This cuts down hugely on start-up delays, which tend to be common with the Connex500 because its software is not very scalable, Vidimce told us. This software requires you to give a 3D mesh for every part of an object that specifies the boundaries. "This works if you're doing something simple, like three parts and three different materials, but not if you've got a complex structure where materials are mixed and keep changing at a fine level: it takes too long and you run out of memory quickly."
Not every engineer wants to specify exactly what material properties should go where. Some just want to say "make an object that functions like this." That's where Spec2Fab comes in, a functional approach to specification. Using a "reducer tree," it reduces the object into smaller components, and its "tuner network" decides what the material composition of each should be. "With Spec2Fab, you don't have to care about materials," Piotr Didyk, post-doctoral associate, told Design News, in the interview. "You specify your design goal and the software optimizes it for material placement to achieve that goal."
Although the two techniques weren't designed to be layered on top of each other, they could be used together, said Vidimce. "If you have specific constraints for some parts of an object, you can specify the materials for it using OpenFab. But in another part of the object that needs functional specification, Spec2Fab could be used."
The team will open source the API portion of OpenFab, but will release only binaries for the back-end that does all the work, said Vidimce. Spec2Fab will be open-sourced for academic use only to begin with, Pitchaya Sitthi-Amorn, post-doctoral associate, told us.
The team presented their work in two papers at SIGGRAPH 2013: "OpenFab: A Programmable Pipeline for Multi-Material Fabrication," by Kiril Vidimce, Szu-Po Wang, Jonathan Ragan-Kelley, and Wojciech Matusik and "Spec2Fab: A Reducer-Tuner Model for Translating Specifications to 3D Prints," by Desai Chen, David I. W. Levin, Piotr Didyk, Pitchaya Sitthi-Amorn, and Wojciech Matusik.
Yes Ann, This is no doubt an exciting time to talk about 3d printing because it is in its initial stages and different engineers and universities are doing R&D in this department . This Technology is in its immature or initail stages and definitely after some years it will have a great boom and more developments and innovations will be done .
despinos, I totally agree about integrating different functions in a component. And thanks for that news about Volvo. Here's another 3D printing-related story we did that also features integrating other functions, in this case integrating printed 3D electronics into 3D-printed structural aircraft components: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=265097
Thanks,Ann for such an informative post, no doubt this 3d printing technology is becomming more and more popular every day and this technology isitself innovation and every day we hear that more innovation is being added to this new technology. Like the mobile tchnology according to me this technology will also evolve and become popular very soon but one of the major drawback is that it is costly but i guess initially every technology is expensive later on it becomes affordable .
Volvo cars has recently revelead that they are considering the use of "battery-infused carbon fiber body panels" in their cars.
That's a nice example of what I meant as integrating more than one function in a single component. Actually, I had in mind as approach similar to Volvo's (integrating the energy storage function in structural parts), although "my approach" (in my opinion) was somewhat more advanced than Volvo's ;-)
bobjengr, thanks for the feedback. 3D printing, wild and crazy new materials, and robotics all make me wish I were an engineer so I could play with this stuff. 3D printing and AM is definitely one of the fastest-changing fields right now to keep up with.
Excellent post Ann. I always read your posts regarding "additive manufacturing" as well as any technical data I can find on the subject. This has to be one the fastest moving and exciting technologies in today's world. (If you are an engineer.) I think it's truly wonderful the R&D for this effort is global with schools such as MIT and companies like Vista 3D contributing to desirable outcomes. It is very hard to imagine where we will be in 10 to 15 years. Let's just hope economies over the world do not tank thus eliminating advancements and continued R&D. I certainly agree with one of the comments in that it's hard for "sci-fi" to keep up with reality.
despinos, thanks for the lengthy reply, and your clarification. Let me also clarify: the article talks about two innovations, one in hardware (Vista 3D print head and one in software (actually two: MIT's OpenFab and Spec2Fab). The two open-source software models do not solve all the problems and issues with 3D printing software, as the teams are well aware of. But they are a beginning.
Thanks especially for your intriguing, thought-provoking comments about the difficulties of 3D printing multiple different types of materials in one machine. This is clearly a complex set of problem to solve. It's interesting that the Vista print head description made you think of combining droplets of different materials, whereas I assumed the different materials would be combined at the component level, as the Objet Connex multimaterial 3D printer does with different types of plastics, each used in a different component of a single build: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=265793 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=247146 Combining multiple methods is also an interesting idea, and goes beyond the current concept of the Vista print head. But I think that would be more than difficult unless the printer is huge and can accommodate multiple stages each with a different process. It might also help if the build volume is huge, which could happen if objects were being 3D printed in space, as in the NASA robots I wrote about here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=267732 or in some other open space.
Regarding ease of use of software, I have no doubts you are right. What I actually meant is that as software is been developped to address what materials to choose for the piece, such as OpenFab soft, as mentioned in your article, it seems to mean that the software part will not really be an obstacle in the development of multimaterial 3D printing.
The article seems to focus on "Vista 3D inkjet print head", which I understand/guess is basically an advanced electrospray system. If i imagine how it works correctly, what you get with this print head is a lot of particles, say metals, say polymers, deposited on a surface following a chosen 3D pattern.
What I wonder is how they will actually make this particles stick together with strong bonds? It makes little sense to join tiny spheres of, e.g. titanium and a polymer such as PVA with a relatively weak polymer.
It would make more sense, though, in designs were high strength is not a prerrequisite, such as a printed circuit board, where the mechanical strenght requirements are not so stringent.
A potentially great application I can imagine fo this 3D inkjet, would be the fabrication of real 3D electric printed boards: printed circuit bricks.
What I also wonder is if/how you can combine in a single machine 3D printing technologies so different as, for example, laser sintering of powdered metals and the more spread UV curing of liquid polymers and/or melting and depositing polymers from polymer coils?
What I forsee in the future (and many others, I guess), is an integrating of functions and materials to save on weight and space, maybe made possible through multimaterial 3Dprinting.
I remember an IKEA spot on TV were they mentioned giving more than one function to an object. This is probably the future of desig, were a single component of a machine will fullfill various purposes, providing/integrating at the same time several functions: energy storage, structural stifness, embedded electronics... etc. Sounds great, does'n it?
despinos, thanks for your comments. There are many engineers who disagree with you about the ease-of-use of 3D printing software, at least when it comes to specifying multiple materials in one object. Combining multiple *different* materials, such as metals and plastics, in one design and bonding them together is a whole different problem, as you point out. OTOH, that's already being done in automotive and aerospace applications. One of the most visible failures was the Airbus 380 wing and its incorrectly joined aluminum and composite, as we reported here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=245829 But in 3D printing, it would be useful to include the "glue" in the machine's processes.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
A fun and informative tour you can attend at the upcoming Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis, MD&M Minneapolis, and other events there, is the Materials Innovation Tour on Wednesday afternoon. I'll be leading it.
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