The next generation 3D Print Technology is coming

Published 14th November 2013 at 3:32pm

In Sheffield City Region, located in a workshop on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, one of the pioneering companies in 3D Print technology are about to release the next generation of 3D Print technology.

Fripp Design and Research are recognised experts in the development of 3D Print applications where they have collaborated with organisations such as the Wellcome Trust, The University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University developing ground breaking solutions for the rapid manufacture of prostheses.

“Although 3D Print has been around for nearly thirty years, the increasing output in new applications is being driven by an ever increasing pool of industrial design talent and the software tools to allow that talent to flourish” stated Tom Fripp, Managing Director at Fripp Design and Research.

Tom’s own Masters Degree was about developing custom casts for patients using 3D Print methodologies and the entire design team, at Fripp Design and Research, are all educated to the same level and all specialising in 3D Printing.

“With this pool of talent available to us, research institutes such as the University of Sheffield and Manchester Metropolitan University rely on our expert knowledge rather than the other way round; which is the norm when SMEs engage with Universities”.

It was during the development of the soft tissue prostheses project that Tom and his team identified the need for Picsima, the next generation 3D Print technology currently under development

“The soft tissue prostheses project we undertook with the University of Sheffield is a two part process using off the shelf technology. We create a prostheses scaffold using a standard colour 3D printer which we then infiltrate with medical grade silicone” explained Fripp, “Naturally, as Industrial Designers, we wanted to perfect a system to use as few stages as possible, so as to make it as commercially viable as possible, so we asked ourselves the question ‘could we print in silicone direct?’; as no such system was available we started on the journey to create the method for Picsima 3D Printing” said Fripp.

With a Technology Strategy Board High Value Manufacturing feasibility grant, the company set to work on working out how to 3D print silicone in full colour. “The grant was important as it allowed us to focus resource in solving the question posed on ourselves without distraction” continued Fripp.

Within a twelve week period, the company answered their own question and a UK patent application has been filed. “The method we’ve discovered has a certain simplicity to it which makes me proud of what the team has achieved” said  Fripp. “The question is what do we do next?”

Like many SME companies, Fripp Design and Research have to manage their resources carefully “I am very proud of what Tom and the team have achieved” interjected Steve Roberts, co-founder and majority shareholder at Fripp Design and Research “Tom and I set the company up to invest our resources to develop our own IP for either license or sale” added Roberts, “This is still our preferred model, however the idea of becoming the next big manufacturer in 3D Printing also has its appeal”.

So the company has some interesting choices to make “Do we sell it, licence it or make it?” Roberts stated. Whichever route the company chooses to take, Picsima will have an impact on the world of 3D Printing. The technology behind Picsima means full colour functional prototypes could be made. Shore hardnesses of less than 25 are already been achieved, with their test rig, and the ability to use such a wide range of materials means they can create parts capable of withstanding temperatures as low as minus 60 and greater that 200.

“It feels a little bit like how HP started when they developed their first precision audio oscillator from their garage in Palo Alto, the question is how do we best take Picsima from the workshop, to market?” concluded Fripp.

Whichever route they choose, Picsima will be a landmark development in 3D Print technology.