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Why The World Needs 3D Printing

We here at Replicator World are always busy exploring the expanding universe of 3D printing.

Whether it is through new applications for the technology, or a new printer entering the scene, we like to keep on top of it all. 

But every once in a while we come across something like this recent USA Today article, which begins with the question “Is 3D printing a bust?”

This question came on the heels of an announcement by the industry giant 3D Systems shaving “its forecast for profit this year, blaming manufacturing problems.  The company also said revenue for the third fiscal quarter would be $169 million or less, well below the $186.4 million expected by analysts…for the quarter, 3D [Systems] says it plans to earn 19 cents a share or less, potentially below the 18 cents a share expected.”

These “manufacturing problems” the USA Today article references concern the production of 3D Systems’ metal 3D printers.  While this is undoubtedly a setback for 3D Systems, this sort of hiccup is expected when attempting to utilize new applications for a technology.   

USA Today admits this much, reporting that “analysts rate 3D System’s stock an ‘Outperform’ and see the shares rising to 57.75 over the next 18 months.  That would be roughly 50% upside.”  Despite the initial struggles of several 3D printing companies to meet demand with increased production capabilities, experts continue to believe that the 3D printing industry will grow.  

But then the article decides to drop this bombshell: “Investors shouldn’t expect a smooth rise from an industry that’s still struggling to ramp up production capabilities and try to convince the world why it needs these products.”

Replicator World doesn’t believe the world needs convincing on whether or not it needs 3D printing.  We believe the world has already convinced itself. 

However, for those who are still unaware, like the USA Today, let us enlighten you why the world needs 3D printing. 

It is true that 3D Systems is struggling (somewhat) when it comes to ramping up its production capabilities for metal 3D printers.  But while 3D Systems is momentarily struggling, another tech giant is angling to take its place in the 3D printing arena. 

Enter HP.

According to CNET, “Hewlett-Packard made its long-awaited move into 3D printing…revealing the Multi Jet Fusion technology that will power new 3D commercial and manufacturing printers.”

This new 3D printing process involves “building an entire surface area, instead of one point at a time, substantially speeding up 3D imaging….[HP] claims that the new technology is 10 times faster than that in existing 3D printers, is more affordable, and prints stronger products than current offerings in the market.”

On top of Multi Jet Fusion technology, HP also announced “the new Sprout, a desktop computer that works as a dual-screen creative console, with its own projector and a 3D capable scanner.”

“Beyond the current use of thermoplastics HP [also] plans to develop new 3D printing materials using color, ceramic, and metal.  The company eventually wants to offer the same set of colors it already does for traditional printing.  Multi Jet Fusion currently prints in fused nylon, to an accuracy of 20 microns.”

If 3D printing were a bust, a giant of the tech industry like HP wouldn’t even mention its existence, let alone invest in the development of its technology. 

To be fair, HP’s involvement will focus on the more industrial side of 3D printing, and even then their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers won’t “become generally available until 2016.”

So perhaps HP’s announcement, in and of itself, won’t convince everyone that 3D printing will soon become an integral part of their lives.  But we believe these news items about the 3D printing industry, just from the last month, will.

Indeed, the Telegraph is already reporting that the 3D printing industry will be worth $4.8 billion in 2018, and that’s a conservative estimate.  (For context, in 2013, the 3D printing industry was worth $1.15 billion.)

Take, for instance, another recent CNET article, which chronicled the efforts of doctors at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian to save the life of a baby with a congenital heart defect. 

With the help of Materialise’s Cardiovascular Business Development Manager and Mimics Innovation software, the team was able to create a 3D model of the heart, which allowed them to practice a surgery on it, before operating on the baby.

 As Dr. Emile Bacha, a congenital heart surgeon and Director of Congenital and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery explains, “The baby’s heart had holes, which are not uncommon with CHD (Congenital Heart Defects), but the heart chambers were also in an unusual formation, rather like a maze.  In the past, we had to stop the heart and look inside to decide what to do.  With this technique [using a 3D printed model], it was like we had a road map to guide us…. After the success of this surgery, it’s hard to imagine entering an operating room for another complex case without the aid of a 3D printed model.  It’s definitely going to be standard of care in the future and we’re happy to be leading the way.”

For those still not convinced, the Graphene 3D Lab in Calverton, New York, has just recently created the first 3D printed Graphene Battery.  Forbes wrote that this heralds “an era when consumers will be able to produce their own homemade power sources.”

These 3D printed Graphene batteries “can already produce the same amount of power as a common AA battery…Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice.  It is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity 30 times faster than silicon, making it perfect for producing batteries, computer chips, and tough composites for use in the construction of everything from body armor to cars.”

