Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drug Delivery Via 3D Print

Biodegradable 3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via
3D Printed Implants for Drug Delivery via
The most interesting story I found this week about 3D printing explains a new method of delivering antibiotics and cancer treatment drugs using 3D printed implants. Researchers at Louisiana Tech University have used a Makerbot Replicator to print biodegradable implants using a filament infused with the medication.

3D printing allows the implant to be shaped in a way to provide even and efficient delivery of the medicine directly to the area of the body where it is needed. Delivery of the drugs directly where they are needed is more efficient and reduces side effects. The ability to make the implants on an inexpensive home printer has broad implications for creating personalized treatments anywhere in the world.

What is the most interesting 3D printing story you read this week?

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Curse of the Visionary

Clock via Pixabay
I have written often in this blog about the value of being able to predict the future and provided several suggestions on ways to develop predictive skills. Understanding nascent technologies and societal trends can boost your creativity, your career and your investments. But that vision comes with a price.

Any careful consideration of our current situation and possible paths forward can generate frustration and fear in several ways. I call these the curses of the visionary.

The Ability to See What Could Be

There is much wrong with the world that could be different if better decisions were made about the deployment of resources and technology.  Few voices in the media and even fewer in government seem to have a clear understanding of economics or psychology. When bad policy is destined to produce poor results, there is little joy in knowing that a little earlier than most people.

The Ability to See What Will Be

If you assemble a series of possible scenarios and try to assess the probability of each actually happening, many of those scenarios will be unpleasant. Our economy thrives on creative destruction and it is never totally clear which side of that destruction any one of us will land. Survival requires preparation for the most probable obstacles but obsessing on the risks leads to fear and doubt.

The Inevitability of Generating Anger

Those who are heavily invested in the status quo don't want to admit the necessity of a course change. Visionaries are far more likely to be greeted with laughter or rage than appreciation.

The cure for the curses of the visionary is action. Choose the path that appears to be the most probable route to success and get started. Action can change the future. Action is the perfect distraction from fear and frustration. And action leads us around the curve or over the hill where the path ahead is easier to see.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Titanium Aluminide in the News

3D Spinal Implant via
Titanium aluminide is not a material that is in the news every day. So when two news articles mention it in the same day, it is worth pointing out.

Titanium aluminide is an extremely strong and light material that is ideal for 3D printing aerospace components and orthopedic implants. These items are built up in layers by melting the metal powder using the Electron Beam Melting method perfected by Arcam AB.

The first article notes that the first 3D printed spinal vertebrae have been implanted in patients in China. This is a major medical breakthrough that can greatly help those suffering from spinal injuries or spinal degeneration.

In the second article, GE revealed that they will be using the alloy and Electron Beam Melting in the production of the turbine blades for their GEnx engine, used in Boeing’s Dreamliner and 747-8 aircraft.

These are fascinating stories and lead me to believe that we will be hearing a lot more about Arcam AB and titanium aluminide in the future.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Shapeways Announces Full Color 3D Printing in Plastic

Success Kid by Ryan Kittleson, Kerbal Jebediah Kerman on IVA by Kerbal Space Program, and Bacon Mobius by Joaquin Baldwin
3D Plastic Parts by Shapeways
For the first time, full color 3D printing is available in a durable, functional plastic. The new service was announced Wednesday by Shapeways.

Shapeways describes the parts as "grainy" and that the process consists of an inkjet binder and a powder bed of plastic which implies strongly that the service uses 3D System's ColorJet technology. The service will initially be available to a select group of Pilot Designers to test the usefulness of the parts before rolling it out to Shapeway's entire customer base.

This is an important milestone in 3D printing and will open the doors to a much wider set of manufacturing applications.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Can Design Have Integrity?

Integrity is one of the most important characteristics in a business partner, associate, even a customer. We want to work with people we can trust and rely upon. If integrity is important in a person, is it important to design?  Can design have integrity? defines integrity as an adherence to principles, honesty, the state of being whole, entire, sound and undiminished. I believe it is possible and essential for great design to live up to this definition.

Howard Roark, the heroic and visionary hero of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead followed these rules for architectural design:

What can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. 

These are important rules for mechanical designers to remember as we move into the age of additive manufacturing. 3D printers can build easily with materials that have been difficult or impossible to  shape with machine tools. They can create geometries that are impossible to produce with traditional machining processes. Those are the strengths of 3D printing that need to drive the creativity of the designer.

