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Ulendo awarded $250,000 by National Science Foundation to double 3D printer speeds

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3D printing software developer Ulendo has announced that it has been awarded a $250,000 research and development grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) America’s Seed Fund Program.

Together with researchers from the University of Michigan’s Smart and Sustainable Automation Laboratory, Ulendo will use the capital to develop its Ulendo FBS software platform further. The program can modify an FFF 3D printer’s firmware to improve print speeds by up to 100%, all without sacrificing the quality of the part being produced.

Baby Groot with and without Ulendo FBS.
Baby Groot 3D printed with and without Ulendo FBS. Image via Ulendo.

The Ulendo FBS platform

Despite major advances in hardware, many of the desktop FFF 3D printers available today still need to operate at relatively slow print speeds to dampen some of the vibrations caused by motorized moving parts. Print too fast, and there is a very significant risk of part defects and misaligned layer lines. This is the issue Ulendo FBS (filtered B-spline) was built to solve.

The software program’s driving force is a vibration compensation algorithm developed to counteract the unwanted vibrations experienced by a moving 3D printer’s frame. The program works by anticipating when the printer may experience a disruptive vibration, dynamically adjusting its motion accordingly with predictive control. As such, the algorithm is ultimately intended to improve print speeds, with the company claiming that Ulendo FBS enables 3D printers to print up to 2x faster without a noticeable hit to print quality.

Still, an early-stage startup, Ulendo’s customer base consists mainly of desktop 3D printer OEMs. The company operates on a case-by-case basis, providing a native printer-specific variant of the program for every client. As you might expect, this is a very time-intensive process, seeing as every machine on the market is different in some way. Specifically, the funding will enable the Ulendo/Michigan team to develop a rapid calibration kit to shorten the time required to expand the growing list of compatible 3D printers.

Three examples of prints with and without Ulendo FBS.
Ulendo FBS features algorithms developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. Image via University of Michigan.

America’s Seed Fund

For four decades, the NSF-backed America’s Seed Fund Program has handed out $200M in awards every year, predominantly to startups and SMEs developing innovative high-impact technologies. By commercializing technically risky ideas, the program fosters innovation and creates job opportunities for U.S. citizens.

Available to all startups working in science and technology, successful applicants like Ulendo will first receive up to $256,000 in seed capital for the initial 12 month R&D phase. Over the course of this period, the company will be immersed in the NSF network, where mentorship will be provided. Once the R&D period is over, Ulendo will be welcome to apply for phase two, which involves a $1M investment over the course of 24 months.

The start of 2021 has already seen several major funding deals in the 3D printing industry. The University of Maine recently secured $2.8M in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a more eco-friendly 3D printing wind turbine blade molds method. The team will introduce a bio-based feedstock into their Cellulose Nanofiber (CNF) printing process to cut the costs of producing the large-format parts by 50%.

Elsewhere, in Spain, 3D printer OEM Triditive recently announced the completion of a $1.8M seed funding round. The company will use its capital injection to further develop its proprietary AMCELL system, a large-format modular 3D printing cell designed for high-throughput automated production.

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Featured image shows Baby Groot with and without Ulendo FBS. Image via Ulendo.





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