3D Printing in Space and in the White House [Video]

And in other 3D printing news, a 3D printer was set up on the International Space Station last month (kinda tl/dw), while President Obama was 3D printed earlier this month #hkuiom

Is Cisco’s ‘Future Video’ on track?

In January 2012, Cisco released this ‘future’ video. Nearly two years hence, how much of this has come true? Are the linear trends projected in this video still valid or can we see some unimagined disruptions starting to unravel the way future was supposed to be?

A 3D Future is 1 of 5 alternative 2050 scenarios

As part of its ‘Delivering Tomorrow’ series, DHL has created a scenario study on “Logistics 2050.” One of the five scenarios visualized in this report is a world of 3D printing; or what we call in my class #hkuiom as ‘A Future of Mass Customization’.


2050. Our world is much more colorful, diverse and local. Technical progress, especially in 3D printing, turns consumers into producers. ‘Self-made’ and ‘individually tailored’ become the new ethos for society. New types of production processes facilitate a world with a multitude of individual lifestyles.
Uniform goods and mass-produced items have vanished from display windows and apartments. The consequence of this development is not only a revolution in supply chains. Awareness about the need for recycling is growing, creating new commercial perspectives. Recycling ensures replenishable supplies and keeps 3D printing running. It’s a world characterized by diversity — but are more possibilities out there?


See the segment below:


The full video, with all five possible scenarios is below


future (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)


The full report also contains some excellent essays on Future Studies and Future Forecasting, besides scenario analysis and future predictions. The full report and other future predictions can be read at www.delivering-tomorrow.com



Here is an alternative link to Logistics 2050.

3D Printing Primer

A collection of readings highlighting some recent developments in 3D printing.


3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is a process by which 3D objects are created from digital images by ‘adding’ layers of material (in comparison to traditional  subtractive manufacturing  in which objects are created by ‘removing’ material). Advances in 3D printing present opportunities in manufacturing:

Freed of the constraints of traditional factories, additive manufacturing allows designers to produce things that were previously considered far too complex to make economically.

Weight savings are part of the attraction of 3D-printed parts. With objects being built up layer by layer, it is possible to use just enough material to make the part work.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892


At present 3D printers make things one at a time or in small batches. But if they could work in a continuous process—like the pill-making machine in the Novartis-MIT laboratory—they could be used on a moving production line. The aim would be to build things faster and more flexibly rather than to achieve economies of scale. Such a line could be used to build products that are too big to fit into existing 3D printers and, because the machine is digitally controlled, a different item could be built on each platform, making mass customisation possible. That would allow the technology to take off.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552897


3D Printing is also becoming cheaper – portable printers are now available for less than 1000 USD.

Introducing UP! mini 3D printer, the much anticipated follow-up of Delta Micro’s flagship 3D printer, UP! Plus. The all-new UP Mini 3D Printer, with its full metal, temperature stabilizing enclosure is available to pre-order at groundbreaking price US$899.

via pp3dp



Cheap printers, combined with better software, and portable scanners, could make Star Trek like replicators a reality. This in turn could span new businesses and business models.

The Replicator, a robotic rapid-manufacturing system made by Cybaman Technologies, a British firm, already gets close. The size of a large refrigerator, it is capable of both subtractive and additive manufacturing. It uses a laser-based deposition system to build a basic shape which is finished by machining. The Replicator, as befits its name, is also capable of reverse engineering by digitally scanning an object placed inside it to produce the data needed to build an exact replica.

The Replicator is as near as current technology can get to the teleporter of science fiction. It could scan an object in one place and tell another machine on the other side of the world how to build a copy.

Just as the emergence of e-books means books may never go out of print, components could always remain available. Service mechanics could have portable 3D printers in their vans, or hardware stores could offer part-printing services.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892


Similarly, a combination of crowdsourcing, and 3D printing can democratize the process of design and enable cheap, mass customization. See this video at http://www.economist.com/node/21553276


3D printing can also potentially change the way communities function:

In a farming culture like India, a 3D printer could allow small parts for broken tractors to be printed, or custom-made connectors for irrigation systems cobbled together from metre upon metre of different types of hose.

via http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120926-desktop-drugstores


However, the applications of 3D printing are not confined to manufacturing:

Some researchers are already using 3D printers to produce simple living tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels. There is a possibility that larger body parts, like kidneys, livers and even hearts, could one day be printed—and if the bio-printers can use the patient’s own stem cells, his body would be less likely to reject the printed organs after a transplant.

Food can be printed too. Researchers at Cornell University have already succeeded in printing cupcakes. The “killer app” with food, almost everyone agrees, will be printing chocolate

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552903


In this TED talk, living cells are used to print bone (at 7:20) and a currently experimental, human kidney (at 10:10):


There are also prototypes of 3D printers that can print parts for other 3D printers – giving life to the stories of self-spawning machines (and many potential applications).

Now Nasa has taken the RepRap concept one step further with SpiderFab, which proposes putting a large 3D-printing machine in orbit around earth and delivering to it the base materials it can use to build space-station components, satellites, modules and, eventually, entire spacecraft in space, thereby eliminating the vast cost of launching them from the ground.

via http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/gadgets/2012/09/26/3d-printing-now-out-of-this-world

3D Printing Explained

This excellent infographic, by HighTable, provides a nice snapshot of 3D printing. It explains what is 3D printing, the growth of this yet nascent industry, a few select uses of this technology.

Image by HighTable

See the original here.