Underwriters Laboratories is working to address the short-term and long-term performance and safety concerns of 3D printers and additive manufacturing systems. Recently, UL initiated a number of initiatives that will help designers confidently harness the benefits of 3D printing in a way that’s relevant to their business needs.
I had a conversation with Simin Zhou, Vice President of UL’s Digital Manufacturing Technologies, about these developments that you can listen to here.
The concerns UL experts are working on include developing a quality and safety framework, technical roadmap, material safety and compatibility, and workplace safety. Balancing growing safety concerns with the rapid pace of innovation, UL is establishing compliance guidelines, a quality assurance framework, material search and training tools. UL is working with key industry stakeholders such as AmericaMakes, Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Louisville. In addition, UL is developing training and education programs, as well as a materials’ database.
For training, UL has an initial course, the Foundations of 3D printing, available online through the eLearning modules. Geared to those who are new to or have an interest in this technology, Foundations of 3D Printing is an interactive four-module course that presents comprehensive introductory knowledge of the 3D printing industry. Covering terms and definitions, software and hardware as well as discussing applications and case studies, participants will begin to understand the benefits of 3D printing in a way that is relevant to their business needs.
Foundations of 3D Printing introduces concepts related to:
Print process challenges and considerations
Benefits and limitations of the applications of various technologies
Quality and safety considerations
“We’re excited to offer this training to our customers,” said Zhou. “This is the first step within our larger goal of helping to advance the 3D printing industry.”
Foundations of 3D Printing is currently available for purchase at the introductory rate of $249.
Visitors to UL’s Additive Manufacturing site can search and source additive manufacturing (AM) materials. The vertical search engine Prospector contains extensive technical information on thousands of materials across multiple industry segments. The AM materials search enables visitors to find raw materials faster and simplifies the complexity of the AM/3D Printing materials landscape.
Begin your search by selecting a processing method, material type or manufacturer/supplier and Prospector dynamically generates your results and related material data sheets. Over 200 materials are now part of the AM database. The Prospector team constantly monitors the industry for updates of existing material and the identification of new material.
Recently on February 3, UL hosted the inaugural 3D Printing Equipment Compliance Roundtable. Bringing together a variety of 3D printing machine manufacturers from around the country, the Roundtable provided a structured forum to discuss the standards, compliance schemes and other related topics specific to the 3D printing and additive manufacturing equipment industry.
This event was attended by of representatives from Stratasys, 3D Systems, MakerGear, Impossible Objects, New Matter, Aleph Objects, the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, and Polar 3D. Topics ranged from materials and material testing, machine and material compatibility, environmental consideration, product performance, and of course, standards and regulatory requirements.
Though numerous industry topics were discussed, Roundtable highlights included:
–Material characterization and testing is an area of opportunity in the 3D printing space. Though the current concern in material testing is flammability, the influence of the printing process on print material has greater long-term implications. The existing material testing approach doesn’t adequately address chemical and strength implications native to 3D printing.
–Environmental concerns are primarily focused on the emission of ultra-fine particulates during the print process. Emissions safety, unlike core safety, is currently not regulated nor required for certification. UL, however, is partnering with Georgia Tech on 3D printing emissions research. The machine manufacturers requested a session to review the research finding when available as well as the need to develop an emission specific guideline.
–Another opportunity exists in the area of designing for 3D printing. Machine manufacturers will realize greater success if/when consumers are better educated on the design process. In parallel, designs are being sold directly to consumers through various online platforms. An in-depth conversation ensued regarding managing legal risk associated with designs as well as intellectual property (IP) protection. Given the pace of the industry, the industry will be facing those challenges sooner rather than later.
–Finally, Roundtable participants toured UL’s Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and High-Tech labs. Discussing test processes directly with UL Lab technicians enabled the manufacturers to better understand how early collaboration with UL in the product development process enables a more direct path to certification.