Tag Archives: 3D printing

NASA Is Building the World’s First 3D-Printed Satellite Camera


The 2-inch 3D printed camera will be mounted on CubeSats like these.
Image: NASA

NASA is already using 3D printing to make rocket engine parts, a space pizza maker and even physical photos from the Hubble Space Telescope. But by the end of September, one NASA engineer expects to complete the first space cameras made almost entirely out of 3D-printed stuff.

“As far as I know, we are the first to attempt to build an entire instrument with 3D printing,” Jason Budinoff, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

Budinoff is building a 2-inch (50 millimeters) camera for a CubeSat — a miniature satellite. The camera will have to pass vibration and thermal-vacuum tests next year to prove that it’s capable of space travel. Budinoff is also using 3D printing to build a 14-inch (350 mm) dual-channel telescope.

Both instruments are being built to demonstrate how 3D printing (also called “additive manufacturing”) can be used as a boon for space exploration. The new technique could cut down both the time and cost of traditional manufacturing.

To build the 3D-printed instruments, first a computer-controlled laser melts down a pile of metal powder. It then fuses the melted metal into a specific configuration determined by a 3D computer design. The instruments are built and assembled layer by layer — like slices of bread from a loaf. The layered approach makes it possible to build in tiny internal features and grooves that are impossible to build using traditional manufacturing.

But the instruments are not deep-space ready — at least not yet, according to Budinoff.

“I basically want to show that additive-machined instruments can fly,”Budinoff said in the same statement. “We will have mitigated the risk, and when future program managers ask, ‘Can we use this technology?’ we can say, ‘Yes, we already have qualified it.'”

In the future, 3D printers could reduce the overall cost of building space exploring instruments. For example, Budinoff’s 3D printed camera only requires four separate pieces, whereas a conventional camera would require between five and 10 times the number of parts, according to Budinoff.

Budinoff is also working on a way to build 3D-printed metal mirrors. Mirrors are crucial parts of telescopes, and it may be possible to create them with powdered aluminum. Aluminum is notoriously porous, which makes it difficult to polish. If Budinoff’s theory is correct, then a process called “hot isostatic pressing” could convert the aluminum into a gleaming mirror.

The pressing technique involves taking a 3D printed aluminum mirror and placing it in a heated chamber under 15,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The intense heat and pressure would lower the aluminum’s surface porosity and create a polished mirror.

This kind of mirror could be especially useful for infrared instruments that must operate at extremely cold temperatures. Infrared sensors are usually made out of several different materials. But if all the parts were made out of aluminum, it would be easier to control the instrument’s temperature.

Budinoff will likely finish both instruments this year, and they will undergo spaceflight testing in 2015.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/08/12/3d-printed-cubesat-camera/

Can You 3D Print Your Dream Home?


If you love LEGOs, you might have imagined building a real house from them. And with the surging popularity of 3D printers, such a dream seems well within reach. Nick Johnson, a spokesman for real estate blog Movoto, decided to find out what it would take to build a 3D-printed house.

“Given that we’re due to get our own 3D printer here in the Movoto office soon, I pretty much couldn’t be more excited by the possibilities the technology introduces,” Johnson wrote in a company blog post. “So, with that, I thought I’d look into exactly how realistic it would be to print the components needed to build a house using one of these devices.”

As it turns out, if you were to use today’s 3D printing technology, you would be long dead by the time your pieces were printed. In fact, it would take 220 years, four months and 11 days for a single machine to print the 27,735 bricks required to construct a 2,500-square-foot (232 square meters), two-story house. And if you think the endeavor sounds time-costly, you should read the price tag: $332,820 in plastic alone.

Johnson based his calculations on a MakerBot Replicator 2 printer and jumbo-size bricks measuring 8 in by 3.5 in by 2.75 in (20.3 cm by 8.9 cm by 7 cm). It would take nearly three days to print a single brick, and each brick would cost about $12 in ABS material. (ABS plastic filament is a must for this project, as the alternative — PLA — would begin to melt under the heat of the sun.) You can try Johnson’s calculator for yourself:

By Movoto

But industrial 3D printing experts tell a different story.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California who heads the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program, stunned a TED Talk audience earlier this year by showing it’s possible to 3D print a 2,500-square-foot house in about 20 hours. Khoshnevis called the process “Contour Crafting,” which would use a gigantic 3D printer erected over the footprint of where a building will stand. The 3D printer extrudes a concrete mixture, building a house layer by layer, the same way a desktop 3D printer makes a plastic figurine.

