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.

You are probably aware that lithium-ion batteries are used extensively in products like cell phones and laptop computers. Now scientists from Duke University in North Carolina and Texas State University have developed 3D printed lithium-ion batteries that can be made in any shape, rather than forcing the end product to build around the usual rectangular and cylindrical shapes. Initially the problem was that the PLA polymers are not ionic conductors. The scientists infused the polymers with an electrolyte solution. Then they added graphene or multi-walled carbon nanotubes into the cathode or anode. At the moment these 3D printed batteries have a capacity that is too low to make them practical. However the researchers are planning to try using 3D printable pastes instead of the PLA.

A new project is in the works to make robotics technoogy open source so that engineers, researchers and hobbyists can all take advantage of the rapidly-developing industry. This coordinated effort is expected to be especially valuable in the field of mechanical hardware. The idea arose while Donal Holman and others were teaching the design of medical devices at Harvard University. Although software has been shared in the past, medical hardware had not, and so they wanted to develop a library that would be available to all. Called the Soft Robotics Toolkit, it includes instructions for things like like snake actuators, artificial pneumatic muscles, and soft grippers.

A California-based startup called 3DEO is working on metal production parts that combine both conventional output and 3D printing. Rather than depending on some other company's additive manufacturing capabilities, 3DEO has developed its own 3D technology, which they call "traditional manufacturing with an additive funk".

Instead of the usual layer-by-layer approach used by most 3D printers, a new chunk-based slicing system is being proposed when there are many 3D printers working on the same project. The suggestion for this new process comes from researchers at the University of Arkansas. They are proposing the use of "cobots", or cooperating robots, and they envision "autonomous digital factories" all eqipped with multiple mobile 3D printers. The new method is felt to be particularly appropriate for architecture.

Engineers have become fascinated recently with the origami principle, particularly the idea of one continuous piece of material. That process elimnates the weakness that frequently appears at joints. The process is felt to be applicable to soft robots, stretchable electronics, and "mechanical metamaterials." The objects are designed to be "foldable" and "repeatable".

A new system called Trussformer has been designed to 3D print large kinetic pieces. The structures move "organically", ie "hinge around multiple points at the same time". The technical name for this procedure is variable geometry trusses. This site shows you the workflow required, from static designs to animation, with the goal of allowing non-expert users to produce the kinematics.

Sri Lanka is embarking on a miniature theme park aimed at attracting tourists to that country. The MiniLanka Heritage Park begins by repeating the tear-drop shape of the island itself. Using 3D scanning drones and 3D printers, the park will copy the country's landmarks, using recycled plastic waste to print miniatures. The inspiration for the proposed park comes from Italy's Miniature Park in Rimini, which was built in 1970 and draws half a million tourists annually.

A fascinating new material is made up of hydrogels that contract and expand when exposed to light. Researchers anticipate its use in artificial muscles and new forms of robots as well as other applications in the medical field. The hydrogel material was developed by a group at the University of Texas at Arlington. It has been found to copy the way real human soft tissues operate. It also responds to changes in temperature and can change its shape and rates of shrinking and expanding by local command.

The Mice Times of Asia reports that the International Space Station plans to use a special 3D bio-printer to attempt to print thyroid and cartilage tissue in space. The article is a bit difficult to read in translation but the basic experiment is understandable. Basically they want to create these new tissues as the process is being watched online from Earth, store the materials for several weeks, and then return them to Earth for study.

The 3D Farm is a 3D print shop in Dubai that allows you to hire their facilities by the hour to print your more complex designs. The shop offers HP printers based on HP's Multi Jet Fusion technology. The equipment is aimed at the dental, architectural, and entrepreneurial industries. The shop will offer training and business consultations for young entrepreneurs as well as financial consultations for businesses centered on 3D printing.

A new 3D printed device produced at the University of Washington has the ability to be aware of its surroundings and report back data on its usage. For example, a medicine bottle could remind you to take your pills, or could tell you if the medicine is being stored at the right temperature. The researchers are calling this "accessible, assistive technology", made without the use of batteries or additional electronics.

A team at Harvard;s John A. Paulson School or Engineering and Applied Sciences has created a 3D printing technology based on sound waves. The sound waves create droplets from liquids. Using this acoustophoretic printing, the engineers were able to 3D print liquid metals, optical resins, honey, polymer solutions, and cell-filled fluids. A more complete description of their method is discussed on this site.

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 2018