“You wouldn't put the milling machine you use in a dental lab out on the manufacturing floor,” said Dani Mason, vice president of marketing and communications for B9Creations. “Yet we saw this often in additive [manufacturing], where they would use the same equipment, regardless of industry application or specific customer needs.” Mason spoke in the Virtual Engineering Days session, “Meet B9[X]: Custom, Agile Additive Manufacturing,” along with Eric Henrickson, project manager at B9Creations. Together they explained how its custom division, B9X, came about, and what it can do to help its customers future-proof an additive strategy, with consulting services, IP in both hardware and software arenas, and strategic partnerships.
Mason said that B9X aims to help additive manufacturing users avoid this by building the expertise of an industry right into the software from the start, integrating platforms to accelerate innovation on the software and post-processing side, and providing an end-to-end workflow.
Henrickson spoke of the tools that B9X offers, such as its own CAM software and the controls that interpret CAD data into a printer-readable format so that it can be produced. “We also have a software called B9 Captivate,” he explained, “which is what enables our users to create their own material settings if they want to use third-party materials inside of our printers.” He noted that the company also has post-processing equipment. “So that's the equipment to clean your parts after they've been printed and post-cure them so that you have consistent, repeatable results every time,” he said.
Henrickson said B9 also offers a full suite of 3D printers in print volumes ranging from a couple inches all the way up to ‘bigger than the size of a smartphone,’ and in variable Z-axis heights as well. “To complement all of this stuff we do have a full suite of materials ranging from things that would be maybe a little more considered generic like design materials, through the production stuff like engineering-grade materials, looping around into medical-grade materials with biocompatibles, and then even more industrial-specific stuff like castables for the jewelry industry,” he said.
Because the company owns all of these components—hardware, software, and materials—it can customize in each of these areas. “Everybody needs something that's just a little bit different [from] what you're selling today, and we've been able to work with a lot of different customers, a lot of different applications to create success,” Henrickson said. “We also have a Services Branch, meaning that will we will 3D print parts as a service bureau function,” he explained, noting that they have used this to test feasibility in some cases. B9X also offers consulting services, Henrickson said, both in terms of scoping out the correct hardware or additive manufacturing solution for a given product, as well as creating value in terms of making the entire process lean.
“On this hardware platform we're able to change a build volume for you if your parts are just a little bit too large to fit in something off the shelf that we have today,” Henrickson said. In the case of needing a higher resolution, B9X can tweak materials and software to accommodate this.
“In creating our B9X program division, we've kept an eye on keeping all of our products a little bit more modular,” Henrickson said. “We've tried to build everything such that it can be built upon an almost ‘Lego mentality,’ where you can pick a piece for here and pick a piece from here and stick those things together, and create a new thing that needs a new solution for a new problem,” Henrickson concluded.