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3D Printing: Looking to the Past, Looking to the Future

It’s always exciting to bear witness to the constant development of the 3D printing industry.  To the ways in which it upends older industries and the way in which it changes lives.  But every once in a while, it becomes necessary to become reflective and look back into the early days of 3D printing – to the pioneers who patented several of its various proto-forms.

This is why this month in our feature, we begin at the beginning…

Ozy has written a ‘flashback’ concerning the very early days of 3D printing.

Bill Masters demonstrates an idea, which crossed his mind back in 1976, when he was looking up at the night sky: “what if those stars stuck together like spitballs stuck together?  Then you can build something out of it – but you need a seed point.”

This became a launch pad for Masters, who eventually developed a 3D printing patent in 1984 – “before some of the most celebrated pioneers in what has become a $6 billion industry filed their own 3D printing patents.”

These days, however, Masters is far more well known for his kayak creations, which he sold under his Perception Kayaks brand.  Masters sold his first professionally crafted kayak back in the 70s, and since then Perception Kayaks “rapidly expanded and grabbed ‘the lion’s share’ of the U.S. market in white-water boating in the 1980s.”  In 1998 Masters sold the company for an undisclosed sum.

At the same time, Masters also attempted to commercialize his 3D printing concept.  He launched “a dedicated company to work on its research and development.  He worked with a team to test a process, which successfully used one of his Rotary Club lapel pins as inspiration to produce a small gear made from plastics.  But when investors got involved, Masters says, they went in their own direction and wanted to use a more complicated method that didn’t have enough computing or software power.”

There were other problems too.  As Masters explains, “I got diluted and lost control of the patent.  For eight long years, the company was plagued with ongoing technical problems and a lack of strong management and direction.”  This led, inevitably, to that company closing its doors.

And the rest, they say is history.  Chuck Hull, the founder of 3D Systems, who was dubbed ‘the father of 3D printing’ by The Guardian began making huge inroads in the industry, while S. Scott and Lisa Crump founded Stratasys.  Both these companies now rule the roost when it comes to additive manufacturing.  Other entrepreneurs such as Ross Housholder and Hideo Kodama also filed proto-patents for 3D printing-like technologies.

As Intellectual Property law firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner partner John F. Hornick concludes, however, figuring out just who invented 3D printing is a murky business: “Three-dimensional printing is an umbrella term for several types of additive manufacturing technologies.  Comparing patent-filing dates may be like comparing apples and oranges.”

But of course, the 3D printing industry has moved well beyond the patented techniques of Bill Masters.  For example, this month, 3D printing was utilized in order to replicate a fascinating aspect of the natural world.

3Ders reports on exciting new 3D printed ultra-silent turbine blades developed by a team of researchers at Iowa State University.  Bharat Agrawal, Andrew Bodling, and Anupam Sharma looked to owl wings as inspiration for their blades.

Owls have incredibly quiet wings, due to their nocturnal hunting habits.  Sharma, who is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and a Walter W. Wilson Faculty Fellow lays out the three mechanisms by which owls fly so silently: “fine, comb-like structures on the leading edge of the wing; a pliable and porous fringe on feathers at the trailing edge of the wing; and a downy coat on the bird’s flight feathers.”

In order to investigate further, the team 3D scanned “various owl wing specimens, turning them into digital 3D models that can run through simulation software.  This has allowed them to figure out how those three wing features affect air flow, turbulence, and pressure to produce a virtually silent motion.”

“By 3D printing airfoils with a serrated leading edge – designed to replicate the fine comb-like structures on the owl’s wing – the [researchers] found that noise was reduced significantly when compared with airfoils with a flat leading edge, also reducing the unsteady pressure on the back end of the blade surface.  So even though there’s a big material difference, copying the subtle form of the owl wing has produces a comparable effect.”

As Sharma explains, these 3D printed turbine experiments “could have a big impact on the design of things like wind turbines and aircraft, which could reduce their noise emissions by implementing these owl-inspired features.  The results of this research could have an impact on the design of silent air vehicles with applications in national defense, commerce, and transportation.”

The National Science Foundation is supporting these experiments further with a five-year, $500,000 CAREER grant.  The Iowa Space Grant Consortium has contributed an additional $100,000 boost to the experiments as well.

A bridge to the past.  A bridge to the future.  And now 3D printing is providing a bridge to the present as well.  Literally.

For a while now, we here at Replicator World have been monitoring the conception and development of a stainless-steel 3D printed bridge in the Netherlands’ capital city of Amsterdam.  The company MX3D, who are building that particular bridge, say it is a third of the way done.

