Haha, your enthusiasm for the technology is contagious, Ann. I feel the same way, even though I've never experienced it up close and personal, and I wish I had the money and technical knowhow to take advantage of some of these new innovations!
Since I'm not designing products, I think the main thing that still attracts me is the magic box "wow" aspect, and that's been true since I saw photos of the first SLA demo by 3D Systems back in 1988. But I'm also intrigued by what all this can do for design engineers and manufacturing OEMs.
Yes, I agree, Ann, the technology itself is fascinating enough, but the potential for it is even more amazing. When people talk about 3D printing as potentially being as disruptive as the Internet, I think they may be on to something.
At first I thought that statement was hype. But since I began covering this subject in more depth, I agree with it. Actually, I think we're in a period where there's a lot of interaction and convergence among multiple technologies that have "evolved" to a certain point, combined with much more communication among people globally enabled by internet platforms like Kickstarter and Dragon Innovation, as well as partnerships between industry and university labs at MIT, Harvard, Caltech and Stanford, among others. It reminds me somewhat of the mid to late 90s when wireless plus handheld consumer electronics plus the Web were converging, but more so because of entrepreneurs and Kickstarter.
The software part as well as the adding up of materials seems more or less to be a solved issue.
What still remains a challenge is how to make diferent materials stay together with strong bonds. Probably there will not be a single universal "glue" capable of joining an organic tissue with a metal or with a polymer, and maybe that's were much of the future research (what "glue" and how to implement it on a 3D machine) will be directed to.
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.
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 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.
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 ;-)
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 .
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 .
Chuck, interesting idea. I think we're in a period where there's a lot of interaction and convergence among multiple technologies that have "evolved" to a certain point, combined with much more communication among people globally enabled by internet platforms like Kickstarter and Dragon Innovation, as well as partnerships between industry and university labs at MIT, Harvard, Caltech and Stanford, among others. It reminds me somewhat of the mid to late 90s when wireless plus handheld consumer electronics plus the Web were converging, but even more so because of the added factors of entrepreneurs and Kickstarter.
Totally, TJ! At least that's sure true right now. A lot of today's wild and crazy tech was first dreamed up back when it seemed so unlikely to ever be realized. Makes me think many more sci-fi fans have been engineers than I ever dreamed, don't you think? And didn't you mean replicators? :)
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.
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.
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