Stratasys to print 500 parts for a renewed Lotus 62-2 racecar

Stratasys Company manufactures over 500 3D-printed parts for the launch of the renewed Lotus Type 62-2, the legendary racecar. The car is being build by Radford, a global luxury automotive brand and is documented for the Discovery+ show that tells the story of the revival of the art of coachbuilding using technology for the 21st century. The project is led by the car builder and host Ant Anstead and former Formula One champion racecar driver Jenson Button, current owner of Radford Company.

Lotus Cars was a British automotive company that won the Formula One World Championship seven times, and is currently owned by Chinese multinational Geely. In the renewed version, only 62 units were created. The company turned to Stratasys to assist in building the cars for two major reasons: Create a car of less than 1,000Kg and provide the option of producing personalized parts for each client. Ansted: “Stratasys’ 3D printing technology gave us the design freedom and ability to easily create customized, one-off pieces and parts for these two prototype vehicles”.

Within current project, Radford utilizes Stratasys FDM®, PolyJet™, and stereolithography 3D printing technologies. The parts are designed using Stratasys’ GrabCAD Shop™ workflow software. As of today, two cars were built with over 500 3D-parts, using a fleet of up to 20 different Stratasys 3D printers at one time in five different global sites. For Stratasys – it was a genuine demonstration of distributed manufacturing. Among the printed parts were complex mounting features for interior speakers, a fuel filler mount and for the luggage compartment, side mirror housings, radiator ducts, body vents and more.

In the project, several industrial printers were used – F900®, F770™, Fortus 450mc™, F370® and J55™ 3D printers, each used to achieve different desired outcomes for each part. Among other, they were used to create large solid composite firewall sandwich core inside the car which provides passenger protection in case of fire. The automotive industry is a focal target market of Stratasys, and several customers demonstrated already how 3d printers are incorporated in this industry. For example, the Malaysian Solidify Company manufactures silicon rubber moldings that are used for a European automotive client whose car had gone out of production, but still required spare part supplies.

The Italian Skorpion Engineering Company is famous as a pioneer in advanced automotive prototypes and subsystems for luxury brands. Today, the company depends on its arsenal of Stratasys PolyJet and FDM 3D printers.

Canadian Solaxis Company uses Stratasys’ technology to print handles and other accessories that are used to compose car doors in mass production lines. The Spanish-Italian automotive design studio Italdesign purchased the Stratasys J750 printer, through which it manufactures the complete interior parts of the DaVinci concept car that was built to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo DaVinci.  Continental Company, a leading provider of car components, integrated the Stratasys Fortus 450mc printer in its production line, in order to mass-produce replacement production tools and parts. 

The technologies behind the operation to separate conjoined twins

About a month ago, a unique surgery to separate head-conjoined twins was performed at the Soroka-University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel. The twins that were born at Soroka in August 2020, jointed at the occipital part of their heads. This condition cause them to be almost handicapped, preventing them from freely move their body, crawl and normally developed.

An operation aimed to separate head-conjoined twins (medically called Craniopagus Twins) is considered highly rare and complex, and as of today – only 20 operations of this kind has been carried out. In this specific case, additional level of complexity was added, as some of the blood vessels at their cerebral cortex were coiled in each other, and some were even been used by both twins. In order to overcome this challenge, the medical team had to perform a detailed, precise mapping of the interfacing points between the babies.

The preparation process for the operation included many tests, trainings and simulations, and continued for several months. The team involved in this operation included neurosurgery, plastic surgery, pediatric anesthesia, pediatric intensive care and brain-imaging specialists. Dr. Mickey Gideon, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Soroka, was the manager and coordinator of the operation and was the one to build the “Standing Operating Procedure”. In recent conversation with Techtime he described the deep complexity of this operation, and the usage of technologies provided by the Israeli companies Surgical Theater, Stratasys and 3D4OP.

CAD files of the brain

Mickey Gideon: “This case is about twins, conjoined not only with their head, but also with the Craniospinal compartment, the meninges and brain blood vessels. The main challenge was to understand which blood vessels are important to which twin – and to preserve them”. The learning and mapping processes were based on two types of three dimensional models: a physical one, printed with a 3D printer, and a virtual model – created by virtual reality (VR) technology. Both models were based on images from MRI, CT and angiography scans that simulated the complexity of the connection of the blood vessels, meninges, skull bones and skin of the twins. “Technology had central role in this operation. It provided us with the ability to merge the data and build 3D models which, in turn, enabled us to see the interface between the twins”.

