations globally and a fair amount of work has already been done to bridge the gap in standards. Below is a partial list of of AM related standards and the organizations that have fostered them. Both the ASTM (F42) and ISO (ISO/TC 261) have formed committees that meet regularly to review and discuss modifications and additions to additive standards.

  • ISO/ASTM 52900 – Additive Manufacturing General Principles: co-publication between the American Standards for Technology and Materials and the International Organization for Standardization replaces the now cancelled ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies and serves as the basis for subsequent standards development.
  • ISO/ASTM 52901: 2017 – Additive Manufacturing General Principles – Requirements for Purchased AM Parts: gives guidelines for the elements to be exchanged between the customer and the part provider at the time of the order, including the customer order information, part definition data, feedstock requirements, final part characteristics and properties, inspection requirements and part acceptance methods.
  • ISO/ASTM 52910: 2018 Guidelines for Design for AM – This document gives requirements, guidelines and recommendations for using additive manufacturing (AM) in product design.
  • ISO/ASTM 52921: 2013 – Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing, Coordinate Systems and Test Methodologies – includes terms, definitions of terms, descriptions of terms, nomenclature, and acronyms associated with coordinate systems and testing methodologies for additive manufacturing (AM) technologies in an effort to standardize terminology used by AM users, producers, researchers, educators, press/media, and others, particularly when reporting results from testing of parts made on AM systems.
  • ASTM F3049 – 14 – Standard Guide for Characterizing Properties of Metal Powders Used for Additive Manufacturing Processes
  • ASTM F3122 – 14 – Standard Guide for Evaluating Mechanical Properties of Metal Materials Made via Additive Manufacturing Processes
  • AWS D20.1/D20.1M:2019 – American Welding Society Specification for Fabrication of Metal Components Using Additive Manufacturing – This specification provides the general requirements for fabrication of metal components using additive manufacturing. It provides guidance for the interaction between the Engineer and the Contractor. It includes the design, qualification, fabrication, inspection, and acceptance of additively manufactured components. A commentary for the specification is included.
  • DNVGL-ST-B203 – Additive Manufacturing of Metal Parts – This is the first Standard to provide an internationally accepted framework for producing and using high quality additively manufactured metal parts for the oil & gas, maritime and related industries. It introduces approaches to manage the quality of additively manufactured metal parts, with each approach adapted based on the criticality of a part’s function. This helps to ensure predictability in the supply chain, reducing lead time and cost.
  • FDA – Technical Considerations for Additive Manufactured Medical Devices – Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff


Based on years of 3D measurement experience and market demand, SHINING 3D innovatively integrates blue LED light and blue laser into EinScan HX handheld 3D scanner. The hybrid laser and LED light sources make EinScan HX compatible with a wider range of object sizes, meeting multiple needs of users. High efficiency and reliable result give EinScan HX more application possibilities.

Hybrid Blue Laser & LED Light

Innovatively integrated with dual blue LED light and blue laser, improves scanning materials adaptability with less limitation for a wider range of applications. LED light scanning allows rapid 3D scanning. Laser scanning, which is less sensitive to ambient light, gives better performance to reflective and dark color surface.

Reliable Results

The high resolution and accuracy meet the needs of most industrial applications for reverse engineering and measuring.

Minimum point distance 0.05 mm

Accuracy up to 0.04 mm under Laser Scan

High Efficiency

Processing speed of EinScan HX under Rapid Scan Mode is up to1,200,000 points/s, and multiple blue laser lines under Laser Scan Mode makes scanning of most objects in minutes for reverse engineering, CAD/CAM, 3D printing and etc.

Portable & Easy Operation

EinScan HX is plug and play with user friendly software, which is easy to operate, no matter you are newbie or with professional experience in 3D scanning. The portability and flexibility use of EinScan HX has been considered to its ergonomic design for a more efficient and comfortable scanning experience.

Ergonomic Design


Full Color

With built-in color camera, it supports

full color texture capturing and tracking by texture.

EinScan HX Reverse Engineering Design Bundle

A hybrid light source 3D scanner with reverse engineering and CAD capabilities.

For more information, and how to purchase, contact us


Complexity Made Simple

Exhaust pipes are an auto component few of us ever think about…until a faulty one wakes up the neighborhood!

Despite it’s low profile, the exhaust pipe is an important part of vehicle performance. It not only dampens engine noise, but the flow of gases emitted from the vehicle also affects overall vehicle performance. Traditional design and production process for mufflers requires the formation of components that must be soldered together through a variety of steps. The need for soldering requires a relatively simple design. The automotive industry must create hundreds of thousands of exhaust pipes every year, so design must bow to mass production.

