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3D Printing: July

We begin in Mississippi.

Tech Crunch reports on a $59 million expansion to NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi, which is right on the border of Louisiana.  Los Angeles-based 3D printed spacecraft manufacturer Relativity Space is responsible.

Relativity Space aims to build a permanent 3D printing rocket manufacturing hub at this location, so they’ve teamed up with NASA.  Stennis Space Center Director Dr. Rick Gilbrech explains: “this agreement demonstrates again NASA’s commitment to work with our industry partners to expand commercial access to low Earth orbit.  This helps NASA maintain focus on the ambitious Artemis program, which will land the first female and the next male on the south pole of the Moon by 2024.”

Already, Relativity Space has four of its ‘proprietary’ 3D printers running at its Los Angeles headquarters.  The company “plans to build out 12 larger units in Mississippi.”  Ultimately, “they expect to get 24 3D printers up and running in total.”

“Unlike other rocket manufacturers, Relativity uses 3D printers for almost all of the components it needs to assemble a spacecraft.  The company says its technology significantly reduces the time it takes to manufacture a vehicle for space travel and the cost associated with that manufacturing.”

Now, Relativity Space will have 220,00 sq. ft. “at its disposal to install second-generation printers, larger than those initial designs it has running in LA.”  For now, Relativity Space “will be focused on the construction of its own Terran1 rocket design and has signed up three customers already.”  These customers include Spaceflight Industries, Telesat, and Mu Space.

Relativity Space’s Vice President of Operations Tobias Duschl elaborates: “we now have this benefit of being collocated with a testing facility.  We can easily move components back and forth from production to testing.  It’s going to be a huge benefit for our customers.”

The company’s agreement with NASA “includes a nine-year lease on the 220,000 square foot building at Stennis, with an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years after that.”

Relativity Space’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Tim Ellis concludes: “we are investing not just a new rocket, but an entirely new way of production, with our large, mass-scale, 3D-printing factory.  The exact same factory we built for the rockets is already applicable to other things. It’s highly automated (due to 3D printing), which reduces part counts, and simplifies the supply chain…and there’s no fixed tooling.  The 3D printers can make similar structures for other industries.”

Elsewhere, USA Today reports on a recent research project led by scientists at Florida A&M University.  Professor Mandip Sachdeva and his team have completed “the first high throughput printing of human cells in a 3D print of the cornea in the U.S.”

This breakthrough was part of a collaboration between two teams at the research laboratories in the Dyson Pharmacy Building at A&M.  Indeed, “this could lead to far-reaching advancements in the medical field, from transplants to testing of new cornea-relief products to cornea wound treatment.”

Sachdeva, “who has taught at A&M for 26 years and been awarded $25 million in research funding over those years, was focused on developing materials and devices for biological applications, such as 3D printed tumor bio systems on a chip.”

As Sachdeva explains: “I was also doing ocular research.  Essentially, the idea was ‘can we do something better than this?  Can we simulate the human eye, and put a cornea with cells in it?”

Sachdeva and his team have been working on this particular strand of research for about a year and a half now.  They were able to 3D print a cornea containing “the stromal keratocytes in a collagen matrix, which is the case in real cornea.”

While cornea transplants could be helped by this technology, they are not the only thing which could be aided by it.  Indeed, “other applications include developing an in-vitro diffusion model to ascertain the permeation of drugs and formulations for screening in research.  The team is also developing a blinking eye model, which will be a further improvement to the in vitro model.”  They have already managed to develop a prototype.

Sachdeva concludes: “this eye can move up and down like a human eye does.  We have simulated the human eye…we simulate the human system.  The cornea will have several of the cells lined up and you can study how much drug is going through and what’s happening in a much more efficient manner and minimize animal testing.”

Meanwhile, 3D Printing Media Network reports on the launch of AiMaker Systems, which “implements AI for error detection in 3D printing.”

This “real-time inspection technology uses computer vision and machine learning.”  This system, which was made by London-based Ai Build, “focuses on multi-axis robotic extrusion 3D printing of very large structures using polymers.  Though not necessarily as dramatic as for aerospace or oil and gas parts, a defect in an architectural or artistic part can have costly repercussions.”

“With the new AI implementation Production, these defects are no longer an obstacle to large-scale 3D printing. The technology automatically detects most common printing issues such as material shrinkage and warping in real time.  A deep neural network trained by Ai Build increases productivity and level of automation in additive manufacturing facilities and at the same time reduces production costs and material waste.”

The company’s Autonomous Large-Scale 3D Printing technology, AiMaker, comes equipped with an embedded camera and a GPU module.  This allows AiMaker to detect “manufacturing defects by comparing its real-time camera view to previously recorded images of 3D printed parts.  Users of the new AiMaker will be able to get instant notifications about the quality of their 3D printed parts through the AiSync cloud software.”

As Ai Build’s CEO Daghan Cam explains: “we have a simple rule at Ai Build: if a product is faulty, we repeat production.  If it has a small defect, we repeat.  If we are slightly in doubt, we repeat.  This level of perfection in additive manufacturing usually comes at a high cost, in the form of excessive labor and material waste.  The milestone we are announcing is a result of our obsession for flawless production and a major leap towards fully automated, autonomous factories of the future.  We are excited to see how the productivity of our users will increase this advanced technology.”

Be sure to check out next month’s issue for more 3D printing news!

Image Courtesy of 3D Printing Media Network

Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch, USA Today, and 3D Printing Media Network

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