High Speed Sintering
3D printing technology capable of mass-producing high-volume components
Innovation and benefits
High Speed Sintering (HSS) is a 3D printing technology capable of mass-producing high-volume components. As with all 3D printing, HSS does not require tooling, which drives down set-up time and costs by replacing multiple processes. It also allows for faster product design and modification, improves manufacturing efficiency, and enables the creation of on-demand, high-value parts with geometry freedom. HSS, in particular, enables 3D printing to go beyond prototyping and low volume runs to allow direct production of robust parts, and it is capable of doing so at a scale which makes it cost-competitive against more traditional manufacturing methods. All this contributes to a faster time-to-market and increase in ROI compared to traditional additive manufacturing processes.
HSS was initially invented by Loughborough academic Neil Hopkinson in 2003 and developed with a number of his researchers. Initial funding came from EPSRC and then, once the commercial opportunity was identified by the Commercialisation Team, significant enterprise funding was committed from the University’s EPG fund – including an Enterprise Fellowship for Neil – to prove the concept and clarify the commercial potential.
The commercialisation of HSS has taken a long and winding, but ultimately successful, road. The patented technology, produced and sold globally, under licence from the University since 2013, has generated an estimated £1Bn+ in revenues to licencees (including a Fortune 100 company) and created thousands of high-value jobs across the supply chain. To date, circa 2,500 HSS machines are in operation with components mass produced for leading brands across multiple sectors including Ford, Nike and Siemens.
The inventors, Neil and two of his research team (Poonjolai Erasenthiran and Helen Thomas), have benefited significantly from their commercialisation experience – both financially (they receive 50% of revenues after costs) and in their careers.
Neil went on to receive a full chair based on his research and enterprise activities in 3D printing before making the move to industry in 2016. He was also appointed Director of Technology at Xaar 3D, a joint venture co-owned by Xaar and Stratasys, to lead the commercialisation of products based on HSS technology under license from the University.
In April 2021, Stratasys introduced the Stratasys H350™ 3D printer, the first system powered by Xaar 3D’s powder-based SAF™ technology. In October 2021, Stratasys acquired the outstanding stake in Xaar 3D, accelerating the company’s growth in production-scale 3D printing. As part of Stratasys, Xaar 3D will continue to rapidly advance H Series 3D printer development while leveraging Stratasys’ global go-to-market infrastructure and blue-chip customer relationships to enable more customers to benefit from SAF-powered additive manufacturing.
The School and the University have also benefited – from their share of the revenues, from the enhancement of their reputation in 3D printing and also from the submission of a key Impact Case Study in the 2021 REF due to the significant impact of HSS on the outside world.