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 may be toxic.

The botanical garden at the University of Califoria Berkeley is hosting a large copy of a weaver bird's nest made of natural fibers and 3D printed wood. The piece was fabricated using 3D scanning, 3D printing and robotic weaving. Called "Plant Fiber Enclosure: Origins", it was prompted by the intricacy of the weaver bird's nest, and a search for alternative processes to replace natural structures threatened by climate change and shrinking natural resources.

Perhaps some of you have noticed the prevalence of lattice structures in 3D printed products. Sculpteo is offering this paper on what lattice structure is and how to create one using their Automatic Lattice Generator tool. They discuss the plusses and minuses of using latticework, with examples of some and explanations of different kinds of lattice.

At Maker Faire Bay Area, California, engineer Eric Harrell exhibited functioning 3D printed models of transmissions and car engines. His explanations are available YouTube along with pictures of what he has built.

One of the hottest topics in 3D printing right now is the possibility of multi-color and mixed material 3D printing. Here is an article that explains how the mixture of colors and materials comes about, and refers to the Prusa i3 Mk 2, which can accomplish both using a single hot end extruder.

A start-up company is looking for funding for its 3D printer made specifically for clay. Additionally, it outputs an air-hardening clay that doesn't need the post-production furnaces that most clays do. Rather, it air dries in about 24 hours. If you haven't glazed it, the clay can be washed and reused. Otherwise you can sand and glaze as you would with standard clay.

A process called Rapid Liquid 3D printing can output pieces of 3D printed furniture in just minutes. Developed by researchers at M. I. T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy), the process is called Self-Assembly Lab and is designed for large-scale products.

A complex Voxel chair has been designed by the Bartlett School of Architecture in London using continous line design software. Rather than being printed layer by layer as in standard 3D printing, the Voxel chair has a robotic arm that extrudes a continuous line of plastic that hardens as it cools. The advantages of this process are described this way: "instead of designing the form of the chair, you design the properties and behaviors of the material directly." The resulting object is quite stunning.

Boeing has designed a 3D printing process called THREAD that lets electrical, optical, and structural parts to be combined during the build. Developed at Boeing's Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Sheffield, England, THREAD is said to be a game-changer in its ability to embed strands of different materials into one component, making it potentially valuable in a number of industrial uses.

A new gel material developed at the University of Florida is being used for bioprining materials in the field of medicine. Up until now, 3D printing of living tissue has been focused on the dissolvable scaffold concept, which uses a non-toxic, non-living material that sticks together like a scaffold with the 3D printed parts. This new process, however, uses a gel to keep the materials in place long enough for them to grow together. The new material is called an "organogel", made, they tell us, from "squishy, microscopic chemical balls that are packed together in mineral oil."

A soft, 3D printed robot has been fabricated so that it can walk on sand and stone. Produced at the University of California in San Diego, the robot can climb over objects and move on several different underlying materials. It is thought that the robot could be used in search and rescue missions as well as getting data from dangerous sites. This is the beginning of fast, supple robots that can work side by side with humans and is not expensive to produce.

Nanomaterial inks have been used to make multilayered circuits boards. The company is called Nano Dimension and specializes in inks and printers for the 3D printing world. They use conductive and dielectric inks for the rapid prototyping of high-performance and complex boards. Using their DragonFly 3D printer, it is possible to print either an entire board or part of one, eliminating the need to send parts to other countries like China or Taiwan.

A mouse that had been implanted with a 3D printed ovary gave birth to healthy baby mice in a study at Northwestern University. Hailed as a breakthough in medicine and infertility, the researchers 3D printed the ovary using a hydrogel to create a scaffold for the 3D printed body part, making it possible for the ovarian follicles to live. These follicles generate the hormone-producing cells that surround the egg. The ovary was able to produce blood vessels, which allowed the hormones to circulate and effect lactation after birth. The process was developed originally to let cancer patients conceive and give birth to healthy live babies, in some cases even to offer lactation.

Some of the dangers of using 3D printers at home are expained in this article, particularly the danger of a fire. While some printers are designed to preclude a fire, others are not, so it is important to check on the certifications before buying.

Peak Sport has just manufactured China's first 3D printed running shoe, joing Under Armour and Adidas in this industry. The shoes, said to be both breathable and comfortable, use lattice-based 3D technology on the insoles, and SLS laser sintering to shape the shoes. Peak has five research and technology centers, including one in Los Angeles. Their Longji running shoes were given a first prize award in China's first Industrial Design competition.

Note: we review 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 2017