3D printing

Formlabs Announces a Desktop SLS 3D Printer

Formlabs have just announced the Fuse 1 — a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer that creates parts out of nylon. Formlabs is best known for their Form series of resin-based SLA 3D printers, and this represents a very different direction.

SLS printers, which use a laser to sinter together models out of a powder-based material, are not new but have so far remained the domain of Serious Commercial Use. To our knowledge, this is the first time an actual SLS printer is being made available to the prosumer market. At just…

Tech and the renaissance of manufacturing in America

Image Credit: Praphan Jampala/Shutterstock

From campaign slogans to executive orders, manufacturing has quickly become one of the most politicized topics of our era. While this may help politicians get elected, it will not ignite a manufacturing renaissance in America. What will is technology.

We are lucky to live in the country that is the world leader in innovation, and those of us working in the manufacturing industry — from executives to machinists, to educators and government officials — must start embracing technology and innovation as an asset, not a threat. Specifically, we must leverage American ingenuity in areas like AI/machine learning, computational geometry, CAD technology, and 3D printing.

Nothing provokes a firestorm quite like a discussion on robots and their impact on employment. Bill Gates thinks we should tax them; Elon Musk is starting a new venture to develop a symbiotic digital layer to the human brain.

The conversation we are not having, however, is how existing AI is able to create, not eliminate, jobs. Nowhere is this more evident than in advanced manufacturing where AI can improve the precision and speed of production that maximize the skills of machinist, enhancing their competitiveness on the global market.

Computational geometry, too, is proving integral to advanced manufacturing. Not only is it creating new marketplaces for manufacturers in the cloud, it’s also increasing their production by saving them hours in costly admin time. Complex algorithms (similar to those of Uber or Amazon) are connecting engineers that need parts to the manufacturers that can make them. Not only does this provide a steady stream of work to help keep manufacturers in business, but, by predetermining the manufacturability and price for a part, the algorithms also save manufacturers hours in admin time.

These algorithms, however, would not be so transformative in the field of manufacturing if CAD technology did not exist. CAD technology allows engineers to develop digital designs for parts, which enables the engineers to design more…

Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Printed Mini-Lathe

Lathes can be big, powerful, dangerous machines. But sometimes there’s a call for making very small parts out of soft materials, like plastic and wood. For jobs like this, you could use something like this 3D printed mini-lathe.

The benefits of 3D printing a tool like this are plentiful. The design can be customized and refined by the end user; [castvee8] notes that the machine can be made longer simply by increasing…

Interview: Francesco de Comité Makes Math Visually Awesome

Francesco de Comité is an Associate Professor in Computer Science at the University of Sciences in Lille, France, where he researches the 2D and 3D representation of mathematical concepts and objects. He’s presented papers on a variety of topics including anamorphoses, experiments in circle packing, and Dupin cyclides. His current project involves modeling and 3D printing sea shells. He’ll be presenting a paper on the topic at Bridges Conference in July. You can find his projects on Flickr as well as on Shapeways.


Hackaday: One of your recent projects involves creating fractal patterns and warping them into biologically-correct sea shell shapes, which you then print.

FdC: Modeling seashell shapes is an old topic–Moseley, 1838, D’Arcy Thompson beginning of 20th century. A seashell can be defined as a curve turning around an axis, while translating in the direction of this axis (i.e. on a helicoidal trajectory), and growing in size at the same time. This was modeled for computers in the ’60s by David Raup.

Drawing patterns on seashells was described by Hans Meinhardt using a model of chemical reactions (activator-inhibitor), in the same spirit as Turing’s work on morphogenesis. Combining these two works, and using 3D printers instead of 2D renderers, we can build realistic seashells, either by copying existing shells, or inventing new ones. A 3D model is not just a juxtaposition of a huge number of 2D views: manipulating 3D models can help you understand the object, find details, and so on.

I was curious to see if making a 3D seashell was possible. Moreover, I show that this can be done with simple tools — well, except the 3D printer.

Can you tell us a little about the software and hardware involved?

All the process is done using Blender, and the programs are written in Python using Blender’s script facility. The 3D printer is a ZCorp ProJet 460, which uses a powder similar to sand, and which can output colored objects.

You mentioned D’Arcy Thompson’s work at the turn of the 20th century, as well as Meinhardt more recently — was it literally a case of all of the math having been done for you already?

I have some math background, but I am more a programmer/computer scientist than a math scientist. In general, for all my works, I use maths already written by other people. Once I have coded an equation, a math concept, I can play and tune its parameters, and see what happens. We could call this ‘experimental maths’.

What was the biggest surprise or revelation you encountered while designing the shells?

3D printing is not an exact science. I made some misses, but it allows me to cut a 3D printed shell in half, and see how it was printed inside. Not exactly as I thought it would be. It gave me a better understanding of what my program was doing.

I’m reading (okay, skimming) Meinhardt’s book “The Algorithmic Beauty of Seashells” and I noticed the author included BASIC code for a seashell pattern simulator. Was that old code an example of the sort of research you had to translate into more “modern” formats?

This was a funny part of the project. In the 1990’s, the book was sold with a 3 1/2 floppy disk containing…

Self-assembling Polymers Support Silicone 3D Prints

We all know what the ultimate goal of 3D printing is: to be able to print parts for everything, including our own bodies. To achieve that potential, we need better ways to print soft materials, and that means we need better ways to support prints while they’re in progress.

