Latest Developments in 3D Printers

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Latest Developments in 3D Printers

It’s strange to think that 3D printing has been around since 1984, since it has only really entered into mainstream use during the last several years. The process has taken a while to come together, and it is far from being perfected, but its use in manufacturing, business, and medicine has improved immensely recently. Every time you turn on the news, there is another breakthrough that wouldn’t have been possible without the technology.

Read on to discover the latest developments in 3D printing.

Direct Metal Writing 3D Printing

It has been known that 3D printing would likely be the best manufacturing choice for businesses in the future. It enables the creation of highly-structured parts with precision, cutting back on wasted time and materials for low-batch production runs. However, while companies are already employing 3D printing technology in the manufacturing of goods, there are a number of limitations involved with the current techniques that are being used, such as SLM, or “Selective Laser Melting.”

Selective Metal Melting

The majority of 3D printing processes today incorporate fine metallic powders as their base metal. These metal powders are then shaped by lasers to form the desired objects. These current processes do have many benefits, but there are enough limitations to cause concern among manufacturers. These materials are not an appropriate substitute for more malleable metals in the way that ink cartridges are just as capable as OEM cartridges on a 2D printer. There have been several cases were parts contained gaps or defects caused directly by the current printing process.

Eliminating Flaws

In order to eliminate these flaws, researchers had to create an entirely new 3D metal printing process.Direct Metal Writing involves the extrusion of a shear thinning metal, which is semi-solid and stronger than traditional powders. It is an alloy that has been manufactured to act as a solid when it is not moving, but flows like a liquid once any force is applied to it. The metal ingot is heated until it reaches this semi-solid state, then it is extruded through a nozzle.

This force causes the metal to become liquid enough to be molded into the desired parts, and when it is left still, it will harden just like welded metal does as it cools. Researchers claim that this process reduces the stress placed on the 3D printed parts.

While the Direct Metal Writing process has not yet been perfected, it is expected to debut in manufacturing circles in the not-too-distant future. Scientists are currently working on methods to manufacture higher-resolution parts using aluminum, titanium, and other industry-friendly materials. Currently, the process is limited to a bismuth-tin alloy that has been used extensively in trials due to its low melting point.

New British 3D Printing Lab Opens

A manufacturer of industrial inkjet printheads in the United Kingdom has recently opened a laboratory to explore the use of 3D printing technologies and their potential for scaling the industrial output of many companies around the world. Using high-speed sintering, or HSS, the company will incorporate 3D printing to create a multitude of parts, including those used in the manufacture of athletic shoes and airplanes. This process enables factories to produce parts up to 100 times faster than other 3D printing processes used thus far.

No Design Constraints

Their focus is to bring this type of high-volume industrial production into mainstream manufacturing. Previously, product designs had to be constrained in order to work within the processes typically associated with industrial 3D printing, but if this new process becomes the norm, then researchers say that all these constraints will be removed.

Australian Woman Receives a 3D Printed Jawbone Implant

A team of dental surgeons in Australia have been the first to successfully implant a 3D printed maxilla jaw bone into a patient’s mouth. The patient is a woman who had suffered severe facial injuries in a car accident several years ago, including breaking her jaw in three different places.

While first responders say that she was lucky to have survived, the 42-year-old woman was still injured enough to undergo a plethora of surgeries and treatments since the age of 20, when the crash occurred. A bridge was implanted to allow the jaw to heal, but this was ineffective. Her jaw began to disintegrate, and the doctor decided that an implant would be needed.

The first bone implant had also failed, since it was poorly fitted and it cracked under pressure. During a follow-up, the woman’s doctor decided to put her in contact with another surgeon that specializes in the use of 3D printed parts, figuring it was the only solution.

Printing Custom Body Parts

The piece was custom-fitted, avoiding the pain and discomfort of the patient’s previous surgeries. The specialist simply printed a new maxilla to implant along with some dental implants and in under an hour, the patient had a new set of teeth. A small incision was made to expose her jaw bone and the custom piece was implanted. The surgeon then sewed her gums back over the piece.

Advances in Technology

It is truly amazing how far 3D technology has come from its humble beginnings over 30 years ago. However, with researchers actively developing new procedures and processes each year, the world is sure to see that the advancements that we thought were not possible, are actually within close reach.

Author Bio

Jessie Green is a freelance writer and a technology expert from Los Angeles, California. With over 10 years of experience reviewing electronics ranging from smartphones to the cheapest ink cartridges, she enjoys researching technology-based products. When she is not busy with work, he enjoys writing and reading.

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