Guns: Just a red herring in 3D printing or something more problematic

If a group of people was asked about the legal concerns associated with 3D printing, most would likely mention 3D printed guns. But the moral and legal debate the technology raises is much broader

3D printing. Photo: Reuters

If a group of people was asked about the legal concerns associated with additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, most would likely mention 3D printed guns. More specifically, the fear that nefarious individuals will print undetectable firearms in the privacy of their own home for nefarious purposes. In fact, as recently as this past summer, a U.S. Senator introduced draft legislation to prevent just such an occurrence by criminalizing attempts to proliferate the software blueprints for guns.

3D printing is not a young technology per se. The basic technology has been around for decades, but it has experienced a resurgence of innovation over the past couple of years. There are many different methods for 3D printing, but most involve the use of computer-aided design software (CAD) to instruct a digital fabricating machine that extrudes materials, via a layering pattern, to form objects. The technology is relatively unlimited in the materials it can print with, and in the complexity or size of the objects. 3D printers range broadly in cost and use from the industrial to home-based, and even to child-oriented devices. Notably, 3D printing is likely seeing this resurgence because of the expiration of foundational patents in the field that previously prevented too much innovation.

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3D printed metal parts show strength through testing

The use of 3D printing is becoming more common in the US Air Force’s supply chain for its fifth-generation aircraft. In December 2018, a metallic 3D printed part was installed by 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers on an operational F-22 Raptor during depot maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

US AIr Force Hangar

Robert Lewin, 574th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) director said, “One of the most difficult things to overcome in the F-22 community, because of the small fleet size, is the availability of additional parts to support the aircraft.”

The use of 3D printing is growing mainly because it gives maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities. This not only saves money, but also reduces the time the aircraft is in maintenance.

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Radiological Society of North America post guidelines for 3D printed anatomic models

3DPI reporting from the heart of Formnext 2016. Image shows full color 3D printed anatomical hearts by Stratasys. Photo via: Michael PetchA special interest group of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) has posted a set of guidelines, suggesting standard approaches for 3D printing in healthcare.

Recognizing the need for evidence-based recommendations in the sector, these guidelines have been developed over a period of two years, in review of over 500 recent papers published on the topic.

As the abstracts states, “The recommendations provide guidance for approaches and tools in medical 3D printing, from image acquisition, segmentation of the desired anatomy intended for 3D printing, creation of a 3D printable model, and post-processing of 3D printed anatomic models for patient care.”

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How will AI, blockchain and 3D printing change global supply chains?

This is the second of a two-part conversation with Gary Gereffi, director of the Global Value Chain Center at Duke University, on the future of global supply chains. In the first piece, we looked at the impact that protectionism is having on global value chains. Today, we focus on the impact of technology and the changing U.S.-China relationship.

BRINK: You’ve talked about how we should be thinking of value chains and supply chains in regional rather than global terms. Why?

Gary Gereffi: In complex industries, no single country has the capabilities to produce all of the parts of a product. If you take something like an automobile that has about 20,000 parts, the most efficient industries are actually set up on a regional basis. For example, the U.S. automobile industry is really a North American industry, where U.S. companies are very tightly intertwined with suppliers in Mexico, Canada and even Central America to form a regional supply chain that can produce a very large share of the components needed.

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3D printing advances overshadowed by lack of machinery

LONDON (ICIS)–The true take off for 3D printing is on the horizon but a lack of machinery capable of production is holding the technology back, according to Evonik’s head of new 3D technologies.

Sylvia Monsheimer said that, while the company is happy with the growth it has seen in the 3D printing industry in the last 20 years, there is a lack of machinery capable of production available on the market.

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Recycled fridges deliver sustainable 3D printing

Plastic recovered from discarded fridges is being re-purposed into a resilient material that can be used in the 3D printing of scale models and similar outputs. The development follows a partnership between two Dutch specialist, Coolrec, a subsidiary of Renewi, and filament manufacturer Refil.

Refil already makes a range of different coloured filaments from recycled car dashboards and PET bottles. Now it is taking the interior of fridges supplied by e-scrap specialist Coolrec to make High Impact PolyStyrene (HIPS) filament that has a neutral off white colour which is easy to paint or glue, making it a perfect material for the 3D printing of scale models. The filament comes in the two standard diameters of 2.85mm and 1.75mm and has successfully been tested on 3D printers.

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3D printing: how to overcome product liability risks

Germany is developing a distinct competitive edge in this emerging technology. But the realisation phase of this new tech’s life cycle has brought with it many questions concerning product liability and more.

3D printing

From spare parts for the automotive sector to aircraft components and consumer goods, 3D printing technology can be produced quickly and inexpensively, with the added benefit that items can be more easily personalised.

German chemical giant BASF is among those taking significant strides in additive manufacturing and is collaborating with a growing network of organisations in an effort to take the applications of 3D printing beyond the prototype phase.

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How economically viable is 3D printing concrete for construction?

3D printed concrete construction is becoming a practice that is being taken more seriously than ever before, as bridgeshouses and other structures are being printed and shown to be effective. A new study entitled “Practice-oriented buildability criteria for developing 3D-printable concretes in the context of digital construction” takes a look at the process of digital construction (DC) and presents what it calls buildability criteria, taking various process parameters and construction costs into consideration.

“A systematic basis for calculating the time interval (TI) to be followed during laboratory testing is proposed for the full-width printing (FWP) and filament printing (FP) processes,” the researchers state. “The proposed approach is validated by applying it to a high-strength, printable, fine-grained concrete. Comparative analyses of FWP and FP revealed that to test the buildability of a material for FP processes, higher velocities of the printhead should be established for laboratory tests in comparison to those needed for FWP process, providing for equal construction rates.”

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It’s too soon to call 3D printing a green technology

Over the past decade 3D printing has captured the imagination of the general public, engineers and environmental visionaries. It has been hailed as both a revolution in manufacturing and an opportunity for dramatic environmental improvement.

3D printing has two key attributes that lead enthusiasts to call it a “green” technology. First, many 3D printing systems generate very little waste, unlike conventional manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, casting, stamping and cutting. Second, 3D printers in homes, stores and community centers can use digital designs to make products onsite, reducing the need to transport products to end users.

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Optimizing the properties of recycled 3D printing materials

In an attempt to mitigate the environmental impact of 3D printing, several organizations have taken to creating recycled filament, made not only from failed prints but from water bottles and other garbage. Inexpensive filament extruders are also available to allow makers to make their own filament from recyclable materials. Not only does recycled filament help the environment, but it also helps 3D printer users to save money and be more self-sufficient, making the technology more viable in remote communities.


Top: virgin PLA, bottom: recycled PLA

3D printer manufacturer re:3D has been working on making their Gigabot 3D printer capable of printing with recycled materials, for the purpose of helping those in remote communities to become more self-sufficient. In a paper entitled “Fused Particle Fabrication 3-D Printing: Recycled Materials’ Optimization and Mechanical Properties,” a team of researchers used an open source prototype Gigabot X 3D printer to test and optimize recycled 3D printing materials.

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