Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Un-uniform Form

MIT investigates 3D printing at the large scale.

Money Quote -

".. input data about physical stresses on a structure, as well as design constraints such as size, overall shape, and the need to let in light into certain areas of a building. Based on this information, the software applies algorithms to specify how the material properties need to change throughout a structure. 
A load-bearing wall could be printed in elaborate patterns that correspond to the stresses it will experience from the load it supports from wind or earthquakes, for instance. 
In non-load bearing areas, it could also be possible to print concrete that's so porous that light can penetrate, or to mix the concrete gradually with transparent materials."

 Top marks to Neri Oxman for using ideas that Nature has developed and replicating it to produce more sustainable and structurally efficient buildings. I've been thinking along the same lines as she has - a polymer extruding head attached to a Dshape or other could go a long way to increasing the tensile strength...honeycomb patterns, voronoi structures or the like could be incorporated easily. 

Re: The Original MIT article - they cite Behrokh Khoshnevis' printer, the Contour Printer....and not the Dshape.... Never a fan of his design compared to the Dshape - the potential to create freeform architecture is limited by its 'additive' design....Khoshnevis's feet are firmly encased in concrete and construction....nothing artistic can be created. I think next blog post Ill do a nice 'pros n cons' of the two.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Free time with the Thing-o-matic

Spent about 6 hours with the Makerbot Thing-o-matic today....its a shared item at the Vancouver Hackerspace i frequent.

Fixed the heated platform - its important that the object being printed is kept at a certain temperature to prevent warping.

Printed the final part for a 3d scanner. Scanning will be happening soon I hope!

Printed a hand-hook

Printed parts for a elliptic gear system.

Printed my very own creation - a simple wheel.

And I dressed up the Makerbot ... I call him, Baron von Makerbot :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dshape printed design wins Gold

Alright, a gardening medal from the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK. But damn, it looks nice! Same design was used in a public works project in Milan in April 2010. Goes to show of what the limitless possibilities here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

3D printing and the 3rd World

As costs go down and the variety of printable materials go up, the number of users of 3D printing will increase. What does this mean for the Global South? Large stocks of semi-literate people, high inequalities, poor infrastructure characterize swaths of countries in Africa, Asia and South America. If the railroad brought together India, and the power-loom made China king of textile exports, what of 3D printing?   
3D printing is not heavily dependent on major investors – its cost is decreasing rapidly. It does depend on computer literate operators and a steady source of electricity. It seems likely that the means of production will become increasingly decentralized. Small informal groups of 3D printers within urban centers will be much more common.

But what will they be making? In countries with fewer opportunities to make major reinvestment, retrofitting durable and capital goods rather than replacing them will become easier. In the case of a taxicab, replacing specialized parts will be a matter of 3D scanning (this technology has become increasingly cheap….I made one with a camera, a simple laser and a computer -  $60), formatting on a computer and printing it. With good internet access, it might be possible to print off all the parts of a car.

This is just the inner futurist speaking – and nothing ages faster than predictions of the future. But the declining costs are a reality. 10 years ago, a quality 3D printer cost more than $50,000 dollars. Today, a desktop Makerbot costs $1,300 to make the equivalent quality. This has facilitated a boom in Do-It-Yourself printing in the Western world. Already in Germany DIY 3D metal printers have been made. The RepRap project was started in 2005 to create a printer that can print off its own parts to replicate itself.

During preceding decades the 1960s, 70s and 80s, many developing countries pursued Import Substitution Industrialization by raising tariffs on western products to protect their own small government-funded industries and markets. During the past 30 years, these tariffs were dropped and developing countries were forced to cut back on state-led industrialization. With the advent of 3D printing, it seems highly likely that industrialization will become highly decentralized and highly informal. 3D printing is likely to take-off within the Megacities of the Global South.  Profitability will be depend on high demand for parts for consumer, durable and capital goods, quality infrastructure like electricity and the internet and a large work force of computer-literate designers and operators. No longer will state be able to direct industrial policy – its role may be that of a facilitator, and not a director of economic policy. For large conglomerates like the Tatas and the Mistubishis, their role is that of research and development rather than mass production. It is still far more cheaper and reliable to mass produce products.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Voronoi Cell Structure

3D printing can produce structures which are inherently impossible to produce with current technologies (hand sculpting, molding and casting). That's its main advantage. The question is, how do we take advantage of these properties to its full extent?

Enter Voronoi cells. These are statistical diagrams that are used in meteorology and physics, but also produce 2D and 3D structures that closely mimic nature. Compare multi-cellular seacreatures like Radiolaria and Voronoi cell diagrams below.

It gets better. Some recent Grad work by Eva Friedrich has used voronoi cells to find optimal structure formats to resist deformation of force on a simpler structure. To quoteth:

"It appears that a strength of the Voronoi diagram lies in the potential to produce interesting and unexpected structures which exhibit statically efficient system behaviour. Certain topologies which have emerged during the optimisation process apparently allow for ‘synergy’ effects of coordinated interactions of tear and pressure forces."

The take-away is pretty simple. It is possible to retune conventional structures and make them more organic and well as stronger. Along with 3D printing, it is possible to realize them in unheard manners.

There is a catch of course - the results can be ugly.

"....optimised structures generated with this technique, although performing better than the original structure, look irregular and random, with considerable distortion of the geometry of the structure."

If you look at the top left corner there's a picture of the first printed building by the Dshape - the Radiolaria. Now we have a mathematical way of recreating straight lines and mimicking nature without stealing all the blueprints - true inspiration!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bad prints and reusing ABS

In my times using the Makerbot, there have been quite a few 'bad prints'. The platform skips, the extruder runs out/can't pull enough ABS/PLA plastic, warping. But ABS is expensive, and it is reusable. The same goes for PLA. I wonder how easy it would be to develop a system that melts and reshapes the plastic into long strings. Better yet, a system that goes with the extruder so that a bad print can be tossed into a funnel and reprinted.

I can't see why this hasn't happened yet! Maybe its a matter of time.