3D Printing News

A note of caution to our viewers: many of these products are only available for pre-ordering and have yet to be manufactured. Others are only hopes/dreams. Hyperbole is the language of choice, so be careful!

Additionally, be forewarned that some of the materials you intend to work with, as well as particles and fumes from the printer itself, may be toxic. You may want to read this article for a further discussion of the potential problems.

To the credit of all, many companies and individuals are working to 3D print the products in short supply during this covid 19 crisis. We will not link to each one - you can do that easily enough - but will include a few that we think may have escaped your notice.

The FDA has approved a device produced by Prisma Health that allows a single ventilator to treat 4 patients at the same time. It is available at no cost, using a free source code and the hospital's own 3D printer. The simple device allows for filtering systems to eliminate both bacteria and viruses.

A university student in Croatia has 3D printed plastic visors that prohibit medical personnel from transmitting infections from patient to patient, and, I assume, from medical workers to each other as well. A thick strap that fits around the head was devised in just a few days by Slobodna Dalmacija, a 23-year-old 5th year student at Split University.

A recently published article reports what is happening in the field of dental and orthodontic restoration using laser sintered metal. Thanks to the new technology, faster turnaround times, complex geometries, and improved automation are now taking place. The authors originally found 284 relevant studies, which they narrowed down to 17 for the article. Cobalt was used in all the articles reviewed, while 3 techniques predominated: lost wax method, wax pattern milling using CAD/CAM technology, and 3D printing of wax/resin pattern. Marginal and internal fit were emphasized: marginal inaccuracies alone can cause gingival inflammation, gingival recession. and secondary caries below crown margins.

I think this is an important article about 3D printing and the issues surrounding Intellectual Property. Rights in the digital arena generally are evolving as technologies advance. 3D printing raises additional questions that will need to be addressed, both technologically and legally. Where, for example, does liability lie if a 3D printed object is defective: with the vendor, the creator, or the producer? There are issues of ownership and co-ownership that both patent law and copyright law will have to address. Now, as the technology is in its infancy, is the appropriate time to initiate discussions as we move forward. This happened to me about a decade ago when a prototype I had ordered arrived damaged; the fabricator claimed he was not responsible since he had outsourced the production.

A research team at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has devised a special nozzle that can extrude a complex material structure surrounded by a polymer cladding in a single precise object. The internal components can include, for example, " metal wires to serve as conductors, semiconductors for active functions, and polymer insulators to prevent wires from shorting to each other." This means that you can print embedded LEDs and optical sensors and fuse them into a solid object.

The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) has created a 3D printing training initiative as part of its USA in-house training program. The goal is to have at the ready a trained group of operators who know how to use drones for real-time high definition inspections, mapping, and data collection. Their team currently has four 3D printers that can output drone frames using $5. USD worth of materials. There are roughly 15 components required to build the drones. The whole process takes about three days.

A group at Chalmers University of Technology has come up with a nontoxic rubber-like material. The new material is flexible, bendable, and stretchable. It is hoped that it can be used to replace biotissue. You may remember the problems I ran into several years ago when trying to get a similar material to represent skin. It turned out that the final piece had not been given proper post-production, was potentially toxic, and had to be destroyed. As a tragic aside, three of the four men who worked at the production company developed cancer, one of them brain cancer. This stuff is really potent, folks.

Materialize has come up with a 3D printed hands-free door opener to eliminate direct contact with door handles during this covid pandemic. The new opener can be added to existing door handles, removing the need for drilling holes or replacing existing hardware. The company, based in Belgium, is offering the printable design cost-free and hoping that other companies will print them and make them available around the globe. You can find the design here.

A 3D printed modular violin has now been devised that is said to be easy to assemble and has good sound. Previous attempts at 3D printing violins have been problematic: they were not easy to assemble and their sound was unacceptable. This modular, open-source system uses off-the-shelf materials costing about $100. USD and takes only about 4 hours to build. Its sound is described as having "the sound quality and playability of a mid-range wooden violin with a noticeable decrease in volume and projection."

We review many hundreds of articles each month, culling the most significant for you. We also welcome suggestions from our viewers for products and processes that we may have missed.

c.Corinne Whitaker 2020