Need it, print it

Jul 26, 2012
This functioning ice scraper was printed in 3-D using capabilities developed at the University of Dayton Research Institute.

Imagine being able to design a new aircraft engine part on a computer, and then being able to print it. Not the design – the actual part. And not just a lightweight, nonfunctional model, but an actual working part to be installed in an engine.

The University of Dayton Research Institute was awarded $3 million from the Ohio Third Frontier today to provide specialized materials for use in additive manufacturing – the science of using computer printers to create three-dimensional, functional objects. The University of Dayton Research Institute will work with program partners, Stratasys of Eden Prairie, Minn., and PolyOne and Rapid Prototype Plus Manufacturing Inc. (RP+M) of Avon Lake, Ohio, to develop components for GE Aviation – who also collaborated on the program proposal – as well as parts and components for ATK Aerospace Structures, Boeing, Goodrich, Honda, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

While traditional paper printers use a moving toner cartridge head to form lines of text, adding row upon row of toner as the paper moves through the printer, 3-D printing works much the same way. Instead of toner, however, a free-moving printer head precisely deposits layer upon layer of plastic or other material to create a solid object from the bottom up.

3-D printing technology has existed for about 20 years, but additive manufacturing in its current form is only about five years old, said Brian Rice, head of the Research Institute's Multi-Scale Composites and Polymers Division and program lead for the Third Frontier-funded Advanced Materials for Additive Manufacturing Maturation program.

"The difference is that 3-D printing is known in the industry as being used for nonfunctional prototypes or models, while additive manufacturing is being used to create usable parts for industries such as aerospace, energy, medical and consumer products," Rice said.

Additive manufacturing, which made headlines this month in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today and was named number one in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine's May list of "Top Technologies to Watch," is a rapidly growing manufacturing technology being touted for its cost savings and waste reduction. By 2015, the sale of additive manufacturing products and services worldwide is expected to grow to $3.7 billion from $1.71 billion in 2011, according to independent consultants Wohlers Associates.

There are a number of advantages to additive manufacturing over traditional manufacturing, such as injection molding or machining, Rice said.

"Cost savings is a major benefit, because there are no molds or tooling needed to fabricate parts. With traditional manufacturing, every time you want to make even a slight change to the design of what you are making, you have to retool or make an entirely new mold, and that gets very expensive. With additive manufacturing, you can change your design as often as you want simply by changing the design on your computer file. "You can't make complex parts with injection molding," Rice added. "And because you can print an entire part in one piece with additive manufacturing, instead of welding or attaching separate components together as in traditional manufacturing, the finished part is stronger."

Additive manufacturing holds additional benefits, said Jeff DeGrange, vice-president of Stratasys, which owns an industrial line of additive manufacturing machines that will be used to print components for end users.

"It's better for the environment because it reduces waste," DeGrange said. "With additive manufacturing, you only use as much material as you need for the part you're printing. But with machining, you're shaping objects by removing material from a larger block until you have the desired form, so there is a good bit of wasted material."

Additive manufacturing eliminates the need for bolts, screws and welding and, in some cases, reinforced polymers can be used to replace heavier materials, DeGrange added.

"Lighter parts mean greater fuel efficiency in vehicles and aircraft that use them. Another advantage is the cost savings that comes from a print-as-needed process, because you don't need to ship parts or find a place to warehouse them," he said.

3-D printers can use polymer, metal or ceramic feedstock, but our focus will be on polymers, which is already a major manufacturing industry in Ohio, according to Rice.

"UDRI has developed a highly specialized nanomaterial that will reinforce the polymer feedstock, giving the finished product greater strength and stiffness than nonreinforced polymer. It will also make the polymer electrically conductive," he said.

PolyOne will scale-up the polymer feedstock needed for mass manufacturing, Stratasys will support the inclusion of new materials in their additive manufacturing systems, and RP+M will use its expertise in additive parts manufacturing to work with Stratasys to print and supply parts to end users, Rice said.

"We've created an entire supply chain designed to create Ohio jobs," Rice said. "We expect this program to result in the creation of 30 high-tech jobs in Ohio during the first three years and 85 jobs after five years."

The Research Institute will use part of the Third Frontier award to purchase a 3-D printer to demonstrate the technology, and the University of Dayton School of Engineering, which recently purchased a similar machine, will provide hands-on opportunities for engineering students to become involved.

"They will focus on research into new materials and innovation in additive manufacturing," Rice said. "It's a boost for our program, and it will also provide those students with skills that will help them secure high-tech manufacturing jobs after graduation."

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antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 26, 2012
Additive manufacturing is really exciting and definitely something to watch out for. especialy the easy customization part has its charm in areas like implant design where you could tailor e.g. a hip or knee implant to the patient's anatomy instead of - as it's now done - just select from a limited range of stock parts and cram them in as best as possible.

If we ever get this to produce stuff with arbitrary atoms on an atomic level then that will change the world most dramatically (especially if we're able to reprocess waste at an atomic level).

Print out a steak (including plate and silverware) and a glass of fine wine in one go.

At that point it will 'just' be a matter of pumping in enough energy. The atoms that make up most substances we use in everyday lives are as ubiquitous as dirt.
Dug
1 / 5 (5) Jul 26, 2012
The purity and complexity of feedstock manipulation already limits this not so new and very limited application technology. Getting past these limitations and the limitations limiting those limitations - well, don't hold your breath.
AWaB
5 / 5 (3) Jul 26, 2012
This is a very exciting technology. It will change the entire supply chain for many, many products. The better it gets, the more things will change to match its capabilities.
mrlewish
1 / 5 (1) Jul 26, 2012
Try it and the FAA may want to have a few words with you.
nuge
5 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2012
Once we get 3D printers that can reliably print a working copy of themselves without assitance, things will really get going in this field.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2012
Duq is correct. Different materials will require different print heads and print methods. No one here will live to see the day that a practical metal motor is printed.

Neither will their children or their grand children live to see the day.

Still, there is great merit to 3d printing in some instances. Laser sintering is the only means I know of at present to print with powdered metals.

http://en.wikiped...intering
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2012
No one here will live to see the day that a practical metal motor is printed

I'm taking that bet. We can already print in metal stuff like this.
http://www.youtub...SrF7J6Y0

The day isn't far off when we can print motors (and since we're moving towards EVs, anyhow, I would think that printing electric motors would be the way to go instead of printing combustion engines)

As for multimaterial: This can already be done, too. You just need a nozzle per material (just like you need a nozzle per color on your ink jet printer). The Object Connex 500 prints up to 14 materials at once (out of a selection of over 100)

OK, it's not a mix of metals and plastics, yet, and that still is an object of research. But this is a very young field (about 20-30 years old). We had a rapid prototyping research group at the first institute I worked at and they did some amazing stuff (down to 10 micrometer resolutions) back in 2000.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2012
The purity and complexity of feedstock manipulation already limits this not so new and very limited application technology.

Some 3D printing techniques don't use any nozzle at all. The oldest one (stereolitography) doesn't use one. It hardens an epoxy-like substance with a laser and then just let's the part recede down one layer into a bath of the stuff. Rinse, repeat (actually: don't rinse)
Metal powder printers do it basically the same way (but instead of receeding into a bath they add another level of powder into a tub). You can then melt the outline of the new layer with a CO2 laser.

The coolest 3D printer the group had was one that printed on paper. Each layer was just another sheet of paper glued to the last and a laser cut out the form. High resolution (thickness of the paper), very fast (no hardening/melting required), and extremely cheap. Just the thing for printing a model.

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