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April 2018: 3D Printing Update

This month in the world of 3D printing was quite a busy and exciting time.

Let’s get right to the news!  Certainly, the news which caused the greatest buzz to bounce around the world of additive manufacturing occurred at SXSW in Austin.

The Verge reported from last month’s SXSW.  ICON, an Austin-based startup unveiled “its approach to combat adequate housing deficiency in the world by using low-cost 3D printing as a potential solution.”

ICON “developed a method for printing a single-story 650-square-foot house out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours, a fraction of the time it takes for new construction.  If all goes according to plan, a community made up of about one-hundred homes will be constructed for residents in El Salvador next year.”

The first model home was debuted in Austin last month.  It was printed from cement.  “Using the Vulcan 3D printer, ICON can print an entire home for $10,000 and plans to bring costs down to $4,000 per house.”

As Jason Ballard, Co-Founder of ICON elaborates: “it’s much cheaper than the typical American home.  The model has a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and a curved porch.  There are a few other companies printing homes and structures, but they are printed in a warehouse or they look like Yoda huts.  For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses.”

“Once ICON completes material testing and tweaking of the design, the company will move the Vulcan printer to El Salvador to begin construction. ICON says its 3D-printed houses will create minimal waste and labor costs are significantly reduced. The company also intends to build homes in the US eventually.”

Beyond this?  Why, space of course!  Ballard dreams: “one of the big challenges is how we are going to create habitats in space.  You’re not going to open a two-by-four and open screws.  3D printing is one of the more promising potential habitat technologies.”

From houses to hearts: 3D printing is (and has the potential to continue to) touching the lives of millions worldwide.

3D Printing Industry reports of a medical collaboration between American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) and the University of Wisconsin Madison.

3D printed organs have been used as surgical planning aids for a while now, but this collaboration is slightly different due to its use for preparing surgeons for pediatric heart surgeries.

“The team at AFCH, led by Dr. Petros Anagnostopoulos, has been scanning patients’ hearts using traditional medical scans to create 3D printed models surgeons can interact with before entering the operating room.”

For Dr. Anagnostopoulos, the results speak for themselves: “there’s a lot of ability to see the relationship of the different parts of the heart as they are in real time.  It prepares your whole team better.”  When surgeons are operating upon children, this can only be a good thing.  “One patient, six-year-old Joseph Oehlof, had a heart condition which may have required a transplant.  Dr. Anagnostopoulos was able to prepare for the complex surgery using 3D printed models, which he says improved the surgery’s chances of success.”

As for the team of engineers at the University of Wisconsin Madison who collaborated with these surgeons, their team leader Roldan Alzate “believes the potential of 3D printing in the medical field is only beginning to be realized.”  As he says, “everywhere in the human body would benefit [from] 3D printing.  This is only the beginning.”

3D printing is also shaping the look of our future.

3DPrint was at South by Southwest in Texas last month, and one of the more interesting 3D printed technologies they found there were Bose’s prototype 3D printed augmented reality sunglasses.

As has been the experience and preference for many companies recently, “Bose chose to 3D print its product prototype, rather than use a conventional manufacturing method.  [As many other companies have been discovering], this can save time and money in the product design and development product, even if (as with these AR sunglasses) the technology won’t work for commercial production.”

The Bose AR sunglasses would allow users to listen to music, much as they would when they used headphones.  “This feat was accomplished by building two narrow directional speakers into the end of each stem. The speakers will send the audio directly into the user’s ears without the use of earbuds, and no one else can hear their music unless they actually press themselves up against the sunglasses.”

The Bose AR sunglasses also know where the user is looking, thanks to on-board motion sensors working in partnership with GPS coordinates from a paired smartphone.  “By looking at a specific landmark and double-tapping one of the sunglass stems, you can instantly receive audio information through the speakers. In the future, Bose hopes to partner with content providers and integrate their data, so users will only need to look at something like a restaurant or store to instantly have access to spoken ratings and reviews.”

Indeed, already they have been hard at work on a $50 million venture fund in order to invest “n other companies to get some help in building out its AR sunglasses into a viable platform.  It’s already got some big names signed on, including Yelp, TuneIn, Trip Advisor, ASICS Studio, and Strava.”

As the Bose Developer Portal encourages: “imagine a world where everything you see is more valuable, more emotional, and more meaningful – because of what you hear.  Introducing Bose AR, the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.”

3D printing is helping bring that world into existence.

Lastly, 3D printing is literally going to help us physically get to the future.

Fortune details the announcement of a brand-new 3D printed electric car.  This $10,000 vehicle marks a collaboration between the Italian company X Electrical Vehicle (XEV) and Polymaker, a manufacturer of 3D printing materials.

The 3D printed electric car, LSEV, will be available to consumers in China on a mass-produced scale for under $10,000 by Q2 2019.  XEV “claims the LSEV will be the first mass-produced 3D printed car.”

In fact, “the company says it has already received more than 7,000 orders for the cars from the Italian postal service and from ARVAL, a vehicle-leasing service.”

Perhaps what’s most exciting about XEV’s LSEV is that these “cars reportedly take around [only] three days to manufacture.  Everything visible on the car, except the windows, chassis, and seats, are 3D printed.”

Now, before you get too excited, however, keep in mind that XEV and Polymaker’s LSEV have a top speed of 70km per hour (which is a little under 45 MPH) “and have a range of 150km (just over 90 miles.”

Despite these limitations, though, designers at XEV do foresee a large market for the LSEV in China.  According to the South China Morning Post, XEV designers even claim “China was the biggest market for their cars, and the company is in talks to set up a production line on the mainland.”

The world of the future 3D printing is, well, printing, certainly looks incredibly bright from where we’re sitting.

Image Courtesy of ICON

Quotes Courtesy of ICON, The Verge, 3D Printing Industry, Bose, 3DPrint, Fortune, XEV, and Polymaker

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