3D Printing Industry

The Week in 3D Printing: Mile-High Prints, Wii-Inspired Innovation, a Material Stronger Than Steel, and Methane Plastic

3D printed skyscraper

We watched 3D printed skyscrapers rise into view, admired the most wonderful-ever Wii hack, marveled at a 3D printing technique that out-steels steel, and imagined all that we would do with some methane-turned-filament, all this week in 3D printing.

When the print bed covers serious acreage

Cazza is a Silicon Valley 3D printing construction startup with plans that might not be out of this world, like those of NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, but they do nearly reach the stratosphere. As GineersNow reported, the United Arab Emirates has set an ambitious goal of 3D printing 25% of new buildings in Dubai by 2030. There’s informed speculation that this could mean a 3D printed skyscraper from our friends at Cazza. CEO Chris Kelsey doesn’t deny it, but he does say that the 3D printers needed will be developed “within the next five years.” That should give the Cazza team plenty of time to put together the magic combination of tools that will deliver unheard-of efficiencies and bespoke engineering solutions. We’ll keep our eyes on the sky.

Nintendo did not see this one coming

It turns out that cheap 3D ultrasounds were not as far away as we thought. That’s all thanks to physician Josh Broder, who, inspired by a Nintendo Wii gaming experience, took the microchip that tracks Wii controllers in space and put it to a new use. With researchers from Duke and Stanford, he developed a cheap 3D printed casing for the microchip — one that connects easily to all commercially available ultrasound probes. With the casing and chip attached, a normal ultrasound machine gains imaging capabilities closer to exponentially more expensive methods: MRI and CT scans. Plus, it can now take lots of very cute 3D fetus pics.

Read the whole story at New Atlas, and see it in action below:

Steel yourself, old steel

It’s hard-to-impossible to traditionally manufacture steel that is both incredible strong and ductile (that’s flexible and resilient, in laypeople speak). But, as phys.org reported this week, a supergroup of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Library, Ames National Laboratory, Georgia Tech, and Oregon State University have used 3D printing to do just that. Their new marine-grade stainless steel, called 316L, is 3D printed from models that make use of steel’s underlying microstructure to break the strength-ductility tradeoff barrier. And, the discovery was kind of an accident. As Lawrence Livermore scientist Alex Hamza put it, “We didn’t set out to make something better than traditional manufacturing; it just worked out that way.”

If the gas fits…

There are a lot of reasons to find new ways to get rid of methane (ahem, global warming, ahem), but one of the most exciting we’ve heard about, for obvious reasons, is turning it into a thermoplastic that can be used in 3D printing. You can read the (science-rich) full story at 3Ders.org, but in short: Funded by a grant from the NSF, Montana State University researchers are exploring using the methane-producing microbes in Yellowstone National Park to produce plastics. While we dream of scaling up to a world-impacting solution, the scientists are at the early stages of exploring how to make these methane microbes make organic compounds that could become plastics. But we see which way the wind is blowing.

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