Living Archeology by 3D Printing

An Ancient Heritage Coming Back to Life

Archaeological pieces mesmerize and hold their own magic and particularly so if they are associated with a crucial point in history of certain cultures or peoples. Hence, finding them creates a frenzy in the archaeological world; to be able to see them, to touch and study them are gratifying for scholars, collectors or plain enthusiasts. But there are limits to what one can feasibly do with great finds, especially those of great rarity. Such as, the potential risk of destroying the piece.

One such object of value is the now renown Rider of Unlingen. It is a figure of a man on horseback, all bronze, sitting astride a double horse with broken legs, indicating that it must have been part of a larger base. The figure was first discovered by an Austrian miner in the 19th century in a prehistoric cemetery of a thousand burial sites.

Believed to contain the remains of people who lived and died in this area of Hallstatt, Austria, between 800 and 500 BCE, many of the sites and others nearby have already been looted. Why and how the civilization abruptly ended are not known, but the striking thing is that representations of human figures during this period is extremely unusual. Hence, the Rider of Unlingen is a very rare find.

The object is one of the oldest representations of a mounted rider from north of the Alps and as such vital to understanding the area’s cultural history. Naturally, its examination and study, handling and transport are strictly limited. Due to the risk of damage, direct access to it is downsized, exhibits and expositions for it are well monitored. Creating replicas out of molds add to the risks as well.

Now 3D printing has changed the course of the rare Rider of Unlingen. With the use of x-ray computer tomography or CT scan, a 3D digital model was created then evaluated using VGSTUDIO MAX 3.0 software. The resulting STL file was then ready for 3D printing, significantly allowing more people to access the object and greatly reducing reproduction cost. 3D printing made possible that this rare artifact be displayed in two different museums.

The resultant 3D-printed replica had a very high level of detail and precision, life-like and true to the original without the feeling of plastic. It can hence be examined in detail more often by more handlers, making further research possible. It is just amazing how an object of rarity, born out of the 7th century, be reproduced by 21st century powder.

Preserving Archeology in Seattle

See how great pieces of history and cultures gone by are replicated via the wonders of 3D printing. If you are such a fan of great historical artifacts, you can have a room full of it by 3D printing your favorites at your 3D printing company in Seattle. Talk to us about it.


3D Printing the World’s Strongest Material

The Amazing Graphene

See this thin, single layer of tightly packed carbon atoms bonded together in a hexagonal form, looking like a slice of honeycomb lattice? It’s called graphene. It is the thinnest, lightest, yet strongest material known to man, even 100 to 300 times stronger than steel.

It is the best conductor of heat at room temperature and the best conductor of electricity. Carbon, being the second most abundant mass in the human body and the 4th most abundant element in the universe, therefore, makes graphene a totally ecologically-friendly and bio-sustainable material that bears almost a limitless number of applications.

And so how is graphene used? It has made huge gains in the electronics and biotechnology industries, in a restricted sense, though. That is because to produce high quality graphene entails a very expensive and complicated process, using very toxic materials at high temperatures. To grow graphene layers, referred to as graphite, was difficult. On a large scale, it was impossible. Separating the graphene layers from its metallic substrate can potentially damage the graphene itself. So it limited its electronic applications.

Studies, however, pushed the possibility of safer molecular electronics by more effective separations. Yet, the quality of the graphene is still the limiting factor in technological applications. Supercapacitors, which are high-capacity energy storage solutions, are the best applications of graphene so far.

That may change soon. Graphene has been creating a buzz in the 3D industry. Researchers at Rice University and Tianjin University have broken ground by 3D printing atomically thin graphene in ultra-small pieces. There is the potential to bulk produce graphene in amounts useful for industrial applications.

The process uses nickel and powdered sugar and adapting a laser-based 3D printing technique create small blocks of graphene foam. The process did not use molds nor high temperatures. The graphene foams produced were lightweight and low density with large pores that make up 99 percent of its volume.

3D Printed Graphene Applications

3D-printed graphene foams show promise for various applications. It can mega-speed up web uploads; It can all charge up a cellphone in 5 minutes and potentially can clump together radioactive waste to make disposal easier. Graphene filters can make salt water safe for consumption as its holes are big enough for water to pass through, yet small enough to catch salt. It can make touchscreens unbreakable as a conductor in plastics rather than glass. High-power graphene supercapacitors would make batteries obsolete. Finally, it can be incorporated in bionic devices in neurologic living tissues.

Have an idea? 3D Composites can make it happen!

Know more about the world’s strongest material that can be 3D printed over at our 3D printing company in Seattle. If you’ve got an idea, tell us about it. It might be the next best thing to buzz about.


Rapid Liquid Printing: 3D-printed Customized Furniture

Your Custom Furniture within Minutes

This is just an experiment for now, but it goes to show you the amazing possibilities with 3D printing. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Self-Assembly Lab, Steelcase, collaborated with a Swiss designer to come out with a 3D-printed customized furniture.