The end result of simple exhaust pipe design is inefficient air flow and power loss. Engine operation is less efficient than might otherwise be possible.

Can the exhaust pipe be improved?

Absolutely. Customers wanting to enhance their vehicles by investing in performance muffler systems can absolutely do so…at a cost. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, more efficient exhaust pipe designs are correspondingly more complex and have proven too difficult and costly to produce in the numbers required.

Until now.

The situation

Most mufflers are reactive, or reflective. That is to say, that they create backpressure to cancel out most of the sound created by the engine, and this is what causes performance loss. As you can see from the picture on the left, a typical exhaust pipe consists of four key components: the intake pipe, resonating chamber, perforated pipes and the outtake – exhaust – pipe. Gases are taken into the muffler via the intake pipe. Most of the engine sound is cancelled out in the resonating chamber before the gases are pushed out into the perforated pipes which deals with low frequency noise before final exhaust.

The less gases are forced to undergo directional changes (creating backpressure), the less the effect will be on performance. Thus if gases are allowed to free flow straight through a muffler, performance will be unimpeded.

The challenge and solution

The challenge is how to create a free-flow dissipative muffler that will still absorb as much sound as possible.

Working with a third party autoparts manufacturer, Shining 3D has successfully developed and customized a 3D printed auto exhaust pipe. As you have likely already guessed, the new device is created using additive manufacturing, which has allowed a more complex geometry to be introduced to the design.

1. First, Shining 3D designed a 3D model using Rhino (a professional design software). The internal structure of the new exhaust pipe would be optimized by 3D printing technology. It would be smaller but greatly increase operation efficiency.

2. Next, a prototype was created using SLA 3D printing technology. Shining 3D used the SLA-A line of 3D printers to accomplish this, and allowed for inexpensive, preliminary product testing and initial client feedback which would then result in more effective collaboration toward the end product.

3. Once the final design was decided, Shining 3D received approval and a product order. Production of the final print using stainless steel, was achieved using the EP-M250 printers.

How is it different from the one in your vehicle?

Cross section of the new AM built muffler

1. It has a more powerful acoustic wave. If that description sounds cool, so does the result. Because its structural design has been optimized, the new exhaust pipe is much more powerful than conventional models — and you can hear it.

2. It weighs less. By about 67%.

3. It has a power guarantee. When a vehicle is operating at high speeds, if the exhaust pipe cannot fully emit the exhaust gas, the engine’s power output decreases. However, the new 3D printed model efficiently channels exhaust outside the vehicle. Engine power is maximized.

Outside profile view

This new exhaust pipe design already has proven so successful that Ford Motor Company intends to install it in the Mustang for trial assembly. The sales order was thereby expedited and Ford Motor Company could receive delivery of the exhaust pipes sooner.

It’s not just purr. It’s power, baby, and the exhaust pipe of the future.

Score another win for additive manufacturing and Shining 3D!

The Coming Wave


What do all of the companies to the left have in common? 

All have integrated additive manufacturing into their business operations! 

Of course these are large corporations, but an increasing number of sole proprietorships are coming to appreciate the advantages additive manufacturing offers them.  Certainly, this technology is a boon to the auto and airplane maker, but not less so to the local plumber down the street. 

No matter what your business produces, no matter how large or small your organization, additive manufacturing can streamline your processes and save you money.

Why is this?


Additive manufacturing (AM) is an innovation in manufacturing processes that mitigates existing production and product development trade-offs.  The result? Reduced capital is required to affect scale and scope of production.

    • Less capital is required to achieve economies of scale. 
    • Barriers to entry into a given product market are lowered. 
    • Return on investment is maximized.
    • Greater production flexibility and product customization is available per unit of capital. 
    • Marketplace differentiation is maximized. 

That’s the big picture!

Multinational Ikea is investing heavily into 3D printing to customize products for customers.
Startups are using additive manufacturing to offset capital expenses.
Established independent contractors are using additive to create innovative solutions for their clients.

More specifically, here are some of the ways AM can impact producers:

