The crisis has once again raised the demand for local and European-based production capabilities. Cubicure and FDX recognized this need and used the expertise of both companies to develop a flow sensor for ventilators in a very short time. FDX and Cubicure decided to make the components available to the public, free of charge for non-commercial use.
FDX and Cubicure have already had successful projects in the past. The companies have in common that they use new technologies to initiate innovations and demonstrate new production possibilities. FDX deals with components for flow control and flow measurement, preferably using passive structures and components without moving mechanisms. ‘3D printing is ideal for the production of our structures, as our geometries are complex due to flow characteristics. Conventionally, they have to be manufactured in two parts which have to be joined after manufacturing. With 3D printing, we have no sealing problems at all’, Oliver Krüger, CTO of FDX says. The search was therefore on for a technology that would not only deliver high precision but also the appropriate material properties. Cubicure was the right technology provider with its Hot Lithography technology: ‘Cubicure's Hot Lithography process for the first time supports high-quality polymers that can be used directly for our serial parts, and the high manufacturing precision allows 3D printing of stream-guiding surfaces without post-processing’, says Krüger.
Manufacturing potential for high-tech sensors, nozzles and components in the MedTech industry
For Cubicure, the project is also very exciting: The complex internal structures of the FDX sensor housings result in an oscillating airstream which can be interpreted acoustically by microphones. In this way, flow velocity and flow rate can be directly calculated. The geometry has been specially developed for the use in a respiratory ventilator and can therefore accurately determine the amount of air supplied to and discharged from the patient. The sensors can be manufactured very precisely and cost-efficiently. ‘In terms of size and complexity, such components are the perfect examples of smart solutions using additive manufacturing,’ says Robert Gmeiner, CEO of Cubicure: ‘For components of this type, 3D printing can already cost-efficiently handle series production of up to several 10,000 units. The layer-by-layer structure and the elimination of production tools mean that additional functions can be realized in a single component’. According to this production potential, both companies envision great opportunities in the medical technology sector, but also in many other industries that use fluidic components in the form of nozzles, fluid distributors or even sensor housings.
Cubicure GmbH was founded in March 2015 as a spin-off of TU Wien by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Stampfl (Institute of Material Science and Technology) and Dr. Robert Gmeiner. The company deals with the additive manufacturing of high-performance polymers for industrial applications. Cubicure’s patented Hot Lithography technology enables the usage of high-molecular chemical substances for a high precision 3D-printing process. The technology’s core is a specially developed and patented heating and coating mechanism which is capable of processing resins and pastes of highest viscosity at operating temperatures up to 120°C. Cubicure develops photopolymers with thermoplast-like properties. Since 2017 Cubicure offers a newly developed and patented 3D-printer and associated materials.
FDX Fluiddynamix GmbH
FDX Fluiddynamix GmbH was also founded in 2015, as a spin-off of the TU Berlin. The company is engaged in developing passive flow devices, which create moving jets without moving parts. Usually active devices are used to distribute fluids, as for example in dishwashers. These active devices require maintenance and are prone to failure. The waiving of active parts renders the devices of FDX more robust and efficient. Additionally, the devices are usable as volume flow sensors, and are thus a real alternative to conventional systems.