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3D Printing in February 2019

This month showcased many breakthroughs and announcements in the world of 3D printing.  Let’s get started in Michigan.

Futurity reports on a stunning new 3D printing process developed by researchers at the University of Michigan.  Apparently, it is 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes.

The limitation of 3D printing techniques utilizing layer-by-layer technology is that it “hasn’t been able to fill the gap on typical production timescales of a week or two.”  As University of Michigan Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Timothy Scott, who co-led the team of researchers explains: “using conventional approaches, that’s not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines.”

Until now, that is…

The team’s new 3D printing method involves solidifying “liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens – and where it stays fluid.  This enables the team to solidify the resin in more sophisticated patterns.  They can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections.  Their printing demonstrations include a lattice, a toy boat, and a block M.”

By avoiding further solidification, “thicker resins – potentially with strengthening powder additives – can produce more durable objects.  The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.”

“The key to success is the chemistry of the resin.  In conventional systems, there is only one reaction.  A photoactivator hardens the resin wherever light shines.  In the new system, there is also a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light.  Rather than merely controlling solidification in a 2D plane, as current vat-printing techniques do, the team can pattern the two kinds of light to harden the resin at essentially any 3D place near the illumination window.”

The team has subsequently filed three patents for this innovative 3D printing process.

Elsewhere, Sky News reports on developments brought about by 3D printing in connection with spinal cord injuries.  Researchers from the University of California, San Diego used 3D printing “to create the scaffolding around which stem cells can be implanted.  [This] helped rats to regain significant motor control in their hind legs.”

These implants “contain dozens of tiny channels, just 200 micrometers wide.”  This miniscule size helps “guide neural stem cells and axon growth along the spinal cord injuries.”  These scaffolds have biocompatible designs, so “the body’s blood vessel system can naturally grow so the nerve fibers are kept alive and fed with nutrients as well as discharge waste.”

These implants can be 3D printed in less than two seconds for each device, according to the team.  They published their results in the scientific journal Nature.  During their research, they were able to “print a spinal cord loaded with neural stem cells.  In the tests on rats, the scaffolds helped the animals regrow tissue and the stem cells nerve fibers inside the scaffolding expanded out into the host spinal cord.”

Trained Doctor and scientist, who directs the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Professor Mark Tuszybski, who co-authored the paper, explains: “we’ve progressively moved closer to the goal of abundant, long-distance regeneration of injured axons in spinal cord injury, which is fundamental to any true restoration of physical function…the new work puts us even closer to the real thing…the 3D scaffolding recapitulates the slender, bundled arrays of axons in the spinal cord.  It helps organize regenerating axons to replicate the anatomy of the pre-injured spinal cord.”

From spinal cords to space:

3D Printing Industry reports on a startling new announcement made by China’s National Space Administration back in mid-January.  Apparently, CNSA has “announced plans to be the first country to establish a base on the moon” using 3D printing to create the housing.

This announcement was made by officials in Beijing at a press conference for the State Council Information Office (SCIO).  This follows on the heels of the “Chinese lunar exploration mission, Chang’e 4, which achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon at the beginning of” 2019.

Deputy Head of CNSA Wu Yanhua, along with announcing “the launch of another lunar exploration (Chang’e 5) at the end of the year,” also added: “we hope to test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.  For example, can we build houses on the moon with lunar soil using 3D printing technology?”  The agency also “has plants to send a probe to Mars in 2020.”

This international moon colonization plan utilizing the wonders of additive manufacturing’s many positive qualities is actually quite fascinating.  Already, the United States and the International Space Station have been utilizing many of 3D printing’s facets – and it would appear China is now enthusiastically jumping on board as well.

Time will tell if a lunar colony will one day be fully 3D printed and functional.

Back here on Earth, Popular Mechanics reports on the extended role 3D printing is taking when it comes to the maintenance of F-22 Stealth Fighter jets.  This work is being done at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

“The U.S. Air Force has printed and installed a new titanium replacement piece for the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter…the piece in question is a fairly minor part – a bracket installed in a kick panel in the aircraft’s cockpit.  Originally made from aluminum, the parts are replaced 80 percent of the time during Raptor maintenance.  This new part is made from titanium powder and uses a laser-based powder bed fusion process.”

