We are living the 4th industrial revolution; design and manufacturing equipment already communicate autonomously and even make decisions independently. At CIM UPC, Center for Innovation and Technology in Digital Manufacturing, we work to generate new, more flexible, and efficient production systems, facilitating the creation of new business models.
What do we do in Research and Development?
As a leading technology center in Additive Manufacturing, our mission is to bring the most advanced technologies closer to the business environment, in order to help companies obtain added value in the results and enable them to compete in the international market. To do this, in the area of R+D+I we have four lines of research from which we carry out competitive projects to advance the level of technological maturity (TRL) of additive manufacturing (AM):
- Technology-focused research: Direct Ink Writing and Hybrid 3D Manufacturing.
- Research into technological application in the medical and construction sectors: 3D Printing for Health and Concrete 3D Printing.
Our Pilot Plant has industrial manufacturing equipment (subtractive and additive), and automation and robotics, serving as a laboratory to demonstrate the capabilities of each of these technologies, as well as their interaction with people.
The main goal is to apply new systems to make production more flexible, improve productivity and facilitate the development of new business models. The involvement of Additive Manufacturing in Industry 4.0 generates new opportunities for companies to meet the needs of their customers.
In recent years, we have been engaged in R+D+I in the field of advanced manufacturing nationally and internationally as being a member of European platforms such as EFFRA and AM Platform, Spanish ones such as SIF and MANU-KET, and Catalan ones such as Llavor 3D and BASE 3D. In addition, we participate and are an active member of the R+D+I Network XaFIR (Fourth Industrial Revolution Network), with the aim of carrying out programs for the valorization and transfer of results.
After years of working with manufacturing technologies, we have set up an expert area in Additive Manufacturing that has designed our lines of research on three main axes: promoting innovation, responding to new social needs, and transferring technology to the industrial sector.
3D Printing for Health
This line of research aims to transform surgical practice by incorporating additive manufacturing at three levels: surgical test models, guides, and implants for reconstruction, as well as bioactive implants. This is possible thanks to the personalization of the treatments that this technology allows.
The field of medicine is one of the most advanced in terms of how new treatments and methods have been developed. One of the technologies that is analyzing and making medical evolution more malleable is Additive Manufacturing.
With this technology, at CIM UPC we work to respond to the demands of personalization in the world of health. The main fields of application of the 3D Printing for Health line are:
- Printing of medical prostheses
- 3D tissue bioprinting
- Printing of surgical and pre-surgical prototypes and models
- Printing biocompatible implants
The 3D Printing for Health line was born after years of collaboration with leading hospitals, such as Hospital Sant Joan de Déu and Parc Taulí, in the processing of medical images and the printing of surgical planning models that have allowed a substantial improvement in addressing risk interventions.
We offer services that include the manufacture of pre-surgical models and prosthesis printing, 3D tissue bioprinting and, in addition, the design and development of custom 3D printing machinery, surpassing the printers that can be found on the market. We are also working on the feasibility of new materials of medical interest to be processed through additive manufacturing.
In this sense, we have been participating in different R+D+I projects for more than five years to take the capabilities of additive manufacturing to the next level in the field of medicine: projects such as James Bone, Match and QuirofAM have meant a change in the paradigm of 3D printing and its application to the medical and surgical world. In the same vein, we have started participating in a new project, INK3D, which is part of the BASE 3D community, coordinated from our center.
In recent months, at CIM UPC we have played a relevant role in the contribution of additive manufacturing technologies to deal with the health crisis experienced due to Covid-19, being a major agent in the European project CAR3D, in which we continue to work to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic..
Direct Ink Writing
We develop new 3D printing systems with Direct Ink Writing or Robocasting technology, based on the needs of researchers. Currently, the most common application of this technology is the production of compatible tissue implants. At our Pilot Plant, we have the ideal equipment to carry out the most competitive projects of the moment.
Our challenge? To print without geometrical limits
At the Direct Ink Writing (DIW) research team, we work to develop new 3D printing systems based on the needs of researchers, who facilitate us through this technology, also known as Robocasting.
With DIW technology we use ink, a material with a high viscosity, which is expelled layer by layer through a high-performance volumetric deposition system, allowing the creation of overly complex structures, impossible for other technologies.
Potential applications of DIW are the production of high-specific surface structures - such as catalyst beds or fuel cell parts - as well as biologically compatible tissue implants that are currently the most developed application through this technology.
From CIM UPC we participate in different leading projects, a key factor for the development of equipment with an advanced TRL that we can adapt to the different needs of researchers, allowing our clients to continue advancing in this technique in their respective fields of study.
The R+D+I group can partner in both competitive projects and through technology transfer. At our Pilot Plant we can support in the following areas:
- Rheology and characterization of inks
- Development and manufacture of DIW technology 3D printing machines
- Manufacture of small series
- Sintering and heat treatments
- Inspection and characterization of materials and final parts
Thanks to our experience in various research projects that we have participated in as a DIW systems development team, we have a wide range of equipment and a portfolio of collaborators, mostly university and private research groups, who are looking for excellence in their fields of study with the incorporation of such equipment.
