Young Boy Gets a 3D Printed Robotic Hand

February 8, 2013

Emerging technologies work together to give this little boy a chance to grab onto life with both hands–

Read the full article about Liam’s 3D printed robotic hand at Tech Crunch. It’s pretty amazing that technology has made something possible that just a few years ago would have been science fiction. What other amazing advances in technology, medical or otherwise, have you seen recently?


Soft Robot Learns Camouflage Trick

August 24, 2012

In the ever evolving world of robotics, researchers have taken another cue from nature. Scientists at Harvard have added a layer of skin to their soft robot, threaded with micro channels that they can pump dye through it. The robot can blend in with the color of its surroundings or even the temperature, masking it to thermal sensors.

Harvard scientists develop soft robots that can camouflage themselves
By David Szondy

The robots are constructed using a 3D printer to create the molds used in their manufacture. These molds have networks of microchannels impressed in them. One set of channels carry the air that makes the robot squirm about in a frighteningly lifelike manner and the other carries colored fluid. When the robot walks over a surface, the appropriate pre-selected fluid is pumped in to match the surface and break up the pattern of the robot, making it less visible. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds and the silicone molds make the cost of each soft-bot only about US$100.

But the soft-bots’ camouflage isn’t confined to color. The fluid can be heated or cooled to match whatever surface the robot is walking on, making it all but invisible to infrared detectors. In addition, the robot can aid search and rescue missions by making itself more visible rather than less by filling itself with brightly colored, fluorescent or even bioluminescent fluids.

Needless to say, such abilities makes camouflaged soft-bots very attractive to DARPA, which sees important defense applications for a cheap, soft robot that is resilient, able to squeeze into small spaces and hide like a chameleon. However, it also envisions medical applications for the technology, such as artificial muscles or prosthetics.

Read the full article at Gizmag. Soft robotics is clearly in its infancy, but the things it has already accomplished are quite interesting. What do you see happening next in the field of soft robotics?

3D Printing Creates Yoda Model

July 27, 2012

Happy Friday! To end our week on 3D printing, we wanted to find an example of it in action — it may not be a manufacturing application, but it’s still a pretty fun demonstration!

The Possibilities of 3D Printing

July 26, 2012

It’s one thing to talk about how 3D printing and additive manufacturing will influence the automation industry — it’s another to see the products of a new technology. Now the production of these particular objects will probably have little impact on the market, but they all demonstrate new applications for 3D printing that could soon be making waves in traditional manufacturing.

10 3D printed objects that defy traditional manufacturing
by Chris Waldo

Gyro The Cube
This design by Shapeways user Virtox isn’t new, but it is more than explosive within the 3D printing world. Not only does this model offer high detail, hollowed sections, and a complex center – but it is a functional object. If you haven’t seen it “in action,” I highly recommend that you watch this video. Gyro The Cube is an exceptional example of a fully functional object coming straight from a 3D printer. Details here.

3d gyro the cube
Objet’s 3D Printed Toddler
At least to my knowledge, not a single style of manufacturing can do something similar to what Objet did with this print. This “child,” with visible internal bone structure, is composed of multiple materials, all created layer-by-layer. Look at the levels of intricacy for yourself. Traditional manufacturing can’t even attempt something like this. Detail here.

3d printed toddler

Take a look at all ten objects at 3D Printer. Is the production of a transparent doll going to send shock waves through the industry? No, but the possibility of multiple material 3D printing might. How do you see 3D printing’s capabilities impacting traditional systems?

3D Printing – Two Sides of the Story

July 25, 2012

There’s no question that 3D printing has become a main talking point in the manufacturing industry — but is all the noise worth the headache? Technology Review recently ran two articles that took opposite stands on the spectrum of 3D printing. Christopher Mims’ begins by arguing that 3D printing has no long-term place in manufacturing — and that the problem is conceptual.

