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EXIST program supports Start-ups by researchers

3D Printer Combines Silicones and High-Per­for­mance Plastics

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Two young men are standing next to each other in a research facility. © Roland Kentrup
Jasper Gruson and Philipp Kemper (from left) could set up their business in a few years’ time.

MedTech-Multiprint: With funding of around € 1.3 million, this proj­ect is one of the largest implemented so far at the Department of Machine Elements (ME) of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. It is also the EXIST proj­ect with the most funding that the uni­ver­si­ty has to date been able to secure. For the team led by Jasper Gruson, it represents an opportunity to start their own business with a high-tech proj­ect in a few years’ time.

The 3D multiprint printer is still standing “bare” in the workshop of the Department of Mechanical Engineering on North Cam­pus: a cube with an edge length of about two meters. Wires, rows of screws, a sign warning about radiation: The model is a one-off and attests to a lot of manual work. “We mostly made it ourselves,” says Jasper Gruson. “Even the printer heads are our own developments.”

3D printer is unique worldwide

In the booming global market for 3D printers, this device is unique. The aim is for the printer to produce complex hybrid products. Specifically, it should make items out of different standard and high-performance thermoplastics, but also high-performance plastics and silicones, in a single, seamless production process. “One example of a concrete application is an artificial limb,” says Philipp Kemper. “If a person is reliant on such an aid, it has to be adapted individually.” This particularly applies for the point where the prosthesis is attached to the human limb: This interface must be made in such a way that it is skin-friendly and fits exactly. To achieve this, flexible, customized silicone pads are integrated into the prosthesis. This plastic-silicone combination is challenging because of the materials’ different properties.

The printer that Gruson and Kemper are developing can do it. At the same time, production is highly automated, resource-efficient and thus time-saving as well as inexpensive. With the production of components for individual aids such as artificial limbs, the first target market is medical supplies and the orthopedic sector. However, there are hardly any limits to possible applications – even as far as seats for Formula 1 drivers.

Gruson, Kemper and software developer Frithjof Pollmüller want to base the further development of this in­no­va­ti­ve 3D printing system on an existing laboratory prototype, that is, a special 3D printer built and put into operation in the frame­work of the proj­ect “FilChange – Flexible 3D Printing” within the ERDF program “START-UP – Uni­ver­sity Spin-offs in NRW”. The basis for the technology is a newly developed filament-processing module, for which TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has filed a European patent.

Workwise, the team of developers is proceeding in a number of steps – the proj­ect started on 1 March this year: First, they are optimizing the special 3D printer so that it can process high-performance plastics. At the same time, they are developing a new type of silicone-processing module. In the next step, they will create – for the first time ever in 3D printing – the possibility to process high-performance thermoplastics and silicones in one product. A new software solution will make it possible to connect the individual materials together in a time-efficient way and taking different load factors into account.

Support from the CET

With the EXIST program for the promotion of re­search transfer, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy funds outstanding, re­search-based start-up projects such as MedTech-Multiprint. The Center for Entre­preneur­ship & Transfer (CET) at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is accompanying the team along its path to starting a business. “3D printing is a key technology of the fu­ture,” says Albrecht Ehlers, Chancellor of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity and member of the CET’s board. “I’m pleased that we can pave the way for this start-up from re­search to an independent business. This is a tremendous success on the part of our Center for Entre­preneur­ship & Transfer.”

Contact for further in­for­mation:

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Cam­pus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Cam­pus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Cam­pus to South Cam­pus by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Cam­pus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duis­burg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on North Cam­pus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Cam­pus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Cam­pus and offers a direct connection to South Cam­pus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Cam­pus North and the smaller Cam­pus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).