The benefits of a titanium piece is it won’t erode as aluminum pieces would.  Aircraft maintenance can be slow and almost impossible to find spare parts for planes no longer in production, like the F-22.  “But 3D printing allows the Air Force to quickly manufacture whatever parts it needs.  The Air Force says if this bracket works out, future orders for the part could be filled in just three days…in addition to the bracket, there are five other parts waiting to go into 3D printing production for the F-22.”

The approval process is rigorous.  As a Lockheed Martin Manager involved in the project describes: “we had to go to engineering, get the prints modified,  we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing – which isn’t that much, which is why we chose a secondary part.”

Hopefully, this process is worth the extra usability 3D printing evidently provides to aircraft like the F-22.

Tune in next month for another round up of 3D printing news!

Quotes Courtesy of Futurity, Sky News, 3D Printing Industry, and Popular Mechanics

Image Courtesy of Futurity

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3D Printing Offers Hope for Those With Spinal Cord Injuries

Sky News reports on developments brought about by 3D printing in connection with spinal cord injuries.  Researchers from the University of California, San Diego used 3D printing “to create the scaffolding around which stem cells can be implanted.  [This] helped rats to regain significant motor control in their hind legs.”

These implants “contain dozens of tiny channels, just 200 micrometers wide.”  This miniscule size helps “guide neural stem cells and axon growth along the spinal cord injuries.”  These scaffolds have biocompatible designs, so “the body’s blood vessel system can naturally grow so the nerve fibers are kept alive and fed with nutrients as well as discharge waste.”

These implants can be 3D printed in less than two seconds for each device, according to the team.  They published their results in the scientific journal Nature.  During their research, they were able to “print a spinal cord loaded with neural stem cells.  In the tests on rats, the scaffolds helped the animals regrow tissue and the stem cells nerve fibers inside the scaffolding expanded out into the host spinal cord.”

Trained Doctor and scientist, who directs the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego School of Medicine, Professor Mark Tuszybski, who co-authored the paper, explains: “we’ve progressively moved closer to the goal of abundant, long-distance regeneration of injured axons in spinal cord injury, which is fundamental to any true restoration of physical function…the new work puts us even closer to the real thing…the 3D scaffolding recapitulates the slender, bundled arrays of axons in the spinal cord.  It helps organize regenerating axons to replicate the anatomy of the pre-injured spinal cord.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Sky News

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MIT Researchers: 3D Printing With Glass

Tech Crunch recently reported on a new paper published in the technical journal 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.  This paper, which was created by MIT researchers Chikara Inamura, Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Peter Houk, and Neri Oxman, details an exciting new process for 3D printing.

This system was designed for 3D printing molten glass.  This glass 3D printing process “offers far more control over the hot material and the final product.”  The team of researchers at MIT dubbed this process G3DP2 – they describe it as “a new AM platform for molten glass combining a digitally integrated three-zone thermal control system with a four-axis motion control system, introducing industrial-scale production capabilities with enhanced production rates and reliability while ensuring product accuracy and repeatability, all previously unattainable for glass.”

The G3DP2 system utilizes a “closed, heated box which holds the melted glass and another thermally controlled box where it prints the object.  A moveable plate drops the object lower and lower as it is being printed and the print head moves above it.  The system is [unique in that] it can be used for decoration or for building.  The researchers take special care to control the glass extrusion system to ensure it cools down and crystallizes without injecting impurities or structural problems.”

As the MIT researchers’ paper concludes: “in the future, combining the advantages of this AM technology with the multitude of unique material properties of glass such as transparency, strength, and chemical stability, we may start to see new archetypes of multifunctional building blocks.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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3D Printed Shoe Collection: Exobiology Inspired by Nature

3D Print was on hand to witness Ica and Kostika’s new 3D printed shoe collection.  Of course, this new shoe collection features a wide variety of shoes “designed to perfectly conform to the shape of each individual wearer’s foot.”  This is the design team who introduced their first 3D printed shoe, the Mycelium shoe, back in 2018.  They have dubbed their new collection the Exobiology Collection.