  • AM streamlines scheduling efficiencies
    • Rapid prototyping: Traditionally, prototype development involves custom tooling, coordination with external suppliers, and multiple hand-offs. Along with the delays, there is risk of miscommunication. AM largely eliminates these delays and risks.
    • Rapid design iteration: Reworking of a design ordinarily involves substantial effort and time since the production process must start again from the beginning. AM allows for seamless prototype creation and expedites design iteration.
    • Strategic alignment: 3D printing new product designs not only enables technical validation, but also accelerates your organization’s alignment on that new design—a key success factor, but often overlooked.
  • AM reduces costs
    • Less need for outsourcing: Traditional manufacturing methods (including creating manufacturing prints and layouts, programming CNC machines, and designing tooling) have historically defined the cost structure. However, with AM, prototypes can now be created inexpensively and in-house, without need for change orders.
    • Material reduction: Elimination of scrap and tooling often offset the higher per-volume costs of raw materials. AM can therefore dramatically reduce a prototype’s total material cost.
  • AM enhances product
    • Iterative design: Accelerated prototyping means more design and review cycles during product development.
    • Designer empowerment: Faster and cheaper prototyping reduces barriers to testing new product concepts. This cultivates innovation.
    • Stakeholder input: Because AM allows in-house product development, stakeholders inside and outside the company can more easily discourse with the designer and each other.
    • Market responsiveness: Producers can respond faster to market and customer demands, fix design flaws, and counter the competition.
  • AM simplifies manufacturing
    • Improved part characteristics: A design’s geometric complexity can be improved without great expense.  In-house designers can incorporate complex curvatures, nonstandard and varying wall thicknesses, and low-density volumetric filling easily and inexpensively.
    • Customer-specific product creation: Product iterations can be made-to-order for a given customer.
    • Decreased system complexity:  Components that previously needed assembly can often be 3D printed as a single unit — reducing system complexity and enhancing quality.
    • Nontraditional sources of design information: As product designs become increasingly digitized, opportunities for reverse engineering increase.
  • AM Reduces Constraints
    • Production location: Design and manufacturing can now happen virtually anywhere. Companies can dramatically reduce the cost and logistics of moving products from manufacturing locations to end users.
    • Tooling constraints: Product design is no longer constrained by mold and tooling requirements. The design process is now accessible and there is headway for invention.
    • Batch size: A truly single-unit minimum batch size allows on-the-spot production of short-run components as users wear them down in the field or imagine ways to customize them.
    • Waste: Material waste is minimized as designers and manufacturers find ways to complete tasks with less material and energy, and as AM components replace tooled parts.

It’s an impressive list, isn’t it? 

With such a vast array of benefits, you might be asking yourself how and where AM would fit within your organization. 

The introduction and effective use of of a new process is not merely a matter of an equipment purchase. i3D can walk you though a Seven-Step Assessment to help determine where additive manufacturing can best fit in your organization. We will help you maximize its benefits within your organization so you can chart a path to the future.

Additive Manufacturing in the Age of Covid-19


3D Printing for Healthcare: Advantages & Cautionary Notes

You don’t need to be a news junkie to know the background.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. Within days, country after country came face to face with the stark reality that it was completely unprepared for the task ahead. The global shortage of medical supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) continues to make headlines as governments scramble to obtain desperately needed equipment.  Reactions from various countries have ranged from extreme rationing to assignment of emergency powers. 

Among the too-few positive news items of this new era is the staggering philanthropic response of the global 3D printing community. Within days, if not hours, designers had uploaded digital files of 3D-printable PPE; much of this is free and available to anyone with a 3D printer and a desire to help. Some of the more popular designs (the Prusa face shield, for example, or the Copper 3D Nanohack mask) have seen thousands of downloads, and hundreds of thousands of prints and donations to regional health authorities.

Some of the most powerful benefits of additive manufacturing are now on full display.  One current example illustrates this especially well: The American government contracted a 3D printing company to deliver 1,000 specially designed clips for disinfectant spray carriers.  Originally these components had been injection-molded, but they had been rendered obsolete by the original manufacturer and medical authorities urgently needed an alternative.  Within 48 hours, new clips were designed, approved, produced and post-processed at a final cost approaching only $1.00/component.

These are, after all, the benefits additive manufacturing promises:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Iterative improvements
  • Quick turnaround time
  • Little to no capital requirement
  • No minimum batch size

But wait. All these benefits and no drawbacks?

The technology is indeed revolutionary in its capacity to meet urgent demands such as those medical facilities now face. But yes, there are drawbacks to the application of additive manufacturing to health care needs in the current crisis. It is precisely because the technology is so new and not widely understood that it can sometimes be used to create products that are actually poorly suited to their intended use.

At i3D, we applaud all those pitching in to help. We do however believe a few cautionary notes are in order, and they pertain to guidelines and standards.

In the first weeks of the pandemic, most of the designs produced and made available over the internet were created with little to no oversight from (or even consultation with) the medical community. Obviously medical authorities need to be certain that donated items will perform to medical standards for design. In a healthcare setting, not just any face mask design will do.

Suitable design is not the only consideration, however. Material must also be relevant to the end use setting and needs. For example, the vast majority of 3D-printed PPE was produced by enthusiastic members of the 3D printing community in the most commonly available FDM polymers: polylactic acid (PLA) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). However, these polymers cannot be subjected to many widely used sterilization protocols in clinical settings. (This is only very recently changing, as we discuss HERE.) Consequently, healthcare institutions have been understandably reticent to accept some PPE donations. Those that were accepted by medical institutions were mostly designated single-use plastics. (Recyclable of course. But.)

