May 4, 2017 | By Tess

The Design and Prototyping Group of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has unveiled a “game-changing” new hybrid 3D printing process called THREAD. Based out of the University of Sheffield and working with aircraft manufacturing company Boeing, the AMRC says its new additive manufacturing process allows for electrical, optical, and structural elements to be introduced into a 3D printed part while it is being built.

Currently awaiting a patent, the novel THREAD 3D printing process is described as fully automated, and can be applied to a range of different 3D printing platforms. At present, the AMRC says it has successfully demonstrated its new hybrid process with polymer-based 3D printers. The technology has the potential to enable the 3D printing of parts with continuous connectivity and increased functionality.

A part manufactured using the THREAD process

“THREAD has scope to simultaneously add multiple industry-recognized threads of differing materials into one component, giving the component additional functions; this will open AM up to a greater variety of uses,” said AMRC development engineer Mark Cocking. “THREAD has potential to be developed as an add-on technology for existing AM platforms and also incorporated into next-generation AM technologies.”

The hybrid 3D printing technology, which has mostly remained under wraps, is being touted as incredibly versatile, with applications in the medical, automotive, and aerospace sectors. As Cocking explained, any industry that would benefit from parts with integrated data transfer or sealed connective tracks will see the advantages of THREAD.

More specifically, by enabling the 3D printing of parts with embedded electrical, optical, and structural elements, THREAD could be used to manufacture parts with encapsulated electronics, which could in turn be used in such things as medical prosthetic devices, consumer electronics, and more. The advantages of having sealed conductive tracks (rather than externally connected electronic components) include protection against such things as debris, corrosion, and even impact.

Chris Iveson, who is working on commercializing the new process, said: “We see THREAD transforming the functionality of additively manufactured components. Feedback from our contacts in various industries indicates a real need for this capability, with new potential applications being discussed daily. This is a great example of the AMRC using its unique expertise to solve real industry problems.”

At the moment, the AMRC’s Design and Prototyping Group is still developing and advancing its THREAD 3D printing process so it will be suitable for a range of commercial markets. Any 3D printer developers or industrial 3D printing companies interested in THREAD are invited to contact the AMRC.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing was founded in 2001 and is dedicated to advancing machining and manufacturing processes, as well as manufacturing materials. The AMRC currently employs about 500 researchers and engineers around the globe.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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