As designer Ica Paru explains: “this collection is a celebration of the natural systems which create beautiful intricacies and how we can go beyond nature to create a form engineered to our desires, something otherworldly.”

“The Exobiology Collection features designs such as the Seahorse, which is inspired by…the structure of a seahorse.  The shoe’s curving, arching form envelops the foot and tapers into a tail-like heel, and is available in a variety of colors and hand-painted finishes.”

Other shoes featured in the Exobiology Collection include The Spine and The Coral.  As one could imagine, The Spine “resembles a spinal column…the spins curve over the toes to keep the shoes from falling off.  The Spine shoe comes in silver, white, or black chrome.”  As for The Coral, this stupendous shoe resembles silvery coral.  “There are three different versions of The Coral shoe, all featuring delicate branches wrapping around the foot.”

Of course, there is still the Mycelium shoe, “which is now available in three different versions: the original shark fin-shaped wedge; a more traditional heel; and a truly terrifying looking heel-less version, which must have the wearer teetering in midair.”

In order to order these shoes, “the customer downloads an app and takes a series of pictures of their feet, and the company uses those pictures to map the feet and shape the interior of the shoes for a perfect custom fit.  The shoes are then 3D printed and finished using automotive-grade technology.”

As always, Ica and Kostika are producing their shoes “in small production runs and are taking only limited requests to produce the shoes from the Exobiology Collection.  Only five pairs were produced of the original Mycelium shoe.  Prices are available upon request.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print

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HP Expands 3D Printer Portfolio

ET Tech reports HP has just announced plans to expand its 3D printer portfolio with a new line of low-priced color 3D printers.  The new “Jet Fusion 300/500 series of color 3D printers will enable small to medium-sized product development teams, design businesses, universities, and research institutions to access its Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology.”

The first of these 3D printers shown off was the HP Jet Fusion 340/380, which are aimed at customers with “smaller part-size needs or typically print fewer parts per build.”  Along with the HP Jet Fusion 340/380, HP also announced the slightly larger HP Jet Fusion 540/580, which are aimed at customers “with larger part-size needs or heavier production demands.”

“The HP Jet Fusion 540 will be a monochrome variant with a pricing of Rs 1 crore while HP Jet Fusion 580 will be a color variant priced at Rs 1.5 crore.  Both the printers are available for order…and will begin shipping from April 2019.”

As HP Inc. India’s Managing Director Sumeer Chandra explains: “by expanding our portfolio with the Jet Fusion 300/500 series, we are providing users the ability to prototype and produce new designs and applications on the same platform and stay ahead with a future ready technology for voxel control beyond color.”

HP’s Head of 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing for Asia-Pacific & Japan, Rob Mesaros, concluded: “HP is committed to transforming Asia’s $6 trillion manufacturing industry, with its diverse collection of global brands and contract manufacturers.  We are making the most advanced 3D printing technology accessible to the widest possible audience with the industry’s first low-cost full-color 3D platform, which can produce functional parts – no matter your industry or design complexity.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of ET Tech

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3D Printed F-22 Stealth Fighter Part

Popular Mechanics reports on the extended role 3D printing is taking when it comes to the maintenance of F-22 Stealth Fighter jets.  This work is being done at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

“The U.S. Air Force has printed and installed a new titanium replacement piece for the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter…the piece in question is a fairly minor part – a bracket installed in a kick panel in the aircraft’s cockpit.  Originally made from aluminum, the parts are replaced 80 percent of the time during Raptor maintenance.  This new part is made from titanium powder and uses a laser-based powder bed fusion process.”

The benefits of a titanium piece is it won’t erode as aluminum pieces would.  Aircraft maintenance can be slow and almost impossible to find spare parts for planes no longer in production, like the F-22.  “But 3D printing allows the Air Force to quickly manufacture whatever parts it needs.  The Air Force says if this bracket works out, future orders for the part could be filled in just three days…in addition to the bracket, there are five other parts waiting to go into 3D printing production for the F-22.”

The approval process is rigorous.  As a Lockheed Martin Manager involved in the project describes: “we had to go to engineering, get the prints modified,  we had to go through stress testing to make sure the part could withstand the loads it would be experiencing – which isn’t that much, which is why we chose a secondary part.”

