Despite supply chain disruptions and other pandemic challenges, 3D printing solution provider OEM 9T Labs AG saw massive interest in its hybrid system for printing and molding structural carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRTP) expand during the past year. In response, the company hired more staff, which led to more systems being sold in more markets. As 2022 begins, the company seeks to fill more open positions and anticipates strong sales and market expansion for its hybrid polymer additive manufacturing system.
Last year the company closed on a record number of new collaboration projects in the fields of aerospace (interior components, brackets, and engine components), advanced aerial mobility (rib stiffeners for wings), medical (surgical instruments), luxury (watchmaking, eyewear), and human exoskeletons (ergonomic support for lifting heavy loads). In addition to all the industrial projects, 9T Labs also delivered commercial systems to customers in research centers, universities, the metal-forming industry, and aerospace Tier 1 suppliers. To support the additional business, the company hired 21 new employees, including a number of new sales territory managers to cover all European countries.
“Despite the challenges that all of industry has faced during the past two years, we are entering 2022 full of optimism,” explains Giovanni Cavolina, 9T Labs co-founder and chief commercial officer. “We have new systems out in the field being used to produce both developmental and commercial parts. And now, with many new production applications initiated last year, we have an additional pool of customers who will scale to series production using multiple 9T Labs Red Series systems just as soon as the technology is validated for their particular target application.”
To support the additional growth anticipated for 2022, the company already plans to substantially increase its headcount and to open its first office center in the U.S. Additionally, 9T Labs expects that the first series production of advanced composites parts produced using its patented Additive Fusion Technology will become commercially available before end of the year. Furthermore, the company is also working on developing further the technology to cover applications with a production volume beyond 100’000 per annum.
“We are bullish on 2022,” concludes Cavolina. “Two regulated markets — aerospace and medical — will continue to be very important to us since they offer the highest scaling possibility. On top of that, with all the additional production application projects we’ve got underway, we are very excited to have acquired customers in the sporting goods, luxury goods, and general industrial segments as well. This helps us support manufacturers in a variety of industries to produce structural fiber-reinforced composite parts much faster, at lower cost, and still meet demanding performance and dimensional requirements.”
9T Labs’ hybrid technology platform enables high-performance structural parts — in challenging small-to-medium size and thick sections — to be produced in CFRTP composites in production volumes ranging from 100 to 10,000 parts/year. By combining simulation tools and 3D printing — offering unexcelled design freedom, part complexity, and control of fiber orientation — with compression molding in matched metal dies — providing rapid cycle times, high production rates, excellent surface finishes and low voids, plus high repeatability and reproducibility (R&R) — 9T Lab’s Red Series® platform offers the best of both additive and conventional/subtractive manufacturing. This enables companies large and small to produce high-performance parts that are significantly stiffer, stronger, and lighter than metals and plastics and that address challenging application needs in industries ranging from medical device to sporting goods to transportation. The company has recently closed on its Series A investment round and funds raised will help support this next phase of growth at 9T Labs.
9T Labs’ patented Red Series Additive Fusion Solution platform consists of a Build Module (3D printer providing fiber layup and preform production) and a Fusion Module (compact compression press providing preform consolidation and final part forming). The hardware is supported by the Fibrify® design suite software enabling CAD files to be imported, part design and fiber layups optimized, then moved back into major commercial structural analysis programs to verify structural performance. This eliminates the costly and time-consuming “make & break” cycle of designing parts, producing and testing prototypes, and further modifying designs to more closely meet performance and cost targets. In turn, this helps manufacturers bring parts to market faster.
Together, the system can rapidly, efficiently, consistently, and cost-effectively produce structural parts with heretofore unmatched levels of complexity in advanced (carbon fiber- reinforced) thermoplastic composites for initial prototyping through to high-volume manufacturing. Thanks to the use of proven industry-standard materials — in high performance neat (unreinforced) and carbon fiber-reinforced polyetherketoneketone (PEKK), polyetheretherketone (PEEK), polyphenylene sulfide (PPS), and polyamide 12 (PA12) — lightweight, structural composite parts capable of replacing metals in challenging environments can be produced affordably with very-low waste, and high levels of R&R. Since the thermoplastic matrices may be melt reprocessed, scrap material and parts can be recycled, and multiple 3D-printed subassemblies can be welded together during the Fusion step.