3D Printing Tech Digest - June 2017

Remote control of 3D printer

Waggle is a system that allows users to control a 3D printer remotely. The Waggle smartphone app enables users to monitor, control and share control of the printer. Waggle comes as a USB device that plugs into the user’s 3D printer and connects to the app via the cloud-hosted Waggle server. A camera on the device means that the user is able to check the progress of a print. Waggle is currently on Kickstarter. 

Hydroclone 3D printed

Researchers from KU Leuven Campus Kulak, Belgium, Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, have developed a method to 3D print hydroclones. Hydroclones are used to separate heavy and light particles from a liquid using centrifugal force created by the cylindroconical shape of the device. In the device, large particles move to the edges after which they move down the cone to an outlet at the bottom; lighter particles do the opposite. The researchers’ CAD modelled the 3D printed hydroclone in SolidWorks and then printed it using a ProJet 3500 HD Max multijet 3D printer. The design can be used for small- or large-scale applications – from 1 ml to 1000 litres. As a proof of concept experiment the researchers used the printed hydroclone to separate algae from water. The researchers believe that their hydroclone could be used for algal harvesting with decreased operation time and energy requirements compared to conventional methods. 

Daimler uses 3D printing for individualised parts

Daimler, a German automobile manufacturer, is using 3D printing’s ability to produce customisable replacement parts. Daimler Buses has begun 3D printing complex plastic interior parts for its vehicles. Daimler says that 3D printing allows the company to create ‘perfect solutions’ to match customers’ needs in a quick, flexible, economical way.  Daimler is using selective laser sintering (SLS) and polyamide plastic. Daimler plans to install 3D printers at each of its Daimler Buses facilities across the world. Daimler has so far 3D printed 780 components for customer vehicles, and is currently considering 150 different replacement bus parts for feasibility for 3D printing. 

4D printed breast implant

Xinhua, a Chinese press company, has reported that doctors at Xijing Hospital in Xi’an have implanted a 4D printed breast into a human patient. The patient had previously had a mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumour. The implant will naturally degrade when human tissue has grown around it. In the ten months since the surgery the implant seems to have been accepted and the patient’s veins and tissues have begun to grow back. 

2D sheets that can be made 3D post printing

Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) have developed an algorithm that allows for a 2D printed sheet to be folded up into a 3D shape. The 2D sheets would be printed into polygonal tiles that allow for them to be folded up post-printing. The benefits of such a system would be speedier printing that uses less material than typical prints. In a similar piece of work, IST Austria has developed a 2D sheet that can self-actuate into rounded shapes. 

3D printing class

Makerbot has released a cloud-based platform called My MakerBot and MakerBot Educators Guidebook – these offerings are aimed at the educational sector. The My MakerBot platform is a Chromebook compatible, in-browser platform that connects networked printers, a Thingiverse account, orders and support cases. The platform is claimed to make it easier for teachers to manage 3D printer use and increase ease of access. My MakerBot works with Adobe’s Autodesk Tinkercad, meaning students can create designs in Tinkercad then export them without needing to leave their browser. The educators guidebook offers teachers a curriculum to help them teach 3D printing. 

3D printing silicone

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique to hold 3D printed silicone paste structures together. The silicone structures are held together in much the same way as sand is held together in a sandcastle, by water. The silicone ink – consisting of solid and liquid silicone rubber, the latter holding the solids in place – is combined with water to make a pasty ink. The researchers say that this method means that their silicone paste can be directly printed with a 3D printer to prototype, elastic, porous, flexible structures. 

Ultrasound technology possible uses for printing

Neurotechnology, a Lithuanian company, has demonstrated the use of Ultrasonic Manipulation Technology that could be used in 3D printing. The company created a prototype printer that could assemble a simple printed circuit board (PCB). The prototype uses ultrasonic transducers to create ultrasonic waves that are capable of moving objects within the four walls of the device. Its uses a camera to ascertain the position of the component on the PCB and a laser to solder the component once in place. All of this is done without any physical contact meaning that it could be useful in situations where handing and physical manipulation are undesirable because of the potential for damage. The device could be used in 3D printing and the company currently has a patent pending for 3D printing apparatus and methods using ultrasonic manipulation. 

Protecting copyright in 3D printing

Danish 3D printing R&D company Create it REAL has developed a solution that it hopes could protect copyrights in the 3D printing field. The solution uses a real-time processor that can decrypt secured files directly in the printer. This means that users can 3D print files without needing to access the original file. The company believes that this provides benefits such as:

• End users are sure of getting high quality branded files

• No slicer is needed to convert the design into printer instructions

• The file cannot be modified during streaming

• Brands will have a secure way to sell 3D printing designs which could lead to wider adoption.

Its technology is currently at prototype scale, and the company is seeking large scale pilot programs with professional end users.

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