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.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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