3D printing continues to be one of the hottest trends in technology at the moment. From automotives to architecture, it seems that 3D printing is making changes in every industry. This month, we cover some of the most exciting 3D printing related news stories from around the globe.
3D printing on human skin
The future is well and truly here. With a range of medical applications in mind, a team at the University of Minnesota has innovated a method for 3D printing electronics directly onto a human hand. Using a hybrid fabrication procedure, the team are able to deposit electronic connects as well as surface mounted electronic components.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Michael McAlpine, states:
“We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin. It would be like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the future with everything they need all in one portable 3D printing tool.”
Amazingly, the printer relies on computer vision to track contours and movements of the human hand in order to ensure that the circuitry is deposited correctly. 3D printed inks often cure at high temperatures, which would not be suited for human applications. This printer uses a unique ink made out of silver flakes that cures at room temperatures. In terms of instantaneous medical treatments, the possibilities are endless.
Lightweight automotive parts
Although 3D printing has been used for prototyping in the automotives industry, we’re starting to see brands look to this technology for the mass production of affordable parts. One of the drawbacks of electrical vehicles is that there simply isn’t a wide variety for customers to choose from. However, if electrical vehicles could become lighter, then fuel efficiency would be improved. This is where 3D printing can play a role.
Recently, GM executives showed off a 3D printed stainless steel bracket at an exhibition.Typically, the creation of such a part would require 8 different components, but using this manufacturing methodology the part can be created as one. Amazingly, the bracket is 20% stronger and 40% lighter than a conventionally produced part. As the technology improves, we could see thousands of these parts rolled out to the mass market in coming years.
Historic urban architecture is constantly under the threat of decay, but 3D printing may provide a solution. An architectural engineering firm, EDG, have been restoring dilapidated buildings using digitally rendered, 3D printed objects. By focusing their efforts on plastic moulds that can produce complex copies on site, this could enable architects anywhere to replicate the same mould. While this technology has used for facade ornamentation, it could potentially be used to recreate an entire building on demand.