Working in the Portland State Accelerator, we are literally down the hall from a number of interesting tech-based companies, so we come across a lot of cool products.  For some residents, we provide engineering support, for others, rapid prototypes, 3D printing, 3D scans, parts, molds/tools, and models.  We thought it would be fun – and informative - if we showcased some.  Two of our neighbors use sensors for monitoring in powerful ways.  Today, we'll showcase the first...

APDM creates movement monitoring solutions for health conditions, biomedical research and athletic training.  Originally designed to collect data from people affected by Parkinson’s, their wearable sensors are widely used in research and have evolved to “include a Clinical Data Management System (CDMS) called Mobility Exchange.”  Three options are available:  sapphire, emerald, and opal which include many features (docking stations, body straps, temperature calibration, and data logging among others). 

Having two relatives stricken by Parkinson’s, it’s excited to see devices that are unobtrusive - imagine a monitor as small as a watch - yet effective enough to gather volumes of data to fuel research demands.

Now that 3D printing (additive manufacturing) has become the latest media darling, it's no surprise that this attention has awakened various national, state, and local authorities to its promise.  Yes, I follow these developments because I have a vested interest as someone who owns a 3D printing, engineering and manufacturing firm.  But part of my interest comes from growing up in a rust belt town once known as the "center of the universe" for steel manufacturing.  (Very few steel plants remain today).  Up the street (interstate) sits the New Stanton plant, so every time we drive between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, we pass the site. From the late 70s - late 80s, it housed a VW factory (a great coup for the state at the time) and afterward a Sony TV plant moved in and operated from the early 90s until 2008 when it also closed.  

We are too familiar with this scenario which has played out numerous times in every state. Products have life cycles.  Companies merge and consolidate.  Production shifts to locations with better labor and material costs.  So often public officials and civic leaders feel pressured to compete with one another to land the next big thing.  Is that N-B-T additive manufacturing? Maybe...

America Makes, a collaboration of government, business, academic and non-profit representatives promotes 3D printing innovation and resides in the heart of the Rust Belt.  Similar initiatives have since been launched...

An Illinois consortium was selected to lead The Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute.

The Lightweight & Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation (LM3I) Institute will be directed by a Michigan-based consortium.

The Next Generation Power Electronics National Manufacturing Innovation Institute is comprised of a North Carolina-based consortium.

A competition is now underway (application deadline this week) to select a consortium for the Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Composites Materials and Structures.

And, not to be left behind, various counties, states and regions have joined pursuit.

Notice anything all these collaborations have in common?  Any west of the Mississippi?  I'm not saying there aren't any, but a quick internet search came up with none.  Nor do I begrudge the rust belt - as someone who managed and lived through a plant closing there, I support bringing back manufacturing jobs to the region.  And I live in Maryland, so obviously I'm excited about its promotion of 3D printing.  But as someone whose AM business is headquartered in Portland, Oregon (yes, it's a long commute), I don't want the Northwest to miss out. Because, at least for now, this emerging technology should generate enough opportunities for all.  The Northwest's demographics, location and passion for sustainability, collaboration, and creativity make it an ideal innovation hub.

 

 

Many 3D printing technologies involve heat in some way, for example, applying lasers to a powder to fuse the layers together.  But researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are working on "mixing ceramic materials with water to create a paste that is then extruded to form manufactured parts" and exposing them to low temperatures to freeze the water to set the components.  Freeze-form extrusion fabrication as it is known is being researched by Mingyang Li and Dr. Lie Tang* under the supervision of Drs. Robert Landers and Ming Leu.  The team recently received the ASME Blackall Machine Tool and Gage Award for their work which is focused on determining the impact of air bubble entrapment and extrusion force on extrusion velocity and settling time.  Increased force (to a point) and reduced air entrapment were found to decrease settling time.  As with all methods of Additive Manufacturing, speed is always good.

So why do we care?  If this approach becomes technically reliable and commercially viable, it could impact the way ceramic parts are made.  And since ceramic materials are popular in the aerospace and automotive industries (because they are hard and heat-resistant), freeze-form extrusion fabrication could become very hot.

 

*Tieshu Huang, Michael S. Mason, Gregory E. Hilmas, and Ming C. Leu were also named authors.