The technology is complex: Three massive 3D printers are ready to go – supplemented by several "colleagues" that are just as necessary for the operation. For instance, a refrigerator-sized device to sift and clean the raw material for the printer, such as a powdered titanium alloy. The "depowdering" machine, which rotates and turns finished workpieces under vibration until every last grain of powder has trickled down. And a "furnace", in which printed parts are gradually heated to 600 to 800 degrees: stress-relieving annealing to eliminate internal stresses that heated 3D printing leaves in the material.
The extensive equipment park shows two things: First, 3D printing is more complex than it appears at first glance. And second, it is costly: According to Nicolas Bouduban, CEO of the Swiss m4m Center, the investment amounts to around two million Swiss francs. These investments are additionally supported by all partners with a goodwill for open cooperation, says Bouduban: "Everyone contributes – and gets visibility, project orders or know-how in return."
So it's a give-and-take, with benefits for everyone: material manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, software developers for process and quality management, potential users such as clinics that can use novel medtech products. And above all for Swiss SMEs that neither own such equipment nor have the required know-how to operate it. For them, the Swiss m4m Center should become a "breeding ground" for industrializing innovative joint or dental prostheses and other medical products – from A to Z, from the idea to market analysis and transfer all the way to serial production.
MEDICA-tradefair.com; Source: Empa – Materials Science and Technology