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Boeing ships out virus-blocking face shields

Face shield
Sean Thuston, a machinist at Boeing Research and Technology, tries on a face shield. (Boeing via Twitter)

Boeing has shut down airplane production until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s pushing forward with production of medical equipment to shut down the virus’ spread.

The company says its first shipment of 2,300 face shields, manufactured using its 3-D printing capabilities in Puget Sound and other locales across the United States, was handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services today.

In a news release, Boeing said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will deliver the shields to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, which has been turned into a treatment site for COVID-19 patients. Medical professionals will use the shields as part of their personal protection equipment.

In addition to the shields, Boeing has donated tens of thousands of masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals in need.

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Blue Origin turns from spaceships to face shields

3-D printing face shield visors
A worker at Blue Origin’s production facility in Kent, Wash., gets 3-D printed face shield visors ready for shipping. (Blue Origin via Twitter)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture isn’t just turning out parts for rocket ships nowadays: It’s also using 25 of its additive manufacturing machines to turn out 3-D printed visors for hospital face shields.

“Our machines are running 24 hours a day, seven days per week,” Blue Origin said in a posting about the project.

The visors serve as frames for the clear sheets of plastic that serve to protect the faces of health care workers as they treat COVID-19 patients.

About 100 of the plastic visors are produced each day at Blue Origin’s factory in Kent, Wash. They’re shipped off to Stratasys, one of the company’s supply partners, for distribution to hospitals in need around the country.

Stratasys says 40,000 face shields are needed over the course of a week during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Boeing adds to its investment in Morf3D venture

Ivan Madera
Morf3D CEO Ivan Madera says the company’s vision of becoming a world-class leader in metals additive manufacturing for the aerospace industry is “truly taking form.” (Morf3D Photo via PRNewswire)

Boeing’s venture capital arm has added to its investment in Morf3D, a California startup that focuses of aerospace applications for 3-D printing.

The fresh investment, announced today, follows a Series A investment round that Boeing HorizonX Ventures co-led back in April 2018. The precise amount of the investment hasn’t been released, either for last year’s round or for the newly reported round. However, HorizonX’s investments are typically in the range of seven figures or the low eight figures.

Since its founding in 2015, Morf3D has taken on 3-D printing projects for Boeing as well as Honeywell, Collins and other aerospace companies. Its work for Boeing has focused on aluminum and titanium components for satellites and helicopters.

In today’s news release, Morf3D said the fresh funding follows a significant increase in customer demand.

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3-D printer plus recycler installed in orbit

Installation of Refabricator
NASA astronaut Anne McClain installs Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator recycling and 3-D printing payload aboard the International Space Station. (NASA Photo via Tethers Unlimited)

NASA astronauts on the International Space Station have installed the first integrated 3-D printer and plastic recycler to go into orbit, and it’s currently being checked out for experiments that are due to start in the next few weeks.

The Refabricator, a device about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator, was built at Tethers Unlimited’s headquarters in Bothell, Wash., under the terms of a $2.5 million contract from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program. It was tested at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and sent up to the station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply flight in November.

Tethers Unlimited engineers supported the space station operations team while NASA astronaut (and Spokane native) Anne McClain installed the Refabricator into the space station’s experiment racks.

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3-D printer and recycler is set for space delivery

Refabricator testing
Payload development engineer Marko Baricevic of Tethers Unlimited Inc. conducts flight certification tests at Marshall Space Flight Center. (NASA Photo / Emmett Givens)

There’s nothing new about having a 3-D printer in space, but how about a 3-D printer that also recycles plastic to turn old stuff into new? Just such a gizmo is due to be delivered to the International Space Station next week.

Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited built the device, which is about the size of a mini fridge and is known as the Refabricator, in cooperation with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. After months of testing, the Refabricator is on the payload manifest for Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo resupply flight, scheduled for liftoff from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility on Nov. 15.

If all proceeds according to schedule, the uncrewed Cygnus craft should arrive at the station a couple of days after launch. Once the cargo is unloaded, the Refabricator will be installed and put through a series of test prints.

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Boeing boosts Digital Alloys’ metal 3-D printing tech

Metal 3-D printing
Digital Alloys has developed a technology known as Joule Printing for additive manufacturing of metal components. (Digital Alloys Photo)

Boeing HorizonX says it’s investing in Digital Alloys, a Massachusetts-based startup specializing in metal additive manufacturing, which adds to more than a dozen companies in Boeing’s tech venture capital portfolio.

The $12.9 million Series B financing round announced today was led by G20 Ventures. Other participants in the round include Lincoln Electric and Khosla Ventures, a prior investor. Boeing HorizonX didn’t announce how much it was putting in, but its investments are typically in the multimillion-dollar range.

Digital Alloys, which was spun out from NVBots last year, is virtually certain to see its metal 3-D printing technology used to build Boeing aerospace parts.

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Tethers Unlimited’s printer-recycler goes to NASA

Refabricator
Tethers Unlimited’s Refabricator is a recycler and 3-D printer in one unit, which is about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. This is the tech demonstration unit that’s been undergoing tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The unit is to go to the space station next year. (NASA Photo / Emmett Given)

Tethers Unlimited Inc. says it’s delivered a combination 3-D printer and plastic recycler to NASA for testing on the International Space Station.

Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob Hoyt told GeekWire that the Refabricator payload, about the size of a mini-refrigerator, was built under the terms of a $2.5 million Phase 3 contract from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program, or SBIR. It’s on its way to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is due to be sent to the station on a SpaceX Dragon resupply flight later this year, Hoyt said in an email.

The formal delivery to NASA marks the culmination of three months of performance and certification testing both at Tethers Unlimited’s lab in Bothell, Wash., and at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., the company said today in a news release.

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Boeing HorizonX invests in Morf3D for 3-D printing

Morf3D innovation center
Morf3D’s R&D Innovation Center is aimed at advancing the state of additive manufacturing. (Morf3D Photo)

The latest addition to Boeing’s venture-capital portfolio is Morf3D, a California startup that focuses on aerospace applications for 3-D printing.

Boeing HorizonX Ventures is a co-leader of the Series A investment round, announced by the companies today. Neither Boeing nor Morf3D detailed how much Boeing was investing, or the total amount raised. However, HorizonX’s investments typically range from seven figures to the low eight figures.

Morf3D is based in El Segundo, Calif., and has been producing 3-D-printed aluminum and titanium components for Boeing satellites and helicopters since the startup was founded in late 2015.

The company uses state-of-the-art software and engineering expertise to reduce mass and increase the performance and functionality of metal parts created through additive manufacturing.

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Relativity raises $35M for 3-D printed rockets

Stargate 3-D printer
An illustration shows how Relativity Space’s Stargate metal 3-D printer compares with the height of a human. (Relativity Space Illustration)

Just a week after unveiling an agreement to use one of NASA’s rocket test complexes in Mississippi, Relativity Space is announcing $35 million in new funding that’ll help the rocket-building startup take advantage of the deal.

The Series B financing round is led by Playground Global, with full participation from Relativity’s existing investors, Social Capital, Y Combinator and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban. The money brings total investment in the three-year-old company to more than $45 million.

“It’ll make us able to grow the team from 17 employees to over 45 by the end of this year,” Relativity CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis told GeekWire.

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Amazon wins patent for 3-D printing on demand

It’s been a long time coming, but today Amazon can say it holds the patent for a retailing system that can take custom orders for 3-D printed items, get them made, and have them sent out for delivery or picked up by the customer.

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