Tags: 3d printing*

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  1. When we launched the first-generation Gigabot for big dreamers back in 2013, our big dream was to ultimately create a 3D printer that could print using plastic trash. Over the last five years we've kept our sights trained on this dream. We've determined that the first step in this direction is to focus on direct pellet extrusion -- melting small chunks of plastic instead of extruded filament for the input material.

    Aside from being a big step in the direction of 3D printing directly from recyclables, there are some major benefits that come from printing with pellets. It eliminates the need for extruded plastic filament, which tends to be about 10x more expensive than pelletized plastic. Direct pellet extrusion also allows for faster printing -- we're currently experimenting with print times up to 17x faster than the filament-fed Gigabot.

    And while pellet printers are currently commercially available, they typically are used in larger manufacturing systems and are cost-prohibitive to many potential users. Our goal, much like with the first-generation Gigabot, is to increase 3D printer accessibility and bridge the gap between cost and scale by creating an affordable, large-scale pellet printer.

    Using the $225,000+ we won last year in global pitch competitions, our engineers in Houston have created Gigabot X: a prototype 3D printer to directly accept pelletized plastic, including recycled pellets.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-03-10)
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  2. The reduction of size and number of parts wasn’t the only benefit that Optisys saw by 3D printing the antenna array. Conventional methods of manufacturing antennas such as the Monopulse Array can take eight months of development time on average, plus three to six more of build time. By using 3D printing, Optisys was able to reduce lead time to two months. In addition, production costs were reduced by 20-25% and non-recurring costs were reduced by 75%. Weight savings added up to 95%.

    “Our unique offering is that we redesign everything from an additive manufacturing perspective,” says Optisys COO Robert Smith, M.E. “We take into account the entire system functionality, combine many parts into one, and reduce both development and manufacturing lead times to just a few weeks. The result is radically improved size and weight at lower costs.

    In addition to what our test-piece project revealed, 3D printing offers a number of other advantages. When we design multiple antenna components into a single part, we reduce the overall insertion loss of the combined parts. And because our antennas are so much smaller this also lowers insertion loss dramatically despite the higher surface roughness of AM build, for similar or even better RF performance than conventional assemblies.”
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-19)
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  3. The goal is to modify and adapt one of the Magic Candy Factory’s existing 3D printers so it can produce personalized medicines, mainly geared toward children, but with the ability to print precise doses, a combination of multiple drugs, and different formulations, like capsules and chewables.

    “A major limitation of medicines today is that they are only manufactured in a limited number of strengths,” the campaign page reads. “But, what if we need a dose that is not available on the market? This is of special importance to children and the elderly. The tablets and capsules we take every day are not designed with children in mind, often making administration difficult.”

    Incorrect doses, terrible taste, and being difficult to swallow are only a few of the issues doctors, and parents, face when trying to give children safe and effective medicine. The campaign quotes UNICEF when it says that 10 million kids under the age of five will die this year, and that 67% of that massive number could be saved by specific pediatric products, like better medicine.
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  4. Another fear they may have is that of an unfinished model. Sometimes vendors decide to display publicly a demonstrator, prototype or beta version of some equipment. The idea is that they may somehow change the appearance or features of the actual production version later, and don’t want to mislead anyone. However, responsible publications - and readers - would publish and recognize that unofficial equipment is just that: subject to change.

    I don’t feel these reasons are legitimate. If a company decides to publicly exhibit a device, it should be fair game for photography. If people viewing in person can see it, then it is known by the public. If a device is exhibited, isn’t the point that it is to be seen? And publications such as this one can vastly amplify the number of people “seeing” a device.

    If there are legitimate concerns about a key portion of a device, perhaps it should not be shown, or even covered up or obscured in some way. But often this is not the case in such situations.
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  5. 3D printing is a rising threat for world trade. According to a new ING report, world trade will be 23% lower in 2060 if the growth of investments in 3D printers continues at the current pace. If investments accelerate domestically printed goods could already wipe out 40% of world imports in 2040.
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  6. 3D Hubs seems to have developed a new strategy for distributed 3D printing.

    3D Hubs, if you are not familiar with them, maintain a worldwide network of participating 3D printers, each independently run by separate companies or individuals. Their network is extensive, now offering local 3D print services in more than 150 countries.

    But 3D Hubs faces steep competition from a number of other 3D print services, each attempting to innovate beneficial features for their clients, who could also be 3D Hubs clients.

    That innovation push has 3D Hubs experimenting with a new concept for them: hybrid distributed products. The first venture in this concept involves a pair of headphones.

    3D Hubs partnered with Eindhoven-based Print+, a Dutch startup focused on eco-friendly consumer designs - and specifically headphones.
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  7. Could a ledger of that type be useful for 3D printing?

    I certainly think so.

    Imagine a 3D printed part that is used in an application, perhaps inside a machine or vehicle. This part could have an indestructible secure digital ledger associated with it for the lifetime of that part.

    What might you put in this super-ledger? Some ideas:

    The credentials of the designer
    The credentials of the maker
    The type of machine, and perhaps the specific machine on which it was made
    The list of materials used
    The specific batches and sources of materials used
    The date of production
    The date of usage
    The current owner of the part
    The past owners of the part
    The amount of usage withstood by the part to date
    The maximum stress, temperature or other factors incurred by the part to date
    The replacement date of the part (it’s useful lifetime)
    The status of the part; is it leased? Owned?
    How to find a replacement for this part

    And so on. You get the idea.

