Category Archives: Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing and the Army

Since my last post about 3D printing in the Navy garnered more likes than any other post to date, I figured we should continue the military trend and discuss how the Army uses the technology.

Actually, the Army has just as many uses for similar applications of 3D printing.

State-of-the-art 3D printers cut costs, turnaround time

Much like isolated ships having trouble accessing key components on the high seas, forward Army bases often find themselves weeks away from their supply chains.

Recently, a shortage of parts was delaying delivery of Harris radios. The radios required the installation of small dust caps prior to shipping to the customer. Finding and getting the part from a vendor could have taken weeks; so instead, Mechanical Engineer Eugene Haikes designed a 3-D model of the part and the depot printed 600 dust caps in 16 hours.

“If the depot wanted to produce the dust caps but didn’t have a rubber mold for them, we could have expected to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for the mold,” said Mead. “Because Eugene was able to come up with the model, we were able to produce the caps for only a dollar apiece while trimming days, if not weeks, off of our anticipated delivery date.”

Just like the Navy, advantages don’t stop there, as 3D printing can create objects too complicated for traditional machining and casting processes.

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Facial Reconstruction through 3D Scan, Print

UK Doctors are reverse engineering and reconstructing a man’s face, thanks to 3D technologies. Warning – some images could be graphic.

Eric Moger lost half of his face to cancer and as a result could no longer eat, drink or speak.  Doctors scanned his face and mirrored the “good” side over the “bad.”  The result is a model of the face very similar to how it used to look.  From that the team of doctors was able to develop a prosthesis that allows the patient use of his mouth again.

For the first time in five years, Eric Moger is able to speak clearly without holding his mouth, eat without a feeding tube, and hold his head high while going to the pub with his friends.

In the words of Mr. Moger, himself, “It is a great feeling to look in the mirror and see a whole face again. I am amazed at what they have done  – it just looks so like me. I also have something to look forward to, as Karen and I are planning to finally get married this summer.’

Mr MogerMr Moger

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3D Printing and the Navy

Navy, sea, ship, build, piping, ducting, parts, Proceedings

Even the Navy is getting involved in 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing.

Highlighted advantages include making complicated hulls with complex internal geometries in one fell swoop, as well as having print manufacturing on board vessels to deliver on demand replacement parts.

 

 

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RapidMade Speaking at the Northwest Machine Tool Expo

RapidMade, Inc. proudly invites you to attend a one hour seminar on 3D printing next Wednesday at the Northwest Machine Tool Expo starting at 9:30 AM.  Admission to the expo and seminars is completely free and the event takes place at the Oregon Convention Center (777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd., Portland OR.)

Erin Stone, president, and Matt Garrett, VP of Operations will give the presentation.  Topics covered include:

  • What is additive manufacturing (AM)?
  • Where has AM been and why is it getting so much attention now?
  • What’s new in AM technology & materials?
  • What does this mean for your business and how can you leverage AM for a competitive advantage?
  • Where does your business fit in the national and regional AM landscape?
If this topic is of interest to you (likely since you are reading this blog) and you can make it out (less likely), we would be happy to see you there!
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75% of Skull Replaced Due to 3D Printed Plastic Implants

Thanks to FDA approval of the process just last February 18th, Oxford Performance Materials replaced 75% of a patient’s skull using a 3D printed replica as an implant.

They were able to take a digital scan of the patient’s skull and turn it into a 3D plastic part.  This plastic was printed so that the edges had very high porous detail, allowing for the bones to grow into and fuse to the plastic.  This allows for lower chance of rejection and an overall stronger new skull than traditional implants.

Skull

The plastic is a high performance medical grade polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) developed by Oxford Performance Materials for the EOS P800, a plastic selective laser sintering (SLS) machine.  Selective laser sintering fuses layers of thermoplastics together using an extremely precise laser.

Immediately, the company envisions that 300 to 500  patients could use this implant every month in the United States alone.

But don’t just stop at skulls.  OPM’s president, Scott DeFelice says, “If you can replace a bony void in someone’s head next to the brain, you have a pretty good platform for filling bony voids elsewhere.”

The company is submitting for FDA approval of bone implants for many other parts of the body.  Each individual bone, including the skull, could be between a 50 and 100 million dollar market.

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iRobot: All in One 3D Printing

iRobot has just filed a patent for the next step in 3D printing.  They are trying to offset one of the biggest problems with the technology, automated machine level finishing.  Though high end additive manufacturing machines can be quite accurate, they cannot hit the sub .001” tolerance that many mills can.  On top of that, most processes cannot make smooth surfaces like bearing holes or tap threads.

This patent is interesting because companies like Matsura have already created machines like this, and are much further along with prototypes rather than just the idea.  Also, iRobot is forbidden to use any technology but plastic filament extrusion, generally a lower quality printing process, with it’s machine because of other industry patents.

Still, it is an interesting and necessary idea because one must merge additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing to expand the range of applications and industries, and as other manufacturers strive to make easy all-in-one machines, they will likely butt heads with this patent.

We as a company do post machining all the time, manually.  It is generally not a big deal or too costly, but it would be nice for machine we use to do all the post processing automatically.

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3D Laser Scanner Phone App

I have not checked out the accuracy of a scanner like this, but compared to the multiple thousand dollar price point of most 3D scanners out there, this could make many more reverse engineer-to-print jobs economical where upfront scanning costs ruined the profitability of the product.

Click here to read more about the 3D laser scanner with the 10”x10”x4” scan volume and only requires a tripod and lazy susan.

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NASA and 3D Printing

NASA and 3D Printing

Though not an original equipment manufacturer, NASA has been one of the foremost innovators for 3D printing design and application.  Using Selective Laser Sintering or SLS on metals NASA is able to more quickly make more optimally designed and mechanically robust components, while cutting out the majority of the weight. They feel that their, “team’s innovative work here at Marshall and the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing is just one example of how NASA is helping to reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector.”

The goal is for these parts to help us reach a familiar goal:

The emerging technology will build parts for America’s next flagship rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, which is designed to take humans, equipment and experiments beyond low Earth orbit to nearby asteroids and eventually to Mars.

The main reasons NASA sees an advantage in Additive Manufacturing are pretty simple:

There are two major benefits to this process, which are major considerations for the Space Launch System Program: savings and safety.

“This process significantly reduces the manufacturing time required to produce parts from months to weeks or even days in some cases,” said Andy Hardin, the integration hardware lead for the Engines Office in SLS. “It’s a significant improvement in affordability, saving both time and money. Also, since we’re not welding parts together, the parts are structurally stronger and more reliable, which creates an overall safer vehicle.” It turns out these 3D printed parts can handle more stress from the launch than any other welded part.

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Huge and Obstructive Patents in 3D Printing

LINK

This article covers the main reason why we are still quite far from inexpensive AND quality consumer level machines for hundreds instead of tens of thousands of dollars: Intellectual Property and Patent Law.

Companies like 3D Systems and Stratasys have thrown millions into RnD and have patented many of their ideas.  Though some of the patents do seem to be as reasonable as patenting the rectangle, while others make a little more sense, they all prevent outsiders from coming in and producing the same great machine for much less until the patents expire, which in some cases are as late as the mid 2020′s.  In the meantime, expect the most affordable printers with any quality to cost thousands while Stratasys and 3D Systems make very high margins on equipment and “ink” that is not terribly expensive to produce, because they really have no incentive to lower their prices.

One serious competitor to the two giants is Formlabs and their $3200 dollar SLA machine.  They created a system based on an expired 3D Systems patent, but patent law is so murkey they are being sued anyways for violating some other patent, the specifics of which I have been unable to locate.

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GE Agrees with Me

GE Agrees with Me

Just as I was posting the below article, I found out I have some like-minded company.  Jeffery Immelt went into less detail because, well, as head of GE his reputation carries a little more weight than an unknown blogger.

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