Khoshnevis said it’s the cheapest form of construction — less expensive than prefabricated housing and infinitely customizable. “Every building can be very different just by changing the design,” he said. “You could execute really exotic architectural features without incurring additional costs.”

Once the basic structure was completed, finish work, tiling and even painting could also be done automatically with the kind of printers used for rendering billboards, he said.

Khoshnevis is currently working with NASA to design structures suitable for living on the moon. But long before Moon colonization becomes a reality, you may be able to print your own custom home here on Earth — imagine leasing a Contour Crafting machine at your local Home Depot.

Image courtesy of Simon Farnworth

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/20/3d-print-dream-home/

Planetary Resources 3D Print An Alien Material

3D printing is capable of some incredible things, from creating huge bridges, prosthetics for amputees, and even human hearts using biological ink. Jumping on this bandwagon, the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources hasbeen flaunting their own attempts at 3D printing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The results are literally out-of-this-world 3D printing, with the companyshowcasing a design forged from asteroid materials.

Planetary Resources raison d’tre is to mine valuable resources from asteroids, which are demonstrably rich sources of metals and compounds including platinum, nickel, iron, and cobalt. Many contain plentiful water, which couldbe converted into rocket fuel and help prolong space missions. Their ultimate aim is to help create a space-based business economy: ambitious for sure, but its CEO, Chris Lewicki, thinks that this will be possible by 2025.

Although this process has yet to begin, Lewicki was determined to have a presence at the world-renowned technological showcase. Using a meteorite that landed in Campo Del Cielo, Argentina, a decorative object has been made out of it, essentially a 3D Planetary Resources logo. The partnership with 3D Systems has resulted in the first-ever direct metal print from asteroid-derived metals.

The 3D-printed logo, made from nickel, iron and cobalt. Credit: Planetary Resources

Explaining the motivation behind the 3D printing to Engadget, Lewicki said: Instead of manufacturing something in an Earth factory and putting it on a rocket and shipping it to space, what if we put a 3D printer into space and everything we printed with it we got from space? There are billions and billions of tons of this material in space.

Despite this world first, the technique used to print the material isnt new. Nevertheless, it does highlight the fact that 3D printing, a clearly versatile technology, can be applied to asteroid-mined materials. NASA is also aware of the possibilities: Officials have previously noted that 3D printing could assist human space exploration, with spacecraft, outposts, and supplies generated on other planets and celestial objects using this exact technique.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/literally-out-world-3d-printing-demonstrated-planetary-resources

NASA Plans to Launch 3D Printer Into Space Sunday

The International Space Station may soon get its first 3D printer.

A 3D printer is planned to be among the supplies sent to the the space station on SpaceX’s resupply mission, slated for 2:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning.

Once there, the 3D printer, NASA says, will be used to make replacement parts and tools aboard the space station. It will be the first time astronauts on the ISS will have access to a 3D printer. The astronauts are expected to also conduct research on 3D printing in space and study how the process works in zero gravity.

The launch was previously scheduled for Saturday morning, but was pushed back due to weather conditions.

The Zero-G printer was specially designed for zero gravity by the startup Made in Space, who partnered with NASA on the project. The company tested the printer on Earth on more than 400 flights that simulated microgravity environments prior to the launch.

“The on-demand capability can revolutionize the constrained supply chain model we are limited to today and will be critical for exploration missions,” Niki Werkheiser, manager of NASA’s “3-D Printing in Zero-G” project at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

The astronauts plan to eventually add a recycling mechanism to the printer that will break down and reuse the excess plastic. Made in Space says they are planning to launch a larger “more capable” printer into space in coming years.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/09/20/nasa-sending-3d-printer-to-space/

The Smithsonian Introduces 3D Exhibits

The Smithsonian Institution (SI) is the world’s largest museum complex, with 19 museums and 9 research installations. A basic tenet of visiting most museums is “do not touch the exhibits,” but the Smithsonian, true to their innovative and educational reputation, is changing the rules. SI announced this morning that 3D scans of 20 incredible exhibits are available online, absolutely free. You can explore the items as never before with the ability to rotate, measure, and even explore the internal structure of the models. If you aren’t sure what is significant about each item, there are tours set up to walk you through the finer points. What’s more, you can use these scans to make 3D printed replicas for teaching tools or keepsakes.

