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NASA’s Orion spacecraft contains more than 100 3D printed parts

It probably goes without saying that 3D printing is going to be a mainstay for the next generation of spacecrafts. The technology has already made its way onto extra terrestrial objects, and this morning 3D printing bigwig Stratasys confirmed that it’s teaming with Lockheed Martin to create parts for the Orion.

The parts, the company is quick to explain, are more than just prototyping. More than 100 3D printed parts will make it onto that the craft, the next generation of manned NASA spacecraft, which is destined first for the moon, and later Mars. The pieces will be printed ESD Antero, a variety of thermoplastic designed to withstand the extreme heat of space travel.

“The demands of space travel require extremely high performance materials and the most rigorous manufacturing processes in the industry,” Stratasys SVP Scott Sevcik said in a release tied to the announcement. “Part integrity and repeatability are essential and must pass NASA’s demanding testing and validation process.”

An initial flight, which will include a 3D printed hatch door, will fly, uninhabited beyond the moon over the course of three weeks. Astronauts will crew the ship for a followup, which will find them traveling near the moon, for the first time since 1972 — a dozen or so years before 3D printing technology was first patented. If all goes according to plan, Orion will eventually take a human crew to Mars.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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3d printing

How 3D printing is revolutionizing the housing industry 

If you build it, they will come. And if you 3D-print it, they will come faster, cheaper and more sustainably.

We live in an era of overpopulation and mass housing shortages. Yet we also live in a time of phenomenal digital innovation. On the one hand we have major crises affecting the health, liberty and happiness of billions of people. But look at the other hand, where we have potential for life-changing technological breakthroughs at a rate never before seen on this planet.

Our challenges are vast, but our capabilities to produce solutions are even greater. In the future, we will remember this moment in time as a pivotal one. It is now — not tomorrow, and certainly not five years from now — when technology and innovation are disrupting multiple major industries, including those of housing and construction, at breathless and breakneck speed.

Innovators around the world are hard at work to change the way we design, build and produce our homes, and all of this will result in massive change to the housing status quo. Harnessing the revolutionary power of 3D printing, companies from Russia to China, the U.S. and the Netherlands have already proven that not only can a home be 3D-printed, it can be done cheaply, efficiently and easily.

Here are just a few ways 3D printing is already transforming the way we live.

Speed

In March 2017, Apis Cor, 3D-printing specialists with offices in Russia and San Francisco, announced they had produced a 3D-printed home in just 24 hours. That means that from the time you drank your coffee yesterday to the time you sat down for cereal this morning, they produced the self-bearing walls, partitions and building envelopes of an entire home, installed it on site and added the roof and interior finishings. It happened in the dead of winter in a tiny Russian town named Stupino, and it was done using Apis Cor’s on-site printer, which means that the massive cost and logistical hurdle of transporting parts and building materials from factories to a home site was almost entirely eliminated.

Think about the possibilities: You select the site where you want to build your home, Apis Cor brings in their 4.5-meter-long printer, the raw materials are set up and within one single day, your home is printed and ready for you. Compare that to the traditional six- or seven-month construction time the industry is used to, and you’ll begin to understand the scope of potential disruption.

The speed of technological innovation here is also exponential and mind-blowing; just one year before Apis Cor’s breakthrough, we in the 3D-printing industry were marveling over Chinese construction company HuaShang Tengda, who set their own record by 3D-printing a two-story home in a month and a half. Consider that, for a moment: This industry is moving so quickly that construction time has been slashed from 45 days to 24 mere hours in the span of a single year.

Image: shanelinkcom/iStock

Cost

Housing prices in America have skyrocketed over the past 50 years, with the average price for a home now surpassing $200,000. And remember, that’s just the average — if you live on the East or West Coast, chances are you’re going to be shelling out something closer to the half-million dollar mark (or more!).

