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2020 Formnext Start-Up Challenge Winners Announced

Young additive manufacturing companies impress with automated designs, new materials and optimized postprocessing.
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Winners of the 2020 Formnext Start-up Challenge impressed this year’s jury with automated designs, new materials and optimized postprocessing. For the sixth time, this international Challenge recognized young companies from the world of additive manufacturing (AM) for their innovative business ideas and cutting-edge technical developments.

Five pioneering start-ups were honored this year, including Addiguru (USA), AM Flow (the Netherlands), Molyworks (USA), NematX (Switzerland) and TOffeeAM (UK). Molyworks also took home the AM Ventures Impact Award, which was conferred for the first time as part of the Formnext Start-up Challenge. These international winners will present their breakthrough ideas during Formnext Connect.

The Formnext Start-up Challenge recognizes companies that are no older than five years for their innovative and viable business ideas. In offering innovations that are largely affordable and easy to implement, the 2020 award winners are seeking to further expand the scope of AM applications. These diverse developments also reflect the idea that the ongoing progression of AM will require advancements along the entire process chain.

Winners

Addiguru created an easy-to-use real-time monitoring system for AM. The monitoring technology is manufacturer-agnostic and integrates well into both established and newly developed AM units that work with metal. It involves a camera that connects to an external computer and looks down onto the powder bed from above. The U.S. start-up’s software automatically recognizes the relevant images and sends the photos to a self-learning algorithm for analysis, which then detects anomalies and informs the user accordingly.

AM Flow perceived an imbalance in investment (mainly in 3D printers and software) that leads to a significant bottleneck in the AM production process which comes after the actual 3D printing. This prompted the Dutch start-up to develop an end-to-end solution for postprocessing and offer Industry 4.0 technology for the AM sector. By digitalizing and automating the production process, AM Flow primarily wants to significantly reduce the labor costs involved in postprocessing, which are typically still quite high. The company’s comprehensive solution covers everything from component recognition, handling and sorting to packing and transport. It uses a variety of technologies — including 3D shape recognition, industrial image processing systems and AI software— to automate products and processes once 3D printing has already taken place.

The aim of the Californian start-up Molyworks is to establish a sustainable means of recycling scrap metal (for example, swarf or used powder and components) back into the production process in order to manufacture more metal powder for 3D printing. To that end, its founders developed the Greyhound system which consists of a mobile melting furnace and a powder atomization system. Molyworks’ team has conducted trials with 21 different metals, including titanium, steel, nickel, aluminum and copper. One of the main reasons why the company won the inaugural AM Ventures Impact Award has to do with Greyhound’s potential to save a great deal of resources. According to Molyworks, metal production accounts for 7% of the entire world’s energy consumption.

NematX AG is a Swiss start-up that was founded as a spin-off of ETH Zurich in 2020. With its Nematic 3D Printing technology, it plans to usher in the next generation of 3D printing with high-performance polymers and significantly surpass the current benchmarks in corresponding end-use components. NematX’s target industries include aerospace, medicine, electronics and industrial applications in which parts are exposed to harsh environmental conditions.

The British start-up TOffeeAM has come up with automated design software that requires nothing more than a design space, fluid/material conditions and the type of performance that needs to be optimized in the component in question. The company, which was founded as a spin-off of Imperial College London, now licenses the software (known as TOffee) to its customers. TOffee is capable of optimizing both individual parts and entire systems – by reducing the overall number of parts required, for instance. It is already being used in Formula 1 as well as the aviation and oil and gas industries.

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