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Sunday 21 August 2011

3-D "Printing" Technology Will Blow Your Mind

3-D "Printing" Technology Will Blow Your Mind


3-D printing has been around for a while but most have probably not seen or heard of it. The term "printing" is a misnomer. The results are something more akin to what you might see out of a Star-Trek replicator.

The video will stun you if you have not seen this technology before.

Manufacturing Revolution

3-D "printing" can create artificial limbs for $1,000 that have more features and functionality than $60,000 limbs.

Please consider this New York Times article from last year: 3-D Printing Spurs a Manufacturing Revolution

Businesses in the South Park district of San Francisco generally sell either Web technology or sandwiches and burritos. Bespoke Innovations plans to sell designer body parts.

The company is using advances in a technology known as 3-D printing to create prosthetic limb casings wrapped in embroidered leather, shimmering metal or whatever else someone might want.

Scott Summit, a co-founder of Bespoke, and his partner, an orthopedic surgeon, are set to open a studio this fall where they will sell the limb coverings and experiment with printing entire customized limbs that could cost a tenth of comparable artificial limbs made using traditional methods. And they will be dishwasher-safe, too.

A 3-D printer, which has nothing to do with paper printers, creates an object by stacking one layer of material — typically plastic or metal — on top of another, much the same way a pastry chef makes baklava with sheets of phyllo dough.

A California start-up is even working on building houses. Its printer, which would fit on a tractor-trailer, would use patterns delivered by computer, squirt out layers of special concrete and build entire walls that could be connected to form the basis of a house.

A typical 3-D printer can cost from $10,000 to more than $100,000. Stratasys and 3D Systems are among the industry leaders. And MakerBot Industries sells a hobbyist kit for under $1,000.

As 3-D printing machines have improved and fallen in cost along with the materials used to make products, new businesses have cropped up.

Freedom of Creation, based in Amsterdam, designs and prints exotic furniture and other fixtures for hotels and restaurants. It also makes iPhone cases for Apple, eye cream bottles for L’Oreal and jewelry and handbags for sale on its Web site.

“We used to take two months to build $100,000 models,” said Charles Overy, the founder of LGM. “Well, that type of work is gone because developers aren’t putting up that type of money anymore.”

Now, he said, he is building $2,000 models using an architect’s design and homegrown software for a 3-D printer. He can turn around a model in one night.

Mr. Summit and his partner, Kenneth B. Trauner, the orthopedic surgeon, have built some test models of full legs that have sophisticated features like body symmetry, locking knees and flexing ankles. One artistic design is metal-plated in some areas and leather-wrapped in others.

“It costs $5,000 to $6,000 to print one of these legs, and it has features that aren’t even found in legs that cost $60,000 today,” Mr. Summit said.

“We want the people to have input and pick out their options,” he added. “It’s about going from the Model T to something like a Mini that has 10 million permutations.”


3-D Printers, Your Next Home Accessory

CNNMoney reports 3-D printers will be your next home accessory . Imagine being able to print your own shoes or keys. Some top engineers are betting that home fabrication machines could soon be as common in the household as toaster ovens.

They sound cutting-edge, but 3-D printers have been around for more than 20 years. Until recently, they've been multimillion-dollar machines used mainly by manufacturers like automobile and aerospace companies. Now, the technology has evolved far enough that cheap devices are making 3-D printing accessible to the masses, spurring all types of creativity. Hobbyists are printing their own action figures, doctors have used the systems to print artificial organs, and chefs are testing out ways to print gourmet meals.

Rajeev Kulkarni, vice president of global engineering at 3D Systems, estimates that the cheapest printers five years ago ranged from $25,000 to $50,000. Now, they're available for as little as $1,000.

Georgia Tech research scientist Grant Schindler is already building tools for the wave of home 3-D hobbyists he sees emerging. He recently released an iPhone app that allows users to scan and print models of their faces on home fabrication machines.

He thinks 3-D printers will really take off when average people find the right use for them.

"It's more like 10 years before it comes really common," he said. "And there has to be a killer app -- maybe jewelry is it. There needs to be something that everyone wants, that everyone says 'I need this 3-D printer.'"

Small Business Opportunities for Designers

CNN Money did a follow-up article 3-D printers launch small businesses
They are machines straight out of ''Star Trek'' or ''The Jetsons.''

It's now possible for anyone with an idea to create tangible items -- flowerpots, cell phone cases, jewelry, or nearly anything -- from 3-D printers. All the person has to do is send a design for a product to a 3-D printer and out pops a real 3-D object.

Most 3-D printer owners are big businesses or tinkerers, because the machines are so expensive. But some innovators are using this technology to start new businesses and earn money.

Andreas, an IT guy in Austria who didn't want his last name used for this article, started out as a hobbyist. He customizes Lego ''minifigs'' -- the plastic characters that come with a Lego toy set -- to create historically accurate dioramas, or three-dimensional models.

Lego had stopped making a specific hat that made his Napoleonic figures accurate. With no experience in product design and no access to a factory, he designed a new hat and had it 3-D printed.

