Friday, December 26, 2014

Folding, Fashion and 4D Printing

Kinematics Dress in Motion
Over the past year, 3D printed fashions have been showing up on the runways at major fashion events. Some of the creations have been stunning, but most are structured more like a ridged plastic cage than a comfortable garment.  They have also been complex to assemble after being printed as a set of small individual components to fit within the build area of the 3D printer.


Nervous System, a generative design studio based in Somerville, Massachusetts has developed a method to create a comfortable, full size, 4D printed dress in a single build. The first dress manufactured is so beautiful and revolutionary that it has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its permanent collection.

In 4D printing, the fourth dimension is change. It refers to the creation of 3D printed items that are intended to transform over time.  In the case of Nervous System, their method, which they call Kinematics, produces items with tens to thousands of unique components that interlock into dynamic mechanical structures.  Each individual component is rigid, but combined, they act as a continuous fabric. A large item, like a dress, can be printed as a single assembly and unfolded after removal from the printer.

Kinematics Dress Fabrication
The Kinematics dress was 3D printed using Selective Laser Sintering as a single piece in nylon. It consists of 2279 unique triangular panels interconnected by 3316 hinges. Over time, as the resolution of 3D printers increase, more components made from thinner and lighter materials will lead to 4D printed fabrics that increasingly lightweight and comfortable.

The implications of 4D printing go far beyond fashion. Skylar Tibbits, a Reseach Scientist in MIT's Department of Architecture is developing self assembling and programmable materials that can transform dramatically after removal from the printer.  Be sure to check out his TED talk in the video below.




 
Kinematics Dress by Nervous System - 3D Printed by Shapeways

 

 
4D Printing is the Future of Design


 
Skylar Tibbits: The emergence of "4D printing"

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

How Smart is that Device?

Nest Self-learning Thermostat
Nest Self-learning Thermostat
In just over two weeks, the Consumer Electronics Show will open in Las Vegas. As the world's top electronics companies present the toys that will be on our Christmas lists for next year, the level of intelligence in those devices will be unbelievable.

Last month, at the Printed Electronics Conference in Santa Clara, California, Fred Theil, CEO of B&B Electronics, explained his scale for determining the intelligence of consumer products.

Smart - A smart device can be programmed. A thermostat that allows you to set different temperatures for different times of the day would be a good example.

Connected - A connected device can access content from the Internet. The classic example is a game console that can stream Netflix movies to your living room.

Autonomous - Autonomous devices learn without being programed. The Nest thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature just as you would have with a traditional analog thermostat.  Each time you make an adjustment, Nest remembers your preferences and learns your patterns to keep your home the right temperature.

Collaborative - These types of devices communicate with each other to coordinate in their functionality. When your security system keeps your thermostat informed about whether or not you are at home, they are collaborative.

I am not sure these particular definitions are used by anyone other than Theil, but they do provide an interesting scale for evaluating new devices. Currently, most intelligent devices fit into the lower end of the scale, but I expect several important announcements of collaborative devices at CES.

Are you looking forward to the day when your refrigerator and your elliptical can converse with each other?

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Top Tech Stories of 2015




2015
In three weeks, it will already be 2015 which makes this a good time to forecast the top tech stories of the new year. What will we be hearing about the most in the following months?

Internet of Everything


When the 1993 release of the Mosaic browser made the Internet accessible to everyone, the connections were primarily between people. Soon millions of people were connected sending emails and browsing websites. In recent years, most people in the developed world have multiple devices that they can use to go online and most new home entertainment systems and even some appliances are connected. With billions of connected devices, it is the age of the Internet of Things.

In 2015, we will hear much more about the connectivity of smaller devices including light bulbs, thermostats, watches, shoes and clothing. But the biggest surge in connected items will be intelligent packaging of consumer packaged goods. The first applications will track the history of pharmaceuticals and perishable foods, but eventually all consumer packaging will include some form of intelligent identification.  This expansion into trillions of connected items is The Internet of Everything.

Wearable Electronics


NuMetrex Heart Monitoring Sports Bra
Wearable Electronics were a big story in 2014 and will be bigger in 2015. Many examples are already on the market including smart watches, fitness trackers and shirts with OLED displays. With the announcement of the Apple Watch in September, interest in the category exploded into the mainstream. When the Apple Watch is introduced in early 2015, consumers will be eager to learn how they will use it and investors will be eager to learn how it impacts the growth of the world's most valuable company.

Additive Manufacturing


Fabricated by GE Using Additive Manufacturing
Fabricated by GE Using Additive Manufacturing

3D printing has been one of the biggest stories of 2013 and 2014, but the press is just beginning to realize that the biggest impact will be in the industrial sector where the technology is being used for additive manufacturing. The ability to create parts with complex geometry from materials that are difficult to machine using traditional methods will drive rapid growth in the aerospace and medical fields. Growth in materials like Titanium Aluminide and other exotic metals that can be used in the 3D metal printers will be even greater than the growth in the machines themselves.

 Each of these three were important stories were important in 2014, but will be even bigger in 2015.

What do you believe will be the greatest tech story next year?

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Print Your Dinner

Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
Cake topper printed on ChefJet Pro
During the holiday season, family gatherings often include hours in the kitchen preparing the traditional holiday feast.  While electric mixers, food processors, pre-packaged dishes and modern stoves and ovens have greatly reduced the amount of time required to prepare a big meal, some wonder if we will soon reach the point where we can simply press a button and print dinner on a 3D printer.

The first course that will be able to be 3D printed will probably be desert. The crystalline nature of sugar allows it to work well in a powder bed printer using water as a binding agent. The ChefJet printer from 3D Systems uses this method to create beautifully complex confectionery that can be a delicate as a snowflake.  The ChefJet Pro goes even further by including color dyes in the binder enabling full color deserts.

Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Pizza printed on a Foodini printer.
Most of the rest of the engineering around 3D food printing involves extruding pastes to build up structures which would require cooking after printing. Since flour, tomato paste and cheese can all be formulated into pastes, pizza and pasta dishes are excellent candidates for printing. The Foodini 3D food printer in development by Natural Machines can print with all of these ingredients and many more including chocolate, chicken and chickpeas.

Printing a full turkey or a rib roast is unlikely to happen in the near future, if ever. But it won't belong before 3D printers sit next to the mixer and the microwave in a modern kitchen.

What would you like to print in your kitchen?

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