From New High-Performance Materials to More Efficient Post-Processing

Winners of the Formnext Start-up Challenge showcase their impressive innovations.

2020/10/21 — In 2020, the AM industry has once again seen a swathe of innovative business ideas and new technical developments, as demonstrated by the international Formnext Start-up Challenge 2020 and the products of the five deserving winners. The young companies Addiguru (USA), AM-Flow (Netherlands), MolyWorks (USA), NematX (Switzerland) and ToffeeAM (GB) all impressed the international panel of judges with their outstanding innovations. MolyWorks also won the AM Ventures Impact Award, which was for the first time announced as part of the Formnext Start-up Challenge.

The successful technical developments included automated design software, new plastic materials, production monitoring, and a solution for automated post-processing. The low-cost, easy-to-use solutions of some of the award winners highlighted the potential for further expansion of the field of application of additive manufacturing.

The international winners will have an opportunity to present their innovations at Formnext Connect. The winners’ versatile developments also demonstrated the need for innovations along the entire process chain in the further development of additive manufacturing: the aim of the intelligent software Toffee, for example, is to optimize the realization of new designs for additive manufacturing, thus enabling the production of new, more efficient components. Addiguru’s innovative self-learning process monitoring technology aims to bring significant cost savings and efficiency gains to production in AM. And AM-Flow’s end-to-end solution is dedicated to post-processing, which is often still a challenge in the production of larger quantities with AM. NematX has created a new high-performance polymer for even more resilient components. And MolyWorks’ mobile combination of smelting furnace and powder atomization is designed for on-site use to turn metal scrap directly into powder for additive manufacturing.

»The high quality and diversity of these impressive developments shows that corona will not halt innovation within the AM industry,« says Sascha F. Wenzler, Vice President of Formnext at event organizer Mesago Messe Frankfurt GmbH.

The Formnext Start-up Challenge 2020 honors companies that are no older than five years. The competition awards novel and viable business ideas. The high-caliber judging panel is comprised of well-known representatives from the industry, science, the media, and the investment sector.

THE WINNERS OF THE START-UP CHALLENGE 2020

EXTERNAL REAL-TIME MONITORING

In its own words, US start-up Addiguru provides cost-effective and easy-to-use real-time monitoring for additive manufacturing. The monitoring technology is independent of the manufacturer and can be easily integrated into existing and newly developed AM systems for metal. The camera is positioned at the top of the machine, looks into the powder bed and is connected to an external computer. The company’s software automatically recognizes the relevant images and then sends the captured images to a self-learning intelligence for analysis. This then detects anomalies and informs the user.

AUTOMATED POST-PROCESSING

Explaining the motivation behind the development of its end-to-end post-processing solution, AM Flow says; »The dark secret of additive manufacturing is that an imbalance of investment (with funding focusing primarily on 3D printers and software) has resulted in a clear bottleneck in the production process downstream of actual 3D printing.« The Dutch start-up offers Industry 4.0 technology for additive manufacturing and is pursuing the specific aim of digitally solving and automating the production process downstream of 3D printing. Its object is to significantly reduce the typically high labor costs still associated with post-processing. AM Flow’s end-to-end solution includes component recognition, handling and sorting, as well as transport and packaging, and utilizes various technologies, such as 3D shape recognition, industrial image processing systems, and AI software for product and process automation.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE POLYMERS

NematX AG is a Swiss start-up founded in 2020 as a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Nematic 3D Printing technology heralds the next generation of high-performance polymer 3D printing and aims to surpass the current benchmarks in polymer 3D printing of high-performance end-use parts by some margin. Target industries include aerospace, medicine, electronics, and industrial applications where parts are exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

AUTOMATED DESIGN SOFTWARE

British start-up ToffeeAM has developed automated design software that requires only a design space, fluid/material conditions, and component performance optimization. ToffeeAM was founded in 2019 as a spinoff of Imperial College London and licensed its AM software Toffee. Not only can the software optimize individual components, it can also be used to optimize entire systems and reduce the total number of components for example. The software is already used in Formula 1, aerospace, and the oil and gas industry.

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