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Master’s students develop 3D hybrid printer: Start-up support bears more and more fruit

The promotion of founders is a top priority at Hof University of Applied Sciences and the Einstein1 Digital Startup Center, and is now yielding visible successes. Dr. Andy Gradel, founder and managing director of BtX energy GmbH, was recently awarded the Rainer Markgraf Prize. Gradel is a senior engineer at the Institute for Water and Energy Management at Hof University of Applied Sciences and is involved in sustainable and innovative energy solutions. Johannes Garbarek, founder and CEO of ahearo GmbH, launched Germany’s first digital audio kiosk at the end of November and was thus nominated for the German Founder’s Prize. SmartZavod is followed by another ambitious, international team of founders from Hof University of Applied Sciences, who are working on the development of a fully automated hybrid printer and have already received a prestigious Founder’s Prize for their work.

Oleksii Solntsev (left) and Anton Yakhno are developing a fully automated 3D printer. Both are master’s students at Hof University and founders of the startup Smart Zavod. In the background (from left to right) Prof. Dr. Michael Seidel, startup advisor at the university, Isabelle Völkel and Jörg Raithel from the Startuplab project, which supports startups at the university. Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Oleksii Solntsev, 25, and Anton Yakhno (26) are master’s students in the mechanical engineering program at Hof University of Applied Sciences. They have been working on the development of a multifunctional 3D printer for half a year

Innovative 3D printer that can also mill and laser cut

They built the first prototype as part of the Kickstart funding program of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which provides Hof students with start-up funding of 7,500 euros for their start-up project. With their business idea, the two founders of SmartZavod (Ukrainian for smart factory) also won over the jury of the Ukrainian Startup Fund founder prize in their home country of Kiev, which is endowed with the equivalent of over 20,000 euros, and thus collected additional money for further development

3D printing is a technology of the future, and its use has been growing rapidly for years, particularly in the production of one-off items and spare parts – such as prostheses in medicine, models, small series and prototypes. It is an additive manufacturing process in which material – mostly plastics, synthetic resins, ceramics, specially prepared metals or even carbon and graphite materials – is applied layer by layer to create three-dimensional workpieces

The advantages over conventional production processes lie primarily in faster and cheaper production, because the costly upstream production of molds for the casting process is eliminated

With their development, the two founders won a founder’s prize worth more than 20,000 euros in their home country of Kiev. Image: private;

However, many of the 3D printers available on the market are purely stand-alone solutions. This means that if different materials are to be processed or if, for example, milling or laser work is to be carried out in addition to printing, several devices are generally required. The SmartZavod team wants to solve this problem with a fully automated and multifunctional hybrid printer. This would significantly streamline and speed up the development and production process of new workpieces

Our printer would be able to process up to 30 different materials, have eight tool heads that can be changed fully automatically. This would enable printing, milling and laser cutting in a single device.”

Anton Yakhno

And further, “We can completely control the manufacturing process via a web application from anywhere in the world, without the need for an operator to intervene manually,” adds co-founder Oleksii Solntsev. “If we succeed, we would be the first in the world to enable this diversity in a single device.”

Hof University offers excellent ecosystem for founders

At Hof University of Applied Sciences, they are pleased to see so much innovative and founding spirit

Oleksii and Anton are hitting a nerve with their development. Additive manufacturing is increasingly taking on an essential role in industrial production, and hybrid processes are highly attractive.”

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Müller

Together with Prof. Dr. Michael Seidel, Müller brought the Startuplab project to Hof last year, and with it 1.2 million euros for the promotion of founders at the university. “We have expanded the startup ecosystem step by step in recent years, first with the establishment of the Digital Startup Center and last year with Startuplab, which supports potential startups at a very early stage, in finding ideas and developing initial demonstrators. We are of course pleased that our commitment is now bearing fruit, says Seidel, who is a professor of entrepreneurship and startup consultant at Hof University of Applied Sciences

Those who study at Hof will find an exceptionally good environment for starting their own business.”

Prof. Dr. Michael Seidel

Jörg Raithel

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