Case Study: Cadscan

Cadscan is a Chester-based business which combines advanced imaging, 3D printing and 3D visualisation technologies to create high-value products. Their multidisciplinary product development team works closely with industry and academia and is focused on the healthcare, dental and industrial markets, developing products that include 3D printed insoles, wound management and robotic inspection.

The challenge
The company wanted assistance with the 3D printing of sustainable footwear that matches or improves upon existing cost, quality, aesthetic and durability requirements. The main areas help was required with were:

  • Materials – Thermoplastic Polyurethane and others
  • Filament production from raw material

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) is a flexible, abrasion resistant thermoplastic. It is used in a number of manufacturing processes for both consumer and industrial use.

Producing TPU filament is extremely challenging due to the flexible nature of the material. The main extrusion issues are:

  • If temperatures are excessive, TPU can be very fluid and contain bubbles
  • If temperatures are insufficient, TPU can crystallise very fast and start clogging the nozzle

The challenge is that the window between a ‘good’ filament and a ‘bad’ filament (the above issues) is often extremely small (typically 5°C difference in heater setting).

Expertise sought
With support from GISMO, the project will provide access to the state of the art equipment at the engineering department and experts in the field. Without support, the project will happen at a considerably slower pace because it will require in-house engineers at the company to build their knowledge and for the company to purchase new equipment.

The solution
Lancaster University Department of Engineering recently invested in a new filament maker machine (3devo) that can produce a wide variety of filaments.

The feasibility study can uncover the potential of producing high-quality printable TPU filament using 3devo filament maker kits. The optimised parameters can be found for producing filament using TPU pellet. In addition, the quality of the filament can be controlled by measuring surface roughness using the laser microscope.

With the help of the GISMO project, the impact will be substantially higher because of the access to equipment and expertise that can accelerate time to market and increase the chances of eventual success.

This project investigated the feasibility of producing TPU filament from TPU pellet using 3devo filament maker kits. This work found the ideal extrusion speed and heater band temperature for producing filament using TPU pellet. Moreover, the filament quality is controlled to assure the performance of the filament during the print. The project’s output can help beneficiary evaluate product performance and reliability before investing in this area.

Cadscan supplies bespoke, 3D printed insoles to the NHS and wish to extend into the retail sector. This project will help remove the technical barriers that allow them to enter this large, fragmented market by enabling bespoke footwear to be made sustainably (i.e. low waste & transport, on-demand, recycled).

“When we found out about the GISMO project we approached Lancaster University to see if they could help us with 3D printer filament recycling to help us minimise waste, improve sustainability while reducing production costs. They were, and we’re now excited about taking this further in the next phase of activity.”

Cadscan aim to launch both as a new brand and as a subcontractor, scaling up rapidly and creating many new design, manufacturing and marketing jobs.

Cadscan and GISMO agreed to continue their relationship by hiring summer interns to examine the feasibility of producing and using foam TPU filaments for manufacturing the end-product. The following objectives are considered for this project:

  • Undertake a literature review on current methods and patents for producing foam TPU filament
  • Produce foam TPU filament from TPU pellets and blowing agent using a 3devo filament-maker machine
  • Experiment with colour dyes to produce TPU filament of different colours

Get in touch with us today to find out how GISMO can help you and your business.