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Yesterday, we posted a tech memoir by Steven Ashley about the slow rise of 3D printing — from sci-fi fantasy, to toy, to creator of real tools. Towards the end of the piece, Ashley mentions how GE is starting manufacture aircraft engine parts using 3D printers. Here's the excerpt:
Rows of industrial 3D-printing units in plants will soon be fabricating turbine engine parts—fuel nozzles—from cobalt-chromium alloy powders. Each one of GE’s new LEAP jet engine will contain nineteen of the fuel nozzles, which are up to 25 percent lighter and five-times more durable than traditionally manufactured fuel nozzles. In airplanes cutting weight saves fuel. The LEAP engine has already amassed more than 4,500 orders, so between it and the new GE9X engine, the corporation could end up making as many as 100,000 additive manufactured components by 2020.
In the picture above, you can see one of those fuel nozzles, in all its 3D-printed glory.
Read the rest
When Star Trek debuted in the mid-60s, everybody geeked out about the food synthesizers. Even my mom, a reluctant but compulsory Trek viewer, recognized the utility of this amazing gadget, particularly with two ravenous boys around the house. My brother and I knew, of course, that the real magic food box was the refrigerator.
Years later, I wasn’t the only one craving the replicators of Star Trek:The Next Generation for my home workshop. TNG’s follow-on concept of a ‘universal build-box’ upped the ante way beyond a hot cup of Earl Grey. The list of things we would have made at home was endless: for the kids, replacement baseball bats, balls and window panes, game controllers and handheld electronic devices. I would have gone in for replacement car parts, repairs for broken appliances and furniture, and an endless supply of consumables like gasoline, toilet paper, kitty litter, and inevitably, a couple of cold—strictly non-syntheholic—beers for afterwards. I note in passing that Starfleet protocol prohibits civilians from replicating weapons.
With the recent rise of the Maker movement and the advent of cheaper, easier-to-use 3D-printing technology, the sci-fi concept of a household device that can manufacture functional objects seems to be gaining reality. But for those who witnessed the technology’s birth and growth, it has been a surprisingly long and winding road—one that has recently reached a significant but mostly unnoticed milestone. For me, it all began with Star Trek and the Silver Surfer. Read the rest
Read the rest
Alex sez, "You recently did a blog post of a 3D printed cube with 28 gears which was 3d printed fully assembled -- which I designed. However since this post, the cube has improved greatly, lubricated with a PTFE lubricant; I have also created a motor attachment to allow the geared cube to run autonomously.
Carl Bass, president and CEO of Autodesk, has a very good post on the limits and opportunities of 3D printing. Because 3D printing is constrained by the immutable fact of cubic volume, which means that making things larger costs exponentially more, the major opportunities aren't in printing big stuff. Rather, it's in printing detailed things, complicated things, one-off things -- and in making printers that don't rely on a razor/razorblade business model and charge a fortune for new feedstock to a captive audience.
I think two important areas to watch here are printing electronics — i.e., not just objects but logic and function — and the burgeoning field of bioprinting. The latter represents some of the most exciting work employing 3-D printers. For example, Dr. Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University has pioneered work that includes the successful printing and implantation of human urethras. San Diego-based Organovo prints functional human tissue that can be used for medical research and therapeutic applications. And companies like Craig Venter’s as well as Cambrian Genomics (which I have a small personal investment in) are printing DNA — yes, DNA! — one base pair at a time.
One thing I think he misses is "slow printing" -- 3D printers that use material from the environment (maybe sand blown over a collector for a solar-powered printer on a beach) to print out, over the course of years or decades, very large numbers of small components, or even very large components.
Michael Zoellner sez,
After watching Grant Gee's documentary "Joy Division" I wanted to print the iconic cover of their first album "Unknown Pleasures" in 3D. Unfortunately I could not find a single vector graphic or 3D model anywhere. There are articles about the history of the graphics, Peter Saville's artwork and PSR B1919+21. I even tried to visualize PSR B1919+21's waveforms. But in the end I spend an evening tracing the waves by hand.
The resulting SVG file was extruded and rendered in Processing with Richard Marxer's Geomerative and my RExtrudedMesh extension. OBJ export was accomplished with OBJExport. The model was printed on Makerbot Replicator with white PLA filament. The 3D model and the SVG graphic are published under a Creative Commons license.
Here's a video from last week's Maker Faire showcasing technologies for printing out 3D-ish objects using 2D printers: ModelBox turns a 3D model into a series of 2D images you print on acetate and set into a frame to cheaply and quickly prototype/simulate the 3D object; Zebra Images turns 3D models into holograms; and Lynx Laboratories demos its all-in-one 3D scanner.
Elijah sez, "Recent news has been all about the commercial use of 3D printing - from food to weaponry. But recently, doctors at the University of Michigan used quick thinking and 3D printing technology to save the life of a 2-month-old child with a rare disease."
