Ford 3D Prints Parts for our Future Vehicles | SmartPlanet

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Ford’s experiments with 3D printer technology appear to be going well — as the automaker says it could save millions in the production expenses of new cars, as well as boost overall quality.

The automaker says that 3D printing is becoming an important element of its production lines, as parts are printed out for use in prototypes and testing to give engineers additional time to seek out flaws and make improvements for new models. However, Ford wants to go further — and begin to mix material applications, continuous 3D sand printing and direct metal printing for our future transport.

Ford says that one day, printing and creating millions of parts could be achieved as quickly as printing out a newspaper, saving months of development time and money.

When it boils down to Ford’s production process, traditionally, an engineer would need to create a computer model of an intake manifold — the most complicated engine part — and wait about four months for one prototype at a cost of $500,000. However, by using 3D printing, Ford can print the same part in four days at a cost of $3,000.

Ford says that the technology saves millions of dollars, as it removes the need for special tooling and dedicated molds — which become useless as designs change. In addition, this allows engineers more time to experiment with more radical designs quickly and without huge expense.

“Today, 3D printing is not fast enough for the high-volume direct production manufacturing we do,” said Harold Sears, a Ford additive manufacturing technical specialist. “But it is ideal for test parts, or niche production applications, that go through frequent development changes.”

The most recent examples of Ford’s use of 3D printing include an engine cover for the Ford Mustang, four-cylinder EcoBoost engines for the Fusion, and rotor supports, transmission cases, damper housings and end covers for parts used in the Ford C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid.

The car manufacturer is currently looking at ways to print production parts in metal, rather than just plastic, for prototypes.

“Many have referenced this technology as ushering in a third industrial revolution,” said Sears. “While that is yet to be determined, what we do know is manufacturing is continuing to go digital, the speed of these technologies is increasing and the variety of materials is expanding — all of which leads us to believe 3D printing presents a great opportunity for overall manufacturing.”

Ford may be trying to cut costs in the supply chain, but is also on the charge to launch 23 new vehicles in the United States and Asia next year. The company says it will be the fastest expansion in 50 years, and will require the hiring of an additional 11,000 workers.



Hot-fire tests show 3D-printed rocket parts rival traditionally manufactured parts | Kurzweil AI

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NASA engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have put rocket engine parts to the test and compared their performance to parts made the old-fashioned way with welds and multiple parts during planned subscale acoustic tests for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.

In little more than a month, Marshall engineers built two subscale injectors with a specialized 3-D printing machine and completed 11 mainstage hot-fire tests, accumulating 46 seconds of total firing time at temperatures nearing 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit while burning liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen.

“We saw no difference in performance of the 3-D printed injectors compared to the traditionally manufactured injectors,” said Sandra Elam Greene, the propulsion engineer who oversaw the tests and inspected the components afterward. “Two separate 3-D printed injectors operated beautifully during all hot-fire tests.”

Post-test inspections showed the injectors remained in such excellent condition and performed so well the team will continue to put them directly in the line of fire.

“The additive manufacturing process has the potential to reduce the time and cost associated with making complex parts by an order of magnitude,” said Chris Singer, director of the Marshall Center’s Engineering Directorate.

Traditional subscale rocket injectors for early SLS acoustic tests took six months to fabricate, had four parts, five welds and detailed machining and cost more than $10,000 each. Marshall materials engineers built the same injector in one piece by sintering Inconel steel powder with a state-of-the-art 3-D printer. After minimal machining and inspection with computer scanning, it took just three weeks for the part to reach the test stand and cost less than $5,000 to manufacture.

Since additive manufacturing machines have has become more affordable, varied, and sophisticated, this materials process now offers many possibilities for making every phase of NASA missions more affordable.

The SLS injector test series complements a series of liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket assembly firings at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, which hot-fire tested an additively manufactured, select laser melted injector developed through collaboration of industry and government agencies.

A J-2X engine exhaust port cover made at the Marshall Center became the first 3-D printed part tested during a full-scale engine hot-fire test at NASA’s Stennis Center.

Marshall materials engineers are currently making a baffle critical for pogo vibration mitigation; it will be tested at Marshall and Stennis and is a potential candidate for the first SLS mission in 2017. Marshall engineers are finishing up ground tests with Made in Space, a Moffett Field, California company working with NASA to develop and test a 3-D printer that will build tools on the International Space Station next year. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is even exploring printing food in space.

“At NASA, we recognize ground-based and in-space additive manufacturing offer the potential for new mission opportunities, whether printing rocket parts, tools or entire spacecraft,” Singer said. “Additive manufacturing will improve affordability from design and development to flight and operations, enabling every aspect of sustainable long-term human space exploration.”

