3D printed objects

When Two 3D Printers Are Better Than One

Making Concrete Structures Faster and Stronger

From Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, scientists there have developed a technology where two robots can work in unison to 3D-print a structure out of concrete. When two printers work concurrently, it’s called ‘swarm printing’, and this approach can lead the way to multiple mobile printers able to construct larger structures in the future.

At present, when large concrete structures are to be 3D printed the printers used are usually larger than the object to be printed. This presents problems at construction sites that have space limitations. When multiple mobile robots print in sync, it can allow other large pieces like architectural features and special facades to be printed wherever space is available for both object and printer.

The NTU project uses a specially formulated cement mix which will allow for unique concrete designs that conventional casting can’t do. Also, structures can be produced on demand and in a much shorter time. The robots 3D-printed a concrete structure measuring 1.86m x 0.46m x 0.13m in eight minutes. Two days later it harden and achieved full strength in a week before installation.

It was a challenge to print concrete structures concurrently with two mobile robots as both printers have to move into place and start printing their parts without colliding. Printing by segments is also not feasible because if two parts should meet at a joint they will not bond properly if they do not overlap during printing. Hence, using precise positioning, the robots will move into place and print the parts in alignment. To ensure consistency, the mixing and pumping of the special concrete mix have to be blended evenly and synchronized.

Conventional manufacturing and traditional construction methods can be improved with this new technology. Using multiple robot printing is interdisciplinary, enabling roboticists to interface with materials scientists to come up with printable concrete. And to make durable concrete, it is essential to also work with mechanical and civil engineering experts.

It is possible, that in the near future, conventional building can be augmented with the influx of new technologies.

Helping Conventional Building in Seattle

3D Composites in Seattle is your go-to place when thinking about new technologies. We are not into replacing traditions, but with 3D printing, we’re able to realize ideas faster and at less cost.

cars on roads

Testing 3D Printed Asphalt for Road Repairs

The Future of Asphalt

You surely have traveled asphalt roads and that’s no surprise. Asphalt is the most common material used to surface roads and has several advantages. It creates a safe, quiet surface for driving, it can be laid down quickly and without complex machinery, and it is tough and can be easily repaired. It is a mixture of dark bituminous pitch with sand or gravel. While it can be strong, asphalt is known to degrade over time – opening as cracks at first and quickly expands. They can turn into potholes, the very commonly seen cavities on asphalted roads, dreaded by motorists.

Pothole Repairs

While potholes can be repaired, it is not readily easy to have road repairmen sent to every crack or hole to make repairs every so often. It mostly takes time to get it done and when it does, the holes will surely reappear in especially busy roads time and again. A solution presents itself in the form of autonomous drones or other vehicles that are equipped with robots capable of 3D printing asphalt. These drones can be sent to repair cracks in their early stages.

In a paper entitled “3D Printing of Asphalt and its effect on Mechanical Properties,” a group of researchers develop an asphalt 3D printer. They constructed the 3D printer using a frame and control system from another 3D printer, the RepRap Mendel 90 built from flat sheets at 90 degree angles. Also printed was the extrusion nozzle, the extrusion nozzle assembly, the stepper motor housing, PCB and serial port clip.

Asphalt pellets were created using a hard grade of bitumen, cast in a machined mold at different low temperatures, from 100° to 140°C. Multiple different shapes of pellets were made, including standard test bars, their strengths compared to cast asphalt samples. The mechanical properties of the 3D printed and cast asphalt samples were very different. The cast samples showed the property of being directionally dependent, which implies showing different properties if stretched in different directions. The 3D printed specimens have 9x the ability to be stretched compared to the cast samples. This property is due to microstructural changes in the asphalt which result in crack-bridging fibres that increase toughness.

This research shows that a 3D printer attached to a drone could be used not only to repair roads, but also hard-to-reach areas such as rooftops. These machines could fix minor damage before it turns into a major concern. It will save municipalities’ time and money and likewise, avoid accidents and damage to vehicles.

All Roads Lead to 3D Printing in Seattle

Your 3D printing company in Seattle looks forward to a brighter future for 3D printing in light of the many advancements in the technology. While road repair with 3D printing drones may be an area still under investigation, we still got a lot of great ideas for printing.

rib cage and spine

3D Printed Spinal Cord: Hope For The Future

Regenerating Neuron Cells?

3D printing has made great inroads into the prosthetics industry, in fact, has revolutionized it and the healthcare business as well. From prosthetics, 3D printing has transitioned into other therapy areas with the introduction of bio-printing – the ability to print live tissues and organs using a wide choice of bio inks.

As far as developing biomedical devices and bionic organs via 3D printing is concerned, this is the speciality of the University of Minnesota McAlpine research group. One of its most recent projects was the creation of a 3D-printed spinal cord scaffold complete with neurons. It used an array of bio inks and was able to induce pluripotent stem cells, spinal neuronal progenitor cells and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells.

