London based SinterHab envision a 3D printed Moon base baked from lunar dust.
Collaborating with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory a team of UK architects have developed plans for a modular architectural structure which would be build using microwaves, solar energy and lunar dust at the lunar south pole.
Based on a system of rigid models that can be pieced together to form a structure, and inspired by the formation of bubbles found in nature the team boast that their design and development concept could “significantly decrease mass, costs and environmental impact” as there would be no need to send glue or other building agents to the moon. Lunar dust would be bonded using microwaves and solar energy to heat the particles to the right temperature for natural bonding. Once sintered the lunar dust would produce a ceramic-like material.
The nano-sized iron particles in lunar dust can be heated up to 1500°C and melt it even in a domestic microwave oven. When heated and the temperature is maintained below the melting point, particles can be bond together to create the lunar habitat building blocks. The use of lunar dust helps mitigate hazards of contamination from the highly abrasive lunar dust.
The internal membrane system of SinterHab offers up to four times the volume of classic rigid modules at the same weight shipped from earth. Modules large enough to accommodate a green garden to recycle air and water for the lunar outpost could also be produced, offering higher levels of habitability and enhancing the comfort and psychological well-being of inhabitants.
This construction method is based on the Microwave Sinterator Free-form Additive Construction System (MS-FACS) with Scientists at NASA proposing the use of a six legged multi-purpose robot called ATHLETE , which would hold a microwave printer head, for the construction of walls and dome. Lunar dust would be excavated and manipulated by Chariot rover in bulldozer configuration and then fed to ATHLETE. This lunar dust would then be used to cover inflated membranes of Kevlar, Mylar and other materials.
Four years after undergoing life saving surgery which required almost all of the left side of his face to be removed, Eric Moger (60) has been fitted with a new prosthetic face thanks in part to 3D printing technology.
During a routine operation to remove nasal polyps, Mr Moger was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a condition which causes small growths or polyps to turn into tumors. At the time of diagnosis the cancer was already very advanced requiring surgeons at the University College London Hospital to remove almost half of his face (his left eye, cheekbone and most of his jaw) in order to save his life. The surgery proved successful with Mr Moger now completely cured of the cancer.
As a result of the operation Mr Moger was left unable to eat and drink, he had to be fed directly into his stomach through a tube. The gaping hole also meant he would have to hold his mouth to speak. In the weeks and months following the surgery Mr Moger became increasingly depressed and in desperation he approached Dr Christian Jesson on Channel 4′s Embarassing Bodies.
The show referred him to dental surgeon Andrew Dawood, who used digital scanning technology to create a 3D scan of Mr Moger’s face. A model was then created to mirror the undamaged side of his face. A nylon mould of his face was then grown layer by layer using 3D printing technology. This mould was then used to create a silicon prosthesis.
The prosthesis (held in place by screws in his eyebrow and other cheek bone) combined with a mouth implant creates a seal which allows Mr Moger to once again eat and drink. The silicon mask is secured with magnets allowing easy removal at night with a darker tone silicon mask created for use in summer.
Thanks to 3D printing Mr Moger has received a significant confidence boost stating “It’s transformed by life… It is a great feeling to look in the mirror and see a whole face again. I am amazed at what they have done – it just looks so like me”
See Mr Moger on Embarrassing Bodies below.
Comprising of so many muscles, bones, joint and ligaments the foot is as individual as a finger print. Different shapes, sizes and patterns of movement ensure no standard off-the -shelf shoe can be designed to correctly fit all requirements. For athletes custom fit training shoes can make the difference in avoiding long term injury due to stress and strain on ligaments and muscles and enhance the comfort and efficiency of every step.
Imagine then going into your local sports shop and purchasing training shows customized for your feet. The team at New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. may be bringing that day closer than you think. Using 3D-Printing technology the Brighton-based company have supplied their sponsored athletes with customised running shoes.
In January Jack Bolas ( a member of the Team New Balance) became the first athlete to compete in the customised shoes. Bolas went on to finish fourth out of the ten competing runners.
Bolas was taken to the Brandeis University in Waltham, where he was fitted shoes wired with a hundred sensors each tracking and measuring pressure as he ran the campus track. Motion capture cameras were also placed around the track.
