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Towards High Resolution Color in 3D Printing in Minutes

The Problem with Color 3D Printing

Currently, many material jetting 3D printers can produce parts with complex color variations used to make surgical models and artefacts that are highly-detailed. The problem is that it can cause optical scattering, which affects the sharpness and accuracy of any resulting parts. This is undesirable.

Conventional material jetting systems use UV light to precisely cure different mixtures of translucent base-colored resins, resulting in a broad palette of colors. When three dimensional color bleeding occurs, it also affects colors on the opposite sides of the objects, making it a significant obstacle to precise production at scale.

High Fidelity Color 3D Printing

Now researchers from Charles University’s Computer Graphics Group (CGG) have developed a machine learning-based technique that could help unlock the potential of high fidelity color 3D printing. They continually stimulate the printing process to come up with an algorithm to find the optimal parameters for limiting color bleeding, thereby improving part accuracy. It proved to be very efficient, too. It requires only one GPU, hence, 300 times faster than other AI methods. It reduces print preparation times from tens of hours to just a couple of minutes.

The Charles University team has been working on this project since 2017, optimizing the sharpness and contrast of parts. Based on millions of test runs, they now have an improved algorithm, capable of more accurately predicting how a given surface is influenced by the materials around it, expediting the entire process
The team used an alternative light scattering model which will be discussed on the next blog.


3D Printing In Color

Your 3D printing company, 3D Composites, can turn your images into solid realities, in color. Contact us with your great ideas.

3D Printing: A Rail Industry Solution for Train Spare Parts

How Do You Keep Trains Running?

To keep trains running, the old model is through expensive physical inventory or slow and expensive traditional manufacturing. The old model is now replaced by digital inventory and on-demand 3D printing. The biggest names in European passenger rail are doing this now.

The service life of trains typically ranges between 35-45 years. Hence, train operators deal with several challenges when it comes to vehicle maintenance and replacement for older train parts, which can be difficult to source. Using 3D printing, train operators can acquire the parts within a short time frame, regardless of the uniqueness of the part or the age of the train car. This minimizes the time and cost attributed to trains that would usually be kept out of service until a spare part can be sourced. The maintenance of the trains and the quality of service for passengers are consequently improved.

Leading 3D printer OEM Stratasys has created a “Rail Industry Solution” package designed to help the maintenance of passenger trains using 3D printing. Included in the solution are materials that have passed the European Union‘s Rail Standard, EN 45545-2, alongside a Stratasys Fortus 3D printer. This will help railway firms to 3D print spare parts on-demand that meet certification requirements for smoke, fire, and toxicity. Bombardier Transportation, Stratasys’ new client, uses the solution to accelerate the development process of its trains. Bombardier joins Angel Trains, Chiltern Railways, DB ESG and Siemens Mobility in utilizing the solution to 3D print customized spare interior and exterior train parts.

Stratasys has made a significant effort to help the railway industry improve the maintenance of its trains using 3D printing. Its Rail Industry Solution is meant to help its technology meet the requirements for passenger trains and light rail. In turn, it will help provide a better position for the railway industry to leverage additive manufacturing for the production of spare parts.

Bombardier Transportation is using the F900 FDM 3D printer to accelerate part production for interior and exterior vehicle components, specifically for its trains in German-speaking countries. The 3D printer has been installed at Bombardier’s Berlin facility, allowing the company to produce customized spare parts on-demand via digital inventory at a lower cost. While accelerating production, total functionality, safety and repeatability are upheld. Bombardier is building a digital inventory for producing spare parts on-demand using the Stratasys F900 3D printer. It is able to save physical storage space by storing 3D scans of its parts, creating a ‘digital warehouse’, an initiative being employed elsewhere within the railway industry.


3D Printing Goes Underwater with the Watersports Scooter

What Large-Format 3D Printers Can Do

Amazea is the name of JAMADE’s underwater scooter that pulls a rider or diver through seawater. It is shaped like a dolphin, mimicking its gliding capability. The device is environmentally friendly, emission-free and low-noise for underwater exploration – coupled with swift fluid motion. What is remarkable is that 75 percent of the scooter is additively manufactured. It was first revealed at boot Duesseldorf, the international water sports trade and boat show in Germany. JAMADE is an e-mobility tech company based in Germany while BigRep, the manufacturer of Amazea, is a developer of the world’s largest serial production 3D printers, creating the industry benchmark for large-format additive manufacturing.

The Amazea weighs only 25 kg and has a user-friendly control panel. Its electric BI motor drive is powered by two engines, each 3.1 KW each, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery set up in the scooter’s front. The device can be operated at a depth of 18 meters. Maximum speed is 20 km/h underwater, or 30 km/h gliding above the water.

JAMADE uses BigRep’s Pro HT filament as it is suitable for marine environments with a softening resistance up to 115 °C, which offers a significant increase in temperature resistance, as well as minimal warping and shrinkage. Pro HT also matches the environmentally friendly concept of the product for the filament is CO2 neutral and biodegradable under the correct conditions. In addition, the large-format printing ensures the scooter’s water-resistance, considering that if it was assembled using several smaller parts, openings would be a potential risk for leaks.