However, an entirely different 3D printed bridge elsewhere in the Netherlands has been causing quite a stir.  In fact, The Guardian reports that this bridge, located in the southeastern town of Gemert, has just had its grand opening.

This eight-meter (26 foot) bridge “spans a water-filled ditch” and connects two roads.  It was created by researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology in conjunction with the BAM Infra Construction Company.

Its creators say it was “printed from 800 layers of concrete and is able to withstand the weight of 40 trucks.”  However, this bridge was designed primarily to be used by cyclists.  Work on the bridge “took about three months after starting in June and it is made of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete.”

As the researchers responsible for the project explain, “one of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mold is filled.  A printer deposits the concrete only where it is needed.”

Marinus Schimmel, the head of the BAM Infra Construction Company, concludes: “we are looking to the future.  We are constantly searching for newer, smarter approaches to addressing infrastructure issues and making significant contributions to improving the mobility and sustainability of our society.”

This is what 3D printing has always been about.

Image Courtesy of Ozy

Quotes Courtesy of Ozy, 3Ders, and The Guardian

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First 3D Printed Bridge Opens in the Netherlands

For a while now, we here at Replicator World have been monitoring the conception and development of a stainless-steel 3D printed bridge in the Netherlands’ capital city of Amsterdam.  The company MX3D, who are building that particular bridge, say it is a third of the way done.

However, an entirely different 3D printed bridge elsewhere in the Netherlands has been causing quite a stir.  In fact, The Guardian reports that this bridge, located in the southeastern town of Gemert, has just had its grand opening.

This eight-meter (26 foot) bridge “spans a water-filled ditch” and connects two roads.  It was created by researchers from the Eindhoven University of Technology in conjunction with the BAM Infra Construction Company.

Its creators say it was “printed from 800 layers of concrete and is able to withstand the weight of 40 trucks.”  However, this bridge was designed primarily to be used by cyclists.  Work on the bridge “took about three months after starting in June and it is made of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete.”

As the researchers responsible for the project explain, “one of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mold is filled.  A printer deposits the concrete only where it is needed.”

Marinus Schimmel, the head of the BAM Infra Construction Company, concludes: “we are looking to the future.  We are constantly searching for newer, smarter approaches to addressing infrastructure issues and making significant contributions to improving the mobility and sustainability of our society.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The Guardian

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GE Healthcare Opens 3D Printing Lab in Uppsala, Sweden

Science Business reports on a brand-new 3D printing lab opening in Europe.  GE Healthcare has opened their brand-new Uppsala, Sweden lab location.  This new lab “will use technologies including 3D printing and robotics to speed up the launch of healthcare products.”

This Uppsala, Sweden lab will give GE Healthcare the ability to test and produce 3D printed parts in order for them to be prepared “for final transfer to manufacturing.”  These 3D printed healthcare product parts have the added benefit of having the ability to “combine 20 conventional parts into a single component.”  As a result of this, performance will be greatly improved.

Cutting down the number of components also has the added benefit of streamlining various processes within the biomanufacturing industry.  As the Uppsala lab’s manager of additive engineering Andreas Marcstrom explains, “we are exploring opportunities where additive [manufacturing] can bring cost savings and technical improvements to our supply chain and products.  Simply printing a part doesn’t really deliver that much improvement to a product or process.  You have to re-think the entire design.”  In order to do this, “R&D teams and additive manufacturing engineers have to work together from the start of the development process.”

This lab in Uppsala, Sweden “joins GE Healthcare’s other advanced manufacturing and engineering center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The two will collaborate, sharing knowledge, and working on new design ideas.”

Image Courtesy of GE Healthcare

Quotes Courtesy of Science Business

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Formlabs Releases Dental LT Clear

Business Wire caught wind of a recent press release from Formlabs, “the designer and manufacturer of powerful and accessible 3D printing systems.”  Formlabs has announced the release of Dental LT Clear.

Dental LT Clear are the first orthodontic devices 3D printed long-term as biocompatible resin for orthodontic applications.  “Formlabs also released improvements to its Dental SG Resin, reducing print speeds for surgical guides by up to 50 percent.”

Formlabs Chief Product Officer David Lakatos boasts: “since entering the dental market in 2016, Formlabs has quickly established itself as the premier player in dental 3D printing.”  [EDITOR’S NOTE]: Invisalign might have something to say about that… “[Formlabs] now command the largest dental 3D printer user base, have sold thousands of printers to dental professionals, and are growing at a pace of over 600 percent year on year.  All of this has catalyzed an industry-wide shift to 3D printing and digital dentistry.”