That’s the focus of an academic paper looking at printing silicone within oil-based microgels. Lead author [Christopher S. O’Bryan] and team from the Soft Matter Research Lab at the University of Florida Gainesville have developed a method using self-assembling polymers soaked…

3D Printed Bionic Skin Will Help Humans and Machines Merge

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A new 3D printed “Bionic Skin” developed at the University of Minnesota, is a stretchable, electronic fabric, which would allow robots to gain tactile sensation. The results of this study were published in the journal, Advanced Materials. Scientists have been dreaming of artificial skin since the 1970’s. Thanks to funding by a division of the National Institutes of Health, we are much closer to making it a reality.

Michael McAlpine was the lead researcher on this study. He’s a mechanical engineering associate professor at the university. In 2013, while at Princeton, McApline gained international attention for 3D printing nano-materials to fashion a “bionic ear.” For this project, Prof. McAlpine enlisted graduate students Shuang-Zhuang Guo, Kaiyan Qiu, Fanben Meng, and Sung Hyun Park.

Amputee with natural looking robot arm.

This could change the calculus on options offered to amputees. Getty Images.

Dr. McAlpine and his team created a unique 3D printer unlike any in the world. The device has four nozzles, each with several different functions. To print on the skin, the surface is first carefully scanned for its contours and shape. The printer can follow any curvature. Then, once the surface area has been mapped out precisely, printing can begin. McApline and colleagues were able to print a pressure sensor on a mannequin’s hand.

The base of the “skin” is silicone which when distributed via nozzle, came out as a gel. This contains silver particles to help conduct electricity. A coiled sensor was then printed in the center. Following that, the piece was engulfed in more silicon layers. Above and below the sensor lay electrodes in the form of a conductive ink. At last, a final, temporary layer was printed to hold everything together, while it solidified. The whole thing was just 4-millimeters wide and took mere minutes to carry out. Once it dried, the last layer was washed away, revealing a…

Review: Voltera V-One Makes Custom Homemade PCBs with Less Mess

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Making quality printed circuit boards (PCBs) at home has yielded many solutions through the years with varying degrees of hassle, special equipment, and mess. The most popular DIY systems usually involve the use of acids to etch circuit traces from copper-coated fiberglass boards. For $3,499, the Voltera V-One minimizes the mess and makes DIY PCB production more accurate and automated.

Instructions Built In

The Voltera V-One uses a gantry system, similar to a 3D printer or CNC mill, to move accurately in the X, Y, and Z dimensions. Rather than having a single fixed print head, the V-One has three tool heads that attach magnetically: a probe to measure the blank PCB and feature locations, a conductive ink dispenser that draws the circuit traces and part pads, and a solder paste dispenser that applies solder to pads for surface-mount devices (SMD). The base of the V-One also heats up like a skillet to bake the conductive ink into place and reflow SMD parts.

The Voltera team has done an incredible job of guiding the user through the process of making a PCB on the V-One, with the software shepherding you through each step. After uploading a Gerber file, you mount the blank PCB, measure its location, print the design, and let it bake to set the conductive ink in place.

The V-One drawing traces on a blank PCB with silver ink.

From there, you drill through-holes and vias manually (using more conductive ink to connect the two sides of the PCB). The machine applies the solder paste, but you have to mount the SMD parts by hand. The V-One then runs the board through a proper reflow temperature profile for the supplied solder paste. Once cooled, you have a complete PCB without any chemicals or milling mess.

The V-One is not without its…

Review: Shopbot Desktop Max Gives Pro CNC Router Quality — For a Price

This machine was reviewed as part of our 2017 Desktop Fabrication Shootout. See more machines in our 3D Printer Guide and non-3D printer reviews here.

The ShopBot Desktop MAX retains the precision and software package that made its smaller cousin, the ShopBot Desktop, a great entry-level machine while doubling the cutting area. Although you can fit a ¼ sheet of plywood (48” x 24”) on the bed, the MAX only cuts into the first 36” of the work piece. However, a clever layout of parts means you can flip the sheet end-to-end and use the whole sheet in two steps.

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Like ShopBot’s (@ShopBotTools) other mills, the MAX uses VCarve Pro to generate toolpaths. It’s…

Filament Friday: Taulman3D’s Bridge Offers Nylon Durability

Nylon is a great 3D printing material. It’s strong with just enough flex to make it tough (it’s chemical and wear resistant), but it’s difficult to print. It doesn’t like to adhere to other materials, so it’s tricky to find a bed surface it will stick to. It also has a tendency to shrink, which when mixed with the adhesion problems means even if you get your print to stick, there is a good chance of curling. Well, the innovative team over at Taulman3D wanted to fix some of these issues, so they came out with Bridge, a nylon that “bridges” the gap between printing in common materials like PLA and printing in nylon.

Bridge was formulated to keep most of the desirable traits of nylon: strength (4800 psi tensile in Bridge’s case), chemical resistance, etc, while being easier to print thanks to less shrink and better adhesion to print surfaces. While you still need a pretty beefy machine capable…

Student designs skyscraper that 3D-prints custom apartments

Student designs skyscraper that 3D-prints custom apartments

A Malaysian graduate student has come up with a building frame that dispenses new apartments much like a vending machine does candy bars. Instead of buying a pre-existing apartment in a skyscraper, imagine designing one yourself and the building producing it out of thin air.

The Pod Vending Machine is a essentially a skyscraper frame with a giant 3D printer at the top. You’d design an apartment, or pod, based on a series of sub-pod designs — essentially cobbling together your place room-by-room. The building would…