Recognised expert in the development of 3D printing applications Fripp Design and Research has announced the imminent release of what it calls the next generation of 3D printing technology.
Based in the Advanced Manufacturing Park on the outskirts of Sheffield, the company has been working on Picsima, "a landmark development in 3D Print technology".
Fripp Design and Research has 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.
It was during the development of soft tissue prostheses in which the Fripp team identified the need for Picsima.
Managing Director Tom Fripp's Masters studies concerned the development of custom casts for patients using 3D printing technology, with the entire Fripp team being educated to the same higher education level and specialising in 3D printing.
Fripp said: "Although 3D print has been around for nearly 30 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.
"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."
He continued: "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. 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."
Utilising a Technology Strategy Board (TSB) High Value Manufacturing feasibility grant, the Fripp team set about working on how to 3D print silicone in full colour. Fripp noted that the funding from the TSB was crucial to the project, as it allowed the company to focus its resources on the task in hand.
Within just 12 weeks, Fripp answered its own question and filed a UK patent application.
"The method we’ve discovered has a certain simplicity to it which makes me proud of what the team has achieved," Fripp commented. "The question is what do we do next?"
Like so many SMEs, Fripp Design and Research has to carefully manage its resources and focus on the task in hand, particularly when the matter of licencing the product arose.
Co-Founder and majority shareholder at Fripp Design and Research Steve Roberts explained: "Tom and I set the company up to invest our resources to develop our own IP for either license or sale. This is still our preferred model, however the idea of becoming the next big manufacturer in 3D Printing also has its appeal.
"Do we sell it, licence it or make it?" Roberts stated. No matter what route Fripp chooses to take, the business claims Picsima will 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.
"I am very proud of what Tom and the team have achieved," Steve Roberts remarked.
"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.