Graphene batteries have been known to provide power for 25% longer than lithium-ion batteries.  The advantage of a 3D printed Graphene battery, explains the Graphene 3D Lab team, lies in its flexibility.  “The Graphene batteries can be produced using nothing but a 3D printer and a mixture of plastics and Graphene in a nano platelet form, which looks like black powder.  This mixture comes as filaments which need to be heated before being formed into any shape or size.”

Heart surgery.  Graphene Batteries.  Is the world still not convinced of 3D printing’s many uses?

How about mud homes for the impoverished?

Or even the houses we could one day 3D print on Mars?

And don’t forget these new 3D printed Braille maps so people with visual impairments can navigate their way around Japan.

Speaking of Japan – perhaps the most startling revelation in the universe of 3D printing Replicator World discovered this month is the work of computer scientist Yuichiro Takeuchi, who, according to Business Insider,”works with the Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.,”

Takeuchi wanted to transform the rooftops of his hometown Tokyo into high-rise gardens in order to create a greener environment.  Therefore, he created a 3D printing process, which includes “software that he designed to print yarn encasements that hold plant seeds that grow into full-fledged plants in just a few weeks.  His 3D printing technology can print gardens that conform to any shape you choose, be it triangular, rectangular, or even panda-shaped.  This method hinges on hydroponics where you grow plants with mineral nutrient material in place of soil.”

Creations like this can often be highly expensive and time-consuming, however, which are the two biggest factors “hindering large-scale adoption and preventing greener cities.”

As Takeuchi explains, however, 3D printing could be the answer: “The printing solution takes away much of those hurdles, and also provides a high degree of flexibility (one can print out a garden that fits snugly into any designated space), which hopefully will make hydroponic gardening more attractive for citizens living in dense cities with limited space.”

The world needs this kind of flexibility and innovation.  And 3D printing allows humanity to tackle these issues.  And people don’t need convincing, because it’s already begun to happen.  3D printing is already becoming integral to people’s lives, from New York to Tokyo. 

If 3D printing were, in fact, a ‘bust’, people would stop asking that question, because they would know.  The fact that people continue to ask this question, day after day, month after month, year after year, proves that 3D printing is not going away. 

The world is already convinced that it needs 3D printing.

Photo Courtesy of CNET

Quotes Courtesy of CNET, USA TODAY, Forbes, The Telegraph, and Business Insider

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3D Printed Converse Sneaker Sculpture

Over at BotInno, there is a fascinating slideshow depicting the development of a 3D printed work of art. 

Modla, (a UK based 3D printing design and consulting company), in conjunction with artist Damilola Odusote teamed up to create “a 3D printed structure based [on] the conceptual inspiration behind the Nike Air Force 1.”  Not long after that project wrapped up, Modla and Odusote were commissioned “by Converse to give their Chuck Taylor sneaker the same treatment.”

Modla and Odusote researched the history of the Chuck Taylor All Star and learned that “WWII fighter jet pilots, rock and roll, and basketball” served as its inspiration.

“With those influences in mind, Odusote crafted a 2D sketch, which [Modla] then turned into a 3D sculpture printed with SLS nylon plastic.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of BotInno

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Hanging Gardens of 3D Printing

Considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have forever been lost to time.

Now, however, computer scientist Yuichiro Takeuchi, “who works with the Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.,” has developed a 3D printing process which might very well bring hanging gardens back into style. 

According to Business Insider, Takeuchi wanted to transform the rooftops of Tokyo into high-rise gardens for two reasons: to create a greener environment and also to attract fireflies. 

As he explained: “here in Japan we love fireflies (they have a special cultural significance)[they represent the spirits of the recently departed], but as they can only thrive in pristine environments we don’t see them in dense, built-up Tokyo.  I’m hoping that by installing a number of printed gardens on rooftops and walls throughout Tokyo I can someday bring back fireflies to my neighborhood.”

The process Takeuchi developed involves your standard 3D printer, but also “software that he designed to print yarn encasements that hold plant seeds that grow in to full-fledged plants in just a few weeks.  His 3D printing technology can print gardens that conform to any shape you choose, be it triangular, rectangular, or even panda-shaped.”

This method “hinges on…hydroponics where you grow plants with mineral nutrient material in place of soil.”  Creations like this can often be highly expensive and time-consuming, however, which are the two biggest factors “hindering large-scale adoption and preventing greener cities.”

As Takeuchi explains, however, 3D printing could be the answer: “The printing solution takes away much of those hurdles, and also provides a high degree of flexibility (one can print out a garden that fits snugly into any designated space) which hopefully will make hydroponic gardening more attractive for citizens living in dense cities with limited space.”

