3D Printing Tech Digest - November 2016

Cheap 3D printing method developed for printing soft robots

On November 1st a team of engineers from Delft University of Technology demonstrated a new prototype – an add on for a 3D printer which allows for the cheap casting of soft materials such as silicones. This technology prints a rigid plastic (PVA) shell, and simultaneously fills it with softer silicones. After printing the outer shell can be dissolved in water. They called this technique Ulticasting. Ulticasting could potentially enable the fast ‘printing’ of soft actuators for use in robotics. The team have demonstrated use of the technique to make a 3D printed glove with soft actuators in the fingers.

3D print company Carbon receives $81 million from GE, BMW and Nikon

Carbon has received investment of $81 million from GE Ventures, BMW, Nikon and JSR Corporation with the goal of expansion into Europe and Asia. The company has developed CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production), a process it argues creates parts with much more consistent mechanical properties, and the M1, an additive manufacturing machine that uses the CLIP process. Carbon is looking to help customers beyond use of 3D printing for prototyping into its use for full manufacture. It claims the quality and functionality of their plastic parts produced by its system are equivalent to those of injection-moulded parts. New investors Nikon and JSR will be making Carbon’s technology available in Japanese and other Asian markets.

3D printing reducing weight of components

Belgian 3D printers Materialise has worked with engineering, systems integration and consulting group Atos to make a lightweight satellite mounting piece. It weighs in at just a third – 500g vs 1450g – of the traditionally manufactured component by using a 3D printed lattice structure that is impossible to achieve with standard manufacturing techniques. This has the potential to be an economically beneficial manufacturing method. Materialise says every kilo of weight sent into space costs about $20,000 – you do the math. 

Self-healing 3D printed ink

Engineers at University of California San Diego have developed a printable magnetic ink. The ink microparticles are so oriented that when the material is cut the magnetic charge between them will reunite them, hence repairing the cut. The team argue this is a big advance on previous attempts at self-healing materials which need external stimulation to begin the healing process, and which take much longer to heal. Self-healing ink has already been tested by the University engineers to print batteries, electrochemical sensors and textile based electronic materials. 

3D printed jet engines: Safran joins forces with Amaero

As a sure sign of confidence in the readiness of 3D printing, aerospace manufacturer Safran, has recently partnered with Amaero Engineering and Monash University to start printing 3D jet engines. Amaero will set up a faculty inside Safran’s Toulouse factory to make components for Safran’s turbojet engines, using customised printers developed by Monash University and Amaero. Safran will design the parts, Amaero will then 3D print them, and Safran will then assemble and test them, with the hope that this symbiosis will allow them to start serial production next year.

Sticky problem solved – Electronic stickers developed

Researchers in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have been working on electronic stickers. By applying thin film-based electronics onto a silicone base and then packing them in with a 3D printer they have found a new method of making electronic sticky tags. The researchers envision the sticker being used in a similar way to RFID tags today, but with more varied uses. The stickers, being highly flexible – showing minimal wear and tear after repeated flexing –  and being able to be easily applied on any surface, have applications for the Internet of Things e.g. in textile based electronics, home automation and flexible consumer electronics.

3D printed maps

With Christmas coming up a nice little stocking filler would be a 3D map of your local town. This is what DroneDeploy and Whiteclouds could soon be offering. How it will work is that you would send a drone up to gather 3D data on the area you want to map and then send that data to 3D printing specialists Whiteclouds, who would print out your 3D map. DroneDeploy, a cloud software platform for commercial drones who host an app market for various companies which use their data, has already mapped out over 8 million acres of land in over 135 countries. Whitecloud believes that 3D mapping has uses is agriculture, engineering, construction, and mining; or could be used to provide a print to scale service for on-demand products.

Artists with virtual reality headsets get told to create 3D printable works of art

What happens when you mix artists, virtual reality and 3D printing? You get the ‘Virtually Real’ exhibit at the Royal Academy, London (January 12-14, 2017). The Royal Academy have given three of their students an HTC Vive VR headset with which, using software like Kodon and Google’s Tilt Brush, they have been told to create works of art in mid-air. The Academy will also 3D print some of the artwork that the artists create. This will be a real chance to show just how effective 3D printing, CAD and VR can be in creating art and design, with possible implications for the future of product design and manufacture.

XJet 3D printer can now print ceramics

On the back of their release of the NaoParticle JettingTM (inkjet 3D printer) earlier this year, XJet unveiled their new ceramic inkjet 3D printer at the 2016 Formnext tradeshow. Ceramic nanoparticles come ready in a cartridge which can be attached to the printer, and are then deposited within ultra-fine liquid droplets onto the system build-tray. Extremely high temperatures cause the liquid coating to evaporate, creating a structure with the same properties as ceramic parts made through traditional methods.

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