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3D Printing

6 Posts authored by: GardenState


Further evidence that 3D printing is coming of age in the construction and design sector can be found in an announcement made in Dubai this week of plans to assemble the world's first fully functional 3D printed building.


The building will be located close to and is the first major initiative of the “Museum of the Future,” launched earlier this year in Dubai, and will act as temporary headquarters for its staff. It will be approximately 2,000 square feet in size and will be printed layer-by-layer using a 20-foot tall 3D printer, then assembled on site in a matter of weeks. All interior furniture, detailing, and structural components will also be built using 3D printing technology. The space will be open and flexible, allowing for a range of uses and the building is expected to host a mix of public and private events. It will also feature a small digital fabrication facility and a 3D printing exhibition space.

Experts have estimated that 3D printing technology can reduce construction times by 50 to 70 percent, reduce labor costs by 50 to 80 percent and can save between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of UAE’s National Innovation Committee said that Dubai aims to become “a global hub for innovation and 3D printing. This is the first step of many more to come. This building will be a testimony to the efficiency and creativity of 3D printing technology, which we believe will play a major role in reshaping construction and design.”


The project is part of a larger partnership between Dubai and WinSun Global - a joint venture between Chinese 3D printing technology firm WinSun and international investors - along with the global architecture and engineering firms Gensler, Thornton Thomasetti, and Syska Hennessy.


Inside the combustion chamber, propellant burns at more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. To prevent melting, hydrogen at temperatures less than 100 degrees above absolute zero circulates in more than 200 intricately carved cooling channels Cooling inlets are visible along the top rim of the chamber.

Source: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

In a rocket’s combustion chamber super-cold propellants are mixed and heated to the extreme temperatures needed to send the rocket into space. Recently, for the first time NASA engineers used 3-D printing to make a full-scale copper rocket engine part: a combustion chamber liner that operates at these extreme temperatures and pressures. The agency sees additive manufacturing as having the potential to reduce the time and cost of making complex rocket parts.

“On the inside of the paper-edge-thin copper liner wall, temperatures soar to over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and we have to keep it from melting by recirculating gases cooled to less than 100 degrees above absolute zero on the other side of the wall,” said Chris Singer, director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the copper rocket engine liner was manufactured. “To circulate the gas, the combustion chamber liner has more than 200 intricate channels built between the inner and outer liner wall. Making these tiny passages with complex internal geometries challenged our additive manufacturing team.”

A selective laser melting machine in Marshall’s Materials and Processing Laboratory fused 8,255 layers of copper powder to make the chamber in 10 days and 18 hours. Before making the liner, materials engineers built several other test parts, characterized the material and created a process for additive manufacturing with copper.

The part is built with GRCo-84, a copper alloy created by materials scientists at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where extensive materials characterization helped validate the 3-D printing processing parameters and ensure build quality. Glenn will develop an extensive database of mechanical properties that will be used to guide future 3-D printed rocket engine designs. To increase U.S. industrial competitiveness, data will be made available to American manufacturers in NASA’s Materials and Processing Information System (MAPTIS), managed by Marshall.

“Copper is extremely good at conducting heat,” explained Zach Jones, the materials engineer who led the manufacturing effort at Marshall. “That’s why copper is an ideal material for lining an engine combustion chamber and for other parts as well, but this property makes the additive manufacturing of copper challenging because the laser has difficulty continuously melting the copper powder.”

“Our goal is to build rocket engine parts up to 10 times faster and reduce cost by more than 50 percent,” said Chris Protz, the Marshall propulsion engineer leading the project. “We are not trying to just make and test one part. We are developing a repeatable process that industry can adopt to manufacture engine parts with advanced designs. The ultimate goal is to make building rocket engines more affordable for everyone.”

The next step in this project is for Marshall engineers to ship the copper liner to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where an electron beam fabrication facility will direct deposit a nickel super-alloy structural jacket onto the outside of the copper liner. Later this summer the engine component will be hot-fire tested at Marshall to determine how the engine performs under extreme temperatures and pressures simulating the conditions inside the engine as it burns propellant during a rocket flight.


Part of the not-so-nice experience of having orthodontic work done is chomping down on the clay-like material called alginate the dentist makes you bite and keep in your mouth for about three minutes until it hardens to make an impression of your teeth.  Sometimes you might even have to come in a few times to make these impressions, which are then be packaged and shipped to a laboratory.


Wouldn’t it be nicer if somehow your teeth could be, say, scanned and a model made for a 3D printer?


