"expensive" is sort of relative, LP, since an expensive process may be the only way to make some parts. And in a lot of instances it seems that 3D printing costs less than having some item made by a skilled machinist using expensive materials. Of course there are a lot of things that don't make sense to produce by 3D printing, but there are many parts where the expensive process is the least costly way to go. So it all becomes a question as to the total price of alternative methods of production, which is always a consideration when planning to manufacture something. That is not a new question by any means, it has just acquired one more possible answer.
3D printing is really taking us by storm. It has many uses and very efficient. The problem is, its very expensive. With the kind of ink they are using, a brother printer all in one. Its really expensive. Not everyone can afford to have that.
I've read about those embedded fiber optics, too, and wondered more or less the same thing: what happens if it breaks? OTOH, if it's done with one of the various flexible electronics technologies, the circuits probably won't break, at least anytime soon. Also, what's different about the Optomec circuits is that they're actually printed to fit the part. If they're embedded, they're less likely to be subject to wear and tear.
Ann, We have seen several times in the past decade where there are to be fiber optic strands embedded in composite structures to monitor the health of those structures. But if the fiber fails because of structure strain, that is the end of the fiber, at least it seems that way to me. Of course that may also mean that it is replacement time for that particular element. The same has been presented for monitoring concrete bridge structure elements, and I have no idea how they would replace something embedded in a concrete beam.
About aircraft structures, many of the CAD companies could show you examples as part of telling what their products can do, and those drawings would help you understand the insides of aircraft structures. Which do seem to border on magic in a number of instances.
William, I think you're doing a great job of seeing where many new technologies such as this combo might go, and I enjoy reading your feedback to my stories. That's a good point about repair problems with embedded electronics, but I suspect the aircraft makers will figure out a way around that. For instance, I can imagine building some kind of entry/exit method into the structure itself.
Ann, I am also sure that there are a lot of things that I can't even imagine right now that will be done withnthe 3D printing of circuits on top of the 3D fabrication printing. Just imagine some device being printed half way, then the ICs are soldered in and the assembly tested, and then the 3D printing finishes the device. The down side is that it would not be repairable or subject to modification, but it would be rather monolithic and cheap.Either a music toy or a phone or a pocket computer or something else.
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