BigRep is proud of this scooter as it showcases their digital solutions empowering production by leveraging the full potential of large-format 3D printers with high-performance filaments. High flexibility, speed, time and cost efficiency, and operational reliability are advantages offered by BigRep ONE 3D printer. Also, 3D printing allows further customization, like changes in size or shapes, as well as customer feedback or requests, are able to go straight into the product. For the first year, a three-digit number of AMAZEA scooters are scheduled to be additively manufactured. The price of the scooter is EUR 7950.


The Economics of Classroom 3D Printed Aides

The Brighter, Cost-Saving Alternative

Michigan Technological University researchers say that the economic viability of using 3D printed learning tools, instead of buying from Amazon, translates to $1.7 M in savings for the educational community. Many schools budget for their learning aids and the capital needed is indeed huge. However, using 3D printing of open-source learning aid designs could provide a significant return on investment. Today, with help from industry partners, some schools have their own 3D printing labs already.

There are manufacturers, like MakerBot, that provide 3D printing for schools via their StarterLab program. Since 2015, it has offered various combinations of MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printers, MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D printers, filaments, and print heads. Free online educational resources are also offered with installation and training from local partners. Ultimaker is another one and with its CREATE Education Project, provides free resources and support to help educators integrate 3D printing into primary, secondary, and higher education institutions.

The Michigan university conducted a study that investigates the economics of classroom-based 3D printing of open-source digital designs of learning aids, focusing on the use of open-source desktop 3D printers. Five learning aid examples were evaluated for their functionality, physically printed and calculated mass ratios, and 3D printer energy consumption to determine a dollar-to-kilogram cost for printing. They also analyzed the economic viability of an additional 33 learning aid designs, their printing and assembly costs, and compared them to same or inferior Amazon commercial products. Percentage savings were then calculated and scaled up to a world-scale based on download volume rates.

The researchers used MyMiniFactory’s database of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school age-appropriate learning aids spanning subjects such as biology, chemistry, design and technology, mathematics, and others. Amazon was the comparative retailer in the study. Using a Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printer and 3mm PLA filament, the researchers 3D printed learning aid designs including a clock, a brain model, a Pythagorean theorem visual aid, a spinal cord model, and a combustion engine.

What were the results of their analysis?

They found that fabricating the average learning aid themselves would provide teachers with 86% cost savings. On average, a 3D printed learning aid saves more than the cost of a 1kg spool of commercial filament. The average learning aid can be downloaded more than 1,500 times, meaning there’s potential for worldwide distribution. The average saving per year for each open-source design was $11,822, with the 38 learning aids analyzed during the study producing a total $450,000 per year saving. To date, these learning aids have each provided an average saving to educators of over $45,000, totaling a $1.7 million saving for the international educational community.

The conclusion is that distributed manufacturing for education will not only save schools money but also provide a significant return on investment of more than 100%.


colored lights

3D Printed Smart Gels: Mimicking Cephalopods’ Color Changes

When Technology Copies Nature

New Jersey’s Rutgers University engineers have been experimenting with the idea that 3D printed objects as soft as what they call ‘smart gels’ can change their shapes upon light exposure, including their colors. They know that cephalopods like squids, cuttlefishes, and octopuses have sophisticated camouflage mechanisms that allow them to change skin color. The engineers presented artificial color-changing cells called chromatophores that can alter their color pattern in response to light. This exciting research can have different engineering applications – new military camouflage, soft robotics, and flexible displays.

3D Printed Light-responsive Materials

There’s evidence that a multi-material 3D printed light-responsive artificial chromatophore (LAC) can sense light and alter its color pattern at the individual unit level. This can replicate the cephalopods’ ability to use the thousands of color-changing chromatophore cells distributed on their soft skin to alter color and texture. The ability is used for their camouflage and communication, as well as survival from predators. The cephalopod-inspired LAC at Rutgers consists of three components: light-responsive muscle, stretchable sac, and rigid frame.

The scientists incorporated a light-sensing nanomaterial in the smart cell, turning it into an “artificial muscle” that contracts in response to light alterations. They also developed a 3D printable, stretchable acrylic acid hydrogel material that can reveal colors when the light changes. When combined with the light-sensing smart gel, the 3D printed stretchy material changes color, resulting in the camouflage effect. They also used the synthetic prepolymer cross-linker solution PEGDA 250 as a rigid frame material because of its relatively stable swelling behavior over the temperature change.

To manufacture the LAC, the team employed several steps to incorporate the three components – light-responsive muscle, stretchable sac, and rigid frame – including a custom-built multi-material projection micro stereolithography 3D printing technique. The study successfully proved that the LAC color tone could shift from black to white within two minutes of light from a digital projector. Also created were various binary color patterns from an array of three LACs.

What’s next for the scientists?

They will study adding different dyes to the stretchy hydrogel to change the current black-and-white binary color pattern to a more vibrant color expression. Next steps include improving the technology’s sensitivity, response time, scalability, packaging, and durability.


3D Printing with Various Colors

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