So knowing healthcare requirements for these prints is essential. This will allow us, as a community, to provide materials that are truly effective in the fight against COVID-19 — and truly beneficial to frontline workers.

3D Printing and the Supply Chain Concern

The most current news of the hour is the potential jeopardy of value and supply chains and how that may threaten the way we live and do business for months to come.

In this context, the value of integrating additive and digital manufacturing technologies is now in sharp focus. Digital manufacturing refers to automated manufacturing and can include any CNC device including lathes, cutters, breaks, etc. (Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, is a sub-category of digital manufacturing.  For a short primer of the additive process, click here.) 

Can additive manufacturing help resolve supply chain concerns?

Without a doubt.

Let’s look at how the unique benefits of 3D printing can be part of the solution.

Efficient Supply Chains

Additive manufacturing gives us ‘Just-in-Time’ production in the most literal sense.  Production of key components can be localized, and delivery can be just hours or days away. Moreover, digital manufacturing can reduce costs connected to overstocking and associated risk as suppliers gain better insight into supply chain issues (e.g. inventory levels, delivery status and demand cycles).


Digital storage and transmission of design files for parts, components and products allows for production WHEN needed, WHERE needed. (The Prusa face shield, for example, was developed in Czechoslovakia, but they are being printed all over the world.) 

Similarly, parts suppliers in remote locations (such as Fort McMurray, AB, or Juneau, AK, or smaller islands, for example), can literally download an approved file and have the part(s) ready to deliver within hours.

No storage, no shipping. Reduced overhead and reduced wait. That can spell relief in times of crisis.

Efficient Innovation

Design collaboration and improvement is simplified and faster.

An example: the Nanohack mask.

Within days of the pandemic being officially declared, Copper 3D released the Nanohack 1.0 mask.  The Nanohack design adopted an innovative means of blending the benefits of Copper 3D’s core strength – its unique antibacterial filament – with the properties of the base polymer, in this case PLA.  The design could be printed flat on a build plate, and then thermoformed with relative ease to fit the wearer’s face. A great start! But over the following days, some limitations became apparent (mostly the difficulty achieving proper sealing and of insufficient airflow with the lone vent). Feedback from the medical community and other 3D designers quickly birthed the Nanohack 2.0, a considerable improvement over the first iteration.

In addition to human feedback and input into the design process, digital manufacturing also allows for predictive analytics, machine learning, connectivity and 3D modeling. All invaluable tools in a continuous cycle of development and innovation.


Efficient Operations

Automated, cloud-based solutions streamline processes and improve product quality. Analytics are more accessible, reducing costly rework and downtime. Detailed product representations are possible, performance monitoring is simplified and delivery to the market is expedited.

Efficient Use of Resources

The additive manufacturing process is inherently ‘lean’ and ‘green’.  Incrementally building a part ‘up and out’ – layer by layer – ensures that only the right amount of material is used. This stands in stark contrast to subtractive manufacturing processes which generally result in a fair amount of waste. A CNC lathe making a spindle or a gun barrel creates a mound of waste metal chips (“swarf”; our word for the day!) These chips are not easily recyclable as they are contaminated with cutting fluid and often cross-contaminated with other metals.





This is one of dozens of PPE related files that have come available online throughout the world. This one is available through the US Department of Health’s digital warehouse, where they have been accepting proposed PPE and submitting them for testing and approval.

A Call to Action…

Additive manufacturing is beginning to flex its muscles. The days of watching multi-hour FDM prints and questioning reliability and production capacity are fading fast, and are being instead replaced with ‘what’ and ‘how many?’

In order to unleash the full potential of additive manufacturing however, industry and use-specific standards must be developed. When additive manufacturing is used simply for prototyping or non-functional components, designers are free to use whatever settings and materials they deem most suitable. However, where additive manufacturing is producing functional end-use components, industry standards are needed to ensure safety and performance. Organizations such as ASTM, ASME and the FDA have done significant work already in standards development for additive manufacturing.  However the sheer breadth of applications for additive technologies, the seemingly constant addition of new methods and new materials all present moving targets.

Is your business looking to create end-use products for health care institutions or otherwise? It will be worthwhile to invest a little time researching needs. Identify any industry standards that may already be in place and go on to ensure that materials and design meet the needs of the end-user and the governing body’s requirements.

Can you see the potential for additive manufacturing to step up to the plate to address the risk to your own supply chain? We’d love to talk with you about how your business or organization can boost efficiency by integrating additive manufacturing into your operations.

