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 blog of Sculpteo brings us their assessment of the top 10 software programs for architects working in the 3D printing world. The article briefly reports on the best features of each program and suggests additional software that works in conjunction.

In addition to the list above, a new software called Platonics Ark claims to be "the first 3D printer made specifically for architects". Based in Finland, the company is looking for funding through Indiegogo. Their machine has been 2 years in the making, and is said to work directly with programs like Rhino, Revit, and Archicad.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is working with a company called Aether to explore applications in the medical field for the newly created "revolutionary" bio-material they have called Citrene. The process will be developed in a new academic course to be offered at MIT on Materials, Societal Impact, and Social Innovation. Citrene, made from citrus rinds, is biodegradable and contains a natural oil suitable for human consumption. Aether is a San Francisco-based technology company that claims to have the world's most advanced 3D bioprinter.

Two experienced aerospace engineers have formed a compnay called Relativity Space which aims to use 3D printing to reduce the cost of rockets by as much as 90%. More explicitly, they want to bring the cost of launches down from the current $100 million to $10 million by eliminating humans from the factory floor. To accomplish this, Relativity Space built its own giant 3D printers with robotic arms that are almost 20 feet tall.

A report by 3D Hubs shows the highest quality 3D printers, the most frequently used machines, the best quality desk-top machines, and the top cities worldwide in 3D printing. London, incidentally, is now first, with San Francisco in 19th place.

For the first time in the United States, a 3D printed sternum and rib cage have been implanted in a patient diagnosed with chondrosarcoma. The procedure was performed at New York Presbyternian/Weill Cornell Medical Center with an implant developed by the Australian company Anatomics. The 3D implant is made of titanium and porous polyethylene, and had been used only once before on a patient in Spain. It is currently waiting for FDA approval.

The world's first 3D printed bridge has been built exclusively for cyclists in the southeastern Dutch town of Gemert. The bridge took 3 months to build and construct, initially using 800 layers. In testing, it was found to hold up to 2 tons, or roughly 40 trucks. (By comparison, viewers can look at Goose and Gander, Whitaker's life-sized 3D printed sculptures, that are each composed of 18 separate parts.)

An octopus is the unlikely subject of a study on 3D surfaces. The creature can change the color and texture of its skin so that it is almost invisible, a feat which researchers are trying to duplicate for the next generation of soft robots. Both octopuses and cuttlefish can change the bumps, called papillae, on the surface of their skins in about 1/5 of a second by using inflatable muscle units. It is hoped that the same process can be duplicated in soft robots using air pockets or "balloons" just underneath the silicone skin, particularly by placing small fiber-mesh spheres into the silicone.

HRL Laboratories have figured out how to 3D print high-strength aluminum alloys, a critical step in replacing essential parts in cars and airplanes. They are hoping to use the same process to 3D print steel and nickel-based super alloys. One of the team leaders has said, "We're using a 70-year-old nucleation theory to solve a 100-year-old problem with a 21st century machine". Using this method might make it possible to print complex parts by welding rather than riveting.

Aiming to illustrate the potential of large-scale 3D printing and CAD, Italy's largest technical university has created a massive arch for the MADE expo 2017 held in Milan. The researchers said they investigated the light weight and resistance found in natural materials, creating algorithms which could generate 3D cellular structures able to vary sizing as tiny as one tenth of a millimeter. More information on the MADE expo is also available.

Another company called SHoP Architects from New York has won the Panerai Design Miami/Visionary Award for their 3D printed bamboo pavilion on display in Miami's Jungle Plaza. Nicknamed Flotsam & Jetsam, the pavilion was made of a biodegradable bamboo filament created by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The structure was designed to permit people to "float" through it.

A site called dummies.com explains how to 3D print hollow 3D objects. The process uses a free software slicing engine for 3D printers called Slic3r, and you can get some instructions on using the settings in Slic3r in this YouTube video.

Milan Design Week included 3D prints from the firm of Zaha Hadid Architects and 3D printed glass sculptures by Neri Oxman of MIT. This article goes on to mention other innovations in the field of 3D printing exhibited in Milan.

Five groups are competing for a $30 million dollar LunarX Prize offered by Google. The award is for a lunar-landing vehicle that uses 3D printing for most of its essential parts. Included are an Israeli startup and a Zurich-based company. Initial problems included convincing teams to invest the time and money required to compete.

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