The physical 3D model was built using 3D4OP technology and a 3D-Printer manufactured by Stratasys. 3D4OP was established and managed by Limor Haviv. This company developed technology to support the process of operation planning, using CT and MRI imaging to build a detailed CAD model of the target area, to include exporting CAD files in order to later print the models from polymer. This technology also supports the planning and printing of orthopedic transplants and even designated facilities tailor-made for a single patient. Those virtual models were transferred to medical printer developed by Stratasys, using polymer materials mimic the physical characteristics of tissues such as skin, bones, muscles, blood vessels etc.

The doctors used the physical models to plan the process of the surgery, and furthermore: they used it to practice their actions such as drilling and cutting. In parallel, the doctors were assisted in the virtual model created by Surgical Theater’s technology. This technology utilizes VR algorithms to construct a virtual model of the area based on CT and MRI imaging. This model provides the capability of better planning the procedure in a VR environment, where the users can enlarge specific areas, change watching angles and achieve clear insights regarding critical aspects such as optimal position and order of activities.  

Watch: The virtual model created by Surgical Theator:

   

Technology and medicine should cooperate

The model created by Surgical Theater’s technology made it possible for the surgeons to exactly map the routes of the coiled blood vessels in the interface area between the twins, something that otherwise was impossible to be achieved using standard imaging technologies. This virtual model was even in use during the operation itself, assisting them to navigate precisely within the joint area.

Gideon: “Using the virtual model we were able to observe the blood vessels from various angles, plan the procedure ahead and train ourselves in a VR environment. For instance – by using this VR technology we came to the decision that the procedure should begin when the twins are lying on their back”.

“The Israeli technology companies are groundbreakers, and the cooperation between them and the doctors should be tightened. Currently, we experience some break between these worlds. It is important for the companies to consult the doctors early in the requirement characterization, development and proof of concept phases. As the final users – joining the doctors with the processes will assist in deploying these technologies in the operating rooms.

U.S. Navy to deploy 25 of Stratasys 3D printers

The U.S. Navy has issued Stratasys a $20 million contract to purchase up to 25 Stratasys F900 3D printers over the next five years, with delivery of the first eight expected before the end of 2021. In addition to the printers, the contract includes initial support and sustainment, materials, and development of initial training for the supplied systems.

The printers will be located on bases in the United States and Japan with the potential to be used to produce end-use parts, tooling and training aids, as well as to assist the Navy in achieving its goal of using distributed additive manufacturing practices to maintain its fleet of aircraft across bases worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) issued a report in January 2021 outlining its additive manufacturing strategy. The report explained how manufacturing is undergoing a digital revolution, and the important role additive manufacturing can play in a shift to a digital manufacturing ecosystem.

In particular, additive manufacturing can help modernize the national defense systems, increase materiel readiness, and enhance warfighting innovation and capability. Among other objectives, the DoD set a goal of integrating additive manufacturing into both the department and the broader defense industrial base, while advancing and promoting the agile use of 3D printing.

“The benefits of additive manufacturing for military organizations like the U.S. Navy include cost-effectively extending the life of strategic and tactical assets like aircraft while ensuring sustainment activities can happen quickly and from virtually anywhere,” said Mark Menninger, director of U.S. Government Business Segment for Stratasys. “This contract, the largest government project for Stratasys to-date, continues to expand the presence of industrial 3D printing from Stratasys across the U.S. government.”

Stratasys eyes the new market of “Additive Manufacturing 2.0”

Above: Stratasys H350 3D printer is designed for the production of thousands of parts

Stratasys introduced three new 3D printers for additive manufacturing of end-use parts in low-to-mid-volume production applications underserved by traditional mass-production methods. “We are accelerating into the Additive Manufacturing 2.0 era,” said Stratasys CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif. “The disruptions we are seeing today on both the supply and demand side of global supply chains are a clear sign that the status quo isn’t working.

“Additive manufacturing gives companies the total flexibility to decide when, where, and how to produce parts.” Last year, Stratasys accrued more than 25% of its revenue from manufacturing-related applications. Stratasys estimates that its manufacturing revenue growth will outpace other segments, growing at an annual rate of over 20% starting in 2022.