Direct Metal Laser Melted Part by GE
Direct Metal Laser Melted Part by GE
GE understands these principles and already has over 300 3D printers in operation. Using additive processes, they have been able to reduce the weight and improve the efficiency of their LEAP jet engines. GE projects that they will manufacture over 100,000 additive parts by 2020. 

What are your rules for design integrity?

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Full Color 3D Printing

World of Warcraft Figure by Figure Prints
World of Warcraft Figure by Figure Prints
I have been on a quest to find a full color 3D printing technology that can create beautiful and functional personalized models. In recent months, great progress has been made by several 3D printer manufacturers.

Figure Prints has been making personalized figurines from World of Warcraft avatars for several years using the ColorJet Printing method from 3D Systems. But I don't consider these truly functional. Made of gypsum powder held together with a binder, the models are brittle and best suited to display on a shelf.

CubeJet Print from 3D Systems
CubeJet Print from 3D Systems
At CES in January, 3D Systems announced the CubeJet which offers the ColorJet Printing technology in a desktop version. The samples at CES showed fine color resolution similar to the company's larger ProJet 4500 and a video from CES by Make shows a CubeJet printed iPhone case that is full color and flexible. The CubeJet is not yet available but expected to begin shipping later this year.

For a model that looks, feels and functions similar to wood, the Mcor Iris offers inexpensive 3D printing in full color with over a million colors. Iris builds using paper and the selective deposition lamination process. Since color printing on paper is a mature and well tested method to product accurate color, Iris produces the most accurately colored models that I have seen so far. It is the only 3D printer that supports ICC profiles.

Cyan Magenta Yellow Palette for the Connex3
Cyan Magenta Yellow Palette for the Connex3
Arguably, the most durable multi-color parts can be made using the Objet500 Connex3 printer from Stratasys. Connex3 can print using a variety of PolyJet materials including Digital ABS which mimics the strength, toughness and thermal resistance of ABS and high impact polystyrene. The printer's PolyJet technology jets resin droplets of three different colors onto the build tray and he colors can blend to create up to 46 colors in a single model. While there is a choice of 10 different palettes of 46 colors, none of them have the color resolution to create a model with a continuous tone photographic texture map.

Every week, I see a new article on a research lab working on a full color 3D printer and even some new models coming onto the market. The definition of full color varies though and most of these processes would be better described as multi-color because their ability to blend colors is limited.

What would you like to print in full color?

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

How Does it Feel

Smartphone in Audience
Smartphone image by Mark Mueller
The photo industry is changing and most acknowledge that the primary reason is the ubiquity of smartphones. Everyone has a camera with them all the time and there are more images captured than ever before. The images are shared with friends and family via Facebook so there is no need to share prints. And why even make a print when the phone also serves as a storage and display device.

With less demand for prints, what opportunities exist for those of us in the photo industry? One answer is revealed by the nature of the smartphone itself. Take your phone out of your pocket or purse and open up one of your pictures. How does it feel?  What is the emotional response to a smooth, flat, shiny screen?

If we want to interest people in doing things with their images, we need to emphasize products that are not smooth, flat and shiny. Interesting products, presented in a fun way, and manufactured on beautifully textured, ultra-thick stocks feel completely different than the phone screen. And they evoke a much stronger emotional response.

Memory Game by Pinhole Press
Memory Game by Pinhole Press
One of my favorite companies that does this particularly well is Pinhole Press. The Memory Game shown here is a perfect example. Twelve photos turn into 24 beautiful cards in a game that teaches memory skills while preserving memories through the photos chosen. And the cards are printed on an ultra-thick, luxuriously textured eggshell finish so they feel as nice as they look.

Notebooks and Journals by Ann Page
Notebooks and Journals by Ann Page
Another favorite is Ann Page whose notebooks and journals in the back-to-school collection highlight that fact that personalization doesn't always require a photograph. And the growing list of retailers who carry the brand proves that you don't have to sell online to be successful.

Building on the positive response to it's LOFT ultra-thick cards, Black River Imaging recently introduced a new variant that feature a core of color to spice things up a bit. ColorTHICK business cards and greeting cards come in a variety of sizes, colors and thicknesses.  Of course, I have ordered my own business cards made on the ColorTHICK stock.

ColorTHICK greeting cards and business cards
ColorTHICK greeting cards and business cards by Black River Imaging
What are you offering that makes both a tactile and visual impact?

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