Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

3D Printing at Year’s End

The year might be ending – but the 3D printing industry certainly isn’t!

Let’s begin this month’s news with a warning…

Gizmodo recently ran an interview with the authors of several studies published in the scientific journal Aerosol Science and Technology concerning the toxic materials produced by desktop 3D printers.

Of course, this isn’t a new worry, but these scientists, hailing from UL Chemical Safety and Georgia Institute of Technology, have conducted a “two-year investigation to assess the impacts of desktop 3D printers on indoor air quality.”  During this study, “the researchers were able to identify hundreds of different compounds, some of which are known health hazards.”

UL Chemical Safety’s Vice President and Senior Technical Advisor Marilyn Black “says her team’s findings should serve as a wakeup call, and they’re asking health researchers, scientists, and other institutions to investigate further.”

“Standard desktop 3D printers produce detectable amounts of ultrafine particles, or UFPs, while performing print jobs. UFPs are nanoscale particles that are invisible to the human eye, but could lead to serious health issues, particularly if they’re inhaled and delivered to the body’s pulmonary system.”

“When a printing process is initiated, a burst of new particles is created, which then becomes airborne. It’s this initial batch that tends to contain the smallest sizes and the maximum number of UFP concentrations during the entire print job, according to the new research.”

FDM 3D printers (of which MakerBot is just one desktop example) are particularly notorious for such particles: “The sheer variety of the toxic substances produced by these printers was alarming. No less than 200 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in the invisible puffs emanating from the printers as they churned away—including many known and suspected irritants and carcinogens.”

However, despite this alarming research, Dr. Black is quick to point out “this study was not a detailed look into the long-term health effects of 3D printers.”  Going forward, it is vital makers begin to take certain steps in order to counteract the effects of these harmful materials, though.

Dr. Black advises makers to “use [3D printers] only in well-ventilated spaces with outdoor air flow and stand away from the printers during operation.  Choose and select printers and feedstocks which have been proven to be low emitters.”

This month’s news wasn’t all stress-inducing, however…

3D Printing Industry reports on a recent collaboration between Fillamentum, which is a Czech 3D printer materials manufacturer, and František Dvořák, an industrial designer.

Presented at the Formnext Exposition in Frankfurt, this collaboration turned out to be a 3D printed electric motorcycle hood.  “In total, the motorcycle is built from 66 parts and uses Fillamentum’s high strength CPE filament (also known as PET or UPET) for the hood.”

Fillamentum is not only known for its top-quality 3D printing materials, “it also enjoys cooperating with printers, idea makers, architects, and most importantly: designers.”  Indeed, František Dvořák “made the motorcycle as part of his final project at Tomas Bata University and under a commercial assignment from Czech electric motorcycle manufacturer Kuberg s.r.o..”

As František Dvořák explains: “the machine’s concept uniquely combines the best qualities of a city scooter and adds the wild DNA of Dakar racing motorcycles.  Expected technical parameters: 55kW power, 300 km distance on one charge.”  The design took 10 months to develop, but the actual physical motorcycle hood only took 43 days.  “It was 3D printed in 66 segments on a Průša desktop 3D printer, and 2.5km of Fillamentum CPE HG100 was used in the process.”

Dvořák’ explains his choice in materials: “after experimenting with ASA and ABS, I’ve decided to use the CPE material for printing, specifically the CPE HG100 because it seemed like the best fit.  It’s very solid and heat-resistant, and what’s more, it has excellent impact tenacity – it was crucial for my project.”

Continuing on with the theme of vehicles, CNET reports on a recent successful collaboration between HRE Wheels and GE Additive: “3D printed titanium concept wheels.”  The HRE3D+ concept wheel, “which has spokes going through other spokes, was created using 3D printed titanium, allowing the wheel company to create a design impossible [to replicate] through traditional manufacturing methods like CNC machining alone.”

The HRE3D+ concept “was created from titanium powder and a type of 3D printing [known as] electron beam melting.  An electron beam generates heat, which is used to form the powder into metal structures in a vacuum.  Titanium likes to react with oxygen, so the vacuum [part] is especially [vital.]”  Electron beam melting is “also being investigated for use in medical implant and aerospace manufacturing as well.”

In order to see the HRE3D+ come to fruition, the two companies had to print the wheel “in five distinct sections comprising the face of the wheel.  Those five pieces were combined with a custom center section, all of which was eventually bolted to a carbon-fiber wheel rim using titanium fasteners.  Some machining is still required, since its precision is unmatched and components like bolt holes need to be engineered to perfection.”

While still only a concept, the HRE3D+ speaks to great things on the horizon for 3D printing using titanium, even if this wheel concept was created merely for aesthetics.  Still, the wheels do look quite amazing.

Finally – some hope for the future of sustainable 3D printing: 3D Printing Industry was on hand when Colossus, “a machine development startup based in Genk, Belgium,” announced “the largest Fused Granular Fabrication (FGF) 3D printer specifically designed to process recycled materials.”

Colossus’s Co-Founder Philippe Merillet explained the company’s rationale when it came to designing this 3D printer: “clients requested a way to make furniture and other large-scale objects from plastic waste, so we searched the market [for a] large-scale printer and everything we found was either too slow, too expensive, or could not work with high-temperature materials.  We decided to develop a printer made for materials.”

The Colossus 3D Printer, which debuted at Formnext, is housed inside a shipping container.  It boasts “a build size of 2.67m x 1m x 1.5m (L x W x H) equating to a volume of 4 meters cubed.”  Although their 3D printer is large, the team at Colossus assured it was also transportable and modular.

Colossus’s CTO Yannick Aerts added: “we wanted to build a printing system which really adjusts to our customers’ needs, so making it as transportable and upgradeable as possible was a main priority.”  Users will be able to adjust the print bed, extruder, and screw types.  “This flexibility makes the Colossal 3D FGF highly relevant for various applications and industry sectors.”

“The Colossus FGM 3D printer print supports speeds of up to 15kg per hour from a granulate fed extruder and includes a dehumidification unit for improved print quality. A heated print bed is also featured that allows easy print removal.  In partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical, Colossus has successfully tested 10 material compound profiles for optimal performance of FGM system. According to the company, this printer is the first of its scale to use rPET, recycled PET, and rPP, recycled Polypropylene profiles.”

The company is now working to develop a printer capable of faster times.  Preorders for the Colossus FGM 3D printer have already begun to be ordered.

Festive greetings to you all, until next year!

Image Courtesy of Gizmodo

Quotes Courtesy of Gizmodo, 3D Printing Industry, and CNET

Share Button