3D Printing is rapidly becoming an emergent Technology . Unlike traditional manufacturing that is subtractive i.e. a product is created from subtracting raw material such as cutting sheet, drilling holes, 3D Print is addictive manufacturing, in that material is added to make the product ,as opposed to a new form of manufacture we need to feel guilty about.
There are 3 basic 3D printer types: SLS (selective laser sintering), FDM (fused deposition modelling) & SLA (stereolithography). SLS and FDM use melting or softening material to produce the layers and with SLS, the unsintered powder acts to support the emerging object facilitating extraordinary geometries and this particular process also leaves little waste as the left over powder may be reused.
The excitement of the potential for 3D Print is tempered by the knowledge that with the relatively unknown comes various hazards . On the most simple levels are the questions of how it will affect the manufacturing industry, concerns about the freedom this gives to uncensored production and most importantly in the world of materials the iteration to print the un-necessary.
The other questionable dilemma is in the feedstock used for print. just how sustainable is it? Janine Benyus, the orator for Biomimicry , relates 3D print to life. her view is that there are 5 principle building blocks and if it is possible for nature to be so successful, why can not 3 D print adopt the same principles and work using simpler constituents?
That being said, 3D Print is an avatar for new material development and that can only be good. Infact, the new raw materials are astonishing. For example, Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered that riboflavin, or B12 can be used within 3D Printing to create medical implants, opening yet another door for medical innovation.
Plastics or plastic composites are ubiquitous in 3D print. But as we shift trajectories into the green material domain, bioplastics are a natural new ally. Mango materials, a new bioplastic based company is developing a material that uses waste methane gas from a treatment plant or landfill as the main feedstock. They view the process as a closed loop production, capitalising on the wealth of construction material waste that produces methane as it degrades. Their system is designed to use the methane piped to a factory co-located which is then converted using microbes into a biopolymer called PHB ( poly-hydroxybutryate ) in either pellet or powder format. This is similar in format to polypropylene and may, if fibres are added, also create an artificial ‘wood’. One of the key potential problems for 3D Print is the absence of resin codes that notify the waste authorities how the plastic may be disposed of. This new material though may be disposed of either aerobically or anaerobically. As it degrades and emits methane. Mango, are once again, in the perfect position to reuse, thus completing the cycle.
Country of manufacture:USA
Status: Material Still in development and being tested
Future applications: Material for the construction Industry from decking to facade, products ranging from electronic casings to toys and packaging
There is possibly something a little disconcerting about being able to print a material that then takes on a life of its own. But this is precisely what Designer Eric Klarenbeek, working with mushroom experts and scientists, has managed to orchestrate. His particular 3D material is based upon a mixture of water, fine powdered straw inoculated with mushroom spores and bioplastic. Klarenbeek modified the FDM Printer by removing the nozzle and feeding an extruded straw paste rather than the normal more solid coil through it. The ensuing print is a composite format with the bioplastic printed first to provide a thin translucent skin encasing the straw and spore mix. Once complete the chair is placed into a high humidity environment to allow the biological synthesis to occur. The spores, using the water and humidity digest the straw, producing a lightweight, dense structure that would continue to grow within the bioplastic skin if it was constantly nourished.
Micro perforations were added into the bioplastic skin and the yellow oyster mushrooms emerged through it. Klarenbeek’s work is more important than pure aesthetic; it stretches the boundaries of mental plausibility and in doing so, further reinforces the creative potential between biology and mankind working in harmony.
Country of manufacture: Netherlands
Status: Live Project
Current applications: Grown Furniture, product, Interior, Architecture
'HELICO' is a 3d printed, stone tiling wall system, developed by Richard Beckett and Sam Welham as part of their on-going architectural research into 'Digital Stone'. Helico brings 3D Print firmly into the Architectural arena. This Printed-Sand Product mixes architectural issues of assembly, loading and integrated construction with similar working parameters to stonework. It is digitally designed and additive layer manufactured and as a result each tile, measuring 420cm wide by 485cm high, utilises the benefit of 3D printing to create unique variation throughout the whole piece without adding to the cost of fabrication. According to Beckett, “The concept of the whole interprets helical forces into an ornate, single patterned surface. Yet with depths varying from 5cm to 25cm, each tile is entirely unique, expressing more complex relationships of formal depth and part-to-whole connections. “ This approach maximises the effect of surface relief with exaggerated proportions rarely seen in stone tiles, facings or blockwork systems. Helico is a tight lipped, tightly jointed piece but this large scale , heavyweight 3D print provides an ideal proposition for an interior or exterior feature piece for anyone inspired by contemporary architecture.
Country of manufacture: UK
Modular assembly system available in any size, form and can match any colour specification
Current applications: Interior and Exterior Vertical applications.
Tissue engineering and 3D print is the heady combination of father and son team Gabor and Andras Forgacs and their company, Modern meadow, uses some of their previous experiences making human tissues for pharmaceutical research and other medical applications. Unlike these tissues that had to be kept alive, Modern meadow’s “postmortem animal tissues are simpler to build and faster to market”. “The process involves using 3-D printing to deposit clumps of cells into patterns of tissue. The particles fuse post-printing--similar to cell development in embryos.”The built Hide is then turned into leather.
This Modern farming Model could alleviate many environmental and animal welfare problems. For example, animal farming uses 1/3 of all available non frozen land, accounts for 50% of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions and consumes vast quantities of water. It also uses 45% less energy than traditional farming. Not surprisingly interest in this project is huge and industries that use leather may well benefit from a more efficient supply chain.Next on their agenda is… steak.
Country of manufacture: USA
Status: Live - limited production run in 2014
Electrically Conductive Printable Gel
This new development is a captivating material in all sense of the word. It is a jelly like substance and so has a large surface area with the ability to conduct electricity like metal or a semi conductor. It is ,strictly speaking, not a 3D Print material as it can be printed onto a surface using a conventional inkjet printer and will not solidify until the final part of the process. The Spongy nature of this conducting hydrogel is created by linking long chains of an organic compound called aniline together with phytic acid, another natural compound found in plant tissues. This acid not only links the polymer chains effectively but it also adds a charge to them and hence the super electrical conducting capabilities of this new material. In addition, the Hydrogel has a multiple of micropores which expand the surface area, “ increasing the amount of charge it can hold, its ability to sense chemicals and rapidity of its electrical response.
Professors Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao from Stanford Labs believe that it this Gel has a future in applications ranging from energy storage to medical sensors to biofuel cells. The world of Architecture and Design may though, have a very different view.
Country of manufacture: USA
Status: In Development