These are some of the scientific items currently on display:

Fossil dolphin skull: This is the 6-7 million year old fossilized skull of a new species of dolphin which has not been named yet. It was found near the coast of Panama and could be related to the river dolphins of South America. 

Fossil dolphin jaw: The jaw belongs to the previously mentioned skull, though it was found embedded in rock some time later. 

Fossil whale MPC 684: When constructing a highway in Chile, several whale fossils were discovered. This view does not show the whale reconstructed, but just as it looked when it was recovered by paleontologists. 

Blue crab: While the blue crab used to be common on the East Coast of the United States, their populations have been declining due to overfishing and habitat destruction. 

Embreea orchid: This flower comes from Ecuador and has a bloom over 4 inches wide. Local bees use fragrance from a combination of flowers to attract mates. 

Woolly Mammoth skeleton: This composite mammoth skeleton has been on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Ice Age exhibit since 1966, and the bones were originally found in Alaska. 

Walrus Whale: This curious-looking whale has a face that looks more like a walrus, tusks included, and lived 3-5 million years ago. The fossil was discovered in Peru. 

Wright Flyer (1903): On December 17, 1903, Wilbur Wright made the first successful flight in the flyer he constructed with his brother, Orville. The flight lasted about a minute and it traveled 852 feet (260 m). 

CasA supernova remnant: The center of the exhibit is a neutron star, surrounded by jets and a shockwave from moments after the explosion. 

The 3D gallery is currently in beta mode, which does mean there may be some bugs or glitches and not all of the features may be fully operational yet. The only way for these to get better is to interact with the exhibits and contact the tech support team if you find a problem. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/smithsonian-introduces-3d-exhibits

eBay Debuts 3D Printing iPhone App


EBay dips its toes into the 3D-printing pool with an iPhone app that lets users customize accessories.

EBay announced Friday that it is getting into 3D printing with a new iPhone app called eBay Exact that lets users customize jewelry and accessories that will then be 3D printed and sent to them. Functionally, it’s not mind-blowing, yet it shows just how far 3D printing has come in the past few years and gives a hint of where it could go next

The app is pretty simple: Once you open it up, you see several items from 3D printing companies MakerBot, Sculpteo and Hot Pop Factory: mostly jewelry and iPhone cases, plus a few other items. You pick an item (I chose the Platonix necklace, available through Hot Pop Factory), and then modify a few features like the pattern, material, shape or color. (Some items can’t actually be modified at all.)


Available items are mostly made from plastic and metal. Users pay via eBay-owned payment service PayPal, and the purchase arrives within a week or two.

Since eBay already offers a number of popular and trusted apps, consumers may be more likely to find out about this one than other 3D offerings. They may be more willing to try it, too. Eventually, I could imagine 3D printing becoming a part of eBay’s core business, with sellers of accessory products in particular (like smartphone cases) offering a slew of customizable options.

Mashable composite. Images courtesy of eBay

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/12/ebay-3d-print-iphone-app/

Could Your Office Use This Lower Cost 3D Printer?


You might have heard of 3D printing and wondered what exactly it is. The concept of printing typically brings to mind a paper-printer spitting out documents stamped with ink. A 3D printer works like this: Designers create images of models on their computers and print them in 3D from these printers that use a resin to create the objects layer-by-layer. Imagine you’re a designer or in a profession where holding, examining and testing an exact but miniature replica of your product would do wonders for the final result. While 3D printing appeals to a wide variety of professionals, quality and low cost don’t often go hand-in-hand, according to the designers of the Form 1 3D printer.

The three-man team of MIT Media Lab students wanted to create an affordable and high-resolution 3D printer that didn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. The team had access to a lot of high-quality equipment at MIT, and had been able to use a wide variety of 3D printers. But they also noticed that the more affordable 3D printers on the market lacked the ability to make high-quality models.

In 2011, they began building the Form 1 3D printer through their company called Formlabs. They say the 3D printer and software prints objects just as the person who designed them envisioned — with great detail. The printer uses a technology called Stereolithography (SL).