For now, “Takeuchi can grow relatively small plants, like watercress and herbs such as arugula and basil.  In the future, Takeuchi wants to print yarn encasements large enough to grow fruits, vegetables, and trees.  His current 3D printer is too slow for that large a scale, but he’s spending the next year on building a bigger, faster printer.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Business Insider

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Best Buy Launches Intel Experience Zones

The Star Tribune reports Best Buy and Intel are teaming up.

Best Buy Co. Inc. and Intel Corp want “to showcase concepts such as augmented reality and 3D printing that are not yet in the mass market.”

Jeff Haydock, a Best Buy spokesman, explained, “The normal consumer can’t get to the Consumer Electronics Show to see the latest cutting-edge technology.  This gives you a sense of what is possible with this kind of technology.”

The Intel Technology Experience zones will be placed into 50 Best Buy locations.  These zones will allow customers to design “3D robots on a touch-enabled, Intel-powered laptop and then see them come to life on a 3D printer…Best Buy will add the printer by 3D Systems used in the experience to its online store…joining a handful of other 3D printers it already sells online.”

“The Intel Technology Experience zones will be staffed by Best Buy employees and will be refreshed every season with new technology.”

Logo Courtesy of Best Buy Co. Inc.

Quotes Courtesy of The Star Tribune 

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3D Printing Helps Save Baby’s Life

CNET reports that with the help of 3D printing, doctors at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian were able to save the life of a baby boy. 

The baby was “born in July with a congenital heart defect…[which] was unusually complicated.  Both the aorta and pulmonary arteries rose from the right ventricle, and there was a large hole in his heart – and a CT scan was not sufficient to help the doctors figure out a surgical plan, since the baby’s heart was about the size of a walnut.”

Therefore, the doctors “ordered a model heart from Cardiovascular Business Development Manager Todd Pietila at Materialise.  Using Materialise’s Mimics Innovation software, Pietila created a 3D model of the heart, which captured the heart’s structure and defects in accurate detail.”

This model was made out of a flexible material “that could be cut into and manipulated.”  This allowed the team “to make a plan to repair all of the heart’s defects in just a single surgery, instead of three or four.”

As Dr. Emile Bacha, a congenital heart surgeon and Director of Congenital and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery explains, “The baby’s heart had holes, which are not uncommon with CHD (Congenital Heart Defects), but the heart chambers were also in an unusual formation, rather like a maze.  In the past, we had to stop the heart and look inside to decide what to do.  With this technique [using a 3D printed model], it was like we had a road map to guide us…. After the success of this surgery, it’s hard to imagine entering an operating room for another complex case without the aid of a 3D printed model.  It’s definitely going to be standard of care in the future and we’re happy to be leading the way.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of CNET

 

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Mcor Expands Education Packages

3D Print.com mentions Mcor’s expansion of their educational packages to schools. 

The Ireland-based 3D printing company, known for their paper-based printers, are offering schools in the US who purchase Mcor IRIS 3D printer education packages by December 15th, 2014 “three years of unlimited free consumables for their Mcor paper-based 3D printers.”

Mcor’s goal is “to take the complexities out of 3D printing so that it becomes accessible for all.”   As Dr. Conor MacCormack, co-founder and CEO of Mcor Technologies explained, “to be effective in education, 3D printing must be accessible to all students.  Yet, the high cost of 3D printer consumables can severely limit students’ access to 3D printing technology and be prohibitively expensive for schools.  This offer enables students much wider access to our breakthrough full color, professional, paper-based 3D printers.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Print.com   

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Japan 3D Prints Maps for the Visually Impaired

According to Damn Geeky, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI), a department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, has developed software to assist the visually impaired. 

Using this software, individuals now have the ability to use data downloaded from the Internet in order to 3D print topographical and geographical maps.  These maps have raised edges to denote “geographical landmarks, highways, and railway lines” that can be easily detected by fingers. 

“The team also wants to incorporate topographical features like hills…in case” the visually impaired were forced to use these maps in emergency situations such as earthquakes or Tsunamis. 

Initially, these maps will be used solely for Japan’s geographical data, but of course their potential is global.  “The 3D printed map for urban areas is going to be on a scale of 1:2,500 and 1:25,000 for other areas.” 

The maps are printed on “resin sheets and measure 15 X 15 cm in total.  According to GSI the 3D printed maps will cost just 150 Yen (approximately $1.50) for one unit.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Damn Geeky

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3D Systems Slashes Revenue Forecast, Shares Fall

CNBC reported earlier this month that 3D Systems was forced to lower its full-year revenue forecast due to issues with manufacturing constraints on 3D metal printers. 