It’s a breakthrough in a sense that the product came out sans the constraints normally associated with conventional 3D printing. It went beyond speed, scale and even quality. It used the process called Rapid Liquid Printing, possibly opening up the market for affordable, custom furniture in a variety of scales.

The Lab technique printed inside of a translucent gel, the semi-liquid was contained in a large vat and was acting as the support, 360 degrees. Within the gel, the custom furniture is designed, essentially drawn in 3D space without the limitations of gravity.

There was no layering, no curing time, the printing was faster and the product can be big as the machine available. The material used cures chemically, not using light nor heat. Some tests were done under 30 minutes, others in just 10 minutes. The speed it takes is impressive. It simply fascinated designers.

What designers liked about it was not just the uniqueness of rapid liquid printing, but the soft, almost organic line quality of the print. They were as though brushstrokes or like the branches of plants. Rapid liquid printing works with rubber, foam, plastic, or any other industrial liquid material for that matter.

From a design perspective, the technology is desirable, better than typical 3D printing. While it is still experimental, the collaboration will continue with other materials, scale and further improvements.

Customizing Your Ideas in Seattle

If you got a great idea for just about anything, or have a new concept you can talk to us about, we invite you to come over to your 3D printing company in Seattle. Pro 3D Composites can help you turn them into reality.

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NASA Re-Invents the Chain Mail for Space Travel

From Medieval to 21st Century

The medieval chain mail or chain maille is a coat of armor consisting of small metal rings sewn together tightly forming a mesh. Worn as a garment, it is meant to protect soldiers and combatants from slashing blows by bladed weapons and penetration by thrusting and piercing armory. It could mean the difference between life and death in a battle. It was an extremely prized commodity, expensive and time-consuming to produce.

Mail is still used today as a component of stab-resistant body armour, cut-resistant gloves for butchers and woodworkers, shark-resistant wetsuits for defense against shark bites, and a number of other applications. However, NASA engineers have found a new use for this otherwise medieval coat of arms. With a few upgrades, the modern chain mail will prove useful for astronauts and spacecraft.

At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the new chain mail is produced not by painstakingly connecting tiny loops of metal, one by one, but by 3D printing. Both sides of the metallic fabric have been engineered for their very specific uses. The top looks like a mosaic of shiny metal tiles reflecting light and serving as a form of passive heat management. The other side looks more like traditional medieval chain mail, can absorb heat instead, like an insulation.

While still experimental, the mail can be used in space suits, on habitats, wrapped around vehicles and spacecraft as protection against unforeseen hazards, or even laid down on alien terrain to provide safe landing for a ship. It can also be used to protect the space shuttle on re-entry, instead of ceramic tiles. Hence, multiple uses await the strong 3D-printed chain mail for NASA’s future space explorations.

3D Printed Aerospace Applications in Seattle

Over at our 3D printing company, Pro 3D Composites, we have been serving the aerospace industry for many years. We keep up with space exploration and help engineers and designers where we can with various applications at our disposal.

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Revolutionizing Home Construction with 3D Printing

The House That 3D Printing Built

While homes have been 3D-printed before, modularity still characterizes the technology. It means the structure is printed in parts or components separately that still need human intervention to bring together. The competition toughens up with companies working towards one-sitting construction (or printing) and eliminating modules. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT has come up with its own giant 3D printer that has built a finished structure in 14 hours.

Their giant 3D printer, called a Digital Construction Platform, is actually mobile, outfitted with tank treads. A nozzle comes out of two robotic arms atop a rover-like vehicle. A flatbed trailer is attached to the back and two big metal tanks strapped to its top. MIT claims it can build homes on this planet as well as other places in space in the far future.

Because of its long industrial robotic arm and a precision arm attached to it, the system does not have the space and speed constraints of traditional 3D printers. With a larger build space, the printer is not constrained by the limited volume of its print bed. MIT has been working on the machine since 2011 and has only recently showcased what it can do.

Filming it, the platform is seen constructing a 12-foot-high solid dome made out of a combination of foam and concrete. The final structure had spaces in its sides provided for pipes and wires for later insertion. Everything took all of under 14hrs.

MIT has ambitions to take their creation, calling it a platform rather than a 3D printer, beyond construction housing structures. They see their machine with clear biological inspiration, such as what inspires the robotic world today. They must create self-sufficient robotic systems, developed toward the design goal of being able to gather its own energy and use local materials. They want to improve on the system that can customize a build based on conditions like light and weather and can utilize its own surroundings as the basis of its structures.

Sounds Like Science-Fiction? Not in Seattle.

If you got yourself an idea, you can draw it or just want to talk it over with your 3D printing company in Seattle, drop by and let’s see. Nothing is too science-fiction for us.

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