Additive Manufacturing

MAR 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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AM / End-to-End Medical AM additivemanufacturing.media 27 contract manufacturer not only for its sister companies but also for outside customers ranging from medical device to aerospace companies. Today Rappach is its vice president of manufactur- ing. Slice is located in a newly constructed 40,000-square-foot facility in Akron, Ohio, next door to the historic Akron Airport Terminal building built in 1929, which became Theken's world headquarters in 2005 (facing page, above). The area is surround- ed by Northeast Ohio history; other landmarks within sight of the facility include the Goodyear Air Dock, formerly the home of the Goodyear blimp, and the remains of the Rubber Bowl stadium where University of Akron football teams once played. But amidst these reminders of days gone by, Slice has a new and hopeful gleam about it. Everything about this facility has been designed with the end goal of manufacturing complex parts that other contract manufacturers may choose not to attempt, and doing it in the best, safest and most controlled manner possible. This meticulous mindset can be seen clearly in the company's approach to producing medical devices, for instance an acetabular hip cup designed by NextStep Arthropedix that is built additively and then machined. Once the titanium powder for these implants enters the building, it leaves in only one of two ways: as waste to be returned to the supplier, or as a completed medical implant that has been sterile cleaned, sterile packed, labeled, shrink wrapped and made ready for direct delivery to the customer. Compartmentalized and Controlled Slice Mfg. Studios falls under the umbrella of Theken Companies LLC, a group that also includes NextStep Arthropedix, NextStep Extremities, NextStep Spine and other Theken affiliates. Slice first began additive manufacturing in a rented laboratory in 2015, and in 2017, moved into the purpose-built facility adjacent to the airport terminal headquarters. This building supports both additive and subtractive operations, with multiple Willemin-Macodel robotic five-axis machining/turning centers, Tornos Swiss-type screw turn- ing centers and Sodick wire EDMs, in addition to Arcam electron beam melting (EBM) 3D printing systems for titanium and a 3D Systems laser-based metal 3D printer used for stainless steel. Some of the machining capacity is devoted to machined products such as bone screws produced on the Swiss-type lathes; other systems, such as two Willemin multitasking centers equipped with automation, are used for postprocessing 3D-printed implants. The entire facility is compartmentalized based on steps in the manufacturing process. Many operations take place in designated rooms behind closed, labeled doors (above left) to keep process steps separate. The building has a clinical feel to it—more hospital or research lab than machine shop—but there's no denying the very real, highly controlled manufacturing that takes place inside. The process for manufacturing the acetabular hip cups begins like that for any other medical or aerospace component that Slice produces additively: by sample testing every batch of powdered metal that comes through the door in a Leco elemental analysis machine. The titanium powder arrives in sealed bags from the man- ufacturer (in this case, AP&C, an Arcam company), which are opened to remove a sample, and then resealed to minimize exposure. Once approved, the virgin powder is used in the company's Arcam Q10 EBM machines. To prevent sparks and ensure build quality, the EBM machines feature vacuum build chambers filled with helium shielding gas. But ensuring the safety of the process goes beyond the build chamber. At Slice, the EBM machines are housed inside a Class H2 explosion-proof room. A copper rod Facing page: Slice is housed in a newly constructed and purpose-built 40,000-square-foot facility in Akron, Ohio (foreground). Its parent, Theken Companies LLC, is head- quartered in the historic Akron Airport Terminal building seen in the background. Above: The Slice facility has been set up to maintain the safety and the quality of the additive manufacturing process. The compa- ny's Arcam EBM 3D printers are housed in a explosion-proof room with filtration and fire suppression systems specifically designed to cope with metal powders.

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