The assembled data was then analysed by New Balance technicians using advanced algorithms and software to create a digital model of the customised spike plates for Bolas’ shoes. Rapid Prototyping software then cut the 3D data into thin slices for print. Speaking on the decision to use Rapid Prototyping technology Katherine Petrecca, manager of studio innovation at New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc stated
“We could make the custom spikes using a traditional injection mold system, but we wanted the athletes to be able to test the shoes very quickly. Injection molding could take months. With our system, it takes on to three hours, depending on the complexity, and you can make multiple parts at the same time”
In addition to Bolas 2012 Olympians Barbara Parker (Britain) and Kim Conley (US) along with 1500 meter World Champion gold medalist Jenny Barringer Simpson are also involved in helping New Balance develop their highly customizable footwear. The goal is to extend the service to non-professional athletes competing in spikes with the eventual goal to revolutionize future footwear manufacturing.
While on holiday last month I ventured into the Krakow Museum of Modern Art only to discover (much to the joy of my inner geek) a Solar Sinter machine designed and developed by Markus Kayser.
Selective Laser Sintering is the process of creating a very precise 3D object from a variety of powdered plastics, resins and metals using high tech lasers to trace out shape based on computer drawn 3D designs. Laser sintering has within recent years become a key tool in 3D printing or design prototyping. The Solar Sinter machine takes this Selective Laser Sintering process and adds and Eco twist.
Deserts occupy some 20% of the earths land surface with two elements dominating, sand and sun. Visiting the Egyptian desert in August 2010 as part of his Sun cutter project led Kayser to realise the potential of a new machine that could bring together these the vast energy source of the sun and the almost unlimited supply of silica in the form of quartz.
Using a sun tracking device the entire Sinter Machine rotates about its base throughout the day to ensure a large Fresnel lens (1.4m x 1m ) faces the sun at all times. Taking direction of computer drawn model of the object the machine moves the sand box along the X, Y and Z coordinates at a carefully calculated speed, whilst the print head lens focuses a concentrated beam of light reaching temperatures of up to 1600ºC which melts the sand. Layer by Layer the object is built and once completed and cooled the object is simply dug out of the sand box.
Objects printed using the solar sinter consist of a rough sandy reverse side whilst the top surface is hard glass. As composition of the sand varies between regions different results can be produced in different deserts and by mixing sand different combinations of colour and material can be achieved.
Watch the video on this process below:
With even the battery used to move the solar sinter machine powered by the sun, could this new 3D printer hold the key to developing a more sustainable form of manufacturing in some of the the worlds poorest regions.
Recent reports indicate that the US military is developing its own range of 3D printers, designed to enable soldiers on the front line to quickly and cheaply produce space parts for their equipment.
By bringing this emerging technology to the battlefield spare parts and sensitive equipment for devices such as GPS receivers and air drones can be produced onsite rather than waiting on parts from overseas.
In a statement released by operations research analyst D. Shannon Berry it was announced that 3D printers small and light enough to be easily carried in a backpack could be used to in place of a massive manufacturing logistics chain when sourcing spare parts for military equipment. Further announcements from military research facilities include the development of 3D printers costing just $700 (compared to at least $2000 for commercial models)
While the development of 3D printing for front-line military manufacturing proves a controversial topic, it further highlights the growing interest in 3D printing technologies and follows President Obama’s investment of $30 million government funding in the development of a national 3D printing center in Ohio.
Children’s entertainment giant Disney are currently researching the role of 3D printing in the creation of a new kind of toy. The research focuses on developing interactive devices with active components, with these devices created as a single object rather than assembled from individual parts. The team of researchers at Disney’s Pittsburgh lab have used 3D printing technology to create “light pipes” which provide flexible alternative to optical fibre. By printing the pipes to fit a toys specific form it was possible to place and light pipe intersections with greater ease than would have been possible with traditional lighting fibres.
This technology was outlined in the research teams first paper which also details some prototype toys developed to date including;
- A bug like toy with glowing eyes that displays various graphics.
