Additive Manufacturing
Additive Manufacturing
technology domain

Additive Manufacturing

2
applications
11
stories
2
methods
updatedMar 31, 2021
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Estevan Silveira @ Envisioning

A suite of emerging technologies that fabricate three-dimensional objects directly from digital models through an additive process.
A suite of emerging technologies that fabricate three-dimensional objects directly from digital models through an additive process.

Also known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing (AM) has been around since the 1980s and encompasses many technologies designed to fabricate three-dimensional objects through an additive process, as to say, depositing materials ―typically polymers, ceramics, or metals― layer-by-layer. Therefore, AM essentially uses a computer-automated machine to control the actualization of a blueprint by gradually building it up, by accretion and extrusion, as the experts say.

You can sum up the whole shebang into three parts: 3D Modeling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD), raw materials and the printer itself, which can feature a plethora of processes, such as binder jetting, fused deposition modeling, directed energy deposition, and many others. After sketch drawing in CAD, the AM equipment interprets the data in the file and coordinates the 'printing' in successive coats to manufacture a particular object. AM application is limitless.

The Issue of Materiality

For materiality, we choose to define it here as the quality of materials. In these ways, we need to talk about feedstocks used in 3D printing. It is the elephant in the room as far as sustainability is concerned for, as the unit cost of printers falls, CNC hobbyists are milling herds of white elephants out of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), the same plastic used in LEGO blocks, littering the dumps. On the industries side, AM technologies commonly use powder or wire, but are finding new materials, such as high entropy alloys, draft resin (that has been seen in the bike industry), and amorphous substances. However, it is necessary to go far beyond.

We need to take care of nature if we assume it is our nature to care. Material used in AM is serious business. First and foremost, all stakeholders should focus particularly on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) ―an internationally accepted method to estimate the potential eco-impact of products and services― when overseeing the supply chains. Last but not least, they should effectively consider actions that set in motion strategies of recycling and/or reuse, leading the way in how things can be done differently. According to a recent study, the entire AM chain can benefit if printing processes incorporate recycled polymers, and we can cite as role model the 3D-printed sneaker made from ocean waste released by Adidas.

Generative Printing

Is all the power of AM exclusive to the hardware field? Not necessarily. Before 3D printing itself, forms had to be designed by a CAD-type tool. Modeling tools are as relevant as the graceful machines queued for printing in 3D hubs. The most popular tool in the 3D printing software field is, without a doubt, Autodesk's AutoCAD, having become industry standard for product development, creating breeding grounds for commercial and open source 'doubles', as FreeCAD, the parametric 3D modeler. Still, neither the former, nor the latter, would design 'organic-looking' shapes. CAD tools are bound to strict formalism.

That is no longer true. Generative design software produces geometries combinations hard to be thoughtfully arranged in advance. But it is not allotted to squirt plastics into funny digital shapes, contrary to what the critical voices say. It is directed to generate new topologies applicable to the fluidity and dynamics of non-Euclidean spaces. Take nTopology software: equipped with it, the designer frames a certain structural problem in a language of constraints and the computer generates elements to fulfill those limits and gaps. Code also handle conflicting and dependent variables, and can change definitions set out previously, without hampering the full or partial result. Near-impractical adjustments are made; unprecedented forms emerge.

What Lies Ahead

House of the Soul

The use of AM to create titanium bones and bespoke prosthetic implants is already widespread among medical and scientific communities. The expectation is that by mid-century new tissue-engineered construct techniques will be completely mastered. Today, it is still in its infancy. Hydrogel components have been produced, but they are simple and isotropic, growing in a one-dimensional way. An in-progress technology of 3D bioprint fibrinogen ―glycoprotein responsible for blood clot formation― can stimulate tissue formation by the spatial placement of cells themselves, rather than customary scaffolds. Other ongoing technologies can evolve into platforms to assist users recover parts of their bodies; the houses of their souls.

Soul of the House

NASA end Norman Foster, head of a global studio for architecture, has unveiled proposals to build moon bases using printing nozzles spraying powder of moon rock, also callded regolith. Elon Musk must be confabulating similar plans for his Mars colonies. Back on the solid ground of Gaia, additive manufacturing is ready to be the last word in housing and construction technology, as the method of Contour Crafting demonstrates. Maximum efficiency at minimum cost. But does a house have a soul? If yes, it lies in the details.

Rather than underline all possibilities provided by 3D printed houses, two points must be made. First, buildings are complex constructs made by means of various different techniques, from addition to subtraction. And finally, we return to the question of materiality. If AM is the way to the future, the most enthusiastic have to convince themselves that materiality and eco-consciousness goes hand in hand, as to say, there is no material created from or out of nothing, it is always related to the natural environment. To get a feel for future housing, imagine an experimental technology of 3D printing with local soil combined with soil generating systems.

2
applications
11
stories
2
methods

Methods

method
3D Modeling

The process of creating a three-dimensional representation of any surface or object (inanimate or living) via specialized software. 3D modeling is achieved manually with specialized 3D production software that allows for creating new objects by manipulating and deforming polygons, edges, and vertices or by scanning real-world subjects into a set of data points used for a digital representation. This process is widely used in various industries like film, animation, and gaming, as well as interior design, architecture, and city planning.

method
Contour Crafting (CC)

A construction process that employs digital fabrication parameters within the branch of 3D printing designs. Unlike typical 3D printing techniques, CC is based on a layering process of extrusion and filling. The extrusion method forms a smooth surface by stifling the extruded flow in vertical and horizontal positions. The orientation of the extrusion process is dynamically and automatically changed to fit better over the printed surface. With the help of a side-trowel, thicker material is sprayed to maintain a high surface finish, cutting down manufacturing time. The maximum deposition of applied layers depends highly on the physical limitations of the trowel height.

Current Applications

Associated technology applications with TRL higher than or equal to 7. Current applications are at both prototype and product stages and more technically developed compared to Future Applications.
Associated technology applications with TRL higher than or equal to 7. Current applications are at both prototype and product stages and more technically developed compared to Future Applications.