From Cars to Bridges to Space
You might not be hearing much hype about 3D printing but it’s still creating waves in manufacturing in 2018. Manufacturing companies are using the tech for things like weight reduction and cost savings. More interestingly, architects carried out a number of experiments that pushed the artistic limits of what 3D printing can do. Here are some of the standout achievements and creations from 2018:
3D printed bridge. The 40-foot (12-meter) structure was unveiled at Dutch Design Week this year, however, the pedestrian bridge (by MX3D) will be installed in Amsterdam in 2019. Four years to execute, the bridge’s production process can now be completed in six months. Intended to be initially built on site, certain logistical and environmental factors stalled the plan. Instead, it was hoisted into place after robotic arms and welding machines created it.
3D printed houses. Icon, a startup company, managed in March to print 650-square-foot house in 12-24 hours, unveiled in Austin, Texas, with new 3D printing experiments for construction this year, and a funding of $9 million for expansion. Next year, Eindhoven University of Technology will be opening up the first of their five planned 3D-printed homes to residents. 3D printing homes keep encountering roadblocks, like equipment failures or issues about how long walls should dry.
3D printed 1 millionth component of BMW. The car company hit a major milestone in 2018 with its one millionth component created in series production since 2010 (a window guide rail for the BMW i8 Roadster). The company has worked with 3D printing since 1990 for prototyping and development, but its use in production kicked into full gear over the last eight years. The company estimates it will complete over 200,000 3D-printed parts this year.
3D printing system for NASA. In 2014, NASA made important progress toward the in-space manufacturing necessary for deep space exploration by “printing” tools in space using a 3D printer on the International Space Station. In 2018, the space agency will launch a machine that can not only print plastic parts, but can also recycle them back into reusable raw materials to make more and/or different parts. The machine, coined the “Refabricator,” is a device that will accept plastic materials of various sizes and shapes and turn them to the feedstock used to 3D print items.
Self-tracking 3D printed plastic objects. The University of Washington researchers created objects such as prosthetics that can send information on how they are being used, without the need for batteries. Antennas embedded in the printed objects are activated when the object is moved in a specific way. The researchers believe their system could improve assistive technologies, making it possible to monitor exactly how people are using these devices.