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3D Printing in April

This month we start with multi-material 3D printing using light:

Science Daily reports on a recent report published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.  This report was made by a team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with funding by the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.  Apparently, the team has developed an innovative 3D printing process.

The scientists created “a novel 3D printer, which uses patterns of visible and ultraviolet light to dictate which of two monomers are polymerized to form a solid material.  Different patterns of light provide the spatial control necessary to yield multi-material parts.”  Essentially, in plain English, this means the team has discovered a way to 3D print multi-material objects using light.

Now, of course, this is not the first time light has been used to 3D print objects – just look at Carbon3D’s stereolithography process – but it is the first time light has been used to 3D print multi-material objects.

As UW-Madison Professor of Chemistry A.J. Boydston, who led the team along with graduate student Johanna Schwartz, explains: “as amazing as 3D printing is, in many cases it only offers one color with which to paint.  The field needs a full color palette.  This is a shift in how we think about 3D printing with multiple types of materials in one object.  This is more of a bottom-up chemist’s approach, from molecules to networks.”

“Most multi-material 3D printing methods use separate reservoirs of materials to get different materials in the right positions.  But Boydston realized a one-vat, multiple-component approach – similar to a chemist’s one-pot approach when synthesizing molecules – would be more practical than multiple reservoirs with different materials. This approach is based on the ability of different wavelengths of light to control which starting materials polymerize into different sections of the solid product. Those starting materials start as simple chemicals, known as monomers, which polymerize together into a longer string of chemicals, like how plastic is made.”

“The researchers simultaneously direct light from two projectors toward a vat of liquid starting materials, where layers are built one-by-one on a platform. After one layer is built, the build platform moves up, and light helps build the next layer.”

The team’s innovative “approach to multi-material 3D printing could enable designers, artists, engineers, and scientists to create significantly more complex systems with 3D printing.  Applications could include the creation of personalized medical devices, such as prostheses, or the development of simulated organs and tissues.  Medical students could use these synthetic organs for training instead of, or before working with, live patients.”

Elsewhere, The Verge reports on 3D printed add-ons IKEA has been creating in order to make its furniture and other products accessible for disabled people.

Prior to this push, IKEA’s wardrobes, for example, were handleless.  Additionally, it can also be very difficult for disabled people “to turn on a lamp with tiny switches.”

In order to combat these accessibility issues, IKEA Israel “teamed up with nonprofits Milbat and Access Israel to develop ThisAbles, a line of 3D printed add-ons for IKEA furniture.”

Currently, ThisAbles consists of 13 distinct designs.  “They slip over IKEA furniture and accessories to turn a small button into a giant one or to lift a couch a couple inches off the ground to help make getting up a little easier…a small tweak can make a huge difference for disabled people.”

“The 3D print (CAD) files are free to download, but customers will need to find a way to print them via their own 3D printers or 3D printing service.  Detailed instructions for assembly are also available on IKEA’s website.”

Additionally, IKEA is also receiving requests and suggestions for further furniture add-ons, “which IKEA Israel says it will use to help carry out and 3D print more ideas.”

Beyond furniture, Building Design & Construction reports on Saudi Arabian construction company Elite for Construction & Development, Co., which has just “recently purchased the world’s largest 3D construction printer, the BOD2, from Copenhagen-based COBOD.”

Elite for Construction & Development, Co. purchased this 3D printer “in response to Saudi Arabia’s need to build 1.5 million houses in the next ten years.”  COBOD’s BOD2 3D construction printer “has the capability of printing buildings 12 meters wide, 27 meters long, and 9 meters high.  It can produce three-story buildings of more than 300 square meters per floor in one go.”  Obviously, this will aid Elite for Construction & Development, Co.’s efforts tremendously.

As Elite for Construction & Development, Co.’s General Manager Saad Al Shathri elaborates: “we will make this revolutionizing technology available in all of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  We will be able to carry out projects with our own crews and based on 3D printable concrete made locally.  This will bring costs significantly down compared to temporary imported printers using foreign made materials.  With the 3D construction printing technology, we will be able to do projects almost impossible with conventional technology, and we will build faster and cheaper than before.  At the same time we decided to invest in a very large printer, so the scope of projects we can carry out will be as large as possible.”

COBOD will deliver the BOD2 3D construction printer to Elite for Construction & Development, Co. in Saudi Arabia in May 2019.

Finally, TCT Magazine reports on the launch of a commercial 3D printed prosthetic leg socket by Unyq, a San Francisco-based developer of customized medical wears.  This 3D printed prosthetic leg socket is available for order now.

Unyq, which is supported by the XponentialWorks network, consists of 40 employees spread “across four locations in North America and Europe, and has implemented its own in-house fleet of 3D printing system to develop customized wearables.”

This new 3D printed prosthetic leg socket is the first in the company’s Prosthetic Wear line.  For now, “Unyq’s portfolio is made up of prosthetic covers, to protect and enhance durability of the prosthetic, and spine wears for back support.”

As with many other 3D printed objects, “the prosthetic socket will be customized to the individual ordering the component.”  It will also “do away with much of the metal found in traditional prostheses,” which will make it lightweight.

“Attaching the protheses to the residual limb, the socket should enhance customer satisfaction, and with embedded sensors track the individual’s cardio activity, number of steps walked, calories burnt, and so on. With scan data stored, clinicians will be able to replicate the socket at the press of a button, reducing the number of visits required. The socket has also been ISO 10328 tested, a process, which examines the structural strength of lower limb prosthetics.”

As Unyq’s Co-Founder and VP of Prosthetics concludes: “we are thrilled to announce the launch of the Unyq Socket.  This is another step forward in being able to provide amputees with a total leg solution. A solution where it’s practically one component, rather than a ‘mish mash’ of different elements bolted together. We are working hard to further develop our Prosthetics Wear line, as well as the other exciting medical wearables in our pipeline, to continue to support our end users.”

Image Courtesy of Science Daily

Quotes Courtesy of Science Daily, The Verge, Building Design & Construction, and TCT Magazine

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