“The process is pretty straightforward,” the team’s Kickstarter page explains. “A laser is used to draw on the surface of a liquid plastic resin that hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. The laser draws and hardens a layer at a time until the entire model is built. It’s simple, reliable, and quiet.”

SL printing is typically expensive, but the team figured out a way to lower the cost. However, the exact price point has yet to be set. (It should be noted that “low cost” may not mean it’s accessible to the average consumer — 3D printers typically cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, with low cost options being around a couple thousand dollars. Depending on the price of the Form 1, it may be something offices would want to include in their budgets.)

But it’s not just useful for designers or enterprise clients. iPhone cases, as well as monsters from the past have also been created by 3D printers

It would probably more descriptive to call these new devices 3D model-makers, but regardless of its name, 3D printers will impact myriad businesses — from creating prototypes for engineers to tweak before they make the real thing, to aiding even bigger problems like printing prosthetics for people and animals, and possibly one day increasing our world’s food supply.

Formlab’s Kickstarter campaign is accepting donations until Oct. 26. You can pledge as little as $1. They plan to start shipping the Form 1 printer in Feb. 2013.

What do you think of the Form 1 3D Printer and how much would you pay to own one? Tell us in the comments.

BONUS: The World of 3D Printing

Life Onboard the ISS May Be Revolutionized By 3D Printing

At the International Space Station broken parts or tools can be a big deal. It isn’t easy or cheap to launch cargo if something goes wrong and a replacement is needed. A 3D printer would allow astronauts to custom build parts as needed without outside help from ground crews and instead of launching individual parts to the ISS, spools of plastic could be sent instead. This would save space and minimize waste.


However, 3D printing in space faces a few unique challenges. Printers designed for use on Earth do not need to account for zero gravity, vibrations, overall size, pressure and temperature fluctuations, and the limited power supply like a printer aboard the ISS would. This posed a unique set of challenges when NASA chose a designer and manufacturer.


Ultimately, a startup called Made In Space was awarded the contract and tasked with a 3D printer that would revolutionize how repairs aboard the ISS are handled. Made In Space provided solutions to all of the problems and they have created a 3D printer about the size of a toaster that can handle the rigors of space. 


This current model will purely be experimental to determine if it is possible for the ISS to remain self sufficient with spare parts. The pieces will be test for durability and accuracy. If successful, the implications would be incredible. 


When describing the practicality of a 3D printer in space, the Apollo 13 mission is a fantastic example. On the mission to the moon in 1970, an oxygen tank ruptured onboard their spacecraft. The mission was aborted, but the crew was still faced with a dire situation as they had no way to remove the accumulating carbon dioxide. Using duct tape, a manual, and plastic, the crew managed to improvise a solution. While their harrowing tale had a happy ending, a 3D printer could have produced a suitable replacement in a matter of minutes.


The printers that are used in space, in addition to all of the other requirements, will need to minimize fumes produced by the plastic, manufacture parts for their own repair, and recycled the plastic for secondary use.


Some proponents of 3D printers in space note that it might highly beneficial and may even assist in living in space, as even 3D printers for food are gaining more traction.


The first item crafted in space will be a momentous occasion, and there is no word yet about what the astronauts will make first, though the CEO of Made In Space joked about manufacturing a Death Star.


The printer is set to be tested in space in 2014.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/life-onboard-iss-may-be-revolutionized-3d-printing

Doctors Use 3D-Printed Replica Brains To Guide Life-Changing Pediatric Surgery

It seems the applications for 3D printing are endless. Scientists have churned out everything from houses to rocket parts, blood vessels to artificial limbs. Now, to add to the ever-growing collection of awesome 3D-printed goodies, medics have used the famous additive manufacturing technology to produce replicas of infants’ brains in order to practice life-saving but risky surgical procedures. Having a detailed model of the brain to work with means that surgeons are no longer reliant on MRI scans and instinct to perform highly complex and precise operations.

One patient that benefitted from the technology is 18-month-old Gabriel Mandeville. At just 5 months old, he started experiencing violent epileptic seizures that were having a detrimental effect on his brain. Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital prescribed the child various medications, but nothing seemed to control them and his seizures continued to worsen over time. Eventually, doctors suggested a radical operation called a hemispherectomy. This rare and exceedingly challenging procedure is used in patients whose seizures arise from one brain hemisphere where there is a pre-existing abnormality. It involves disconnecting the healthy side of the brain from the side in which the seizures originate.

