NASA installs Tether Refabricator aboard ISS for in-space 3D printing

The Refabricator system by the US-based aerospace company Tethers Unlimited Inc. (TUI) has been installed on the International Space Station (ISS). The integrated 3D printer and plastic recycler was launched into space in November last year.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain installs the Refabricator aboard the ISS. Image via NASA/Tethers Unlimited.

The CEO of TUI Rob Hoyt said that he was “incredibly proud and thankful for the hard work put in by our team, the astronauts, and the NASA In Space Manufacturing Team to get the Refabricator all the way to installation aboard the space station.”

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11 myths about Additive Manufacturing, Part 1

AM is surrounded by much hype, but are you getting the whole story?

Five years ago, Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman gave us Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,1 helping to both create and ride a wave of enthusiasm for 3D printing. This enthusiasm, combined with the infusion of U.S. government funding and the expiration of key patents, prompted many to buy a 3D printer for the kids and make stock investments in rising star companies.

Powder bed processes

Along with their book, Lipson and Kurman  gave us the 10 Principles of 3D Printing as a roadmap into the future to explain why 3D printing will disrupt manufacturing and product design. I bought and read the book and enjoyed it. I get that “no one wants to follow a small dream,” but as a process engineer with a background in advanced materials, digital design, and manufacturing, I knew it was not that easy.

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Janne Kyttanen: does speed really matter in 3D printing?

Kyttanen Speed 3D printing

Demonstrating lighting speed 3D printing will inevitably get a lot of Youtube hits, but where does speed really matter? If you are able to make Eiffel tower miniatures at super fast rates, how would the entire logistics, inventory, distribution etc. compare to how a Chinese factory is already doing it?

I use this as demo example to demonstrate the clear challenge most companies in the 3D/AM space have, which is being able to come up with creative and truly business driven applications for their technology. If the applications were known, the demo parts would reflect that knowledge.

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3D printing and additive manufacturing – what’s the difference?

If you do it in your garage, it’s “3D printing”. If it’s used to build a car, it’s “additive manufacturing”? Where’s line between these two terms? Let’s see if we can’t find it.

A new way of making.

Are “3D printing” and “additive manufacturing” (AM) the same thing? In general, we know that terms stretch over time to include more than just their default meanings. Most of us carry digital entertainment supercomputers around in our pockets, and call them “phones”.

Whatever the name, new ways of fabricating directly from bytes to stuff are radically changing the what, where, how, and when of making objects. What roles, then, do the two terms “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” play in describing new ways of making?

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Fathom and U.S. Marines create modular logistics vehicle with additive manufacturing

FATHOM, a Californian design studio, has used additive manufacturing to create a Modular Logistics Vehicle (MLV) for the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

An MLV complete with 88 3D printed parts. .Image via Launch Forth.

Frustrated by the unresponsiveness of traditional supply chains, Marines from the 29 Palms base generated the concept of converting standard utility vehicles into customizable transport suited for a diverse range of missions.  

This project was facilitated by the Launch Forth platform, as well as Deloitte, and Siemens.

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4D Printing: A revolution across industries

The market for self-assembling parts is already expected to exceed $64 million.

4D printing

The days when 3D printing was simply dreamed about are far behind us. Today, the process of creating a three-dimensional object via successive layers of materials is a mainstream activity—from customized medical devices and prosthetics to conventional household products, and even industrial buildings. It’s projected that by 2030, nearly a quarter of Dubai’s buildings will be 3D-printed.

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Liquid resin 3D printing process 100 times faster than other techniques claim researchers

A new 3D printing technique that uses light to produce complex shapes from a vat of liquid resin is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing processes, claim its developers at the University of Michigan.

The method – which uses two lights to control where a curable liquid resin hardens and solidifies and where it stays fluid – has so far been used to print a variety of complex three dimensional demonstration shapes including a lattice, a toy boat and a block letter M.

The group claims that the technique overcomes the limitations of earlier so-called vat-printing efforts, which encountered problems with the resin solidifying on the window that the light shines through, stopping the print job just as it gets started.

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3D printing predictions for 2019

3D printing has come a long way from its origins in the 1980s, with a brief entry into the consumer space galvanizing its growth in the earlier part of the decade. Now, it seems as though mass production with additive manufacturing (AM) technology is just around the corner, as a number of companies introduce methods for batch 3D printing. 

A metal part 3D printed with Metal Jet technology from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.) A metal part 3D printed with Metal Jet technology from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.)

To learn how the AM space will change in the next year, engineering.com got feedback from several experts in the space, including those from exciting new startups that will break onto the scene in 2019. 

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3D printed terahertz circuits boost for 5G comms and satellite sensors

Car radars, 5G communication systems and satellite-based atmospheric sensors could all be improved as a result of a UK project to develop 3D printed terahertz and microwave circuits.

terahertzAlthough 3D printing is widely used in many areas of manufacturing, its use in microwave and terahertz circuits has so far been limited by the level of precision required to build devices at such a small scale.

However, the accuracy of 3D printers has significantly improved in recent years, with some now able to print down to a resolution of five microns or less, according to Michael Lancaster at Birmingham University, who is leading the EPSRC-funded project.

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Machine Learning makes metal 3D printing more efficient

An aerial view of the Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. Image via mun: planetRussian researchers have used machine learning to make metal 3D printing more efficient.

3D printers require fine tuning of positioning and control algorithms using mathematical models to reach optimal performance. This is a lengthy and arduous process and it could take weeks to set printing parameters. Even then, the possibility of printing error is always present.

To overcome such problems scientists at the Laboratory of Lightweight Materials and Structures of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) have developed a neural network for a metal 3D printer.

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