Weekly Newslet – Week, June 8-12

In Archive by Dorothée Doepfer

Summer time and even the tech scene seems to relay a little bit. Nevertheless, there is still some interesting news published referring to the topic of 3D printing. We just picked a palmful of what appeared especially worth mentioning to us. Enjoy the sun!

MIT Researchers Announce a ‘Chameleon Material’

2015 seems to be the year of new materials in additive manufacturing. Almost every month either new features for already existing materials or brand new materials are announced.
This week researchers at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT (Boston, MA, USA) announced they have developed a material which can be compared to a chameleon and “(…) could lead to a new class of materials with dynamically controllable and reversible surface properties” (Advanced Functional Materials, May 2015).
This new invention allows to perform 3D printing for objects that need to be soft with surface textures. These textures on the other hand can be modified on demand to be smooth, ridged or bumpy and even to have complex patterns that could be used to guide fluids depending on special requirements (e.g. change in the aerodynamic resistance or reflectivity of an object).

The whole development process was supported by detailed computer simulations before the new material was actually validated on a 3D printer. The new material is composed of two different polymers with different degrees of stiffness, e.g. more rigid particles are embedded within a matrix of a more flexible polymer. The surface of the material changes during a squeezing process from smooth to a pattern determined by the spacing and shapes of the implanted harder particles. When released, it reverts back to the original form.
Responsible for this effect is an all geometry driven approach according to Guttag, one of the researchers. Moreover, the system is based on the shapes and spacing of materials with different degrees of flexibility — “it could be scaled to all different sizes, and the same principles should work.”
“There are no previous techniques that provide comparable flexibility for creating dynamically and locally tunable and reversible surface changes,” Guttag and Boyce write in their aforementioned paper.

I-Scientifica Goes Public with New Prototype for a Multi-Metal Printer

Metal 3D printing, especially in the field of aerospace and medicine, is promised to be big business although the systems which are currently on the market are not perfect. Therefore, there is lots of space for improvements and new inventions.
By now metal printing was fully in the hand of industrial 3D printing that might change now. The Pretoria (South Africa) based company I- Scientifica has developed a working prototype called i-AM 3D for a 3D metal printer that can directly print with various metals from CAD data. Their concept relies on “decades old hardware technology and some modified open source software” referring to founder George Kriel, a mechanical engineer. By now, most 3D metal printers use laser sintering to melt layers of metal powder, one layer at a time. The i-Am 3D has a different approach:
This printer is based on a jetting device to deposit very thin layers of metal ink onto a substrate. Each layer of metal ink which is laid down is fused in order to form a solid metallic layer. Here, one layer is done at a time until a complete object is built up. I-Scientifica announced that their method would require less capital expenditure on materials.

The prototype melts a great variety of “metal inks” using an infrared laser. The company has been focuses on precious metals so far and has developed and formulated several ‘precious metal inks (e.g. gold, 18ct white/yellow and rose gold, pure silver/930 silver, and is planning pure platinum and 950 platinum ink). Moreover, they have started to develop aluminium, stainless steel, chrome/cobalt and titanium ink.

The i-Am 3D will start around $40,000, a price range that is welcome to many mid-size businesses. But the price can vary depending on the exact build size. The general specifications of the new machine are:

  • Build Area Options: 200 x 70 x 80 mm / 200 x 140 x 80 mm/ 300 x 210 x 150 mm
  • Z Layer: 300nm to 5um
  • Print Resolution: 1080 x 1020
  • Software: Printer platform specific

The company will start to produce their first beta line of printers as soon as they will find seed stage investors.

3D Systems Partners with E-Nable Community Foundation to Expedite 3D Printed Prosthetics

A while ago e-NAble was just known to insiders as a small community consisting of a couple of 3D printed enthusiast which is interested in helping people who are in need of prosthetics. To date, e-Nable has grown to the largest organization which is dedicated to 3D printing low-cost prosthetics for those in need. Now Google awarded a $600.000 grant to the non-profit organization as part of its Google Impact Challenge which is focused on disabilities.
Besides Google, e-Nable could attract another big player: 3D Systems. The North American market leader in 3D printing has announced a partnership with e-NABLE to develop a new 3D printable prosthetic hand file for printing on 3D Systems printers. The cooperation aims to connect with at least four university labs to join in the project. These partner Labs will be given several 3D Systems products including printers, scanners, design software, and the Touch 3D stylus –  a program that enables you to create patient-specific hands.

Via e-Nable anyone with a 3D printer can be connected to someone in need of a prosthetic hand. Furthermore, the organization takes care of the design of the prosthetic as someone with a printer can just download an app so called YouMagine’s Hand-O-Matic app and can start to customize and print the needed hand. If the prosthetic hand design reminds you of Iron Man, you are right. The design was made by 3DS’ industrial designer Evan Kuester who designed the Iron Man prosthetic seen in the famous Robert Downey Jr. video where he delivers a real bionic arm.

We are looking forwards to seeing this non-profit organization and its supporting network grow.