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Hybrid 3D printing process could be game-changer for components

04 May 2017

A new hybrid 3D printing process allows electrical, optical and structural elements to be introduced in an additively manufactured component during the build process.

A component manufactured from the patent-pending THREAD process developed at the AMRC (Credit: AMRC)

The Design and Prototyping Group of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing developed this patent-pending process, called ‘THREAD’. It means components can be manufactured with in-built connectivity and additional functionality.

The process has been successful on machines used for 3D printing polymer components but is also suited for a variety of other additive manufacturing (AM) platforms. 

AMRC Development Engineer and AM specialist Mark Cocking said: “THREAD has scope to simultaneously add multiple industry-recognised threads of differing materials into one component, giving the component additional functions. This will open AM up to a greater variety of uses.

“The development of this process is a potential game-changer. It could be used across many sectors such as medical, aerospace and automotive; where weight and size of components is critical or where components would benefit from integrated data transfer and the protection of sealed connective tracks.”

THREAD will be an advantage in the manufacture of components requiring encapsulated electronics. The nature of the ‘sealed’ conductive tracks could also benefit components which may be sensitive to contamination from debris, corrosion or impact. 

“THREAD has potential to be developed as an add-on technology for existing AM platforms and also incorporated into next generation AM technologies,” added Mark Cocking.

Chris Iveson, who is driving the commercialisation of the technology, said: “We see THREAD transforming the functionality of additively manufactured components. Feedback from our contacts in various industries indicates a real need for this capability, with new potential applications being discussed daily. This is a great example of the AMRC using its unique expertise to solve real industry problems.”

The AMRC is developing the THREAD process for various commercial markets and would welcome contact from manufacturers of 3D printers and industrial users of 3D printing processes. 

Materials provided by the AMRC.




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