The resulting product was so popular among other Lego customizers, he now sells the hats along with hundreds of other items through a service called Shapeways, which manufactures items with its 3-D printers and sells and distributes them through its website.

About 10% of the 2,000 designers selling through Shapeways are making ''decent money'' -- with the most popular bringing in excess of thousands of dollars a month, says CEO Peter Weijmarshausen. He concedes that's not really a lot of money yet, "but I see this year, the more successful designers will make a living at it.''
This is damn cool. It is obviously price deflationary as well. What used to be extremely expensive to model and work through design changes in terms of both price and time, is now easy and inexpensive.

by Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Solar-Powered 3-D Printer Melts Sand Into Glass Objects

Analysis by Nic Halverson


From turning your photos into three dimensional models to creating ultra thin wings for insect robots, 3-D printers have been enjoying their moment in the sun. So much in fact, these printers are now literally harnessing that sunshine.

Markus Kayser, an MA student at the Royal College of Art in London, has created the Solar-Sinter, a 3-D printer that is powered by two photovoltaic panels. It also focuses the sun's rays to heat sand to its melting point so that, as the sand cools into glass, it forms a device for 3-D computer designs.

BLOG: Bikinis made from 3D Printers Fit Every Curve

Many traditional 3-D printers use lasers to melt resin or plastic powders until particles bond to each other in a process known as sintering. Kayser figured out he could use the sun's rays as a laser and silica sand in place of resin or plastic powder to create 3-D glass objects.

In February 2011 Kayser first tested a manually-operated solar-sintering machine in the Moroccan desert. Impressed by the results, he developed a larger, fully-automated computer driven version that he tested for two weeks last May in the Sahara Desert near Siwa, Egypt.

CURIOSITY.COM: What Are Some Ways to Print Without Ink?

That machine is composed of a large Fresnel lens that focuses the sun's rays onto a platform holding silica sand. The photovoltaic panels power a sun tracked that keeps the focal point on target. Once a layer is completed, the platform drops to allow for the sintering of the next layer, as so one, until the object is finished.

The Solar-Sinter is also on show at the 2011 Royal College of Art graduate exhibition currently running until July 3, 2011.

See the Vimeo video for more -  Markus Kayser - Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

Credit: Vimeo screen grab

From Discovery News @  http://news.discovery.com/tech/3-d-printer-melts-sand-into-glass-objects-110630.html

3-D Printer Passes Zero Gravity Test to Make Space Tools

By Samantha Murphy

Made in Space Team During Zero-G Test Flight
Made in Space team members with their 3-D printer hang on during a zero-g test flight.
CREDIT: Made in Space = View full size image

3-D printers that could crank out parts for spacecraft and space stations – from wrenches to screws – all while in orbit is becoming one step closer to reality.

A company called Made in Space has completed a successful testing period of two 3-D printers on multiple NASA flights, with a scaled-down wrench becoming the first-ever tool printed in partial zero gravity.

Printing out parts in space could eventually be transplanted to other worlds such as the moon, where it could help human colonies gain a foothold by printing out robot parts or buildings, piece by piece.

The test printing took place on multiple zero-gravity flights provided by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which offers opportunities for space technologies to be tested in a relevant environment.Two modified off-the-shelf 3-D printers were tested – one provided by their partner 3-D Systems and another custom-made printer designed to manufacture structures in space.

Made in Space Team with 3-D Printer
The Made in Space team poses with their 3-D printer.
CREDIT: Made in Space

“We had a fairly good idea that the technology would work in microgravity, but we wanted to know how well it would work,” said Made in Space CEO Aaron Kemmer. “The tests focused on building parts that could be analyzed postflight and compared to similar parts built on Earth.”

Three-dimensional printers allow items to be built layer by layer, similar to how a conventional printer lays ink on paper. The objects are made with thin layers of "feedstock," which can be metal, plastic or a variety of other materials.

Made in Space believes this technology will eventually enable satellites, spacecraft and other large structures to be built in space one day. 

Now that Made in Space has a proof of concept, the next step is refining the 3-D printer for use in the constant zero-gravity environment of space.

“Future flights will serve as a test bed for more advanced analysis on the printing process in zero-gravity, as well as learning how to control other issues that may arise in space, such as radiation, temperature control and material processes,” Kemmer told TechNewsDaily.

The company said it plans to have a functional 3-D printer in space within three years. 

“Early next year, we will fly the first 3-D printer to space on board a suborbital rocket through NASA's CRuSR program,” Kemmer said. “This test will space-qualify many of the components that we will use on the actual 3-D printer we fly to space.”

Reach TechNewsDaily senior writer Samantha Murphy at smurphy@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @SamMurphy_TMN.

From http://www.space.com/12466-3d-printers-create-tools-space.html

The world's first printed plane

The promise of 3D printing has finally taken off with the development of a drone that takes just a week to create

Under darkening skies on a grass airstrip in the UK's Wiltshire Downs, north of Stonehenge, I am watching half a dozen aeronautical engineers rushing to assemble an uncrewed aircraft before the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are hoping to show how 3D printing will revolutionise the economics of aircraft design – by flying the world's first fully "printed" plane.

