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Posts Tagged ‘3D printing’

Class Project Turns To Possible Class Action Lawsuit

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

As a first-year Denver Math Fellow (I assist math teachers and tutor in small groups), last week I was give a reprieve from my daily grind of lesson plans and teaching by participating in what my school calls Explore Week. This is a week where I was partnered with a teacher, chose a topic to explore with students, made a video promoting our explore class, and had students sign up to join us.

The topic my teaching partner and I decided on was “Creating Furniture Using Non-Traditional Methods and Materials.” Our course included designing and creating furniture models from cardboard, as well as 3D printing simple models. It was a lot of fun, and as I said, a nice change of pace, not to mention I really felt I was in my comfort zone.

Explore Week was made possible by the efforts of several companies, including:

Software we used for the project:

  • Onshape for 3D design for 3D printing
  • Autodesk 123D Make for converting 3D designs to 2D cardboard designs for laser cutting of cardboard

Hardware we used for the project:

Example 3D printed models were generously provided by:


3D Printing Comes To Big Box Stores

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

It’s obviously no secret that 3D printing continues its march on dominating the world of 3D physical realization. In the past year I’ve personally seen 3D printers at Office Depot, UPS, FedEx, and Staples where you can bring in an STL file on a USB drive and, theoretically, come back in a few minutes or hours with a 3D product of your creation.

From what I’ve seen, I haven’t exactly been overly impressed with the results. Between under-trained store staffs, limited choices of processes and materials, and just plain bad designs, the end product and process still leave a lot to be desired. In other words, it’s a hit or miss proposition, and probably more of the latter.

Honestly, if you’re serious about the result, take your design to a 3D printing service bureau with more process and material options, not to mention a professional, experienced staff who understands those important issues, but good design practices, as well.

Sam’s Club Brings 3D Printing to Moline, Illinois


Additive Manufacturing’s Next Frontiers – 4D Printing and Self-Assembly

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Today, 3D printing is relatively well established, with an ever-increasing selection of printers available, ranging from low-cost personal/desktop 3D units for home to the larger and much more capable industrial-strength printers.

The technology itself has also evolved and is now being implemented in a wide range of industries from automotive to aerospace, construction, health, food, and many others.

By now most of us are familiar with 3D, but for the past couple of years there has been increasing chatter about 4D printing. So what is 4D printing?

A couple of years ago 4D-printing was introduced at a TED Conference in 2013 by Skylar Tibbits, director of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab.


The Emergence of 4D Printing


He described 4D printed objects as 3D-printed objects that reshape themselves or self-assemble over time, depending on the environment they’re in. In other words, the 4th dimension is time and/or environmental conditions.

Tibbits is said to be working with GEOSyntec to design 4D printed water pipes. As the scale and reach of the technology increases, applications in the military (no surprise here) and construction industries are likely to materialize.

4D Printing


Shapeshifting: 3D printed materials that change shape over time.

Dr Dan Raviv, postdoctoral fellow at MIT, believes that 4D printing may be used in a wide range of applications such as home appliances, childcare products, or even clothes and footwear that optimize their form and function by reacting to changes in the environment.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) recently acquired a 4D-printed dress which designers were able to print using a powder-based nylon material, and made the dress out of thousands of interlocking pieces.

The pace at which 3D printing has evolved in various industries is impressive, but the technology is still too slow for mass manufacturing, and precision and repeatability must still improve for fabrication of structural components.

The power to offer customized products that are manufactured closer to their point of consumption certainly makes the technology appealing to both providers and consumers. It’s a growing market, but there’s still a lot work to be done – particularly around process speed, product size, and the variety of materials that can be used with the technology.

In the near future, 4D printing could be used in space. For example, an improved 3D printing process using materials that could self-assemble (the next topic below) was used to fabricate components on-site and on-demand for astronauts during a space mission.


Self-Assembling 3D Printing

A recent study reported in The Conversation has shown that high frequency vibrations can cause bricks to self-assemble into a larger 3D object, a finding that may one day help reduce the need for factory assembly lines.

The findings, published recently in the journal, Scientific Reports, signal a key advancement in programmable self-assembly, which was previously thought to only be possible using one-dimensional or two-dimensional objects.

Self Assembling 3D print

Self-Assembly Demonstration

The research team, led by Dr Ido Bachelet from the Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, used an algorithm from the Computational Geometry Algorithm Library (CGAL) as part of a design that allowed 18 tetrahedral bricks to self-assemble into a larger 3D cylinder.

The following video shows blocks in the self-assembly process. Two sets of the object (36 bricks) were inserted in the chamber and after 2.5 hours in a constant speed of 320 rpm one set was assembled. The video doesn’t contain the whole, but portions of it.

The Basic Self-Assembly Process

“Assembly rules are encoded by topographic cues imprinted on brick faces while attraction between bricks is provided by embedded magnets,” the researchers said in their paper. “The bricks can then be mixed in a container and agitated, leading to properly assembled objects at high yields and zero errors.

