- May 05, 2017
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3D PRINTING AND MODERN MANUFACTURING
An amazing transformation is currently under way in manufacturing, across nearly all types of products. This creates a future with a sustainable and customizable environment. In this fast-approaching future, everything we need such as food, products, and even our own bodies can be replaced or reconstructed rapidly with very minimal waste. The technology behind this transformation is referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing, or direct digital manufacturing. In the coming decade, this technology will be used to construct everything including but not limited to houses, jet engines, airplanes, food, and even replacement tissues and organs made from your very own cells! New applications of 3D printing are being discovered and developed all over the world every day. For example, NASA is testing designs that will function in zero gravity on the airless moon in space, and even to support human explorations of other planets like Mars.
I am sure you are asking now what additive manufacturing is and how 3D printers use this technology. Briefly, it involves the process of building products by adding several very thin layers of material on top of each other. 3D printers today perform additive manufacturing by taking a 3D model file of an object stored on a computer, and then translating it into a series of very thin layers. As the layers accumulate and stack up, the eventual object is formed once the printing process is complete.
In this article, we will see the evolution of 3D printing beginning from the 90’s. In addition, we will also examine the various 3D printing technology applications in our lives starting from the manufacturing of tablespoons and all the way to the tools used in space by NASA.
In the Nineties:
➢ Building parts layer-by-layer
3D Systems Company was the first to produce a SLA (stereo lithographic apparatus) machine that involved three things:
1. An UV laser solidifying photopolymer
2. A liquid with the viscosity
3. A honey-like colour resin that makes three-dimensional parts layer-by-layer
Although this machine was not perfect, it proved that highly complex parts can be manufactured in the future.
➢ Engineered organs
The use of 3D printing in medicine was impressive. It was first implanted in humans when young patients had to undergo urinary bladder augmentation surgeries. With 3D synthetic scaffolds coated with patient’s own cells, it became the first lab-grown organ using 3D printing with little to no risk of rejection. Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine contributed huge efforts to develop this technology, making it easier to find other strategies for engineering organs.
➢ A 3D kidney
The participation of 3D printing in medicine continued further. Scientists at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine engineered a miniature functional kidney that was able to filter blood and produce diluted urine in an animal. The development researchers were aiming to print organs and tissues using 3D printing technology.
Dr. Adrian Bowyer from the University of Bath founded RepRap, which was an open-source initiative to build a 3D printer that could print most of its own components. The vision of this project was to democratize manufacturing by cheaply distributing RepRap units to individuals everywhere, enabling them to create everyday products on their own. With the advent of the RepRap project in 2005 by Dr. Gordon, the technology of 3D printing became more common. Bioprinting innovator Organovo used a 3D bio printer to print the first blood vessel, which relied on Dr. Gabor Forgacs’s technology.
➢ SLS and manufacturing
The first SLS (selective laser sintering) machine becomes viable. This type of machine uses a laser to fuse materials into 3D products. Thisbreak through opened the door to mass customization and on-demand manufacturing of industrial parts, and later prostheses.
Objet, a 3D printing systems and materials provider, created a machine capable of printing in multiple materials, including elastomers and polymers. The machine permitted a single part to be made with various densities and material properties.
➢ Self-replicating printer
Following RepRap Project in 2005, the first self-replicating printer was invented. This allowed users who already owned a printer to make more printers for their friends. This printer was able to print the majority of its own components.
➢ DIY co-creation service
A private beta launched by Shapeways that provided a new co-creation service for the community. It allowed artists, architects, and designers to make their own 3D designs as physical objectsin expensively.
➢ Breakthrough for prosthetics
The development guided the creation of Bespoke Innovations, who is a manufacturer of prosthetic devices. They specialize in making customized coverings that surround prosthetic legs.
➢ First 3D-printed robotic aircraft
3D printing allows planes to be built with elliptical wings, which is normally an expensive feature as it helps to improve aerodynamic efficiency and minimizes induced drag. Engineers at the University of Southampton designed and flew the world’s first 3D-printed aircraft. This unmanned aircraft was built in seven days with a budget of £5,000.
➢ 3D-printed body of a friendly prototype car
Kor Ecologic unveils Urbee at the TED x Winnipeg conference in Canada. Urbee is a sleek and environmentally-friendly prototype car with a complete 3D-printed body. It is designed to be fuel-efficient and inexpensive. Moreover, it is estimated to retail for $10,000 to $50,000 should it become commercially viable.
➢ 3D-printed homes
The world’s first 3D printed house took place in Beijing, China. It is a two-story home with a size of 400 square metres, and its walls are as thick as 8 feet. Furthermore, it only took 45 days to fully complete the project. It can even withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of eight on the Richter scale. With the help of giant 3D printers, the amount of manual labour required can be greatly reduced, as well as the costs.
➢ 3D printing applications in NASA
NASA is testing designs that will function in zero gravity on the airless moon, as well as to support human explorations of other planets like Mars.
As can be seen, the evolution of 3D printing technology over the past 30 years has made a substantial impact on various industrial applications. With rapid technological advancements, it is expected that 3D printing will affect more people in the following years.
Source: 3DPrint.com, 3D Printing Industry
Main cover image via tctmagazine.com