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3-D Printer Uses Light To Make Superstiff Materials

by Michael Keller

Engineers report they have made ultralight, ultrastiff materials using a light-based 3-D printing method. 

With a technique called projection microstereolithography, MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers shine a pattern of light onto a pool of liquid resin to form precise lattice structures. This light hardens the liquid where it touches, building layer after layer until the object is completed. So far, the team has used the method to form tiny lattices made of polymer, metal and ceramic.

By determining the exact geometry of the diagonal, horizontal and vertical beams that make up the tiny latticework, the team can design tiny lightweight structures made mostly of air that are incredibly stiff. 

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Graphene and Plastic Might Make Next-Generation 3-D Printed Electronics

by Michael Keller

Doping plastic with graphene may be one solution to a major problem confronting 3-D printing technology. Putting just a bit of the one-atom thick sheets of linked carbon atoms into standard plastics used in 3-D printing appears to increase the strength of the final product while lowering the amount of plastic needed by half. Graphene also imparts its electric and thermal conductivity to the plastic, which normally is poor conductor of heat and electricity. 

The result, demonstrated in a European project called Nanomaster, means next-generation plastic sensors and strong, lightweight products will soon be 3-D printed or injection- and compresssion-molded. It also means that desktop 3-D printers might be able to print a wider catalog than just plastic toys and models—soon moving into producing operational electronics and machines. Read more about it below.

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Plastic Style

These plastic products have gotten a style upgrade from designers using 3-D printers. Two lamps and a 3-D printed heart made to help surgeons visualize complicated procedures before they begin are on display at the 2014 Euroscience Open Forum being held now in Copenhagen. 

The models, built by Belgian additive manufacturing company Materialize with support from the European Commission, calls attention to advancing artistic, medical and scientific applications for 3-D printers. 

All pictures by Michael Keller.

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First Completely 3D-Printed Working Loudspeaker Built


by Charles Q. Choi

Researchers for the first time have used 3-D printing to make a consumer electronic device, a loudspeaker ready for use almost as soon as it comes off the printer.

The work by roboticist Hod Lipson at Cornell University and his colleagues suggests 3-D printing might soon be mature enough to let people manufacture complete devices on demand.

"The exciting part of this project is that it paves the path to 3-D printing of consumer electronics and active systems," Apoorva Kiran, a Cornell mechanical engineer tells Txchnologist. "A good thing about 3-D printing inks that we developed at our lab is that even though they are for advanced applications, they are not hazardous chemicals, and their recipe is so simple that people can tinker with them even in their garage. With this work we hope that 3-D printing starts an era of open innovation."

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