It would be, and it is. Exactly that procedure now is being used around the country. By combining oral scanning, CAD/CAM design and 3D printing, dental labs now can accurately and rapidly produce crowns, bridges, and a range of other orthodontic appliances, often the same day. Complete jaw models can be 3D printed directly from cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scan data, with high-definition tooth, root and nerve canal anatomy rendered in contrasting materials.


Welcome to the 21st Century, Mr. Dentist!

While a 3-D printed model costs about $20 (mostly the cost of the plastic material), and alginate models are about $4, this cost does not take into account the fact that orthodontic practices no longer have to keep a special room to store plaster models for patients.


As an example, consider that ClearCorrect LLC, a leading manufacturer of clear aligners, recently added Objet Eden 500V 3D Printers to its fleet of Stratasys 3D Printers. With this addition, ClearCorrect says it will now realize a 30 percent increase in its capacity to produce custom-made orthodontic aligners. With the use of the Objet Eden500V 3D Printer, the company can quickly print 3D models throughout each step of a patient’s orthodontic treatment. The process begins with a digitized scan of a patient’s mouth. This scan is used to create accurate 3D printed models, which are then thermoformed with a specially formulated plastic to create custom, clear aligners. When worn, the aligners will apply pressure to the patient’s teeth that need to be moved. Every two to three weeks, the patient will begin wearing a new set of aligners to continue the realignment process until treatment is complete.


The company reports that its previous investment in 3D Printers has been realized several times over with optimized workflows, faster production, and delivery of clear aligners on a mass scale; all at a lower cost per case.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, has successfully conducted a series of hot-fire tests of key additively manufactured components for its AR1 booster engine. The testing of the main injector elements at its Sacramento facility represents an important milestone in the development of the company’s AR1 engine and keeps it on track toward having a certified engine in production in 2019.



Aerojet Rocketdyne completed hot-fire testing (above) of a single-element main injector for the AR1 rocket engine that was completely built using Additive Manufacturing.

The AR1 is a 500,000 lbf thrust-class liquid oxygen/kerosene booster engine that is seen as an American-made alternative to engines such as the RD-180, which is designed and built in Russia. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the RD-180 to be replaced by an American-made alternative for national security space launches by 2019. This thrust class enables the engine to be easily configured for use on multiple launch vehicles, including the Atlas V and the Advanced Boosters being considered for NASA’s Space Launch System.

The hot-fire tests were conducted to evaluate various main injector element designs and fabrication methods. Several injectors were fabricated using Selective Laser Melting (SLM), an additive manufacturing process that uses 3D CAD data as a digital information source and energy in the form of a high-power laser beam to create three-dimensional metal parts by fusing fine metal powders together. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, enables the rapid production of complex engine components at a fraction of the cost of those produced using traditional manufacturing technologies, where solid blocks of material such as titanium are progressively machined away to form parts.

Aerojet has two 3-D printers; one is 10 in., the second is 15 in. According to the company up to 75% of the design cost can be saved using additive manufacturing for AR1, and products can be produced 90% faster.

Aerojet is also developing propulsion technology for miniature satellites that could possibly lower mission costs and accelerate mission schedules. The MPS-120 CubeSat High-Impulse Adaptable Modular Propulsion System (CHAMPS) is a hydrazine propulsion system that provides both primary propulsion and three-axis control capabilities in a single package. It contains four miniature rocket engines and feed system components, as well as a 3D‑printed titanium piston, propellant tank and pressurant tank. The entire system (below) fits into a chassis about the size of a coffee cup.



3D printed compressor stators and synch ring brackets for the PW1500G (above) will power the new Bombardier CS series of commercial airliners (below)



Additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing can be used to build parts and products of almost any shape or geometry, produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source.

But while 3D printing now is more widely accepted as a technology than ever before, the core competencies of its users have been in producing prototypes or low volume parts rather than delivering mass quantitites of printed parts for mission- critical applications such as the production of jet engines.

Until now, that is. When Pratt & Whitney delivers its first production PurePower PW1500G engines to Bombardier this year, these engines will be the first ever to feature entry-into-service jet engine parts produced using additive manufacturing. 3D printing technology is being used to produce compressor stators and synch ring brackets for these production engines.

In the PurePower PW1000G engine family, a gear system separates the engine fan from the low pressure compressor and turbine, allowing each of the modules to operate at their optimum speeds. This enables the fan to rotate slower while the low pressure compressor and turbine operate at a high speed, increasing engine efficiency and delivering lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise. This increased efficiency also translates to fewer engine stages and parts for lower weight and reduced maintenance costs. As the exclusive power plant for the Bombardier CSeries aircraft family the PW1500G engine contributes to the aircraft’s claimed 20% fuel burn advantage over current in-production aircraft, according to Bombardier, The engine also delivers a 50% reduction in noise as well as lower CO2 and NOX emissions, P&W reports.


