Miniaturization is a thing. Every year technology produces smaller and smaller devices, as can be witnessed by the processing power that goes into your iPhone. But where you can slip a new battery (at least in theory) into your iPhone, many devices sit idle on the drawing board for the lack of a battery small enough to power them.
A cooperative venture between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has successfully built lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand, using additive manufacturing (AM). According to the research team, this also represents the first time batteries have been 3D printed. The results of the study were printed in the June 18 online edition of Advanced Materials. Continue reading
Syfy’s show Eureka aired an episode in which bio additive manufacturing (AM) systems printed out entire bodies to create clones of people. Of course, the show used the idea to perpetuate the old pod person trope of clones replacing the original people, but the technology isn’t entirely fictional. Bioprinting has been used to print ears, synthetic human tissue, and is being developed to produce vasculatory systems and organs.
Put together, those advances almost provide enough material to reproduce a human, minus the skeleton. Now, researchers at MIT have figured out a method to print synthetic bone using a mix of a soft polymer and a stiff polymer in a brick formation. The findings were reported in Advanced Functional Materials titled “Tough Composites Inspired by Mineralized Natural Materials: Computation, 3D printing, and Testing.” Continue reading
A lot of people like to throw in the word “democratization” when talking about additive manufacturing (AM). They believe that the 3D printing revolution will give entrepreneurs and home users alike the ability to customize manufacturing in a way never before possible. In place of assembly lines churning out virtual clones of the same product, the democratization of manufacturing gives buyers and designers the chance to put their own spin on a product, and even to launch new product lines without the often prohibitive initial investment.
What’s missing from the picture of democratization is the widespread adoption of AM required to fulfill the vision. Certainly AM has already made an impact on manufacturing, but, excepting companies like Shapeways, consumers don’t have any more control over the final design of a product than they did before. In addition to being available for consumers, 3D printers need to be visible as products. Amazon has taken a step to promoting AM visibility with the launch of its 3D printer sales department.
The news is starting to flow from RAPID 2013. The first system that caught our eye at RAPID is the Multi Proto Lab from the National Nanotechnology Manufacturing Center (NNMC). The Multi Proto Lab is an all-in-one rapid prototyping system capable of integrating 3D Printing, precision milling, drop-on-demand printing, extrusion deposition and more in a single machine.
If additive manufacturing (AM) is reducing the need for a dedicated tool space, the Multi Proto Lab might offer even more opportunities to reduce the size of a workshop. As I’ve mentioned recently, AM is a fantastic technology, but it isn’t capable of producing every part or every prototype all on its own. If the new system from the NNMC lives up to its promise, you’ll find all the help you need in one place. Continue reading