GAME CHANGER? 3D Printing and the War on Germs


Perhaps more than ever before, those of us who are not medically trained are coming to understand the necessity of disinfecting high-use items in order to prevent the rampant spread of viruses.

Clinical sterilization is even more critical in the maintenance of medical implements. Clinical sterilization processes must eliminate, remove, kill, or deactivate ALL forms of microorganisms and biological agents from medical tools and devices (including fungi, bacteria, viruses, spores, unicellular eukaryotic organisms and prions). There are a number of physical and chemical processes used in health care facilities to achieve sterilization: pressurized steam, dry heat, ethylene oxide gas, hydrogen peroxide gas plasma, and chemical solutions.

Items printed in common polymers like PLA and PETG simply cannot withstand traditional clinical sterilization processes.

Until now, this has rendered them at best into disposable one-use items and severely limited the utility of 3D printed medical components. (Note: It should be said that if you print a mask using one of these filaments using the 3D printer in your basement, you can use warm water and soap to disinfect it fairly effectively between uses. But boiling or bleaching may damage the integrity of the mask. And of course, hospitals have far more stringent sterilization requirements.)

The good news is that a new sterilization protocol may allow personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical personnel, and medical devices made with these filaments, to achieve clinical sterilization. Advanced Sterilization Processes (ASP) , in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a the new protocol for their STERRAD® Sterilizers. The STERRAD System uses hydrogen peroxide gas (H2O2) at relatively low temperature settings (only 50 degrees Celsius) to achieve sterilization. This allows implements made with polylactic acid (PLA) and polyethylene (PET) to be sterilized effectively. Both materials are resistant to H2O2, and have a glass transition points in excess of 50 degrees and so are not adversely affected by high temperatures.

It is no exaggeration to say that this could be a game-changer. Specialty filaments are now not necessarily required. The result? It is now faster, easier and cheaper for medical institutions and others to mass-produce PPE that can be used and re-used.

Radiating Perfection



An electric race car with 3D printed components. [Slow whistle.]

This story began when SHINING 3D provided its state-of-the-art SLM 3D printing technology to students at a leading research university in China — the Harbin Institute of Technology. SHINING 3D has developed a growing expertise in automotive 3D printing, so their staff worked closely with a student team to produce an electric race car for the 2018 Student’s Formula Electric China. It won third place.

One of the 3D printed components designed specifically for this race car was the radiator.

Defining the Challenge

The smooth functioning of the radiator is critical to the operation of the engine and affects vehicle longevity.

Even an electric engine generates a lot of heat – heat that if unchecked can cause premature wear or cause components to seize, crack or melt. In modern vehicles, the radiator is made of aluminum and located at the front of the engine compartment right behind the grill. This affords it the greatest access to air flow and enables it to disperse heat efficiently.

But traditional radiator design creates many little problems even as it attempts to solve the larger problem. The radiator core is fabricated by welding hundreds of thin aluminum fins to flattened aluminum tubes. A typical radiator actually has 10 to 15 fins per square inch! The coolant flows from the radiator inlet, through the aluminum tubes, to the outlet at the lower point of the radiator. During this process, the fins conduct the heat through the tubes to the air flowing through the radiator.

So a radiator is comprised of many individual parts fashioned together — hundreds of fins, many tubes and MANY soldered or welded intersections among them. With so many joints, it is not surprising that a common reason for radiator failure is corrosion of these joints. When the joints begin to fail, radiator fluid leaks and the radiator no longer functions as intended. If not quickly replaced, engine failure is the result.



Conception, finished print and post processing pictures of the new radiatorConception, finished print and post processing pictures of the new radiator

Conception, finished print and post processing pictures of the new radiator


Test Data from 2017 race using original, conventionally built radiatorTest Data from 2017 race using original, conventionally built radiator

Test Data from 2017 race using original, conventionally built radiator

Test Data from 2018 race using newly designed, 3D printed radiatorTest Data from 2018 race using newly designed, 3D printed radiator

Test Data from 2018 race using newly designed, 3D printed radiator


Back to the race car.

The demands on a race car’s engine mean the integrity and efficiency of its cooling system are absolutely vital to its performance. Radiator redesign was therefore a strategic target as the original had been produced by conventional methods and had many welded components.

SHINING 3D recommended the student team consider 3D printing a metal radiator. This would allow for an integrated design to eliminate leakage concerns. The students agreed and together they and the SHINING 3D engineers spent many hours working on and optimizing the prototype. Many factors came into play.


The Redesign

The team decided that in order to protect the engine, the new radiators must not permit the coolant to exceed 48°C. With that as a starting point, it was calculated that the radiators must have the capacity to vent 12 kW.