NASA is a leading partner in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, which explores using additive manufacturing and other advanced materials processes to reduce the cost of spaceflight.


Why 2014 will be a great year for 3D printing | SmartPlanet

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There’s no denying that 2013 has been the year of the desktop 3D printer. They’re now carried by major retailers, like Amazon and Staples; Windows 8.1 has built-in support for 3D printers; and Makerbot, the popular desktop printing company was aquired by Stratasys, a much larger additive manufacturing company. But, while U.S. President Barack Obama called 3D printing the “next revolution” in manufacturing earlier this year, it’s 2014 that could be the year industrial 3D printing takes off.

Why? As Christopher Mims of Quartz reports, important patents for the more advanced selective laser sintering form of 3D printing (which has been around for decades) will expire next February. While these patents have been the highest revenue generating intellectual property of University of Texas for years, their expiration could mean cheaper industrial-grade 3D printers — much like what happened when fused deposition modeling (FDM) patents expired — and wider distribution of laser sintering 3D printers, which isn’t currently happening on a scale that can be true disruptive in the manufacturing world. As Mims reports:

One of Shapeways’ problems is that the company can’t buy enough advanced 3D printers (the laser-sintering kind) to keep up with demand. This is because 3D Systems, the company that makes the models that Shapeways uses, has a 12- to 18-month waitlist for its printers. Cheap laser-sintering 3D printers of the sort made by Formlabs, which sells a desktop laser-sintering 3D printer for $3,300, could finally give people the ability to manufacture (plastic) parts of the same quality as those mass-produced through traditional means.

The bottom line: Starting next year, industrial-grade 3D printing could become cheaper and more accessible, a boon to those hopeful that 3D printing can transform manufacturing.


3D Printing To Revolutionize The Mining Industry | 3D Print Services

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service_parts_gearsA mechanical engineer specialising in 3D printing says that 3d printing could revolutionise the mining support industry.

Mackay in north Queensland hosted an Expo last week  to update industry leaders on the latest printing technologies.

Mechanical engineer Simon Bartlett says mining companies could make their own parts on site in a fraction of the time it takes get one sent in.

“It’s like Batman’s utility belt, to get through his day he needs to be able call on a number of different technologies or a number of different tools,” he said. “I think it’s definitely a new tool and people are now just trying to work out how it fits in to what they do…. It’s something that will definitely revolutionise the way we manufacture parts.”



3D Printer Uses Liquid Metal | Smart Planet

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One major criticism of 3D printers is that the main material used for printing is plastic. How many items do you have that are made of only plastic? Not many. On a commercial scale, the use of plastic in 3D printers probably won’t change for a while, but researchers are developing some fascinating new materials used as “ink” for 3D printers.

The latest example comes from North Carolina State University where researchers have developed techniques to make free-standing structures using liquid metal at room temperature.

“It’s difficult to create structures out of liquids, because liquids want to bead up. But we’ve found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts to the oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a ’skin’ that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shapes,” said Dr. Michael Dickey, a professor at NC State University and co-author of a new paper on the process, in a statement.

The researchers plan to use the process to develop electronics applications, especially useful for bendable electronics, as New Scientist reports:

It should be easy to swap the syringe for the nozzle of a 3D printer, potentially letting you print plastic objects containing metal wiring with a single device. “You could include this as a functional ink that you use with a 3D printer,” says Dickey.

The only drawback? The cost of printing with liquid metal is about 100 times more than the plastic used in 3D printers.



Success! NASA Prints Rocket Fuel Injector | SmartPlanet

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NASA says it has successfully tested a rocket engine fuel injector that was made using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

Using the traditional manufacturing process, NASA says that it would have taken one year to build this part. With 3D printing the total time needed to make the part has been slashed to four months, reducing costs by 70 percent.

NASA used the selective laser melting manufacturing technology, a type of additive manufacturing, in which high-powered laser beams are used to melt and fuse together tiny metallic powders into 3D objects.

Of course, it’s not the first time additive manufacturing has been used by NASA, just not for such an important part.

“The injector is the heart of a rocket engine and represents a large portion of the resulting cost of these systems. Today, we have the results of a fully additive manufactured rocket injector with a demonstration in a relevant environment,” said Jeff Haynes, additive manufacturing program manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which assisted NASA with the testing.

The part tested this time was a miniature version rocket engine injector, but successful testing means it can move forward with 3D printing of full-scale parts, and more, in the future.

“NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology. “3-D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.”


3D Printing Bigger Than The Internet | Financial TImes Videos

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