“Improved designs inspired by our system could lead to successful implementation of self-assembly at the macro-scale, allowing rapid, on-demand fabrication of objects without the need for assembly lines.”

The ability for life to self-assemble is something that continues to puzzle scientists. For example, proteins, viruses, living cells and multi-cellular organisms are all examples of systems in which parts are bonded to each other through attraction to form a structure or pattern.

Hamza Bendemra, a Research Engineer at the Australian National University, who was not involved in the study, said the research of 3D printed assemblies is remarkable.

“The algorithm was inspired by the molecular assembly of the DNA,” he said. But he added that more research was needed to address challenges of time, space and safety for the model to be more efficient at forming and remaining together.

“In the study, a two-brick assembly took less than a minute to self-assemble. However, an 18-piece assembly required over two hours to perform the same feat.”

“The components are subject to high vibrations and collide over and over again until they fit in the right combination. It would be a challenge to implement such a method with materials with low strength and poor impact tolerance without causing damage.”

The next step in developing this concept for construction and manufacturing industries is to use both magnetic forces and adhesives to ensure the assembly stays in place.

Bendemra agreed, saying that “the researchers did a great job at adding topographic cues to ensure a unique combination only would lead to the pieces locking in. Their footage clearly shows that pieces that collide in a non-desired formation detach until they lock-in as planned.”

“The number of pieces involved in the assembly and the nature of the materials being used (including the magnet) in more complex assemblies could limit the use of such a method.”

This self-assembly effort is not entirely unique, as the Self-Assembly Lab is collaborating with Autodesk and Stratasys for 4D printing.

So, there you have it: 4D printing and self-assembly. There is certainly a long way to go to commercial viability, but these demonstrations point the way to some fascinating possibilities.

Desktop 3D Printers Grow Beyond Trinkets, Tchotchkes, and Toys

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Without a doubt, one of the biggest developments in the MCAD world in the past few years has been 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). Until relatively recently, though, the cost of the 3D printing machines was cost prohibitive for all but large companies. To a large extent, costs have been plummeting, but there are machines that cost more than a million dollars. However, that is changing with the advent of relatively low-cost desktop 3D printers.

3D printers sound cool, and to a large extent they are. But, before running out to buy one, there are a few things to keep in mind. Currently, a machine will set you back $500 to $5,000, plus $40 to $100 for a roll of plastic filament (think Weed Wacker) for producing parts. Also keep in mind that producing one small object could take hours, and end up costing much more than buying it. Don’t forget, too, that you need some technical know-how to make it all work, including how to create a solid model with a CAD tool. As I have maintained for some time, with all the online 3D printing services that are available, why buy when you can rent. Check out my blog post on this sentiment from last year entitled, “3D Printing Goes Retail: Why Buy When You Can Rent?”

Being the smiling skeptic that I am, I also wrote a blog entitled “Is 3D Printing Really A Miracle?” My short answers are “Yes” and “No.”

That’s why I have said that the first low-cost devices were more fun than functional, and appealed to DIYers, hobbyists, and early adopters. All that is changing as the technology matures, prices come down, more materials become available, and part quality vastly improves.

Desktop 3D Printers


Wohlers Report 2015 and the State of the 3D Printing Industry

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

An independent consulting firm and industry source that we know quite well, Wohlers Associates, Inc., recently released the Wohlers Report 2015, the company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. According to the Report, in 2014, interest in 3D printing reached an unprecedented level and exceeded the $4 billion milestone. The phenomenal attention to AM began in 2012, was sudden, and has continued to proliferate since then.

Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. Over the 20 years of its publication, many have referred to the report as the “bible” of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company (and industry).

Wohlers Report 2015
As it has from the beginning, Wohlers Report 2015 covers virtually every aspect of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, underlying technologies, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents significant developments that have occurred in the past year, R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, industry, and summarizes the worldwide state of the industry. This edition marks the Report’s 20th consecutive year of publication

2015 wohlers Report Cover

The market for additive manufacturing, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.2% to $4.1 billion in 2014, according to Wohlers Report 2015. The industry expanded by more than $1 billion in 2014, with 49 manufacturers producing and selling industrial-grade AM machines. The CAGR over the past three years (2012–2014) was 33.8%.


RAPID 2015: 3D Printing In Vivo, In Vitro, In Situ, and In Space

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

We’ve been in Long Beach, California all week at SME’s RAPID 2015 conference and exhibition. If you want to learn what’s new exciting in things 3D, this is the place to be. Hardware and software vendors, service providers, distributors and resellers, and educational institutions all showcase new offerings in 3D printing, scanning, and additive and subtractive manufacturing.

RAPID is an interesting mix of industry experts, pundits, users, and people just curious about this fascinating 3D world that continues to grow at an exponential rate. This year about 4,000 attended RAPID with almost 200 exhibitors

RAPID is about the most recent developments in the field, as well as what may be coming in the future. A number of technologies, techniques, and innovations are discussed during technical sessions, but this year, we found among the most interesting topics to be 3D bioprinting and 3D printing in space.