Given the complexity of the procedure, the medics decided to first create an exact replica of Mandeville’s brain to use in a practice run. The model was produced by the Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital using scans of the child’s brain. It was printed with soft plastic and with a precision of 16 microns per layer, according to The Verge. Blood vessels were even printed in different colors so that they could be spotted easily. According to Dr. Joseph Madsen, director of the epilepsy program at the hospital, surgeons can examine, cut and manipulate the models.

Gabriel’s procedure took almost 10 hours, but everything went smoothly. Now, one year later, he is seizure-free.

A second procedure that was assisted by 3D printing was carried out by neurosurgeons at the University of São Paolo’s medical school in Brazil. The patient was an infant born with a rare congenital disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome that affects the skin and nervous system. The condition is associated with seizures, muscle weakness or sometimes paralysis and learning disabilities. Some patients respond to anticonvulsant medication, but those with severe seizures are occasionally operated on to once again disconnect the part of the brain in which the seizures originate.

As before, a 3D-printed model of the infant’s brain was produced from CT scans and used both before and during the surgery as a guide for the surgeons. Once again, the surgery was successful.

In the future, in-house 3D printers could possibly be used in hospitals to rapidly churn out body parts not only for practice, but also to meet the needs of emergency trauma patients.

[Via The Verge IB Times]

Read this: Meet The Next Generation of Waste-Free Food Packaging

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/doctors-use-3d-printed-replica-brains-guide-life-changing-pediatric-surgery

From Trash To Treasure

In the United States alone 250 million pounds of garbage is generated each year. While one third of it is recycled, the rest simply goes into a landfill. Not everything that is tossed out is junk, and many people around the globe are repurposing discarded items from landfills which can have a profound global impact.

The World’s First 3D Printer Made From E-Waste

Kodjo Afate Gnikou hails from Togo in Western Africa where landfills are filled with electronic waste including printers, scanners, and discarded computers. Much of this waste has been imported from the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Rather than continue to accept the circumstances of his environment, the 33-year-old inventor decided to take advantage of the available supplies and crafted the world’s first fully functional 3D printer made mainly from e-waste

Using parts from old scanners and computers, Gnikou was able to assemble the 3D printer for his citizen science group in Lomé for only around $100, while traditional 3D printers can cost thousands of dollars. A budget-friendly printer would give impoverished communities the ability to embrace technology and have access to tools they might not otherwise have. 

This ingenious repurposing attracted NASA’s attention when he participated in the NASA International Space Apps Challenge in Paris by demonstrating how reclaimed e-waste could print tools and help colonize Mars. His printer won first place as the local winner in Paris and was nominated for the global prize.

Recycled Orchestra

The small slum town of Cateura in Paraguay is plagued by illiteracy. It is surrounded by a landfill that has largely been imported from distant places, and instead of attending school small children sift through the garbage looking for things to resell to recycling companies.

After a discarded violin shell was discovered the community began making other musical instruments from the refuse. This presented a unique opportunity to teach the children of the poverty-stricken community to play music. Without these recycled instruments the children would never have been given the opportunity, as even a regular violin is worth more than a house in that area. Scraps of trash have been recycled into instruments that children in the village learn to play beautifully. They are collectively known as the Recycled Orchestra and are preparing for a world tour. Their success has not only brought attention to Cateura’s state of poverty, but also to the environmental impact of landfills.

Studies have shown that children who play music are more likely to excel in math than peers who do not. Additionally, music majors who want to continue on to medical school have an astonishing 66% acceptance rate; higher than any other group. 

Using Discarded CDs to Create Potable Water

Recently a group of researchers from National Taiwan University developed a method that breaks down impurities and toxins from wastewater and creates a clean, potable product. Approximately 20 billion discs are made each year and 100,000 pounds are thrown into landfills each month. As the CDs break down they leach Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the environment. 

The filtration system uses the flat surface to grow zinc oxide. When exposed to UV light the zinc oxide begins to break down the contaminants with remarkable efficiency. After only an hour 95% of the impurities have been broken down. Per minute, that yields 150 milliliters of clean water to drink.

This system not only repurposes discarded CDs, but could also help to answer the issue of water insecurity that plagues over 780 million people on Earth.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/trash-treasure