Among the variables considered in the redesign were,

  • the reserved heat dissipation coefficient

  • the logarithmic mean temperature difference between the hot and cold feeds

  • water scale and oil pollution

  • allowance for ambient heat dissipation

  • a requirement that the dissipation area remain tight at 2.5 meters

With these variables and requirements in mind, the students and engineers set themselves to redesign the radiator. It was an exciting process. Additive manufacturing technology allowed the designers great latitude and offered a tight turnaround.


When the design was complete, the new radiator prototypes were printed out of aluminum alloy. The SHINING 3D EP-M250 SLM printer was chosen because of its large 200 mm x 250 mm x 300 mm build volume.

After post-treatment (heat treatment and sand blasting), the radiator prototype was installed and testing began.

Success! Test results demonstrated that the new design reduced coolant temperature by about 10°C compared to the original used in previous races. A very significant improvement in heat dissipation.

Of course a cooling system involves more than the radiator. Additional improvements were made to the car’s cooling system when SHINING 3D successfully created motor cooling water jackets and condenser parts.


This story was about a new cooling system for a pretty sweet race car. But the real story is that metal 3D printing opens up new frontiers for auto design, and its advantages are not restricted to high end or specialty vehicles. More conventional auto manufacturers also stand to benefit from the low cost, high efficiency and high quality improvements possible with metal 3D printing.

So while we cannot all anticipate a waving checkered flag in our future, quite likely one of your next vehicles will sport high-tech 3D printed auto parts. Maybe even a new radiator design!

Don’t get too revved up though. Quite likely the local police department’s fleet will also.

Reverse Engineered Prosthetic Limbs Using Einscan Scanners

Reverse engineering is one of the most common applications for 3D scanning and printing.

We are now at the point where we can even reverse engineering parts of the human body. This is possible because 3D scanners capture organic and inorganic shapes alike; they expedite CAD design and are the ideal tool for prosthetics development. 3D scanners have also opened the door to previously unrealized degrees of customization in prosthetic solutions. The fit and form of a good prosthetic makes it more comfortable and consequently, more useful to the wearer and an aesthetically accurate prosthetic limb increases confidence.

High degrees of accuracy and customization are more accessible than ever before with the EinScan Pro and Pro 2X line of handheld 3D scanners and the SHINING 3D industrial 3D printers. The handheld capability of the scanners allows them to scan even car-size objects with ease. The EinScan Pro 2X Plus can scan a human leg in a matter of seconds and the captured scan data can be processed, customized, and 3D printed faster than has ever been possible.

Below is an example of how easy the process can be.

  • The process begins by taking a 3D scan of a patient’s current prosthetic leg, which can take a matter of seconds using the EinScan Pro+ Handheld Rapid Scan mode.

  • A separate scan of the patient’s other leg is taken as a reference. This gives us an accurate representation of the overall size and form of the patient’s leg.

    • Note that the goal is to make the prosthetic shell as close to the natural leg as possible. The collected scan data is accurate enough to allow for the creation of a customized prosthetic shell.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_4431 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_4431 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

  • Once the data is captured and the scan completed, the file is exported directly into Geomagic Essentials.

    • 3D System’s Geomagic Essentials is the ideal bridge for 3D scan to design solutions. Working with organic shapes in CAD environments can prove to be a difficult task for even very skilled CAD designers, but the tools provided in Essentials allow your scans to seamlessly transition into your native CAD platform.

  • First, the scan data from the prosthetic is imported into Essentials where the data can be processed and cleaned up.

    • Coordinates are assigned onto the 3D mode, making it easier to reverse engineer. The contours and overall shape and geometry of the piece are extracted and defined using the available tools.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_14561 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_14561 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

  • Second, the scan data from the patient’s leg is imported into Essentials.

    • The process is repeated, and the 3D model is prepared for reverse engineering.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_25154 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_25154 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

  • Once both sets of data are properly aligned and processed, they are exported into Solid Edge SHINING 3D Edition.

    • Solid Edge is a professional CAD software that allows for the reverse engineering of 3D scans. The software allows both scans to be imported directly. The prosthetic is used as the mechanical part of the CAD model while the scan of the leg is used as the reference for the shell around the prosthetic. The design and shape of the shell is customized using the scan from the patient’s leg.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_29654 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_29654 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

  • Once the shell overall design is complete the Generative Design function of the software is used to finalize the design given the parameters of the 2 parts.

  • The result is a completely functional prosthetic shell that accounts for the patient’s weight and the forces that are applied when running, walking, or other physical activities.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_42653 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_42653 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

  • The customized 3D model is then saved and printed using SHINING 3D’s EP-P3850 SLS 3D printer.