According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, a full one-third of people who live in cities will find decent housing out of their reach due to cost by the year 2025. And construction costs are the primary barrier — the report also states that it will take between $9 trillion and $11 trillion just to build the necessary houses to flip that supply-demand ratio and make housing affordable in that time.

Of course, that’s taking only traditional methods of construction into account. But Apis Cor’s 24-hour home was made for around $10,000. HuaSheng Tenga’s homes were made with only 40 percent of the materials traditional construction usually requires, in 30 percent of the time. That represents massive savings in labor and material costs. And these companies aren’t alone — dozens of other firms are exploring cheaper and less complicated methods for building the roofs we all need over our heads, and slashing prices in the process. 

New Story, a Silicon Valley-based nonprofit that builds housing in the developing world, just unveiled a new 3D printer at SXSW that can print a house in less than a day for $4,000. DUS Architects — a Dutch architecture studio that has been 3D-printing houses since 2012 — has unveiled the KamerMaker, a huge 3D printer that can build using local recycled materials. This slashes transport, material and manufacturing costs, all driving down costs. 

The bottom line

What’s so revolutionary about 3D printing is that its potential is limited only by our imaginations. If the past few years have taught us anything about this industry, it’s that barriers of size, scope and material do not apply to the potential that 3D printing brings to the manufacturing market. From cars to food, to the houses we live in, the industry isn’t just gearing up for a shakeup. It’s in the throes of it already, because change is happening now.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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3d printing

Formlabs scores another $30 million in funding

Formlabs announced this morning that it’s raised another $30 million in a Series C lead by Tyche Partners. This latest round puts the Somerville, Massachusetts-based 3D printing company’s total funding north to $85 million. It’s a rare success story in the world of desktop 3D printing, where most of the company’s competitors failed to weather the industry’s own hype bubble.

The company says it’s using the funding to build more product, and to help meeting growing demand abroad — particularly in Asia. China and Japan are both growing markets for Formlabs, particularly the former, where 3D printing is playing a more central role in manufacturing. In fact, China has recently become the second largest market for 3D printing technology

“This fundraising is a milestone for the company,” CEO Maxim Lobovsky told TechCrunch, “but at this point, a more important milestone will be to continue accelerating profitability and growing revenue at a very fast rate. More than the money, this investment represents an opportunity to increase our presence in China, the world’s largest manufacturer.”

I can personally vouch for the fact that Formlabs’ devices are the desktop 3D printer I see consistently in the maker spaces and product labs I visit. The company was one of the first to move beyond the standard FDM technology you see on most of these machines toward the much more detailed SLA tech. Prior to this, it was exclusively the realm of large, expensive industrial machinery.

Last year, the company expanded its offerings, dipping its toes into 3D printing for manufacturing, along with additional desktop machines.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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3d printing

Nike’s Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint leans hard into computational design

Computational design is the hottest phrase in manufacturing and 3D printing at the moment. It’s changing the way people make all kinds of goods, and Nike used it to design and manufacture its new Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint shoe, which it’s announcing today.

The shoe is a specialized edition of its Zoom Vaporfly Elite 4%, which was used by elite runner Eliud Kipchoge during Nike’s Breaking2 event, which resulted in the fastest marathon ever run. The special sauce in this edition is the FlyPrint upper, which is printed on the fly by a specially customized 3D printer out of a proprietary Nike polymer.

I spoke with Nike’s Brett Holts, product line manager for running footwear and Roger Chen, a senior director for Nike’s NXT Digital Innovation department, about the process and the shoe.

The material is printed out in a pattern specifically designed for a given athlete’s needs and attached to the much hyped Zoom X foam midsole from the 4% model. The process, which Nike is calling FlyPrint, has some similarities to Nike’s other famous ‘fly’ process, FlyKnit, hence the name. The printing process, says Chen, is a lot like painting the material.

