Those 3D printing companies that won the 2020 Formnext Start-up Challenge

Press photo. Copyright_ Mesago

The sixth edition of the Formnext Start-up challenge highlights developments in automated designs, new materials, and optimized post-processing

From USA, UK to Switzerland and the Netherlands, the winners of the Formnext start-up challenge prove their capabilities to develop affordable and easy to implement additive manufacturing solutions.

A few months ago, when Mesago announced the launch of the Start-up challenge, the organizer laid emphasis on the addition of the “AM Ventures Impact Award” as part of this sixth edition.

This award recognizes the winner’s approach to sustainability, approach that would take into account the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Environmental considerations (such as green energy and resource conservation) and social aspects (for example, education and equality) play an important role in this.

USA-based company Molyworks is the one that took home the AM Ventures Impact Award. The company has developed a combined mobile unit for melting down scrap metal and turning it into AM-ready powder on-site.

Establishing a sustainable means of recycling scrap metal (swarf or used powder and components, for example) back into the production process in order to manufacture more metal powder for 3D printing is a priority for the Californian start-up. Metal production would account for seven percent of the entire world’s energy consumption. It was therefore a necessity to rethink what could be done about unused metal components.In five years of activity, Molyworks’ team has conducted trials with 21 different metals, including titanium, steel, nickel, aluminum, and copper using their mobile melting furnace and powder atomization system named Greyhound. Results show the system’s potential to save a great deal of resources.

It should be noted that other start-ups’ developments also shed light on the importance of new solutions along the entire process chain:

External real-time monitoring

Addiguru offers an easy-to-use real-time monitoring system for additive manufacturing that it says won’t break the bank. Its monitoring technology is manufacturer-agnostic and integrates well into both established and newly developed AM units that work with metal. It involves a camera that connects to an external computer and looks down onto the powder bed from above. The US start-up’s software automatically recognizes the relevant images and sends the photos taken to a self-learning algorithm for analysis. This then detects anomalies and informs the user accordingly.

Automated post-processing

Dutch start-up AM-FLOW has also seduced the jury with end-to-end solution for post-processing and Industry 4.0 technology for the AM sector. And this jury is not the only one that has been seduced by their solutions. The start-up that you have certainly discovered in this week’s Opinion of the Week segment has also recently secured a $4 million series A investment round to further develop its technology and its commercialization.

High-performance polymers
Next in the list is NematX AG, a Swiss start-up that was founded as a spin-off of ETH Zurich in 2020. With its “Nematic 3D Printing” technology, it plans to usher in the next generation of 3D printing with high-performance polymers and significantly surpass the current benchmarks in corresponding end-use components. NematX’s target industries include aerospace, medicine, electronics, and industrial applications in which parts are exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

Automated design software
Last but not least, the British start-up TOffeeAM has come up with automated design software that requires nothing more than a design space, fluid/material conditions, and the type of performance that needs to be optimized in the component in question. A few months ago, the DfAM software start-up has also raised €1.1 million to expand. TOffee is relevant to numerous applications, but has found initial customers in the aeronautics and automotive industries. They include GE Aviation, Baker Hughes, and a Formula 1 team, who use it to create important structures in smart industrial production – such as coolant systems for gas turbines.

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