The scaffold was made of a bioresorbable material, polycaprolactone, so it would dissolve and be absorbed by the body after about three years. At this point, his airways should be fully developed and no longer need the stent.
The doctors used high-resolution X-ray scans of one of Kaiba's healthy windpipes to design a computer model for the life-saving brace.
Laser-equipped 3-D printers crafted the device in a few hours, and the university obtained emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implant it on February 9, 2012 at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
"It was amazing. As soon as the splint was put in, the lungs started going up and down for the first time and we knew he was going to be OK," said Green.
3-D Printing Saves Baby's Life [VIDEO] (Thanks, Elijah Wolfson!)
As the 3D printed gun story unfolds, many (including me) have noted that you can't print ammo. However, you can print shotgun slugs on a 3D printer, but they suck:
Heeszel was surprised at the first two. “I didn’t think it would go through the first piece of wood at all, much less hit anything,” he says. But he also called them more of a novelty than a practical bullet. “I thought the thing was kinda lame, but I realize there’s a lot of novelty with the 3-D printed gun, and I thought it was kind of timely. But overall I think they’re kind of crappy little rounds,” he adds...
“I might be a redneck from Tennessee, but I love the technology,” Griffy says. Griffy, who runs a YouTube account ArtisanTony — where he also shows off a printable knife and buckshot rounds — tells Danger Room he printed the slugs more for their own enjoyment. “Because a real gun shooting plastic bullets is more fun than a plastic gun shooting real bullets,” he says. “You have to spend six hours printing a barrel that you’re going to use one time, and it’s not as much fun. It’s more about the enjoyment and the sport. And if you’re having to labor that much, then the enjoyment goes away.”
Griffy says he printed the slugs with a Solidoodle 3 3-D printer — which retails for $800 — using ABS thermoplastic using dimensions from one of Heeszel’s non-printed slugs. Griffy then created the computer-aided design files, converted them to a stereolithography format, and checked the files for inconsistencies with the 3-D printing software Netfabb. He also designed slugs in three sizes. The largest slug takes about an hour to print. The others take about 30 minutes. He also added a lead ball to each slug to give them more weight. The final step was mailing them to Heeszel, who fitted the slugs into hollowed-out — non-printed — shotgun cartridges.
Watch 3-D Printed Shotgun Slugs Blow Away Their Targets [Robert Beckhusen/Wired]
A mechanical engineer (awesomely) named Anjan Contractor has won a NASA grant to prototype a 3D printer for food -- specifically pizza. It will lay down layers of food and flavor powder and melt them together; the powders are room-temperature stable for long periods and can be made from relatively abundant, sustainable foodstocks like insects and soylent green. He prototyped the concept with the 3D chocolate printer in the video above, and he holds out hope that food-printing could solve world hunger by allowing billions to feast on low-wastage, low-energy-input, low-carbon-footprint foods that are printed to order.
Contractor's printer is RepRap based, and is open source hardware; he promises to keep the plans open and free.
I suspect that there's a lot of nutritional subtleties lost when you turn food into processed elements that are recombined (in the same way that beta-carotene in carrots is reliably shown to have health benefits, while beta-carotene supplements are far more questionable). But as a form of food processing, it certainly is exciting!
Pizza is an obvious candidate for 3D printing because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time. Contractor’s “pizza printer” is still at the conceptual stage, and he will begin building it within two weeks. It works by first “printing” a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, “which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil,” says Contractor.
Finally, the pizza is topped with the delicious-sounding “protein layer,” which could come from any source, including animals, milk or plants.
The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)
3D printing is being condemned in the media because of the potential for printing guns. Engineers at Michigan Tech believe there is far more potential for 3D printers to make our lives better rather than killing one another. To encourage thinking about constructive uses of 3D printing technology Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Lab and Type A Machines is proud to sponsor the first 3-D Printers for Peace Contest.
A fully assembled Type A Machines Series 1 3D Printer goes to first place and a MOST RepRap 3D printer kit will go to the second prize winner who create designs that enable 3D printers to encourage peace. Winning open-source designs will discourage conflict (e.g. designs for appropriate technology in the developing world to reduce scarcity or designs that improve economic development -- see examples and pictures). Designers are encouraged to consider: If Mother Theresa of Ghandi had access to 3D printing what would they print? What kind of designs could help reduce military spending and conflict while making us all safer and more secure?
Michigan Tech has already saved tens of thousands of dollars using 3D printable scientific and engineering equipment and our labs have developed 3D printable tools to test water quality, recycle waste plastic and found that 3D printing consumer goods is better for the environment than shipping conventional goods from China. Jo
Anyone in the United States may enter and there is no cost to enter. Here's the guidelines. Deadline for submitting entries: September 1, 2013
Joe, an engineer from Wisconsin, modified the (now censored) designs for Defense Distributed's 3D printed gun, the Liberator, and printed a working model on a Lulzbot A0-101, a $1,725 consumer printer that is much cheaper and more widely available than the Stratasys Dimension SST printer used by Defense Distributed.