Why 3-D Printing Will Go the Way of Virtual Reality

This isn’t just premature, it’s absurd. 3-D printing, like VR before it, is one of those technologies that suggest a trend of long and steep adoption driven by rapid advances on the systems we have now. And granted, some of what’s going on at present is pretty cool—whether it’s in rapid prototyping, solid-fuel rockets, bio-assembly or just giant plastic showpieces.

But the notion that 3-D printing will on any reasonable time scale become a “mature” technology that can reproduce all the goods on which we rely is to engage in a complete denial of the complexities of modern manufacturing, and, more to the point, the challenges of working with matter.

Let’s start with the mechanism. Most 3-D printers lay down thin layers of extruded plastic. That’s great for creating cheap plastic toys with a limited spatial resolution. But printing your Mii or customizing an iPhone case isn’t the same thing as firing ceramics in a kiln or smelting metal or mixing lime with sand at high temperatures to produce glass—unless you’d like everything that’s currently made from those substances to be replaced with plastic, and there are countless environmental, health, and durability reasons you don’t.

However, on the other side of the aisle, Tim Maly argues that — like so many technologies before it — 3D printing’s beginnings don’t matter as much as that 3D printing began. Every advanced technology that we have today only exists because of its overwrought, clumsy inception. Now that we have a point of beginning for 3D printing, the technology has the chance to evolve from there.

Why 3-D Printing Isn’t Like Virtual Reality

Chris is right that 3-D printing as it stands isn’t a replacement for the contemporary industrial supply chain. It’s clearly a transitional technology. The materials suck. The resolution is terrible. The objects are fragile. You can’t recycle the stuff.

Maybe early home 3-D printers use only plastic and can only make objects that fall within certain performance restrictions. Maybe it starts out as, like, jewelry, the latest model toys, and parts for Jay Leno’s car. But there’s no way that lasts. People are already working on the problem. They are working especially hard on the materials problem.

Is there a moderate position on 3D printing? Or is there only the partisan all-or-nothing approach?

Read the full articles at the Technology Review here:
Why 3-D Printing Will Go the Way of Virtual Reality
Why 3-D Printing Isn’t Like Virtual Reality

Manufacturing Evolves with 3D Printing

July 23, 2012

Traditional manufacturing is a complex system of many moving parts, robots, belts, scanners, and more. The finished product that is delivered to customers has gone through many processes, from cutting to molding to welding. But what if instead of a complicated system with different task assigned to different machines, there was just one machine that could do it all?

How 3D printing will change the world
by Duncan McLeod

The Economist, in an April cover story, suggested that 3D printing, also sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, would lead to the digitisation of manufacturing and bring about the third industrial revolution.

“The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together,” the magazine wrote in a leader. “Now a product can be designed on a computer and ‘printed’ on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material… In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere — from your garage to an African village.”

[…] The Connex printer seen by TechCentral this week has eight print heads and can print from more than one cartridge, with more than 100 source materials available.

Kleynhans explains that the applications for 3D printing are almost limitless. “It’s applicable to any industry that wants to do fit, form and function testing,” he says. “If you take a computer-aided design, or whatever you’ve designed, be it toys, consumer goods, packaging or engineering goods, you can create prototypes and, in some rare instances, final product.”

Perhaps one of the most intriguing things about 3D printing is its accessibility. Startups no longer need their own factories — all they need is enough capital to get their product to a 3D printer.

3-D printing: the shape of things to come
By Matthew Knight

Lispon says the commercial 3-D printer market is now growing exponentially, likening the change to the switch from mainframe computers to desktop during the 1980s.

You can now buy printers for $1,000 going up to around $500,000, he says. But you might not need one at all.

“If you’re interested in, say, making iPhone covers and you wanted to make them high quality, you could send the file online and it could be shipped overnight to you or your customer. So, essentially there is a cloud manufacturing model that is happening that is allowing people to do this,” Lipson said.

It’s not too soon to start considering the impact 3D printing will have on the manufacturing industry, robotics, and automation as a whole. How do you see 3D printing changing your industry?

Read the full articles at:
How 3D printing will change the world at TechCentral.
3-D printing: the shape of things to come at CNN.