Hopefully, this process is worth the extra usability 3D printing evidently provides to aircraft like the F-22.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Popular Mechanics

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Microlight3D Launches Altraspin

Optics reports on a brand new 3D printer release by French-based company Microlight3D.  Known as a “manufacturer of 3D microprinting machines for industrial and scientific applications,” Microlight3D has just recently announced the launch of Altraspin, “a compact 3D printer intended for producing highly complex micro-parts with sub-micron resolution.”

For customers who require high precision and a quality surface finish, Microlight3D’s Altraspin is the 3D printer for them.  The Altraspin is able to aid in the creation of “micro-optics, micro-sensors, and printing shapes capable of fitting inside microfluidic devices.  It is also suited to metamaterials, cell culture, tissue engineering, microbotics, micromechanics, and surface structuration.”

As Microlight3D President Denis Barbier explains: “Microlight3D designed Altraspin to respond to manufacturing demands for more customization and the rapid prototyping of submicron parts not constrained by geometric or organic shape.  We have removed another constraint by extending user choice in the materials available for 3D microprinting.  Altraspin is compatible with a wide range of polymers and biomaterials.  The submicron resolution our technology achieves has been key to our growing success within the scientific community.  We anticipate industrial companies benefiting from the advantages of our 3D printer for micro-parts, reducing time-to-market. ”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Optics

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China to Establish 3D Printed Moon Colony

3D Printing Industry reports on a startling new announcement made by China’s National Space Administration back in mid-January.  Apparently, CNSA has “announced plans to be the first country to establish a base on the moon” using 3D printing to create the housing.

This announcement was made by officials in Beijing at a press conference for the State Council Information Office (SCIO).  This follows on the heels of the “Chinese lunar exploration mission, Chang’e 4, which achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon at the beginning of” 2019.

Deputy Head of CNSA Wu Yanhua, along with announcing “the launch of another lunar exploration (Chang’e 5) at the end of the year,” also added: “we hope to test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.  For example, can we build houses on the moon with lunar soil using 3D printing technology?”  The agency also “has plants to send a probe to Mars in 2020.”

This international moon colonization plan utilizing the wonders of additive manufacturing’s many positive qualities is actually quite fascinating.  Already, the United States and the International Space Station have been utilizing many of 3D printing’s facets – and it would appear China is now enthusiastically jumping on board as well.

Time will tell if a lunar colony will one day be fully 3D printed and functional.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Printing Industry

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FELIXprinters Launches Pro 3 Desktop 3D Printer

3D Printing Industry recently performed a rundown of FELIXprinters’ new Pro 3 Desktop 3D Printer.  FELIXprinters, which is based in the Netherlands, aims for the Pro 3 Desktop 3D Printer to “maximize productivity and efficiency.”

As FELIXprinters’ Founder and Director Guillaume Feliksdal elaborates: “the Pro 3 has been developed to integrate seamlessly into industrial workflows, whether that’s in an office, a workshop, lab, or factory environment.  The priority was to deliver a 3D printer capable of producing optimized print results – every time!  This is what customers tell us is most frustrating for them in their day-to-day operations with 3D printing, and these are the issues we set out to address with the Pro 3.”

This desktop 3D printer focuses on the industrial needs of an evolving industry.  “With a build volume of 237 x 244 x 235mm, the FELIX Pro 3 is built from custom designed anodized aluminum…furthermore, the printer features a dual head printing system within its open system, which enables more design freedom.  The system also claims to be ‘one of the most silent printers available’ emitting 32 decibels of noise.”

As for pricing, FELIXprinters’ new Pro 3 Desktop 3D Printer has a price point of $2,966.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Printing Industry

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Light & Goo: 3D Printing 100 Times Faster

Futurity reports on a stunning new 3D printing process developed by researchers at the University of Michigan.  Apparently, it is 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes.

The limitation of 3D printing techniques utilizing layer-by-layer technology is that it “hasn’t been able to fill the gap on typical production timescales of a week or two.”  As University of Michigan Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Timothy Scott, who co-led the team of researchers explains: “using conventional approaches, that’s not really attainable unless you have hundreds of machines.”