Pratt & Whitney says it has produced hundreds of prototype parts to support the PurePower Geared Turbofan engine family's development (and, it claims, more than 100,000 additive manufacturing parts in all over the past 25 years for various uses).The company describes itself as “a vertically integrated additive manufacturing producer with our own metal powder source and the printers necessary to create parts using this innovative technology.” It further claims it has realized up to 15 months lead-time savings compared to conventional manufacturing processes and up to 50 percent weight reduction in a single part.


The East Hartford, CT-based aerospace company is also collaborating with the University of Connecticut to advance additive manufacturing research and development. The Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Innovation Center is the first of its kind in the Northeast region to work with metal powder bed technologies. With more than $4.5 million invested, the center aims to further advance the company’s additive manufacturing capabilities, while providing educational opportunities for the next generation of manufacturing engineers.



If you find yourself wondering whether 3D printing has a place in the classroom, stop. It is the wrong question to ask. The better question, the one educators are asking themselves, is how do you determine which printer is best suited to learning and teaching given that: 1) the learning curve for most 3D design tools is steep and; 2) the price tag for 3D printers can be daunting.


New Valence Robotics (NVBOTS, Boston, MA) has developed an easy-to-use and easy-to-share 3D printing system based on its NVPro printer. It is said to be the first end-to-end 3D printing solution with automated part removal (the company’s patent-pending robotic arm removes items from the printer as they finish printing, so you can queue up projects from multiple users and print them one after another).


Paired with the NVBOTS cloud-based interface, the NVPro can run continuously 24-7 from any device.  A student or teacher can just upload a file or choose from a library of printable content, then send it to be printed. Once done, students can pick up printed objects from the collection bin just as they would pick up printed reports from a laser printer.


The NVPro printer also has “admin” functions so teachers can check jobs before they are printed and manage the printing queue as needed. A live video feed eliminates the need to monitor the printer for hours at a time, so the teacher spends less time babysitting. A print preview feature allows teachers and students to double check models before printing; users can adjust basic parameters to get exactly the part they want.


The notion of 3D printing in a grade school environment seems to me to be a really good idea on a number of levels:


  • It is well known that a novelty successfully captures the attention of young students. And 3D printing is certainly new to elementary schools.
  • It gets away from the learning by rote method and moves toward rewarding student for creativity.
  • Printing technology can help to change a kid’s dynamic from being a passive consumer to becoming an active creator.
  • It provides teachers with 3-dimensional visual aids
  • It enhances hands-on learning and learning by doing.
  • The kids can keep what they make.


A.J. (Alfonso) Perez is the CEO and one of the four co-founders of New Valence Robotics Corporation. Said Perez: “NVBOTS is focused on helping students bring their ideas to life. Most 3D printing processes are far too cumbersome for students and teachers, prohibiting widespread adoption of a technology that offers a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to education.”


To go along with its printer, NVBOTS has announced the release of the NV Library, lesson plans that incorporate 3D printable components. Designed to help educators easily integrate 3D Printing into the classroom, the lessons are written in line with the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.


NVBOTS is basically renting rather than selling the device to schools via an annual use subscription. Its Starter Package gives you an NVPrinter, access to its cloud printing interface, access to a 3D printable curriculum, and unlimited users. Filament and additional printer administrators are added on a pay-as-you-go basis. The company offers educational packages to schools, camps, museums, and other institutions. Commercial packages are available for customers who wish to use an NVPrinter for business needs ranging from prototyping to production.


NVBots also has launched a Fundable Rewards campaign in an effort to get 3D printers into schools. Through the program, contributors can donate as little as $5 to help bring an NVBot 3D printer to a school in need. A pledge of $30 gets you an NVBOT T-shirt and 5 NVBOT stickers, with the money used toward providing 3D printing to a school in an underprivileged community. Similarly, a pledge of $100 gets you an NVPrinted sphinx and a copy of the CAD curriculum. People who donate $2,499 will be able to provide one year of 3D printing to the school of their choice with, the company said, a prorated, money-back guarantee.


NVBOTS has shipped its first NVPro printer to Citizen Schools, a nationwide school network dedicated to closing the opportunity gap, financed from the company’s Fundable Rewards campaign. As of this writing, NVBots has exceeded its $100,000 Fundable goal, raising $104,779. In all the company has raised $2 million in funding.


NVBOTS has held pilot programs in three schools in Massachusetts: Newton North High School in Newton, North Central Essential Charter School in Fitchburg, and the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at its founders’ alma mater, MIT. The company is also partnering with FIRST Robotics, a national organization fostering science, technology and engineering in over 20,000 schools nationwide,

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