The uppers I saw pre-lasting look a lot like a regular butterfly upper, with the same kind of flexibility you’re used to seeing from fabric or other polymer-based upper materials. This is not a hard-shell 3D-printed material, it’s a fabric of sorts. This is reinforced by the fact that several components of the shoe are still made of FlyKnit including the tongue and collar. Those parts are so similar in chemical composition that there is no glue needed to attach them. Instead, the FlyPrint material is bonded seamlessly with the FlyKnit, making for a one-piece design that is stronger and lighter.

The process of computer aided design in consumer products has a long history — but computational design is an evolution of this concept and has begun to gain steam lately with production-ready 3D-printing processes like Carbon’s M-series digital light synthesis printers and Desktop Metal’s Production System. The guiding force behind computational design is that you feed parameters and physical properties into a model — basically limitations and desired outcomes — and get designs that would either be impossible or incredibly time consuming for humans to produce.

In the case of the new FlyPrint upper, the constraints are the properties of the material and the forces that Kipchoge’s feet were exerting on that material. With that data, along with the chemical composition of the polymer, a computational model allowed Nike to tweak the design for support, flexibility, reinforcement or relaxation on a much more granular level than they could ever accomplish with FlyKnit.

If, for instance, Kipchoge felt that he needed more support through the arch area, the team could tweak that metric in that region, resulting in a more compact pattern of diamond-shaped lattice. In the FlyKnit world (and the world of most knit running shoes) this is done by creating various panels that reflect the properties you want from that portion of the shoe and glueing or stitching them together, adding weight and reducing strength.

Now, Nike can print a fully customized upper in one go, blending it seamlessly with FlyKnit where it makes sense for comfort.

The result of all of this is that the shoe is incredibly light. A 12 gram, or 6% reduction in weight to start. On top of that, one of Kipchoge’s big issues with the Vaporfly Elites in Berlin was water retention in the rain. The shoes started out light but water soaked into the FlyKnit and couldn’t fully make its way out. The FlyPrint upper is nearly translucent it’s so porous, which solves the drainage issue.

Chen says that Kipchoge said that it ‘felt like he was flying’ because he could feel the wind on his feet.

Another huge advantage to FlyPrint, points out Holts, is speed. Nike was able to design and construct every iteration of the shoe through to the final model in just 4 months. As a frame of reference, it typically takes 9 months to a year to get a shoe off the ground.

“We would never have been able to do that [with FlyKnit],” says Holts, “we were addressing the needs of our athlete within 24 hours.”

This day-long cycle — taking into account the Kenyan time differential — of trading feedback with Kipchoge and turning around his requested updates to fit or function was uniquely enabled by using the FlyPrint process.

Additionally, the modeling component of the process allows Nike to scale the shoe through various sizes while maintaining the appropriate ratios of material to negative space for each section.

Nike is using an established 3D printing process called fused deposition modeling, basically painting shapes onto a surface with production-ready TPU materials, but Chen says that the proprietary components of the process lie in how the printers are being driven to lay down the FlyPrint. Neither will say what printers Nike is using but note the company’s history in ‘hacking’ manufacturing tools to get the job done. As an industry note, Stratasys is one of the more established players in FDM printing.

Computational design and production ready 3D printing are changing footwear as we speak. Adidas and Carbon are focusing on the midsole in fashion and basketball, Nike is reinventing the upper for elite runners. But the real gem here might not be the speed or customization — both important advancements.

Instead, it could be the way that the design process is compressed down to mate directly with the manufacturing process. This has the potential to change not just footwear, but every kind of product made. Instead of the lengthy and costly process of injection molding or milling, product designers are, for the first time ever, able to start taking direct ownership of the production process, realizing impossible designs and goals with the use of a powerful feedback loop that includes designer, materials and process in one flow of data.

The Vaporfly Elite FlyPrint is a product for elite runners only, and a small amount of them will be available at an event in London soon, as well as on the feet of Kipchoge and other Nike runners. But there is an epochal shift in the way shoes (and other products) are made coming, and this is one of the harbingers of that shift. Pay attention.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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