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3D printing news round-up: May 2017

3D printing news round-up: May 2017

Welcome to the latest 3D printing news round-up, where we bring you the most exciting stories from the world of 3D printing every month! Last month, we covered a technology for printing gluten-free food, as well as an architectural application for 3D printing skyscrapers in Dubai. 

As 3D printing becomes an increasingly prominent technology across a range of industries, the stories keep coming. Here are some of the most interesting 3D printing related stories over the past month.

Glassmaking receives a technological upgrade

Industrial glassmaking is one of the world’s most resource and labour-intensive processes. With massive furnaces and an array of chemicals required, industrial glassmaking utilises economies of scale in order to be profitable.

In order to simplify this production process, 3D printing has been brought forward as a potential alternative. In recent news, a 3D printer has been used to additively construct small glass figurines. The machine prints a substance called “liquid glass”, which comprises of silica nanoparticles in an acrylic solution. When these particles are exposed to high temperatures, the plastic bruns away while the silica forms into complex glass structures.

This application could be revolutionary in the production process of contact lenses, as well as lenses for smartphone cameras. No harsh chemicals are required and costs will be significantly lower than conventional methodologies.

3D printing and professional cycling

Did you know that 3D printing played a role in the construction of Chris Froome’s Tour de France-winning bicycle? Carbon fibre moulding has been an integral part of bicycle construction for several decades, however, additive manufacturing is now becoming a worthy alternative.

The titanium handlebars of Chris Froome’s bicycle were constructed using 3D printing. In terms of design iterations, the handlebars were 50-75% less time-intensive than carbon fibre moulding. In a sport where speed is the key to victory, it only seems appropriate that bicycle designers would want to choose the most expedient production methodologies.

Additionally, 3D printing allows the handlebars to be customise specifically for the rider in question. This eliminates the need for adjustable handlebars, which lowers the weight of the bicycle and improves performance. In fact, two sets of handlebars were printed: one for flat terrain and one for riding up hills. Chris Froome swapped them according to the terrain on each day.

House-building robots

Increasingly, it seems like architecture and 3D printing are becoming great partners. Clearly, construction is an industry which relies on labor. Using technological automation could save labor costs, but may also expedite the construction of buildings.

A team at MIT have designed a robot, which moves by itself on caterpillar treads and additively constructs buildings using a giant hydraulic arm. At the end of the arm, there is room for a number of fittings, including a foam insulation gun, as well as numerous construction tools. The machine weighs 8,100 pounds and costs a staggering quarter of a million dollars to set up - not something for the average 3D printing hobbyist.

If this sounds futuristic, it definitely is. Check out this video to see the amazing machine in action.

Tagged with: cycling, robots, glass