After nearly 80 years with minimal innovation, the foam industry is now employing 3D printing to produce products that are more comfortable, safer, lighter, and can be customized for each individual. The complexity of bringing 3D printed foam to-market has now been simplified by EOS North America (EOS) and its Additive Minds applied engineering team who have launched their Digital Foam™ program - a hub orchestrated by EOS connecting CAD, materials, part qualification, and additive manufacturing (3D printing). For more information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing Materials 2019-2029: Technology and Market Analysis.
In this hub, rather than the customer needing to solve for all of these variables, Digital Foam paves the path and gets ideas to reality faster. It gives customers a fast-track to producing 3D printed protective headgear, individualized orthotics, or performance footwear, among dozens of other applications.
Using highly flexible polymer materials, like TPU or PEBA, 3D printing foam allows unprecedented fine-tuning of each voxel (volume pixel) for superior comfort, safety, and performance characteristics. But the process is a sophisticated endeavor that historically requires complex engineering and long cycle times to fully unlock its value - and one that Digital Foam solves.
"The level of engineering required to produce, say, a safer football helmet is massive, but the benefits are equally massive for end users," said Dr. Greg Hayes, senior vice president of applied engineering at EOS North America. "The Digital Foam program was designed to make those huge improvements much easier and less time-consuming for organizations."
Digital Foam begins with powerful engineering software and one organization helping simplify engineering design, analysis, and preparation processes is New York City-based nTopology. Bradley Rothenberg, CEO of nTopology, commented: "Digital Foam accelerates the adoption of 3D printing, enabling tunable architected materials like foams. This improves upon basic applications making them exceptional -- for example helmets that are not only safer, but also lighter-weight and more comfortable."
Already employing Digital Foam is Aetrex, a global leader in foot-scanning technology, orthotics, and comfort footwear. Through its partnership with EOS, Aetrex uses a Digital Foam approach to analyze customers' feet using its proprietary Albert scanning system, identify pressure points, and then produce custom 3D printed orthotics. The result is an individualized orthotics product, manufactured via mass customization, that is affordable, lightweight, and perfectly matches each individual's foot.
"What Aetrex is doing is a perfect example of how Digital Foam can make 3D printed foam applications mainstream in the digital-manufacturing era," added Hayes. "We have created a sophisticated but easy-to-use solution that connects dozens of dots in the value chain, delivering better products to the market faster than ever."
EOS and its partner organizations will be submitting a Digital Foam entry as part of its NFL Helmet Challenge submission, competing to engineer and develop football helmets that outperform today's models. The winner of the NFL Helmet Challenge will be announced in May 2021.
EOS is the world's leading technology supplier in the field of industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers. Formed in 1989, the independent company is pioneer and innovator for comprehensive solutions in additive manufacturing. Its product portfolio of EOS systems, materials, and process parameters gives customers crucial competitive advantages in terms of product quality and the long-term economic sustainability of their manufacturing processes. Furthermore, EOS customers benefit from deep technical expertise in global service, applications engineering and consultancy.
EOS North America