With the release of Dental LT Clear, Formlabs can now “3D print splints and retainers in less than 50 minutes for a single unit.  Full-build platforms, with up to seven splints, can be completed in under two hours.”

The latest PreForm software update also gives Form 2 3D printers the ability to improve their speed when it comes to producing Formlabs’ Dental SG Resin.  “Single surgical guide prints will now be 50 percent faster, while full builds benefit from a 20 percent speed boost.”

Formlabs’ Dental Product Lead Gideon Balloch adds: “we couldn’t be more excited by how quickly 3D printing is becoming part of the standard of care in dentistry.  Over 50,000 surgeries have been performed with a Formlabs printed surgical guide – and that’s just 10 percent of what dental users are doing with our printers.  Dental LT Clear adds yet another digital workflow to a library offering professionals more efficient, accurate, and affordable production methods, enabling faster treatments for patients with better clinical outcomes.  It’s only going to continue to grow.”

Image Courtesy of Formlabs

Quotes Courtesy of Business Wire

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Cubibot Raises More Than $150,000 on Kickstarter in First Hour

Digital Trends reports on Cubibot, a brand-new desktop 3D printer.  Startlingly, in the first hour of Cubibot’s Kickstarter campaign, its developers raised more than $150,000.  At this point, they’ve raised “more than $500,000 from nearly 1,700 backers.”

Cubibot is based in the San Diego Innovation Center.  They plan to sell their new 3D printer for $149 per unit starting in February of 2018.  As Aria Noorazar, Cubibot’s co-founder explains, “we’ve been perfecting Cubibot for over two and a half years to achieve a smarter, safer, and easier-to-use personal product that makes 3D printing accessible to the masses and it does not require 3D printing expertise.  If you can set up and use a regular printer, you can use Cubibot.”

The Cubibot features “a fully automated smart self-leveling build platform, the ability to print in PLAs, ABS, nylon, and other materials, an easily accessible web-based platform, a high-temperature nozzle, and plug-n-print capabilities…The Cubibot prints in resolutions of between 50 and 300 microns, with print speeds of up to 80 millimeters per second.  The machine comes loaded with CubiSoft, the web-based software allowing for an easy out-of-the-box experience.”

Noorazar concludes: “we hope to give people the freedom to create their designs whether they’re already 3D printer pros or if they’re completely new to 3D printing.  We invite the existing 3D printing community and newcomers who would want to support our mission to bring easy-to-use, compact, safe, remote, smart, and affordable 3D printing to the masses.”

Video and Image Courtesy of Cubibot

Quotes Courtesy of Digital Trends

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The Early Days of 3D Printing

Ozy has written a ‘flashback’ concerning the very early days of 3D printing.

Bill Masters demonstrates an idea, which crossed his mind back in 1976, when he was looking up at the night sky: “what if those stars stuck together like spitballs stuck together?  Then you can build something out of it – but you need a seed point.”

This became a launch pad for Masters, who eventually developed a 3D printing patent in 1984 – “before some of the most celebrated pioneers in what has become a $6 billion industry filed their own 3D printing patents.”

These days, however, Masters is far more well known for his kayak creations, which he sold under his Perception Kayaks brand.  Masters sold his first professionally crafted kayak back in the 70s, and since then Perception Kayaks “rapidly expanded and grabbed ‘the lion’s share’ of the U.S. market in white-water boating in the 1980s.”  In 1998 Masters sold the company for an undisclosed sum.

At the same time, Masters also attempted to commercialize his 3D printing concept.  He launched “a dedicated company to work on its research and development.  He worked with a team to test a process, which successfully used one of his Rotary Club lapel pins as inspiration to produce a small gear made from plastics.  But when investors got involved, Masters says, they went in their own direction and wanted to use a more complicated method that didn’t have enough computing or software power.”

There were other problems too.  As Masters explains, “I got diluted and lost control of the patent.  For eight long years, the company was plagued with ongoing technical problems and a lack of strong management and direction.”  This led, inevitably, to that company closing its doors.

And the rest, they say is history.  Chuck Hull, the founder of 3D Systems, who was dubbed ‘the father of 3D printing’ by The Guardian began making huge inroads in the industry, while S. Scott and Lisa Crump founded Stratasys.  Both these companies now rule the roost when it comes to additive manufacturing.  Other entrepreneurs such as Ross Housholder and Hideo Kodama also filed proto-patents for 3D printing-like technologies.

