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To Enable Mass Customization, 3D Printing Needs New Rules, nScrypt CEO Says

Brett Brune








By Brett Brune
Editor, Smart Manufacturing

NScrypt Inc., a maker of micro-dispensing and 3D printing systems, won the RAPID 2016 Innovation Auditions, held Tuesday at SME’s additive manufacturing conference in Orlando, FL, after describing its nScrypt 3Dn 500PF product as the most advanced 3D printer on the market.

Eight innovators competed, giving five-minute talks that were judged by a panel of technology experts, as well as people attending the event.

NovaCentrix, the US Army and the University of South Florida are critical partnerships as the Orlando, FL-based firm develops the tool, nScrypt CEO Kenneth Church said yesterday as he accepted the award from Brinks Gilson & Lione, the Chicago law firm that sponsored the event. NScrypt’s printer was integrated with NovaCentrix’s photonic sintering tool, called PulseForge.

Precision is the order of the day, he said in an exclusive interview.

Ninety percent of the CEOs who took part in a recent global survey by Accenture’s digital business group said personalization is goal No. 1 or No. 2 for their companies in the next two years, Church said. “When you think about what that means, it comes down to mass customization. And that is impossible—unless we have enablers.

“We at RAPID can be those enablers, but we will not be those enablers the way we are doing it today,” he said of the traditional approaches to 3D printing. “The problem we have is we are using technology from the 1980s. It will change. These things must change. People will demand personalization.

“You see Nike is out and about. They’re doing it. That’s some shoes. I want all of my shoes, not some,” Church said. “Personalization in medicine is a real key. My shoes are going to be more than just comfortable. They are going to give me feedback and start talking to me, as well.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) is part of the answer, he added. “Experts are claiming IoT will be a ubiquitous movement and for this to be real you will need to make Things, all kinds of Things in all kinds of shapes and sizes.”

3D printing can be the enablers needed in the market. “But it won’t be if we continue to follow the rules we have today,” Church said.

To change the rules, nScrypt is focused on control and real time feedback. 

“We bring a lot of that now. One of the reasons we’re going to go from part to part better is we just have a better motion-control platform,” Church said. “We’re down to the nanometer-type resolution, as opposed to the crude belt or stepper motor approach. So when you see the parts come off our system, they are much smoother than the norm.”

Parts just don’t function if things aren’t precisely positioned—“in terms of microns,” he noted. “3D printing does not understand that language, and they’re going to have to learn that language to play the game.”

NScrypt’s nMill on its nanometer-resolution platform has less than 1 micron runout, which adds to the precision required for exceptional and repeatable parts.

“What does that mean? It means precision milling,” Church said. “We’ve lost it to the Japanese. We used to be so good at machining. We’ve lost it. We can have it back now. But we don’t want to mill just big bulk parts. Let’s 3D print and polish where it needs to be polished and mill where it needs to be milled. Now we can have speed throughput with precision where it’s needed. Now we can have repeatable parts. And it’s very important to close the loop with vision.”

With nScrypt’s all-in-one 3D printer, “punch the button and you literally get a working electronic part out of the end,” without any post processing outside of the machine, he said. Using multiple heads and the Novacentrix PulseForge, this system can print “the widest range of materials more than any commercial system and now can sinter conductive or even ceramic materials in situ.” 

A big issue the additive manufacturing industry needs to address is software.

“The software is terrible,” Church said. “We all need to work on this, which is why we are encouraging our partners from SolidWorks, Autodesk and CDS. These are disparate communities. Mechanical engineers use such things Pro-E or SolidWorks. Electrical engineers use things such as EagleCAD and CDS—very different in what’s going on. For us to make electronic circuits, we get our electrical engineers to do SolidWorks. They actually make electronic circuits in SolidWorlks, and it’s very cumbersome.

“Software is the next hurdle we must overcome.”

Civilian and military consumers are benefitting from nScrypt’s work, Stephen Conrad Smith, intellectual property attorney at Brinks Gilson & Lione, said. Another lawyer from his firm served as a panel judge.  

A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-financed program regarding satellites, called Phoenix, is one example of Department of Defense work nScyrpt has taken on.

“We are working on the wire harness part of it,” Church said. “If you’ve ever seen inside a satellite, there is actually a lot of extra room, but they have to open it up so they can get the wires plugged in. There are enormous amounts of complexity on the electronics side. But when you have that complexity, you have to connect to it. So we started printing the wires’ inside structures.”

DARPA wants to print a dish in space. “And they eventually want 300 meters, but there is a feedback problem,” he said. “There’s a resolution issue: Spacecraft can have big robotic arms and they are not very precise. We are working with DARPA right now to close that loop.”

The firm is now working with NASA on a program to print the satellite dish itself. “We’re looking at a couple of different materials, one of which is continuous carbon fiber,” Church said.  

Near Earth Objects like meteors are potential dangers, and observing these is important. But NASA is currently limited in the size of the object and how many hours a day they can detect the objects, he said.

To fix that, NASA wants nScrypt to print 1.5-meter dishes now “and move to 40 feet” eventually, Church said.

Precision is the key to making functional dishes that will do what NASA wants.

“Printing 40 feet, and precise? That doesn’t go well today,” he said.

With the US Army, nScrypt is working on electronics that enable passive devices, such as munitions.

“Everybody understands what missiles are, and of course there are a lot of electronics in missiles, but what about much smaller things that just go ‘boom!’ but don’t have a lot of steering mechanisms to them? They are starting to do that now, but they are very expensive. Could we do that much cheaper and give them certain capabilities? We are working with the Army on some of those things.”

NScrypt also works with the Army on new materials it is interested in.

“We just print,” he said. “Our job is just to print and enable anything.”

Published Date : 5/19/2016

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