3D Printing Industry

THE RETURN of The Week in 3D Printing

After a fall break, we’re back with the best of what’s new in 3D printing. Fasten your seatbelts, because we’re going into space, inside the human body, behind the scenes at a futuristic factory, and over the first functional 3D printed bridge. Plus we’ll take a look at the man who almost invented 3D printing, but… did something else instead — all this week in 3D printing!

But, what about the moon?

Thanks to NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, we’ve been hearing a lot about building habitats on Mars. But what about Earth’s moon, our first love, in terms of extraplanetary travel? The last time it got some attention was 2013, when Yutu, a Chinese rover, took a spin on its dusty face. Well, the Google Lunar XPRIZE is reviving the moonshot, awarding prizes from five to $30 million for successful unmanned lunar rover landings. One team in the competition, SpaceIL, is planning to use 3D printing to build their lunar lander’s legs, as reported by Industry Week. The lofty goals of the competition include habitats on the moon’s surface, so keep an eye out for future 3D printed lunar applications — far sooner than on that red planet that gets all the attention.

Learn the (pretty darn inspiring) story of SpaceIL here:

Implanting the future

An Australian team has successfully implanted its second 3D printed sternum. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Melbourne-based medical implant company Anatomics created the implant out of titanium and Anatomics’ PoreStar porous polyethylene material. The patient, Penelope Heller, is the first American to receive such an implant, and this is the first surgery of its kind on U.S. soil. The possibilities of medical 3D printing are becoming more obvious every day, but this is one of the first concrete realizations of that incredible potential. After covering Form Prosthetics this week, I’m beginning to think that the Aussies are in the lead when it comes to turning us all bionic. But I’m not whinging about it.

Do do that Voodoo that you do so well

PLA-only 3D printing shop Voodoo is jumping into the fourth industrial revolution with both feet, incorporating advanced robotics into its 3D printing factory. As ZDNet reported, Voodoo is making use of cobots, or collaborative robots, which are both easier to program and safer when it comes to working around people. The bots harvest prints from build plates, 24 hours a day. That means more printers in use, more money for Voodoo, and faster turnaround times. Win-win-win.

See the cobot in action here:

So proud!

As anyone familiar with Shapeways knows, we’re a Dutch company that just happens to have its HQ in NYC. So, we felt a twinge of pride this week when the first (successfully completed) 3D printed bridge debuted in the Netherlands. Led by a team from the Eindhoven University of Technology and BAM Infra, the bridge is the first 3D printed concrete structure to be put into use. But we know it won’t be the last.

See how the BAM printer works here (audio is in Dutch):


Bill Masters filed a patent for 3D printing technology in 1984, before Chuck Hull, the “father of 3D printing” launched his first machine. And the idea had struck him eight years earlier. So, why isn’t Bill credited rightly as our forefather? Limitations in computing power had a lot to do with it, as this Ozy feature makes clear — but also, Masters had other things to worry about. Namely, running the most successful whitewater boating business of the 1980s, Perception Kayaks. Now, we think Masters deserves his due. We’re revising the family tree, Bill.

Bill Masters in a Perception Kayak (CC BY-SA 4.0)

About me
Editor in Chief, Shapeways Magazine + All Things Content, Shapeways
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