As Intellectual Property law firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner partner John F. Hornick concludes, however, figuring out just who invented 3D printing is a murky business: “Three-dimensional printing is an umbrella term for several types of additive manufacturing technologies.  Comparing patent-filing dates may be like comparing apples and oranges.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Ozy

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Partially 3D Printed EUTELSAT 172B Breaks Electric Orbit Record

3Ders reports on an electric satellite orbit record shattered by EUTELSAT 172B, a partially 3D printed telecommunications satellite.  This satellite, built by Airbus and the European Space Agency for French satellite operator Eutalsat “has reached geostationary orbit, breaking the record for the fastest satellite electric orbit raising.”

This Eutalsat satellite was launched from Kourou in France back in June of 2017.  Beyond its record, this satellite is unique in other ways as well – it boasts “robotic arms and 3D printing techniques” used in its construction.

In fact, Eutelsat’s Chief Technical Officer, Yohann Leroy, explained how additive manufacturing technologies helped to create this technical marvel: “EUTELSAT 172B confirms the relevance of Eutelsat’s early adoption of electric propulsion technology to optimize [capital expenditure.]  In combining electric propulsion, high-throughput capacity, robotic arms, and 3D printing techniques, our new satellite also reflects Europe’s capability to push the envelope of innovation in order to increase the competitiveness of our business.”

Indeed, Eutelsat “is the first company to demonstrate full electric propulsion for satellites this size and capacity, enabling their launch in the most cost-efficient manner.”

The EUTELSAT 172B, which will have a lifespan of 15 years, “is scheduled to enter commercial service in November [of 2017], and its main beneficiaries will be those in the Asia-Pacific region, whose telecommunications, in-flight broadband, and broadcast services could be improved.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3Ders

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AstroPrint Launches Mobile 3D Printing App

3D Print reports on a new announcement from AstroPrint.  AstroPrint, who launched their first Kickstarter campaign back in 2014, “is a cloud-based platform offering wireless 3D printing, slicing, and more.”

“AstroPrint has the goal of simplifying 3D printing through advanced cloud technology, and it’s been highly successful, seeing more than 700,000 hours of 3D printing on the platform.  That, as AstroPrint points out, is about 80 years of 3D printing” in total.

Now AstroPrint is doing even more in order to achieve that lofty goal.  The company announced recently it would be launching a mobile 3D printing app for both iOS and Android platforms.  As AstroPrint CTO Daniel Arroyo explains: “this is the first step in a series of upcoming software releases aimed at simplifying the experience and improving the content distribution for 3D printing.  We are excited to show the industry how the 3D printing workflow (from finding a cool design, to starting a print, to monitoring the progress, and getting notified when the print is complete) can be greatly simplified without needing to deal with downloading files or complicated software.  Plus this can all be done directly from your smartphone while you are at the beach.”

Additionally, AstroPrint’s new app will allow users to 3D print directly from Thingiverse.  The AstroPrint Cloud File Manager will also always be in sync with the new AstroPrint Mobile File Manager.

AstroPrint’s CEO Drew Taylor concludes: “AstroPrint Mobile is not JUST for personal use, as we are currently going through our waiting list and collaborating with 3D printer manufacturers that are interested in releasing their own branded version of a cloud based, 3D printer management app for iOS and Android.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3DPrint

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3D Printer Specifically for Architects

Arch Daily reports on a 3D printer developed specifically with architects in mind.  The Platonics Ark, which was developed in Helsinki, Finland, “has one simple goal: to remove all unnecessary set-up and technical processes by means of intelligent automation and, as a result, almost entirely eliminate the wasted time architects and designers spend calibrating printers, or working up print-ready files.”

The Platonics team claims their Platonics Ark reduces “pre-processing time from hours to minutes.”  Additionally, the printer self-cleans and self-calibrates while utilizing a modular design.  “According to the company, moving from CAD file to 3D printable STL files takes no more than four steps with their software, which plugs directly into Archicad, Revit, Rhino, Vectorworks, and Sketchup…the printer works with wood, terracotta, clay, granite, concrete, copper, and bronze.”  The system also makes use of an easy-to-use web application.

During the production time it took to develop the Platonics Ark, the team at Platonics “claim to have had 1,027 conversations with architects” while creating the printer’s prototypes.  Also, they “conducted an intensive piloting period with the likes of JKMM Architects, Lunden, Serum Architects, Verstas Architects, and Studio Puisto.”

ALA Architects’ Samuli Woolston concludes: “there’s nothing like a physical model to explain a form.  The challenge for us is in the amount of hours our staff spends on maintenance and pre-processing files.”  The Platonics Ark hurdles over that challenge.

The Platonics Ark begins full production in May of 2018.

