I like bowling, even though I’m terrible at it – I think the highest I’ve ever scored in my life was 150. I just find the whole atmosphere of the bowling alley enjoyable. But aside from a 3D printed assistive ramp for disabled children, we don’t often see 3D printing technology combined with bowling. That’s changed now, with a 3D printed bowling ball that Youngstown, Ohio-based 3D printing startup Freshmade 3D created to showcase its new proprietary 3D printing material, AMClad.
Earlier this week, Freshmade 3D, which offers digital manufacturing services and typically specializes in rare parts when it’s not busy 3D printing life-sized political bobble heads, and is one of Youngstown Business Incubator’s 30 portfolio companies, successfully hit the lanes with the 3D printed bowling ball ahead of this Friday’s National Manufacturing Day.
After scoring a strike, Rich Wetzel, the startup’s CEO, told The Business Journal, “If you were to do that with a bowling ball [made from traditional 3-D printing materials], it wouldn’t be heavy enough and it’d probably shatter on impact. We wanted to show that this is a strong material that won’t break and can withstand several cycles in manufacturing.”
AMClad, a patent-pending isotropic (can withstand forces from all angles) engineered sand composite, or ESC, differs from other 3D printing materials because of its structural strength. The material can bend more, stretch further, and be subjected to more weight, due to its higher compression, flexural, and tensile strengths.
“From an engineering standpoint, it’s more tailorable,” said Freshmade President and CEO Christopher Tomko. “In a traditional manufacturing setting, you’re bound by the materials. In our case, the particulate we print with is the carrier of the shape and we apply properties to it.”
AMClad can be used to 3D print a variety of large objects, like prototypes, sculptures, and tools.
“We believe AMClad has great potential in a wide range of applications,” Freshmade Chief Technical Officer Brett Conner said. “With advantages in durability, strength, production speed, and cost, it’s something manufacturers will definitely be interested in.”
When manufacturers look for a strong, economical material, they normally choose an ABS polymer, which has a typical tensile strength between 3,000 and 5,000 psi and a flexural strength of around 7,000 psi. AMClad is comparable to ABS, with a tensile strength of 4,820 psi and flexural strength of 7,940 psi. But the material’s compression strength – capable of handling about 18,000 psi – blows ABS out of the water, making AMClad “structurally sound from all angles.”
Tomko said, “You can crush it. You can park a car on it and it’ll stand up.”
“If you hold a [traditional] 3-D printed item in your hand and bend it a certain way, it’s prone to crack. It’s weaker in that direction where the layers are stacked.”
The startup began developing AMClad when it was commissioned last summer to create life-size bobble heads of President Donald Trump and then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Freshmade discovered that the materials it was originally going to use would not support the overall weight of the huge statues.
“There wasn’t any other solution for us, so we worked backward. We found an affordable solution that had no strength and then found ways to make it strong,” Tomko explained.
According to Wetzel, while Freshmade continued to work on the development of AMClad, they also began to focus on making it an affordable alternative for manufacturers, through quick project turnaround and decreased materials cost.
“Typically, traditional manufacturing tools can take upward of a year to get made and tens of thousands of dollars,” Wetzel said. “If that iteration isn’t good, then you have to start the process over again. We have a fast turnaround, a variety of finishes and coating, and it’s not failing. We’re trying to validate different applications and see where we can take this.”
While Freshmade chose to debut its new AMClad material in a 3D printed bowling ball, the startup won’t be focusing its efforts on the leisure activity.
Conner said, “We’re not going to be a 3-D printed bowling ball company.”
Instead, Freshmade 3D will be using the material, which is available with a variety of surface finishes like metal plated and powder coated, to make molds for tooling and manufacturing, and art installations, like the “Dreaming Tree” piece created for Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.
As mentioned previously, the official debut of Freshmade 3D’s new AMClad material came right before National Manufacturing Day, which Youngstown State University, the Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), and other area manufacturing organizations will celebrate on Friday.
Wetzel said about AMClad, “It’s a new form of manufacturing. It’s a new application. It’s local. It’s cost-effective. It’s incorporating Youngstown State, YBI and a lot of different organizations to launch something new. That really shows there’s a lot of activity in Youngstown in manufacturing. We need to keep that going and take advantage of the resources in this region.”