  • The completed print is then post processed and prepared for the patient. The printed shell fits perfectly onto the patient’s prosthetic leg.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_48726 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_48726 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

As you can see, the EinScan Pro line of handheld 3D scanners makes 3D scanning for medical applications more accessible than it has ever been. 

SHINING 3D’s RED Bundle provides everything necessary for complete 3D Scan to Design solutions and industrial grade 3D printers like the EP-P3850 bring to these designs to life with amazing precision.

Customization has never been more accessible.

SHINING 3D brings you the complete 3D Scan-Design- 3D Print solution. For more information on pricing, specifications, or availability please contact your local sales rep at or 800-659-2670.

#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_52561 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid { margin-right: -20px; }
#block-yui_3_17_2_1_1568668200568_52561 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 20px; margin-bottom: 20px; }

AM and IM Conformal Cooling

A Little (or big) Context…


The global market for injection-molded plastics is in excess of US$325 billion and is forecast to grow at a pace of 5.7% per annum over the next 5 years. Significant growth will be fueled by the automotive, construction, consumer goods and medical equipment industry sectors, particularly in emerging markets like China, Brazil and India.

The basic concept of injection-molding is simple.  A thermoplastic (such as PVC, ABS or polystyrene) is fed into a chamber and exposed to increasing temperature that gradually melts the plastic. The molten material is then injected into a mold with the desired shape and allowed to cool. 

Since its introduction over 150 years ago, the process has evolved. Today, calculations accounting for the thermal properties of the metal mold, the plastic and the part, and of fluid dynamics, are all factored into the process. But certainly when compared to many alternatives, injection-molding really shines. It is is fast and efficient, and allows for high parts complexity and materials versatility. 

Why This is Important…

Still, for all its advantages there is considerable room for improvement, and as we’ll see, that’s where additive manufacturing comes in.

Plastic cooling can often account for 70% of cycle time. For this reason, when designing the mold careful consideration is given not only to the thermal conductivity of the metal but also to the creation of channels throughout the mold. Coolant can be pumped through those channels to speed up the cooling process. 

Cooling channels are traditionally machined into the mold using conventional methods, which typically results in straight shafts with uneven wall thicknesses between coolant and plastic. Thus, uneven cooling can result in a weak end product. One way to mitigate this issue has been to adopt “conformal cooling” design (where coolant channels conform to the shape of the mold). In the graphic to the left, a comparison between conventional and conformal cooling channels illustrates increased thermal control achievable with conformal channels.

The benefits of adopting conformal cooling can be substantial. In the 2013 Plastics Industry Survey Report released by Plante Moran, it was noted that properly implemented, conformal cooling could in some cases result in an increase in profitability by as much as 55%.

However given all the curves and the changes in channel thicknesses required for effective conformity, it is often not possible to attain effective conformity using conventional machining. Even where possible, the complex machining required to achieve conformity increases production costs.   

How AM Can Help…

But additive manufacturing is a superhero that can create conformal channels with his little finger. The layer-by-layer production of 3D printing allows for the design of molds that directly integrate effective conformal channels into the structure of the mold without the need for post-production machining.

You don’t have to take our word for it. There is a growing body of evidence to support the marriage of SLM/powder bed fusion 3D printing and conformal mold creation.

  • example i

For instance, designers at Bastech reported a savings of over 40 hours of shop and programming time in the creation of conformal cooled insert core for a net savings of almost $1,800 over conventional methods. More importantly, the conformal cooling mold resulted in 22% reduction in cycle time. These results have borne out in subsequent designs produced by Bastech.

  • example ii


Similarly, a cupping manufacturer worked closely with Shining 3D in order to produce metal molds with conformal cooling channels. The manufacturer had been producing the required polystyrene cupping using traditional injection molding with 20mm vertical CNC cooling channels. The combination resulted in uneven and longer cooling periods, and a relatively low transparency. The client had three identifiable goals:

  • to increase the transparency of the cups

  • reduce the net weight of the cups

  • to reduce the efficiency of the molding process, here defined as reduced production cycle.

Additive design was used to recreate the cupping mold, and selective laser melting (SLM) to produce the new molds with conformal cooling in place that lined the circular contour of the mold.

The results of the effort were excellent:

  • The cooldown time of 3D printed metal molds decreased from an average of 22.97 seconds for the conventional mold, to 16.63 second for the conformal mold, a net change of 26%.

  • The temperature difference of conformal cooling channels between mold inlet and outlet through 3D printed metal molds is at most 5℃, which met the design requirements of channels.

  • The pressure of 0.3Mpa equally met requirements of general mold temperature controllers without stagnation, eddy current, backflow and so on.

