Recently, I broke yet another tooth which required - of course - another crown. But this time was different. Today, after my dentist did the standard tooth preparation, a licensed technician scanned my tooth using a hand-held 3D scanner and then downloaded the CAD file onto the computer right next to my chair. I got to watch her manipulate the 3D model - the dental office knew I have a 3D printing company, so they humored me. She explained how she first determines the borders and then calculates the bite (using a scan of the tooth's chewing mate). She then proceeded to determine the best tooth shape to ensure a proper rough fit.
The procedure used was a great example of a hybrid manufacturing process because once the file was ready, the tooth was made using subtractive instead of additive manufacturing. A block was milled to the correct size and then further reduced by hand through successive mouth fittings. Once the ideal fit was achieved, the uncured porcelain crown was baked for a mere 20 minutes and then glued permanently (hopefully) into my mouth.
It would have been really cool if it had been 3D printed, but honestly, this process took less time, so for now, that's good enough for me.
(photo credit: TA&T)
Last night, I attended a presentation sponsored by 3D Maryland on 3D Printed Ceramics. Walter Zimbeck and Todd Heil from Technology Assessment & Transfer, Inc. spoke about their company's innovative additive manufacturing and R&D capabilities. Before the workshop started, I overheard them talking about a co-worker's pottery class she's taking... What an ironic twist, someone working with both the oldest and newest techniques of ceramic production.
TA&T's mission is "Bridging the Gap Between Technology and the Marketplace." Like many firms in the area, they work a lot with the government and universities to create and commercialize new materials and processes. Given the interest in 3D printing components that can withstand extreme heat, many of their successful projects have focused on ceramic materials using a proprietary process called Ceramic Stereolithograpy (CS). According to their website, CS uses
Based on their experiences, CS is definitely a harder process to master than its description implies, and given the end use of their products, one left to the experts...
Todd Heil is a Senior Engineer at Technology Assessment & Transfer, Inc. (TA&T) who holds a Materials Science PhD from Virginia Tech.
Walter Zimbeck manages TA&T's 3D Printing group. He has an MS in Electrical Engineering from UC Santa Barbara.
Portland-based Laika, recently released its third feature, The Boxtrolls. What viewers may not realize is the stop-motion production studio, creator of Coraline and ParaNorman, relies heavily on 3D printing to create the puppet characters in its films. To achieve this feat, Laika employs a rapid prototyping department that overseas the production of prints using color binder jetting technology. As Brian McLean, director of the department, described in an interview, this is often easier said than done. Getting an outcome we are more familiar with than we'd like, he
As a result, achieving the desired color and appearance requires some experimentation and a lot of expertise. In fact, the article mentioned that Laika has developed so much industry knowledge about material and printer performance, it is sometimes contacted by the manufacturer for advice. In between takes of course...
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Build volume: 10 x 15 x 8 inches (larger with assembly).
Color: with almost 400,000 colors to choose from, why skimp?
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We've blogged a few times about using additive manufacturing in construction. Given the labor and time intensity around home building, entrepreneurs see the promise of automating this industry through AM. There are a number of approaches being developed. In China, they are 3D printing walls, allowing them to erect simple homes in a day. The D Shape printer, which uses a binding technology to create structures from sand, is touted as an alternative to Portland Cement, and others have even printed elaborate structures from SLS plastic.
Alternatively, a group of researchers from Sabin Design Lab, Jenny Sabin Studio and Cornell University have 3D printed ceramic blocks designed to fit together without needing mortar. PolyBricks, which are produced on a ZCorp 510 powder-based printer, are seen as a hybrid method that optimizes the benefits of both traditional and additive manufacturing in home construction:
“Seeking to achieve a system that required no additional adhesives or mortar, we looked to traditional wood joinery techniques as a means of interlocking adjacent components. We developed a customized tapered dovetail in which the direction and severity of the tapering is dependent upon the local geometric orientation of each component; the tapering of the dovetail is based upon the slope of the surface being generated such that the narrow end of the tapering is always at the lower face of the generated surface. Thus, the force of gravity locks adjacent components together...
The team believes it has "effectively designed a system for 3D printing mortar-less ceramic brick assemblies at scales and in materials well beyond existing constraints of additive manufacturing technology.”
This conclusion intrigues me. Given the number of bricks required to construct a typical home, the time needed to 3D print and post process most prints, and the material costs of ceramic powder, I'm wondering how they anticipate achieving these economies of scale to compete directly with brick and mortar construction.
[Sources: 3Dprint.com and 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing]