3D Printing – Is It the Next Game Changer?

Additive Manufacturing, , , With 1 comment

3D PrintingWhether you want to call it 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing, this technology is breaking rules and broadening imaginations. While this technology has been around for many years, it has only recently started getting attention.

Ohio is no slouch when it comes to 3D printing. In 2012, the White House announced the launch of a public-private partnership that includes manufacturers, universities, non-profit organizations, community colleges. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio, resulted from a competitive process in which $30M in federal funding was awarded and matched with $40M from the winning consortium.

America Makes, now located in Youngstown, is focused on accelerating the development and transfer of additive manufacturing technologies. The organization focuses on increasing American competitiveness through developing a collaborative infrastructure, facilitating the development of new technologies, supplying education and training through a private/university collaboration, serving as a national institute for additive manufacturing capabilities and linking up all groups-including economic development, business incubators, non-profits, private industry, universities and start-ups.

What’s New in 3D Printing?

A visit to America Makes can answer this quickly for you, but if you don’t have the time, we can help. This is a technology that is advancing very quickly. Machines are becoming faster, less expensive and more precise. Advancements are occurring so quickly, that it’s hard to summarize today what is new, for tomorrow it will be ten other things.

Let’s start with David. David is the product of a company called Sculptify, and he is a game-changer in that he uses pellets instead of rolled material in his printing process. (By the way, David is named in honor of sculptor Michelangelo). This process allows users to select from a multitude of materials, ranging in flexibility. While not commercially available yet, those who want to can get in on David’s action through an upcoming Kickstarter campaign.

If David doesn’t get you charged up, let’s check into 3D Weaver. This printer is the result of Oluwaseyi Sosanya’s graduate project at the Royal College of Art. This process weaves interlocking layers of straight-warp threads across different heights. Yarns are fed through two separate tubes and around a matrix of poles so that the weaving can occur. There is an added step for this process, however, as the final result must be dipped in a silicone in order for the materials to maintain their structure. This patent-pending process is currently of interest to footwear designers, among others. If you have a moment this weekend to jet over to London, you can see Sosanya’s work at the Innovation Design Engineering Show at the Royal College of Arts. If you can’t make it, the product will be available commercially soon.

If those more ‘homey’ solutions don’t charge your battery, maybe this announcement from General Electric (GE) will. GE recently announced a partnership with MakerBot and TechShop. This partnership is designed to bring new products to market faster. They hope to foster the creation of a new generation of home appliances through their FirstBuild online co-creation community that was announced earlier this year. If you think you’ve got what it takes, you can visit FirstBuild and possibly make a contribution that will earn you royalties down the road.

Other new technologies, including incorporating 3D printing into architecture are on the horizon. We’re not talking scale models here either – they mean real buildings!

If they happen to print a nursing home, they can serve up some 3D printed food – yes FOOD. Of course, they would have to print this building in Germany, where the “smoothfood” technology is being explored to help elderly patients better digest their food.

Advancements in the medical device industry are relying on 3D printing, as are many other industries, such as sensors, automotive and aircraft, but this technology is being taken in so many new directions that today’s post will be old news tomorrow.

Take any of the few technologies mentioned above and think about it for a few minutes-what can you envision?