  • example iii

Comparison of conventional v. conformal cooling temperature distribution from Polytechnic Institute of LeiriaComparison of conventional v. conformal cooling temperature distribution from Polytechnic Institute of Leiria

Comparison of conventional v. conformal cooling temperature distribution from Polytechnic Institute of Leiria

The School of Technology and Management at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal, researchers analysed a support structure for pipette tips used in medical industry: essentially a stackable rectangular rack with housings for the tips and divided by thin walls. Because of the extra weight they would bear, the outer walls were designed to be thicker. However, prototypes created with conventional manufacturing techniques had marks and warping on the thinner inner walls due to uneven cooling. Researchers identified the long cycle time needed to cool the thickest areas of the part as the culprit.

What the researchers did next illustrates the benefits of using Selective Laser Melting to build and test conformal cooling channels in injection-molding tools. The mold was redesigned so it could be created by additive manufacturing with conformal channels already intact. The object was to reduce cycle time and thereby prevent warping.

Results were dramatic. Using conformal cooling channels enabled them to reduce the cooling time by nearly 50% – from 35.5 seconds to 18 seconds.

“The second but not less important goal is to reduce temperature difference in order to prevent warpage…Numerical results show that, with this design approach, temperature difference is significantly lower. The comparison between several nodal temperatures on different areas of the part shows that the highest temperature difference is now 10.6ºC.”

Not only had the new SLM printed mold resolved the issue of warping, but overall cycle time was reduced by 34.2%, allowing for increased productivity. Researchers from the Institute also identified several other benefits to using additive manufacturing to create injection molding tools, including energy savings, scrap reduction, and overall efficiency.

In a nutshell: Additive design and 3D printing has helped make conformal cooling a viable, cost-effective option to add to your tool box.

Chalk up a point for additive manufacturing.

i3D works closely with Shining 3D to help bring you solutions. The EP-M line of SLM powder-bed fusion printers is ideally suited to help take your manufacturing efforts to the next level.

Let us know how we can help.



Ikea: Swedish for 3D Printing!


Ikea picture.jpgIkea picture.jpg


The word on the street is that 3D printing is the next industrial revolution. And as a reader of this blog you may already understand how additive manufacturing optimizes advanced prototyping, marketing research and limited production runs. But what about mass production? What about something that the manufacturing world considers a bit of a an oxymoron: affordable, mass customization? Is it really possible or practical to use 3D printing for such purposes?

Yes. Actually, well-known industry leaders are already integrating additive manufacturing into their business operations to mass produce some of their product. Our ‘Spotlight on Industry’ will occasionally feature some of these companies and showcase the rewards they are reaping from mass production using 3D printing. You just might be amazed again by the scope of application of this technology. These companies are not using additive manufacturing only for internal or industrial components that are hidden away from sight. Some companies — such as our first case study, IKEA — are using additive manufacturing for visually aesthetic and truly unique product designs.


In 2018, Swedish furniture giant IKEA introduced its first ever 3D printed objects.

IKEA decided to select 3D printing as a manufacturing solution for one of its newest products: a mesh hand from the OMEDELBAR collection. The exact production quantity is unknown, but it seems clear that it is big enough to be considered mass production — this is IKEA, after all. The 3D printing technology of choice for IKEA is SLS, which enables the production of multiple OMEDELNAR mesh hands at once on a single machine.

Jawak Pawlak of IKEA explains,

“As one of the first major brands, IKEA will be using 3D printing in furnishing mass production. I am really proud of the project. It demonstrates how IKEA, being an innovative company, is always on the search for new ways of doing things and explore the latest technology to do so”

“We started this project one and a half years ago, predicting the boom in 3D printing in mass production. Traditionally the technology has been used for prototyping in high-tech industries or moulds used for traditional production methods. Now, we are closing fast on the breaking point where 3D is cost efficient in mass production. In that context, the OMEDELBAR hand will have its place in design production history,”

IKEA’s OMEDELBAR collection was created in a collaboration with designer Bea Åkerlund, and the 3D printed mesh hand is part of that collection. It is a wall decor item and can be used as a decorative hanger for jewelry and other light items. Why did IKEA go down the 3D printing route? Well, it was certainly in keeping with IKEA’s culture of innovation, but there’s also a very practical reason. Interestingly, the project was actually scrapped a few times. The IKEA design team loved the hand idea but the complex mesh design seemed terribly challenging to affordably produce. Traditional techniques like injection molding were economically unfeasible. But once IKEA identified 3D printing as the mode of production, the designers had much more freedom and the hand design came to life.

Well not literally, but you know what we mean.

Additive manufacturing scores again! A win for college dorms everywhere — and a huge win for IKEA.