Concrete 3D Printing
3D printing allows you to design structures with different geometries, functional and complex, difficult to build using conventional methods in the world of construction or architecture. In addition, we are currently facing the challenge of including additive manufacturing in the housing construction process.
The main objective we have in the Concrete 3D Printing group is to develop new techniques and processes of large-scale 3D printing of ceramic materials for the construction of prefabricated buildings or homes, achieving a significant impact on the environment, social and economic and becoming a world leader in the new concept of Construction 4.0.
The world of construction, for many years, has used 3D printing to obtain models of architectural projects, but the technology we are developing in the line of Concrete 3D Printing goes much further. The goal is for 3D printing to allow architects and engineers much more freedom to design structures with new geometries that would be impossible to build with a traditional process.
The main advantages offered by the incorporation of 3D printing in the construction sector are:
- Removal of many of the geometric constraints imposed by other construction technologies.
- Ability to manufacture fully customized structures without increased costs.
- Significant reduction in CO2 emissions compared to conventional processes.
- Potential reduction in time and costs compared to traditional technologies.
- The recovery of residual / in situ materials, using them as raw material, working through a circular economy process.
From the R+D+I area of the CIM UPC, we have accepted the challenge, obtaining key results to make this concept a reality. Our participation in competitive projects, both nationally and internationally, as in the case of HINDCON, 3DCONS and Print and Build, has made it possible to make great strides in technology itself, in process simulation and even in the formulation of new materials and alternative premises in order to give viability to the incorporation of this technology in the sector.
Hybrid 3D Manufacturing
Hybrid manufacturing is one of the processes with the most advantages and challenges of 3D printing. This allows us to shorten the production chain, reducing manufacturing time and costs and achieving product customization. The main goal is to increase the number of materials used in a single printing process.
This new manufacturing technology began with the combination of additive manufacturing (AM) and subtractive manufacturing (CNC) systems. In this evolution, the operations of CNC and AM are carried out within the same construction chamber allowing to shorten the production chain and reduce both time and manufacturing costs. Thus, hybrid manufacturing is one of the processes with the most advantages and, at the same time, with the most challenges in the constant evolution of the field of 3D printing.
The main objective and challenge of the R+D+I team in this line of research is to increase the number of materials used in a single printing process, giving way to the manufacture of multi-material objects.
With the development of this line of research, we work to bring about a revolutionary change in the manufacturing and design processes, opening a horizon of new challenges such as the construction of multifunctional elements and parts that can respond effectively and efficiently to any need.
The experience of our R+D+I team in CNC and AM manufacturing technologies is vital, as it has allowed us to carry out the successful development of this type of machinery. This combination is increasingly common in the industrial sector, allowing the customization of products and the easy re-adaptation and re-organization of supply chains.
Our participation in different consortia and competitive projects means that we face new challenges every day in terms of the combination of 3D and multi-material printing technologies. The experience that has brought us to be part of projects such as HYBRI3D, HINDCON, NET3D+ has allowed us to develop equipment capable of effectively combining additive manufacturing with subtractive manufacturing, DIW with MIP-SL, etc.
The diversity of additive manufacturing process combinations characterizes this line of research as the most versatile and cross-cutting. Hybrid manufacturing maintains a direct relationship with other areas as it participates in the improvement of obtaining results for each, being an active participant in the achievement of the new objectives established in the different lines of research.
Customized 3D Printers
The 3D printers we develop stand out for their ability to customize and to offer the best manufacturing parameters, superior to those of other tools on the market. We also manage all technical user documentation and guarantee mandatory legislation on essential safety requirements with CE Marking.
With a career started years ago with the design and development of extrusion printers, in the R+D+I team of the CIM UPC we develop custom-made 3D printing machines, using our own technologies and the know-how of the center from the idea to the machine, both for companies as for centers and groups of investigation with the end that these can carry out their studies or processes of manufacture successfully.
The 3D printers we develop at CIM UPC stand out for their personalization and for offering printing parameters such as size, speed, temperature, tightness, and sterilization, which are not within the reach of the printers on the market.
We offer services for the design, development and adaptation of 3D printers and their components, as well as their subsequent redesign and incorporation of improvements for different purposes, such as the manufacture of prostheses, food, etc. We also work with equipment already designed, in order to customize its parameters.
Our ability to adapt and customize is key to improve the productivity of our customers' printing equipment, which can be differentiated from their competition and from the CIM UPC we work to provide great added value to organizations in different professional sectors with who we collaborate.
The development of custom 3D printers at the CIM UPC also integrates two essential aspects; the technical and user documentation and the guarantee that our equipment complies with the regulations, with the CE marking:
- In addition to carrying out the design and development of the 3D printer, we manage all the technical and user documentation necessary for understanding the complete operation and complexities of the same. We take care of the manufacturing process and tuning of the machine and also the process of industrialization in pre-series.
- With the CE marking we can guarantee, as manufacturers, that the equipment marketed complies with the mandatory legislation on essential safety requirements. From the CIM UPC, we adapt our projects to the regulations for the CE Marking thanks to our work carrying out the integral process from the conception to the start-up of the equipment.