3D Systems “cut its full-year revenue forecast to $650 million – $690 million from $700 million – $740 million.“  Experts predicted revenue of $707.5 million.

As a result, 3D Systems shares “fell as much as 16.6%.”  The company “has been investing heavily in increasing capacity at metal printer maker Phenix Systems, which it acquired in July last year.”

However, 3D Systems was unable to “fully capitalize on the robust demand for [their] direct metal and consumer products during the quarter.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of CNBC 

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3D Printed Bomb-Sniffing Dog Noses

BetaBeat reports that the US government “has been 3D printing mechanically engineered dog noses that replicate the sniffing patterns of bomb-sniffing dogs.”

These 3D printed dog nose replicas were modeled from female Labrador retrievers, “an historically favored breed of police dog.”

The project roped in the services of Stratasys Connex 350 and 500 3D printers.  These two machines combined cost $228,977.  However, they were necessary to the project, as these “heavy duty printers…use dozens of different materials at once to create the many textures needed in replicating dog noses.”

The goal of the project was “to generate a host of scientific research that the private sector can use to develop vapor-sensing devices.”

Or so they claim. 

Photo Courtesy of Gizmag

Quotes Courtesy of BetaBeat 

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Japanese 3D Printed Gun Maker Sentenced

Recently, Replicator World reported on a story from Japan. 

Yoshitomo Imura, 28, a former employee at the Shonan Institute of Technology, was arrested “in May after posting videos and blueprints of his 3D printed weapons online.  Police reportedly seized five plastic weapons from his home.”

Now, according to The Verge, Imura has been sentenced to two years in prison for violating Japan’s national weapons laws.  “A video uploaded to file-sharing websites almost a year ago, allegedly created by Imura, shows the creation and firing of a 3D printed ‘Zig Zag’ revolver capable of firing six .38 caliber bullets.”

The judge in the case is quoted as saying that Imura “flaunted his skills and knowledge and attempted to make gun controls toothless.”

“[Imura] appears to be the first person in world history to receive a jail sentence for making 3D printed firearms.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of The Verge

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World’s First 3D Printed Graphene Battery

Forbes reports that a team from Graphene 3D Lab in Calverton, New York, has 3D printed a Graphene Battery, “heralding an era when consumers will be able to produce their own homemade power sources.”

These batteries “can already produce the same amount of power as a common AA battery.”  “Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice.  It is 200 times stronger than steel and conducts electricity 30 times faster than silicon, making it perfect for producing batteries, computer chips, and tough composites for use in the construction of everything from body armor to cars.”

Graphene batteries have been known to provide power for 25% longer than lithium-ion batteries.  The team at Graphene 3D Lab explained that the advantage of a 3D printed Graphene battery, however, is its flexibility.  “The graphene batteries can be produced using nothing but a 3D printer and a mixture of plastics and graphene in a nano platelet form, which looks like a black powder.  This mixture comes as filaments which need to be heated before being formed into any shape or size.”

“Graphene 3D Lab will begin selling the material to make 3D batteries later this year and in the long term, the company expects to produce a bespoke printer which will allow the speedy ‘one touch’ production of batteries.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Forbes

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WASP: 3D Printed Mud Houses

Replicator World has already reported on 3D printed houses, even ones that could possibly be used in space exploration, but Italian company WASP plans on 3D printing houses in a slightly different way. 

According to Inside 3DP, WASP founder Massimo Moretti was inspired when he “watched a particular type of wasp, a mud dauber, build its nest by depositing and shaping wet mud.  Moretti wondered why he couldn’t use nature to build affordable houses in the same manner.”

And thus WASP was born.  Not only is it an appropriate name, considering Moretti’s initial inspiration, WASP is also an acronym, standing for ‘World’s Advanced Saving Project’, “dedicated to providing affordable housing to impoverished people worldwide, using inventive technology.”

The printers in the project will “use organic materials such as mud and natural fibers that are readily available and turns them into dwellings that can be easily transported to wherever is needed.”

Inside 3DP explains that by 3D printing the houses in blocks, “there is a much larger surface area, which means that they dry more quickly than traditional thicker bricks. “

“As the 3D bricks are triangular shaped, this also means that they are stronger and can hold more weight than a traditional rectangular brick, whilst also using less material.  Using this shape of brick creates a large interior space compared to traditional bricks, meaning homes can be built that are ten feet tall.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about all this is that you don’t need a specialist printer.”

WASP plans to begin constructing their first 3D printed mud dwelling early next year in Sardinia, “the Italian island just off the coast.”  The WASP team wishes to keep their first project close to home in case any problems arise during the build.  “After that, they are likely to move on to more remote areas.”

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Inside 3DP

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