Some 3-D Printing Links

Zenpundit had a recent post on 3-D printing.  I’m only in the very early stages of researching this field, but thought it might be useful to put up a few links on the subject.

An overview of 3-D printing at ExtremeTech

Another overview at PC Magazine

A more detailed view, with a discussion of industrial applications, at the Engineer

3-D printing with metal

General Electric on the significance of 3-D printing, Also, GE Aviation’s acquisition of two 3-D printing companies

CFM International, a joint venture between GE and the French aerospace company Snecma, will be using 3-D printing to make certain components for the Leap series of turbofan engines. They cite an example of a component which previously required the brazing together of  15 or 20 separately-fabricated piece parts and which will now be made as a single printed entity.

Printing a car, and a gun

Motley Food Stock Advisor (video–link via Bill Waddell) asserts that 3-D printing will bring “the end of the Made in China era”. The hype level in the Motley Fool post is pretty high.

Is 3-D printing a huge bubble?, at Seeking Alpha

3-D printing’s intersection of promise and reality, also at Seeking Alpha

A couple of other approaches to the fabrication of one-off and low/medium-volume items: is a service which provides remote (Internet) access to a whole range of fabrication technologies, including CNC turning and milling, casting, extrustion, and waterjet cutting…as well as 3-D printing. A downloadable CAD package allows the user to design a part, get a price quote, submit it for manufacturing (using whatever combination of machines is required for the task), and get the part(s) sent back to him.

Protomold is focused on providing fast turnaround for injection-molded parts. The customer electronically sends them a CAD model and fills out an on-line quote form; after the price and terms are accepted the company fabricates the mold (out of an aluminum alloy) and then makes the parts from the selected resin. You can play with the quote form here.

It’s interesting to note that Formlabs, a 3-D printer venture that Zenpundit mentioned in his post, is using Protomold services to make components for their printers. Protomold sees its services as complimentary to, and synergistic with, 3-D printers


9 thoughts on “Some 3-D Printing Links”

  1. Is this process limited to making things out of one kind of polymer? Can it make things from metal?

  2. I wonder if this is limited to sintering, which might not be applicable for all applications of metal products. Twenty years ago, my next door neighbor in New Hampshire had a business of making recorders, the musical instrument, with a computer driven milling machine. He sold them all over the world. I had a patient some years ago who built a fabrication machine to make carburetors in one process. A metal casting went in one end and a carburetor came out the other.

  3. Robert,

    They can make things from metal. In fact they have some equipment that can make single parts with three kinds of metal. What is being done at the high end is amazing. But it’s $$$, not $399 for a plastic printer you can attach to your PC, though the AR-15 receiver is pretty impressive.

    This is going to be a big deal, especially for the military. Think about not having to carry spares for everything, and just printing the parts as you need them. Or civilians ordering a service part and having it printed at a local service bureau on demand. The amount of cash tied up in service parts is enormous and sunk.

    Then there’s the issue of making parts that cannot be machined. Why the future’s so bright we’ll need to wear shades. If we survive BrarqCare.

  4. WIth spare parts, there is going to be an issue with material types and capabilities. For example, I recently had to replace the heating element in the oven. Can’t make it out of plastic, obviously; also, sintered metal probably isn’t going to work because it won’t have the right electrical resistance qualities.

    Some parts, viz certain aircraft engine components, need to be heat treated after they are fabricated.

    I’m sure there will be lots of spare parts applications for 3-D printing, but I suspect there will also be a lot of parts that need to be fabricated with more conventional methods.

    Important to note that CNC (computer numerical control), which has been around for quite a while (especially if you include its earlier incarnation, numerical control) has *already* made considerable improvements in small-lot production, as for spare parts.

  5. Admittedly I have not read all of this – going out to dinner and will read it in depth when I return. However it does seem to bme in all this promise one major component is being omitted – metallurgy.

    It’s a huge component.

    Want to be impressed a bit – read the challenges the Skunk Works people had designing the SR-71 – and all they gad were slide rules.

    Someone in a past post mentioned trying to duplicate some AR-15 parts on one of these printers – it lasted but a short time.

    Metallurgy. It is the reason your typical car today can go 150,000 miles – no problem when 40-50 years ago the threshold was 60,000.

  6. Another 3-D design-to-printing service is offered by the French company Dassault Systemes in partnership with another French company, Sculpteo. Design your item using Dassault’s 3DVIA software, then press the “Sculptio 3D Print” button…and…Voila!

    Disclosure: I’m a Dassault Systemes shareholder.

  7. CNC is the answer for metal. CNC technology is expensive, but getting less so. Modern CAD/CAM solutions are making it easier to get parts actually made. CAD is now democratized over sites like GrabCAD, where you can get models of whatever, ahem, and have them printed or CNC.

    I just wanted to mention this because cheap, accessible, accurate CNC (combined with cheap easy CAD/CAM) doesn’t get the press that 3D printing gets. While 3D printing is amazing it has problems: strength, time to make parts, materials are limited, etc. These will all be forgotten eventually as the technology improves, of course. But CNC has been around forever and is coming down in price/complexity as well, and offers huge promise in that you can make parts from metal, exactly as they should be (design permitting).

    Check out Instructables and 123d for more ideas of what’s coming. Disclosure, I’m an Autodesk share holder.

    PS: shop tools everyone should have: jigsaw, drill press, table saw, and lathe. Anything that can be attached to a bicycle powered speed reducer.(toss in a few 3d printed parts and you’d be surprised what you can make ;)

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