The cells were mixed with other materials and printed using a new 3D printing technique. They put it inside a 3D-printed silicone scaffold, resulting in the formation of a multicellular complex encased in a silicone guide. After the cells were cultured for a week, majority of them had fully developed into neurons with axons extending down the scaffold.

Have they used it yet on a live patient? Not yet, but its potential is truly mind-blowing. Eventually, it is hoped that the 3D bio-printed spinal cord scaffold can be implanted into a human spinal cord and guide the growth of neurons to rebuild damaged neural connections.

Many patients suffer from spinal cord injuries – brought on by vehicular crashes, sudden traumatic blows from falls that can cause fractures, dislocations, and the like. Spinal cord injury can disrupt communication between the brain and muscles when neurons lose their connection to axons located below the site of injury. It can lead to loss of movement, chronic pain, paralysis and even death. Every year, an estimated 11,000 SCIs occur in the U.S. Most of these are caused by trauma to the vertebral column.

However, it may take a long time still before 3D printing technology becomes an established therapy for spinal cord injuries. The McAlpine research group is facing its next challenge – that is to keep all of the cells alive during the printing process as well as integrating the technology in the laboratory that it can be applied to a living case. It holds the promise of potentially helping people suffering from spinal cord injuries.

Looking to The Future in Seattle

In Seattle, your 3D printing company’s hopes are high for the future of this technology in the field of healthcare. As the industry makes inroads, so will we follow suit in the service of the community.


Big 3D Printing Ideas in the Real World

From Ideas to Realities

Take a look at some of the biggest real-world examples of 3D printing in 2018.

In the world of prosthesis, 3D printing has made much headway, becoming the biggest applications for 3D printing to impact the medical field. Courtesy of veterinarians, from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, a dog that was attacked by another was recovering from severe facial injuries with the help of a 3D printed mask. From the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, a mouse gave birth to healthy pups with her 3D-printed ovaries.

For homes and other buildings, a 400-square-foot house was constructed in a Moscow suburb with 3D printing technology, in less than 24 hours. An entire two-story house was 3D printed from concrete in Beijing in just 45 days from start to finish. Researchers from Germany even 3D-printed a house of glass, in miniature size, and were the first to figure out how to 3D print with glass.

3D printing can also be edible, Choc Edge Ltd is a technology company in the UK, provides ALM chocolate printing solutions to businesses and individuals who wish to design and produce creative chocolates. Since chocolate hardens quickly at room temperature, it’s an ideal edible material for 3D printing, but companies have printed other edible creations from ice cream, cookie dough, marzipan and even hamburger patties.

Musical instruments can also be 3D printed. From violins, to flutes and banjos, several musical instruments and parts of instruments such as mouthpieces have been created using a 3D printer. In fact, the world’s first live concert with a 3D-printed band (drum, keyboard, and two guitars) took place at Lund University in Sweden.


Anything You Can Imagine in Seattle

3D printing offers so much more and its only limitation is your mind. Consider coming to 3D Composites, your reliable 3D printing company in Seattle and know what we’re talking about.


3D Printed Skull Cap: Helping A Dog Fight Cancer

A Story of Courage and Potential

This is a fascinating and caring story about how 3D printing can also save animal’s lives. It’s the story of a 9 year old dachshund, named Patches, who developed a bump on her head the size of an orange that turned out to be cancerous. Patches’ owner was referred by her veterinarian to Cornell University‘s veterinary program, which in turn pointed her toward a veterinary surgical oncologist with the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. The doctor had been studying the use of 3D printing technology for dogs.

The dog’s tumor grew right through her skull which normally both tumor and part of the skull would be removed, and then a titanium mesh would be fitted in place. The procedure has some risks – it’s imprecise, costly and lengthy. But Patches was perfect for another new procedure – a 3D printed, custom titanium skull cap.

The skull cap took about two hours to design, the final print was ready in about two weeks with holes in it for fitting screws on. The surgery proceeded with taking out of 70% of the skull and then the entire tumor. The procedure took about four hours, and within 30 minutes after waking up, Patches was taking a walk outside.

This development is the first of its kind in North America, to be published in the upcoming months after the surgery. There’s a similar case treated in Texas earlier but that did not use a full skull cap but a titanium mesh instead. Sadly, the dog passed away from complications after the surgery. The oncologist who helped and designed the full skull cap created a cutting guide to follow during the surgery. She said there’s very little room for error, talking less than two millimetres or else the plate wouldn’t fit.

Patches, though, is doing well, despite a separate incident a week after the surgery when she suffered a slipped disk that paralyzed her hind legs. She is in good spirits, however, and otherwise healthy and cancer-free.

It was said that Patches’ owner was nervous about the prospect but decided to go ahead with the procedure. She felt her pet would recover and become a part of cancer research to help humans help animals.

Making A Difference with 3D Composites Seattle

Contact 3D Composites Seattle and let’s talk about making a difference. If you have an idea to help others, we’re all for it at 3D Composites. Let’s get started!