Stratasys Origin One 3D printer uses proprietary P3 technology. It cures liquid photopolymer resin with light and capable of printing thousands of parts reaching details less than 50 microns in size with high-accuracy materials. TE Connectivity is using this printer. Internal Stratasys estimates suggest a $3.7 billion market opportunity by 2025 for the production-oriented segments suited to the Origin One, including automotive, consumer goods, medical, dental, and tooling applications. Stratasys plans to begin taking orders for the printer beginning in May 2021.

Stratasys also introduced the H350 3D printer, the first 3D printer in Stratasys’ new H Series Production Platform that delivers production-level throughput for end-use parts. The H350 printer has been in beta testing since early 2021 with service bureaus and contract manufacturers in Europe, Israel, and the United States, including Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, which is now selling parts on demand using the system. Applications include end-use parts such as connectors, cable holders and electronics housings.

The third new system, the F770 3D printer, builds on Stratasys’ FDM technology. Aimed for big industrial-grade parts, this newest printer features the longest fully heated build chamber on the market and a generous build volume of over 13 cubic feet (372 liters). The new system, priced under $100,000, is designed for prototyping, jigs and fixtures, and tooling applications requiring standard thermoplastics.

Stratasys is looking for Production Technologies

Stratasys plans to make a strategic move and shift its focus from prototyping-oriented technologies into full scale production. “Stratasys today leads the industry with the largest share in material extrusion and material jetting through our FDM and PolyJet technologies,” said the CEO Yoav Zeif (pictured above), during a conference call after the company had reported disappointing Q2 2020 results.

“However, these two technologies currently address only about one-third of the total additive manufacturing hardware opportunity. Further, their growth rates have slowed in comparison to the growth rates of other technologies that suit the needs of faster growing applications, especially in production.” Stratasys ended the quarter with a net loss of $28 million, joining a loss of $21.7 million in the first quarter – a total of $50 million in H1 2020.

COVID-19 hit the entire 3D Printing Market

This weakness characterizes the entire 3D printing market: Stratasys’s main competitor, 3D Systems, also reported a double-digit decline in revenue and losses in the last two quarters. Among other things, this is the result of COVID-19 crisis that led to a downsizing of many equipment purchasing plans in key industries around the world.

“We have already started the journey into true manufacturing,” added Zeif. “There are over 100,000 Polymer parts flying today that have been printed on Stratasys systems. Therefore, to help us win in these faster growing areas, we will invest organically and inorganically in new Polymer technologies such as PBM, VAT Photopolymerization and others.”

In PBM – Powder Bed Fusion technology –  a powdered polymer is solidified using a heat source such as a laser or a thermal print head. In VAT Photo Polymer technology, a solution of a light-sensitive polymeric substance is solidified by exposing it to ultraviolet radiation. Zeif revealed that in order to implement this strategy, the company is considering to acquire companies that specialize in these technologies.

Stratasys is Downsizing its Workforce by 10%

The US-Israel based Stratasys Ltd. announced that it is reducing its global workforce as part of a strategic plan to accelerate growth. This resizing was expected according to the company’s long term strategy, but advanced sooner due to the impact of COVID-19. It will affect approximately 10% of its 2,300 employees. The vast majority of the reduction will take place this month. Stratasys plans to complete the reduction during the third quarter of 2020.

“This reduction in force is a difficult but essential step in our ongoing strategic process,” said Yoav Zeif (photo above), Chief Executive Officer of Stratasys. “This measure is not expected to affect the progress on our forthcoming product launch plans.” The move will reduce annualized operating expenses by approximately $30 million. The company will incur a charge of approximately $6 million in severance costs, primarily in the second quarter of 2020.

Stratasys is a global provider of industrial additive manufacturing (3D printing) solutions that are used to create prototypes, manufacturing tools, and production parts for industries, including aerospace, automotive, healthcare, consumer products and education. The company was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. Revenue for the first quarter of 2020 was $132.9 million, compared to $155.3 million for the same period last year. The 14.4% reduction was driven primarily by the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the company’s customers.

Lately, in mid May, Zeif said the company had secured resources to contain the crisis: “We have over $325 million in cash and equivalents and no debt. It’s clear that this crisis has helped generate significant awareness that 3D printing is becoming essential for accelerating design, speeding up time to market and creating more resilient supply chains.”