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Pioneer in 3D printing technology

102 lake 3d

Lake3D, a specialist in three-dimensional printing technology, and based in hub Beta, has only been around for about a year and a half. After a period of laboratory testing at various locations, the startup will start making the first test series next year from a new production site in Maastricht with a focus on dentistry for now. LABInsights interviewed the team and wrote this article.

Lake3D is fundamentally a Limburg company with offices at Twice in Eindhoven, the Brightlands Campus Geleen, and in Paris! Reason: the diversity of activities that are impossible to perform all in one place. "As a specialist in 3D jetting of all kinds of materials in all colors, we have a broad technology portfolio," explains Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Joost Anne Veerman. "That includes electrical engineering, mechatronics, software, chemistry and physics." That makes many different laboratory tests in various locations very logical.

We build products from droplets of 25 micrometers (μ), from up to eight different materials.
CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER (CTO) JOOST ANNE VEERMAN

 Trial series

Next year, Lake3D will start making the first test series from a new production site in Maastricht. "Don't imagine large offices, it's mainly about lab capacity," Veerman puts it in perspective. "Working in different locations does suit a high-tech start-up anno 2021. We build products with our own printer from droplets of 25 micrometers (μ), from up to eight different materials. After flowing out, these form layers of 10 μ. We do this with different print heads in a modular printer. This explains why we integrate knowledge from so many disciplines and test at specialized locations."

Process Development

3D jetting from different materials to get the right functional properties in a final product is not simply a matter of putting together a printer with a print head and pushing the button. Veerman: "First of all, we design the machine ourselves. We do that modularly, so we can easily change the print head and add peripheral equipment for UV curing, for example, as required." But a printer alone is not enough; for each product it is also about process development, especially in terms of the interaction between material and print head. Veerman: "The conditions during printing are very important and the demands on the end products are high. If you are going to produce, the production conditions must be permanently stable to get the right quality end product. We haven't reached that point yet. Until then it's: test, test, test and measure, measure, measure."

SEM

For example, Lake3D uses the DSM Science Centre on the Brightlands Campus Geleen for Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) research or Micro Computed Tomography (micro CT) scans. In addition, under the guidance of a Chill supervisor, MBO, HBO and WO students perform color, strength and hardness measurements on the printed products at that campus. Other measurements concern the biocompatibility of materials. For example, is material leaking from a polymer mesh? For filled materials, are the nanoparticles safely contained in the matrix?

Print Strategy

Paris is home to the group responsible for software architecture and design. The Brightlands Campus in Geleen and the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven house the actual testing and development laboratories. There, using materials from a European development partner, Lake3D designs its products on the printing platform. Here the company develops the printing strategy: how to build the layers? Fluid rheology to study the flow behavior from droplets to layers is an important research area. The same goes for 3D color construction: what color should be at what depth to achieve the right effect? Lake3D also applies optical microscopy and vision cameras to analyze both processes in great detail.

Automated crown production

The number of possible applications is vast. 3D jetting makes it possible to combine the desired properties of different materials. This is attractive in many specialties. "Focus is important: selecting the application(s) in which we can add the most value functionally," Veerman points out. "That's why we have chosen dental solutions, such as crowns, snoring and anti-grinding teeth. In doing so, we cooperate with university dental schools and a number of dental laboratories."

Different types of ceramics

When market introduction comes up, Lake3D can realize, for example, the automated production of crowns in the desired shape, color and hardness. Now that is still manual work, but for modeling, this market is familiar with 3D printing. Veerman: "We are taking the step toward printed permanent solutions. The current zirconium crowns are ten times harder than natural teeth, so they wear down harder. Moreover, those need an extra color layer of porcelain. Because we can mix different ceramics, we can make exactly the right hardness. In addition, we can achieve not only the color of the natural glaze, but also the semi-transparent nature of that material in one print operation: hard and soft, the right color and the right light transmission in one."

Digitizing dentistry

With a printer and software developed for the process, Lake3D could well become the first company in the world to come to market with a commercial application of 3D jetting. Veerman: "Digitization of dentistry is the first, but emphatically not the only application area." The tricky part, though, is that Lake3D can primarily fill a latent need. "We can offer solutions and make products that are not possible any other way: very precise, possibly very small, from material combinations that do not yet exist. So that means that we have to make it clear to prospects that what they don't think is possible is possible. That's where we have a nice challenge."