    For casual prototype parts, this may be of less interest, but
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  8. In a paper published in the journal Nature, researchers have developed a way to use DNA itself as a kind of microscopic 3D printer.

    Here we can see the workflow they’ve prepared, and as you can see it is similar to that used by today’s normal-scale 3D printing. It begins with CAD design of a shape. From there the system analyzes the shape and develops DNA sequences that, when exposed to the proper chemicals, will produce the desired shape.

    It sounds quite incredible, yet here we see an image of the process at work. Microscopic objects are indeed produced.

    Incredibly, the workflow to achieve this is mostly automated. It’s almost like having a microscopic 3D printer.

    At this point this technology is only an academic proof-of-concept, but there seems to be much potential here. Were this able to scale to larger sized (but still microscopic) objects, we could see complex objects being produced. If an ability for assembly were added, we could see multiple parts joined together to form very small machines, machines that could literally be designed in CAD and “printed” by DNA.
    Tags: by M. Fioretti (2017-05-07)
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  9. From the first day inexpensive desktop 3D printers became accessible to the public, the thought of not having to buy a plastic knob for USD$59 for your dishwasher or having to replace your window blinds because a small plastic connector broke has been enticing.

    In fact, some people are able to do this. However, there are two barriers to success: access to the 3D model and printing capability.

    For the 3D model, this is perhaps the most difficult stage. You cannot 3D print something unless you have a valid and correct 3D model for your application. If you need to replace a dishwasher knob, you have two options: find the 3D model from the manufacturer or design one yourself.

    Will the manufacturer provide the 3D design file? This is highly unlikely, as they can produce replacement knobs for almost zero cost: they need only run their (or their supplier’s) manufacturing system a bit longer and provide cheap plastic to produce container ship-fulls of the colorful knobs. These they can sell to you at a very inflated price. It’s likely they can produce a knob for as low as a few cents, but charge you dozens of dollars for it. A huge profit margin they are most likely not giving away by releasing 3D models.

    This leaves you facing the other option: designing a replacement 3D model yourself. Right off the hop, that disqualifies almost the entire population of the planet, as very few people have 3D design skills, and most are inclined to never gain any.

    But for those that do have skills, they are facing the prospect of measuring, creating, re-measuring and iterating through at least several prints before obtaining something that works.

    The time required to do this might not be worth your time. Consider this: if it takes you two or three hours to develop a functional replacement knob, and your 3D skills could pay, say, USD$75 per hour for contract work, your “free” knob just cost you more than USD$150. That’s higher than the “perfect” one from the manufacturer.

    However, if you persist and attempt 3D printing a reasonable 3D model, you’ll have some challenges.

    First, the resolution on desktop 3D printers is likely far worse than the resolution on the original part. Your replacement certainly will not look as good, but in some shapes, the resolution may be important functionally, too.

    Consider parts that must fit together; the tolerances for workable snap fit parts could be tight in some situations. This suggests you might find yourself 3D printing a number of different attempts before getting it right.

    Worse, your desktop 3D printer may not produce accurate parts. If you want a 22mm width part, it may actually be 22.85mm when you print it, or a similar “miss” in dimensions.

    If your part has holes, that’s another problem. 3D printed holes are notorious for ending up with an incorrect diameter. You will probably end up drilling them out to obtain the correct size.

    Durability is another concern. Home-use parts that have broken in normal use are, by definition, undergoing mechanical stress. It is highly doubtful that any part 3D printed on a desktop 3D printer would be as strong as an original mass manufactured part.

    Therefore your replacement part is MORE likely to break than the original, which has already broken. Your part will break, too.

    The good news is that you can simply 3D print another one.

    Unless your 3D printer is broken.
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  10. Around the world, police are discovering a disturbing new trend towards an increase in the use of novel 3D printed firearms.

    This week a US court sentenced a man to three and a half years prison for creating and selling 3D printed parts for AR-15 rifles.

    Specifically, he had been using a CNC machine to in order to build the ‘lower receiver’ of an AR-15, a critical component whose sale would normally require a government license.

    Advertising himself as Dr Death on gun forums, he had built many such lower receivers free from government-mandated serial numbers.

    He was eventually caught however in an undercover operation, and in court, the sentencing judge declared that it was a “brazen attempt to circumvent the law”.

    Elsewhere in the world, 3D printed guns are being illegally manufactured in countries with strict existing controls on firearms.

    In December last year in Melbourne, Australia, local police raided a house containing a number of 3D printed firearms, as well as a printer which had allegedly been used to fabricate the seized weapons.

    The weapons bust, which was the first in the state, followed a similar raid on a house containing an illicit “weapons factory” in the northern state of Queensland earlier that month. This raid uncovered a 3D printer among other machinery used to make guns.
    3D printed guns enter the mainstream

    Currently, 3D printed guns are very rudimentary. The most popular designs, such as the ‘Liberator’ handgun, are made from thermoplastic and can only safely fire a few shots before they destroy themselves.

    Nonetheless, 3D printed plastic guns pose a threat as they cannot be easily detected by metal detectors.

    In 2016, for the first time ever, TSA agents at an airport in the US confiscated a 3D printed ‘replica’ gun, as well as a number of real .22 bullets.

    The real problems with 3D printed guns, however, will begin when devices working with metal begin to reduce in price. Right now a device which can 3D print metal parts costs over $500,000, outside the budget of most criminals.

    Should this price fall, we can expect to see an explosion in underground 3D-printing weapons factories, especially in countries with tough gun laws.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-02-28)
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