The gun printed by Joe, which he’s nicknamed the “Lulz Liberator,” was printed over 48 hours with just $25 of plastic on a desktop machine affordable to many consumers, and was fired far more times. “People think this takes an $8,000 machine and that it blows up on the first shot. I want to dispel that,” says Joe. “This does work, and I want that to be known.”
Eight of Joe’s test-fires were performed using a single barrel before swapping it out for a new one on the ninth. After all those shots, the weapon’s main components remained intact–even the spiraled rifling inside of the barrel’s bore. “The only reason we stopped firing is because the sun went down,” he says....
...Still, Joe’s cheap homemade gun isn’t without its bugs. Over the course of its test firing, Joe and Guslick say it misfired several times, and some of its screws and its firing pin had to be replaced. After each firing, the ammo cartridges expanded enough that they had to be pounded out with a hammer. “Other than that, it’s pretty much confirming that yes, Defense Distributed is correct that this functions,” says Guslick. “And it’s possible to make one on a much lower cost printer.”
$25 Gun Created With Cheap 3D Printer Fires Nine Shots (Video) [Andy Greenberg/Forbes]
Two minor characters from my novel Makers have apparently come to life and written an article for 3D Printing Industry. These two people are patent lawyers for Finnegan IP law firm, Washington, DC, which I don't recall making up, but this is definitely a pair of Doctorow villains (though, thankfully, I had the good sense not to give them any lines in the book -- they're far too cliched in their anodyne evil for anyone to really believe in).
These patent lawyers are upset because the evil Makers (capital-M and all!) are working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to examine bad 3D printing patents submitted to the US Patent and Trademark Office. The problem is that 3D printing is 30 years old, so nearly all the stuff that people want to patent and lock up and charge rent on for the next 20 years has already been invented, and the pesky Makers are insisting on pointing out this inconvenient fact to the USPTO.
This breaks the established order, which is much to be preferred: the UPSTO should grant all the bullshit patents that companies apply for. The big companies can pay firms like Finnegan to file patents on every trivial, stale, ancient idea and then cross-license them to each other, but use them to block disruptive new entrants to the marketplace. The old system also has the desirable feature of arming patent trolls with the same kind of bullshit patents so that they can sue giant companies and disruptive startups alike, and Finnegan can be there to soak up the tens of millions of dollars in legal fees generated by all this activity.
Can't these darned Makers understand? The point of a patent isn't to protect novel, useful inventions! It's to put the brakes on out-of-control innovation and to ensure that the children of the partners at Finnegan can go to a good college! What will happen to GDP if we divert money from the honest business of barratry and allow it to be squandered on making and selling stuff that people find useful?
The America Invents Act changed U.S. patent law to allow preissuance submissions, a mechanism by which third parties can submit patents or printed publications to the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) for consideration during patent examination, along with “a concise description of the asserted relevance of each submitted document.” The U.S. Congress intended preissuance submissions to help the USPTO increase the efficiency of examination and the quality of issued patents. Congress did not, however, intend the use of this mechanism to interfere with patent examination. Nor did it intend preissuance submissions to allow for third party protest or preissuance opposition. Yet a segment of the 3D printing (3DP) community, known as Makers, is using preissuance submissions as a sword to oppose 3DP-related patent applications. Perhaps more importantly, they are leveraging the concept of crowdsourcing to do so, potentially creating problems for patent applicants everywhere.
To understand why and how Makers are mobilizing to challenge patents through presissuance submissions, one must first understand what 3DP is, and the composition of the 3DP community. 3D printing—more formally known as additive manufacturing—is a technology that creates three dimensional objects from CAD files. There are many legacy and emerging 3DP technologies. Generally, 3DP works by fusing layer upon layer of materials, such as plastics, powder metals, and ceramics, to build a final, fully formed product, much as Athena sprung full-blown from the head of Zeus. This process requires a digital 3D model of the product, stored in a CAD file, and a 3D printer. Digital product models can be obtained by either (1) designing the product with a CAD program; (2) downloading an existing CAD file from the Internet; or (3) scanning an existing product with a 3D scanner to create a CAD file. Further, almost anyone can buy a 3D printer today; they are sold through Skymall and at Staples. Where 3DP was once cost prohibitive for most, ‘prosumer’ and home printers are now available at reasonable prices.
(via Beyond the Beyond)
(Images: Caricature of William Otto Adolph Julius Danckwerts, Caricature of Charles Russell, Leslie Ward/Vanity Fair/Wikimedia Commons)
Alex sez, "My colleague Chris Neary and filmmaker Nathan Fitch made this great short film about 11-year-old inventor Andrew Man-Hudspith, who was so intent on getting a 3D printer he made a PowerPoint presentation to convince his parents to help him get one."
An 11-year-old and his 3D printer (Thanks, Alex!)