- A chess set with light up pieces that display their location on the board
Similarly by creating chess pieces with a large number of light pipes which form a dot matrix display, the team was able to make text and numbers glow through the sides of the bases of each chess pieces, this could be used to show location or suggest moves for each chess piece during chess games.
While the technology sounds promising there are a number of kinks to be worked out by the team. Currently there is too much light loss from longer 3D printed light pipes and some complications have arisen in the creation of entirely enclosed hollow areas. The team however should also be aware of costing factors which may prove a challenge once the prototype design nears completion. Developing 3D printing for the toy industry is not a new concept however industry watchers suggest that production costs for 3D printed toys remain high which pushes prices upwards, making 3D printed toys more suitable to the adult collectors.
While Spark Truck has been bringing 3d Printers to schools across the US, the Rapid Equipping Force (REF) division of the US Army, tasked with ensuring soldiers are equipped with the latest and greatest kit, has begun sending Rapid Prototyping technology to the front line in Afghanistan.
The REF consists of a team of scientists and engineers who work to ensure any hardware bugs are ironed our as quickly as possible. With the REF team based in the US lead times are stretched for the development and deployment of solutions to any unexpected equipment errors. Scientists and engineers must first fly over to the soldiers to discuss their requirements. Once the problem is identified the team must return to the US to develop the new prototypes, which in turn are shipped to the soldiers.
Built out of a 20 foot shipping container each Expeditionary Lab is expected to remedy this time delay, allowing prototypes to be produced within a couple of hours. Each lab has been kitted out with all the tools required to modify and create tools and weapons in the battle field. Costing $2.8 million per unit each lab contains a state of the art 3D printer, industrial CNC equipment and a satellite link not to mention a whole host of engineering equipment. With its own electricity generator and internal air conditioning / heating system each unit is entire independent of its local environment ensuring it can be placed anywhere.
To date three such labs have been created with the first currently in place at the Royal Command South near Kandahar, the second scheduled for deployment at Royal Command East later this year and the third lab is to be kept within the US and used in the event of a natural disaster. At the end of each mission the lab can be simply be trucked or lifted to its next destination.
The Curiosity Rover is now 23 days into its two year exploration of Mars, aiming to unlock the mystery of Mars. While the project seeks to determine if there is organic matter on Mars, telling us if life can or does exist on Mars, the ultimate goal is to send humans to Mars.
NASA engineers have already begun testing the next generation Rover. Described by NASA test engineer as a “personal SUV” for space the new Rover will act as a housing module for astronauts with two small beds and an observation module so astronauts can get up close and personal with their new surroundings.
The team at NASA decided to use 3D printing to help with the development of the next generation Rover, thanks to the processes ability to create tough, durable components from lightweight materials in a matter of hours. Approximately 70 components used in the Rover, ranging from vents, to external housings were 3D printed using an FDM machine. In addition to the production of end use components Rapid Prototyping also featured in the early design and development stages, prototyping the form, fit and function of the parts prior to tooling.
3D printing helped the team at NASA save time and money at both the prototyping and production phase.
See the new Rover in action below.
As young children we would rush home from school with our arms laden with wonderful creations to amaze our parents. However somewhere along the way we simply stopped making things, learning became increasing focused on ingesting and regurgitating as much information as possible and we abandoned our much loved crafting tools in favour of pen and paper.
Now a team of students from the University of Stanford aim to foster new opportunities for creativity amongst 7-13 year old school children (seen as a key developmental pocket where creativity diminishes) with SparkTruck. A bookmobile for makers packed to the brim with crafting goodies. From high tech rapid prototyping equipment used by engineering and design houses to crafting basics such as scissors and glue guns, SparkTruck is equipped to provide the perfect compliment to a child’s attention span.
Rapid Prototyping while presently the go of industrial designers, is a technology that holds potential even within the tight budgetary constraints of the education system as raw materials and running costs for 3D printers are relatively low”. Coordinator of the SparkTruck project Jason Chua believes that with technologies such as Rapid Prototyping providing fun, open-ended opportunities to children as they move through school and life, children will have assistance in overcoming fear of failure in turn growing increasingly confident in their ability to be creative and work through tough problems.