Newark startup on the cutting edge of 3D printing technology – The News Journal

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Newark startup on the cutting edge of 3D printing technology – The News Journal

Additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing, has long been hailed as the key to the next industrial revolution.

To date, the burgeoning technology’s biggest successes have been in the creation of prototypes, parts, and the occasional marketing gimmick rather than mass production.

But the tide is turning and a Newark startup called DeLUX Engineering is working to push the boundaries of what 3-D printing can do in the fields of telecommunications, defense contracting and pharmaceuticals.

Formed in 2015 by a pair of ph.D. candidates at the University of Delaware and their advisor, the entrepreneurs already have landed more than $1.3 million in federal funding to turn their ideas into reality.

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“At DeLUX, we’re not looking to reproduce something that already exists using 3-D printing,” said Zachary Larimore, the company’s chief technology officer. “We’re trying to make things you simply can’t make any other way.”

So-called “subtractive” manufacturing is the traditional method of starting with a block of material and removing pieces until you are left with a final unit, such as fuel injector.

First developed in the mid-1980s, additive manufacturing uses what amounts to a digital blueprint that slices an image into thousands of horizontal layers. A 3-D printer then converts materials into physical reproduction of those successive layers – each a fraction of an inch thick – resulting in a solid three-dimensional object.

Larimore and Paul Parsons, DeLUX’s director of material research, honed their expertise with some of the more advanced uses for the technology while working for the Army Research Labs at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The duo later reconnected once Parsons began pursuing his doctorate in material science and engineering at UD and Larimore was working to complete his doctorate in electrical engineering.

Together, they launched DeLUX with Mark Mirotznik, a UD electrical engineering professor and director of the university’s Electromagnetic Materials Laboratory.

Larimore, a 28-year-old Missouri native, is the hardware guy who is able to push the technical limits of a $300,000 printer the team rents from UD. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Parsons, who hails from Milford, is developing new materials in a lab at the university’s DTP@STAR incubator that can expand the capabilities of what Larimore is able to print.

“We have very complementary skill sets and it turned out we were a little a head of everyone else,” Larimore said. “So we decided to work together to see what we could come up with.”

Last year, DeLUX won a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a method for 3-D printing radar systems that could conform to a given volume. Their design then won them a two-year, $1 million grant to bring their proposal to fruition.

“Let’s say you have a Humvee or a missile and you want to add a radar guidance system but there isn’t much space left to put it,” Larimore explained. “We came up with a way to fit the electronics to the space you have available without radically altering the design.”

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Radar antennas of various sizes produced by DeLUX Engineering are seen inside a 3-D printer at the University of Delaware. The startup rents time on the $300,000 equipment. (Photo: Jennifer Corbett, The News Journal)

The startup recently won another $100,000 grant from DOD to develop a 3-D printing platform for sensors capable of detecting gases given off by the explosive materials used in roadside bombs. The hope, they say, is that such a system could be used by troops to rapidly produce those devices in the field, eliminating the need for the potentially life-saving technology to be manufactured in the U.S. and then shipped to the front lines.

“Through additive manufacturing, we can actually stagger designs on top of each other in kind of a layered structure to discriminate different gases at once,” Parsons said. “And this way, the Army would be able to print exactly what they need, right when they need it.”

Thanks to a $70,000 grant, DeLUX also is working with a team of pharmacology researchers at the Delaware Bioscience Center for Advanced Technology who are developing new ways to tailor medications for individual patients by 3-D printing various shapes and structures to control release rates.

DeLUX’s founders hope to eventually license or manufacture the products they are developing for use in an array of commercial applications. The radar systems the company is working on for DOD, for instance, could have potential applications for the technology behind self-driving cars, Mirotznik said.

“We’re not there just yet, but we see ourselves principally as a manufacturing company,” he said. “And at some point, we’re going to need a highly-trained workforce that knows how to program and operate these machines.”

The company is only just now inching towards that goal.

But UD’s College of Engineering Dean Babatunde Ogunnaike said he sees them as following in the footsteps of entrepreneurs such as Robert Gore, who was studying chemical engineering at the university when he and his family launched W.L. Gore & Associates in 1958. Today, Gore is one of the largest privately held companies in the country with more than $3 billion in annual revenue.

“DeLUX is pretty far ahead of what other people are doing with additive manufacturing,” he said. “I would not be at all surprised to see them become very successful relatively quickly.”

Contact business reporter Scott Goss at (302) 324-2281, sgoss@delawareonline.com or on Twitter @ScottGossDel.

Read or Share this story: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/money/small-business/2017/07/16/newark-startup-cutting-edge-3-d-printing-technology/482658001/

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