The first morning’s keynote was made by Jason Dunn, CTO of Made In Space, who talked on the topic of “Bringing Additive Manufacturing to Space.” The company was founded in 2010 with the goal of enabling humanity’s future in space. It has developed additive manufacturing (AM) technology specifically for use in the space environment (no easy task). By manufacturing space assets in space, as opposed to launching them from Earth, the company is attempting to accelerate and broaden space development while also providing unprecedented access for people on Earth to use in-space capabilities (the ultimate goal of a business model to monetize its cash outlay in space on earth).

Made In Space Launches First 3D Printer to Space


Meet Us at RAPID 2015

Friday, May 15th, 2015

We’re heading to Long Beach, California next week to participate in one of SME’s marquee events — RAPID 2015.

I’ll be at the conference all week taking in the keynotes, new hardware and software products and service announcements, as well as sitting in on a few technical sessions.

This is an especially pivotal year in the evolution of 3D printing as it strives to get to the next level with higher quality parts, lower cost materials, and greater presence in manufacturing direct part production.

I’ll be hitting the floor running early Tuesday morning and will be Tweeting throughout the event, as well as posting blogs at the end of each day.

If you’re going to RAPID 2015 in Long Beach, feel free to contact me at 719.221.1867 or and let’s meet up for discussing the latest technologies, trends, rumors, etc.

Hope to see you there!

Sigma Labs Teams With America Makes For Innovating 3D Metal Printing In Aviation

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

This week Sigma Labs a developer of advanced, in process, non-destructive quality inspection systems for metal-based additive manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing technologies, announced that it has been granted its first contract, worth approximately $500,000, from GE Aviation. The company was previously announced as a member of the winning team of companies and universities awarded an “America Makes” additive manufacturing (AM) research project. This project is funded by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) and covers Sigma Labs’ proprietary In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA) software for advanced AM monitoring.

The contract will implement the Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D technology across multiple platforms, specifically those requiring high-volume, high-quality aerospace components. Over the next 18 months Sigma Labs is expected to deploy a total of three systems – one each to GE Aviation and to other team members Honeywell and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The Story Behind Sigma Labs

“We are very pleased to announce this first contract under our previously-announced award with NAMII,” said Mark Cola, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sigma Labs. “Working with some of the best known companies in the industry, including GE Aviation and Honeywell, we will use this project to further demonstrate our PrintRite3D technology and provide for additional data collection. We believe awards such as this open up the way for business development opportunities and, at the same time, strengthen Sigma Labs’ position in the nascent yet rapidly-growing AM space.”

Sigma Labs through its wholly-owned subsidiary, B6 Sigma, develops and engineers advanced, in-process, non-destructive quality inspection systems for organizations worldwide seeking solutions for metal-based additive manufacturing or 3D printing, and other advanced manufacturing technologies.

Additive Manufacturing at GE Aviation


3D Printing Grows Beyond “Gimmick” Stage and Takes Center Stage at CES 2015

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

As impressive as it is, last month we gave 3D printing a bit of a dressing down based on personal experience. The blog post was a reality check and a look at the technology not through rose-colored glasses. That’s not to say, though, that 3D printing is still one of the biggest innovations on the manufacturing front, if not the biggest, in recent memory.

Even with the major advances that have transpired in 3D printing, there are still a number of skeptics who view the technology as little more than a promotional stunt or gimmick.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 took place this week. It’s an annual tech festival that began in 1967 that today attracts more than 160,000 attendees checking out about 3,500 exhibitors. Over the years, some of the more significant technologies first released at CES have included:

1970 – VCR

1981 – CD player

1985 – Nintendo Entertainment System

1998 – High-definition TV

2000 – Satellite radio

2003 – Blu-Ray DVDs

2015 – 3D Printing(?)

We didn’t attend CES this year, but we have been monitoring the activities in a pavilion dedicated to innovative technologies, including 3D printing.

3D Printing Highlights at CES 2015

The Dark Side of 3D Printing

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Like a large portion of the product design and manufacturing world, I have a lot of enthusiasm for the potential of 3D printing. I have also experienced the reality of 3D printing – most of it positive, but not all by any means. In other words, 3D printing has come a long way, but it’s still got a long way to go on three fronts: hardware, software, and materials.

When I learned about and made a move to experimenting with 3D printing and other additive technologies a few years ago, I thought by now I would have had no use for subtractive technologies, such as milling and drilling. However, experience (and some hard knocks) have taught me that additive technologies cannot be used exclusively as my only tools. They are actually complementary in what I’ve come to realize is a hybrid approach that employs both additive and subtractive technologies.

Like many others who have been relatively early adopters of 3D printing, problems have been encountered – some of which can be resolved, while others continue to frustrate. Although the video below discusses problems with a specific 3D printer, they are somewhat typical for so-called “low-end” 3D printers using PLA or ABS materials (these are the only materials I currently use).

3D Printing Problems


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