1 EAGLETON NOTES: 3D Printing

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Monday, 8 July 2013

3D Printing

The first time I ever heard about 3D printing was in a post entitled Working in the Wild West on Mark's blog The Caffeinated Engine Driver.  I have to admit that despite quite a few further posts on the subject of printing railway goods wagons and various other things I have had trouble coming to terms with the concept.  Now I have seen the light.

I had, as one might expect, read the Wikipedia article.  Frankly at the time I gave up.  Not so much because I'm unintelligent but because I got overwhelmed with detail.  I've since re-read it and almost persevered. 

A few days ago I happened to see an advert in one of my emails from Maplin for a domestic 3D printer.  Then I picked up my Auto Express and there was an article explaining the whole thing.  Why in the Auto Express?  Because it could revolutionise car designing and spare parts supply.  The real thing about the article, though, was that it was written in journalese and therefore relatively simple.  I like simple.

The conventional manufacture of many items is achieved by taking a block of a material and removing parts (e.g. wood and metal turning on a lathe).  Other items may be made in a mould.  Both have limitations.

3D printing is a manufacturing process that builds layers to create a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model.  At its most simple it uses an additive process in which a spool of plastic the diameter of uncooked spaghetti is melted in a print head similar to a glue gun.  The plastic is set down one wafer-thin layer at a time.  As each layer is laid the printer bed is lowered one human hairs breadth and another layer is laid down.  Multiple heads can use multiple materials in the same process.

Many different materials and many different uses (e.g. 3D printing can be used from producing prototype cars to a titanium replacement human jaw) are possible.

Who could ever have imagined a situation where you go into a garage and he prints the spare part while you wait?   The thing is that that is no longer science fiction.  It is a practical proposition.

Thanks Mark.  A whole new knowledge sphere has just opened up for me.

For those wanting to see the products produced by one of the leading 3D Printers then a visit to the Shapeways website is interesting.

17 comments:

  1. It really is fascinating, isn't it? "My" weekly paper, the ZEIT, has explained the whole thing quite nicely a year or so ago. Of course, Star Trek's replicator comes to mind.

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    1. I don't remember the Replicator Meike although Star Trek had many things (like the flip Communicator) which have come and been far surpassed. It was very insightful. I seem to have been lagging well behind in knowing about 3D printing.

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  2. i am excited byt this too.... http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2354852/Is-plaster-cast-future-Designer-uses-3D-printing-create-tailormade-exoskeleton-help-heal-broken-bones.html
    we have one at work - making models in engineering. Was much stronger than the aerated foamy look i was expecting!

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    1. The possibilities seem endless Fiona. Getting a lower leg one on might prove a bit challenging though!

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  3. I actually got a trial version of the design software but have come to the conclusion that I have a two dimensional mind.
    Some products are still a bit clunky but mark makes it work.
    In another few years todays renderings will be unrecognisable.

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    1. You should be able to use Blender or SketchUp for free rather than having to buy any software. SketchUp is supposed to be really easy to use, although I've only ever used Blender.

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    2. I might have know Adrian that you'd already have had a play!

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    3. Cheers Mark. I'll have a look when I've finished using Photoshop's wonderful 3D animation software. It is still Adobe through and through. Layer upon layer and that's only in the menus. I can't imagine doing it in real time for games!
      I can't tell what I've done in PS till I have a quick render. It's a young persons game is computing. I didn't even know till the other day that my 3D workflow was a wish list until rendered. I thought rendering was spreading a lime and water mix over stones on a house.
      I've yet to learn complikated things like Face Book or Twittering.


      Graham! It's No Playing! It's Practising! I started playing three years ago. I saw that Lee Noble's jet car was forming titanium somethings by printing. It just tickled my fancy. Now I'll be away to the Telegraph Crossword.

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  4. Now you just need to have a go at designing something yourself

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    1. Thanks Mark. It will have to join a long queue. You fit so much into your life I sometimes thing you live in a different dimension to the one I live in.

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  5. I had seen a documentary on this process some time back, and was truly fascinated that technology had come this far.
    Mankind has got the power to create whatever he can dream.

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    1. How true Virginia. Mind you I really really wouldn't want to create some of my dreams!

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  6. Thanks for the simple explanastion. I had struggled with the concept until now.

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    1. John Karnt you spell? It's spelt Explanashun.

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    2. It's funny but once I grasped the concept it all seemed so simple. It just took a long time to grasp!

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  7. For a while there I thought the "I happened to see an advert..." was going to lead up to you seeing it as a must have gadget and immediately ordering one for yourself ;)

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    1. I don't think so yet Monica: way too expensive even if I did feel it was a 'must have' gadget. Actually this is one I don't think I could be bothered with when getting something produced professionally is so much easier.

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