Image, Quotes, and Video Courtesy of Arch Daily

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Mooz: Modular 3D Printer, CNC Carver, and Laser Engraver

Digital Trends reports on Mooz, which has raised more than $100,000 from nearly 300 backers through its initial Kickstarter campaign.

Mooz isn’t just a 3D printer, however.  It also serves as a modular CNC carver and laser engraver.  “Thanks to the easily constructible design of the Mooz, you can quickly vary the shape of the modular device, allowing you to adjust the speed and resolution capabilities of the printer.  Depending on how Mooz is oriented, you can either go for cost-effectiveness in your printing, precision and stability, or speed and color-mixing.”

The Mooz was “constructed with solid aluminum alloys, an all-metal hot end, and precision acme lead screws.”  It also features easy to use software, which means you can simply drag and drop your designs into the interface.

“If you’re not interested in printing something, but need to leave your mark on an existing piece, you can turn to the machine’s CNC capabilities. With an adjustable depth of zero to five millimeters, you can carve artwork with precision and speed. The Mooz also comes with a laser engraving head.  So whether you’re looking to print a logo or some text, you can use Mooz to engrave wood, corks, or even your food.”

In order to swap between these three functionalities, “simply switch out the 3D printing head for either the CNC carver or the laser engraver.”  The Mooz’s price start at $239.  However, “if you’re interested in purchasing the complete set (with all the various functions), prices begin at $429.”

Image and Video Courtesy of Mooz

Quotes Courtesy of Digital Trends

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3D Printed Owl Wing-Like Ultra-Silent Turbine Blades

3Ders reports on exciting new 3D printed ultra-silent turbine blades developed by a team of researchers at Iowa State University.  Bharat Agrawal, Andrew Bodling, and Anupam Sharma looked to owl wings as inspiration for their blades.

Owls have incredibly quiet wings, due to their nocturnal hunting habits.  Sharma, who is an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering and a Walter W. Wilson Faculty Fellow lays out the three mechanisms by which owls fly so silently: “fine, comb-like structures on the leading edge of the wing; a pliable and porous fringe on feathers at the trailing edge of the wing; and a downy coat on the bird’s flight feathers.”

In order to investigate further, the team 3D scanned “various owl wing specimens, turning them into digital 3D models that can run through simulation software.  This has allowed them to figure out how those three wing features affect air flow, turbulence, and pressure to produce a virtually silent motion.”

“By 3D printing airfoils with a serrated leading edge – designed to replicate the fine comb-like structures on the owl’s wing – the [researchers] found that noise was reduced significantly when compared with airfoils with a flat leading edge, also reducing the unsteady pressure on the back end of the blade surface.  So even though there’s a big material difference, copying the subtle form of the owl wing has produces a comparable effect.”

As Sharma explains, these 3D printed turbine experiments “could have a big impact on the design of things like wind turbines and aircraft, which could reduce their noise emissions by implementing these owl-inspired features.  The results of this research could have an impact on the design of silent air vehicles with applications in national defense, commerce, and transportation.”

The National Science Foundation is supporting these experiments further with a five-year, $500,000 CAREER grant.  The Iowa Space Grant Consortium has contributed an additional $100,000 boost to the experiments as well.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3Ders

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Impossible Objects Raises $6.4M in Investment

TCT Magazine awarded the composite 3D printing company Impossible Objects its Technology Innovation Hardware Award.  Now that company, based in Chicago, “has raised $6.5 million in a Series A investment round led by OCA Ventures and with participation from IDEA Fund Partners, Mason Avenue Investments, Huizenga Capital Management, and Inflection Equity Partners.”

This new boost of capital means that Impossible Objects has raised a total of $9 million in investment “for its composite-based additive manufacturing (CBAM) technology which produces strong, lightweight parts at scale from fibre-reinforced composites, including carbon, Kevlar, and fibre glass fabrics bonded with high performance polymers such as nylon and PEEK.”

Impossible Objects’s Founder and Chairman Robert Swartz explains: “we’ve seen incredible momentum as more corporations are looking to additive manufacturing for production purposes and not just prototypes or low volumes.  These companies need strong parts that can be made fast.  We’re delighted to work with our investment partners to meet this massive opportunity.”

Impossible Objects debuted is Model One 3D Printer at RAPID + TCT and will officially launch it in 2018.  Impossible Objects’s CEO Larry Kaplan is excited for the future of his company: “we’re just scratching the surface of how fast we can build parts and materials at scale.  This funding will only accelerate our ability to develop our technology and roll it out to the biggest companies worldwide.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine

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