Led by Andy Keane and Jim Scanlan of the University of Southampton, the team believes that 3D printing will soon allow uncrewed aircraft known as drones or UAVs to go from the drawing board to flight in a matter of days. No longer, they say, will one design of UAV be repeatedly manufactured on a production line. Instead, designers will be able to fine-tune a UAV for each specific application – whether it be crop spraying, surveillance or infrared photography – and then print a bespoke plane on demand.

3D printing has come on in leaps and bounds since its origins as an expensive prototyping tool over two decades ago. It uses laser-assisted machines to fabricate plastic or metal objects, building up the item layer by layer, each slice just 100 micrometres thick.

To do this, the 3D printer first slices up an object's computerised design into hundreds of easily printable layers. Each layer is then "printed" by training a laser beam on a bed of polyamide plastic, stainless steel or titanium powder – depending on the object being created – tracing out the entire 2D shape required for that layer. The laser's heat fuses the particles together at their boundaries. Once each layer is complete, more powder is scattered over it and the process repeated until a complete artefact is produced.

What the printer spits out is a powdery "cake" from which the desired object can be retrieved simply by pulling it out, like a child yanking a buried toy from a sandpit

To create a stronger object that can withstand higher loads and stresses, an electron beam can be used in place of a laser to melt the powder particles completely. And because 3D printing involves no cutting or grinding of metal, it offers vast design freedom.

This is a huge deal for aircraft designers. Some of the best ideas in aviation history have involved designs which proved too pricey and tough to make. The Supermarine Spitfire, for example, was among the most manoeuvrable fighter aircraft of the second world war because its wings were of an ultra-low-drag elliptical design. But it was a nightmare to produce, requiring complex machinery and production expertise.

"With 3D printing we can go back to pure forms and explore the mathematics of airflow without being forced to put in straight lines to keep costs down," says Keane.

So Keane's team set out to see how quickly they could design a 1.5-metre-wingspan, super-low-drag UAV, print it and get it airborne. A UK-based 3D-printing firm, 3T RPD of Greenham Common, Berkshire, joined the venture, agreeing to print the UAV out of hard nylon.

"We designed in printable hinges that would let the ailerons move," says 3T RPD spokesman Stuart Offer. "And we decided where to split the fuselage so the nose could be snap-jointed to the fuselage easily."

The budget for the Southampton University Laser Sintered Aircraft (Sulsa) was £5000, which imposed a number of design constraints. The aircraft would have no undercarriage to keep complexity and weight down, necessitating the use of a launch catapult – and a belly landing. It would be electric-motor-powered to eliminate the need for starting equipment and heavy fuel. And it would have a V-shaped tail rather than the usual upside-down-T, so that only two parts had to be printed instead of three.

Cost savings here meant that the plane could have Spitfire-style elliptical wings, as well as a strong geodesic airframe – another expensive second world war-era design, this time from the stout Vickers Wellington bomber, which was extraordinarily resistant to anti-aircraft fire.

Back at the airstrip, two wings, a nose cone and a fuselage with a built-in V-shaped tail have been ripped from nylon cakes, dusted down and delivered. Sulsa's airframe designers Jeroen van Schaik and Mario Ferraro, both grad students at the University of Southampton – which launches a UAV masters course in September – are assembling the aircraft after stuffing it with electronics, servos and batteries.

Nearby, Matthew Bennett of autopilot-maker SkyCircuits is discussing with the aircraft's ground-based pilot, Paul Heckles, how to hand manual control to the ARM-microchip-based autopilot once the plane is airborne.

Soon it's flight time. Sulsa twitches like a giant, grounded butterfly flexing its wings as ailerons and rudders are tested. Then the powerful launch catapult is cranked back. As soon as Sulsa clears the rail, Heckles punches the throttle – and the plane takes to the sky.

It is indeed a low-drag beast. All tests are passed with flying colours – including recovery from an intentional stall. On its second flight, Heckles cedes control to the autopilot and a drone is born.

The plane parts took just two days to design and a further five days to print, making Sulsa a one-week plane. But customising future variants of this ready made design would take minutes on automated design software, says Scanlan.

As if on cue, the wind picks up and the heavens finally open. But even the downpour can't dampen Scanlan's spirits. We have witnessed some technomagic today, he says, as Sulsa belly-lands on the grass. "It's very hard to believe this aircraft was just a pile of dust last Friday."

The future of flight? (Image: University of Southampton)
The future of flight? (Image: University of Southampton)

Strength where you need it


The strength of 3D-printed titanium can equal that of the traditionally machined metal, says Dan Johns, who is printing strong, lightweight metal parts for Bloodhound SSC, the rocket car aiming to break the land-speed record in 2013.

To give a part the required strength, engineers can choose a metal – or mixture of metals and plastics – to suit their needs. For instance, an electron-beam-fused titanium/aluminium alloy elongates 10 per cent before snapping, while laser sintered stainless steel elongates 25 per cent.

"There's almost always a way to get the properties your project needs," says Andy Keane at the University of Southampton, UK.

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