Fripp gains patent to print body parts

A Sheffield design company which has had talks with Apple, Disney and Jaguar Land Rover, is hailing a '˜momentous' announcement after its method of 3D printing silicone was granted a UK patent.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 8:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 8:46 am
Fripp 3D printed nose

Fripp Design, wich spent £15,000 and 18 months on the application, can now speak openly to potential investors about its revolutionary process.

The company, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, says the Picsima process can be used to 3D printing body parts from scans including noses, ears and dentures. It uses medical grade silicon which is already approved for surgery.

Fripp 3D printed ear

Co-owner Steve Roberts said he was looking for £2m from an investor to set up a manufacturing company in Rotherham to produce 3D printers. Alternatively, the firm could agree licensing deals allowing others to use the intellectual property.

A European patent application was pending, with China and the US set to follow in April and May, he added.

It comes after the firm had had ‘hundreds’ of enquiries and Steve was offered more than £1m for his share of the five-strong business.

He said: “The patent is a significant step forward for the company and its shareholders. It finally recognises the inventiveness of the method we have discovered which, on the face of it, would appear to be obvious yet nobody else had thought of it before us.

Fripp 3D printed ear

“We have had enquiries from Apple, Johnson and Johnson, Smith and Nephew, Disney and Jaguar Land Rover. The patent means we can now give clarification around the method, which is the intellectual property.”

“Co-owner Tom Fripp and the team were playing around with platinum curing silicone in the office when they all had what I describe as the ‘light bulb moment’.

“We realised we could extrude the catalyst into a bath of silicone oil and catalyst to create three dimensional geometry.

“It was the combination of 11 years’ product design experience, being consumers of 3D printing and learning the chemistry of addition curing silicone that gave us the knowledge and expertise to figure out the IP.”

The firm received 50,000 euros from the European Commission to develop the idea - and was bidding under the Commission’s Horizon 2020 grant scheme for SMEs for a further 2m to commercialise the process.

But Mr Roberts said they had changed plans. The process would take a least another year, with a one-in-12 chance of success.

He added: “I would rather find and investor. Sheffield is a hub of 3D printing, with TWI and the AMRC and others.

“But there is a gap between intellectual knowledge and funding. We hope now to bridge that gap.”