Until now, that is…

The team’s new 3D printing method involves solidifying “liquid resin using two lights to control where the resin hardens – and where it stays fluid.  This enables the team to solidify the resin in more sophisticated patterns.  They can make a 3D bas-relief in a single shot rather than in a series of 1D lines or 2D cross-sections.  Their printing demonstrations include a lattice, a toy boat, and a block M.”

By avoiding further solidification, “thicker resins – potentially with strengthening powder additives – can produce more durable objects.  The method also bests the structural integrity of filament 3D printing, as those objects have weak points at the interfaces between layers.”

“The key to success is the chemistry of the resin.  In conventional systems, there is only one reaction.  A photoactivator hardens the resin wherever light shines.  In the new system, there is also a photoinhibitor, which responds to a different wavelength of light.  Rather than merely controlling solidification in a 2D plane, as current vat-printing techniques do, the team can pattern the two kinds of light to harden the resin at essentially any 3D place near the illumination window.”

The team has subsequently filed three patents for this innovative 3D printing process.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Futurity

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New 3D Printing Energy Harvesting Process

TCT Magazine reports on a breakthrough made by scientists at Virginia Tech University and published in the journal Nature Materials.  Apparently, the researchers have been able to develop a new 3D printing process which will allow energy harvesting utilizing piezoelectric materials.

This 3D printing process involves 3D printing these “piezoelectric materials to be custom-designed to convert movement, impact, and stress from any direction into electrical energy. “  Piezoelectric materials “are made of brittle crystal and ceramic, and are found in a range of devices such as mobile phones and come in only a few defined shapes.”

Due to piezoelectric materials’ inherent brittleness, their potential has been limited.  But now, with this research, it is now “possible to 3D print these materials, unrestricted by shape or size, and this research could also enable intelligent infrastructures and smart materials for tactile sensing, impact monitoring, and energy harvesting.”

The team, led by Assistant Professor Xiaoyu ‘Rayne’ Zheng of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, “have developed a model enabling them to manipulate and design arbitrary piezoelectric constants, which allows the material to generate electric charge movements in response to incoming forces and vibrations via a set of 3D printable topologies.”

As Zheng explains: “you can achieve pretty much any combination of piezoelectric coefficients within a material, and use them as transducers and sensors, which are not only flexible and strong, but also respond to pressure, vibrations, and impacts via electric signals telling the location, magnitude, and direction of the impacts within any location of these materials.”

“The team demonstrated the 3D printed materials at a scale measuring fractions of the diameter of a human hair with sensitivities five times greater than flexible piezoelectric polymers. The stiffness and shape of the material can be tuned and produced as a thin sheet resembling a strip of gauze, or as a stiff block.”

Zheng concludes: “we have a team making them into wearable devices, like rings, insoles, and fitting them into a boxing glove where we will be able to record impact forces and monitor the health of the user.”  The process they developed will “significantly reduce the time and effort needed to develop practical materials.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of TCT Magazine

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Pope’s Personal Bodyguards Wear 3D Printed Helmets

To celebrate their 513th birthday, the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, who are the Pope’s personal bodyguards, have officially begun wearing 3D printed thermoplastic helmets for formal occasions.

According to The BBC, these helmets “are designed to be lighter, cheaper, and cooler to wear” than their predecessors.  “The helmets are nearly identical in appearance to the older version, but bear the coat of arms of Pope Julius II, who founded the unit in 1509.  The Swiss-made helmets are 3D printed from the scan of a 16th-century original.”

“Members of the Guard must be Swiss, Catholic, single, and under the age of 30.  They are also required to complete basic training with the Swiss army.”  They have been serving the pontiff for five centuries.  Currently, the Swiss Guard is comprised of 110 members in total.

As for their new 3D printed helmets, each one “weighs just 570g (1.25lb), compared with their 2kg (4.4lb) metal predecessors.  They cost between $911-1,012, around half the price of the older version.  Supported by private donations, the Vatican has already rolled out 98 of these 3D printed helmets.  22 more are expected for delivery this year.”

As Swiss Guard commander Christoph Graf concludes: “we have to move with the times.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of The BBC

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