3D Printing: Golden Age in Materials, Processes and Buildings

3D Printing Material: More Than Plastic

Researchers and innovators around the world keep coming up with opportunities and discoveries in 3D printing making the technology brand new when it’s actually decades old. Out of imagination and creativity, people experiment with new materials, developed processes to create objects previously impossible to print, and come out with new building typologies. Where materials are concerned majority of print material used is still plastic.

However, a product designer from the Netherlands have developed a method using wet paper fibers which are stronger and durable than regular paper. It uses a natural binding agent and is recyclable.

Steel is also the next promising material. The world’s first 3D-printed stainless steel bridge was announced at Dutch Design Week in October of 2018 by a robotics company. The Iowa State University developed a 3D-printed ceramic facade that can be integrated with a building’s mechanical system to control light, airflow, and privacy, also providing evaporative cooling benefits.

Another material is glass, considered even dangerous to work within 3D printing, involving heating the glass to 1,000 degrees Celsius resulting to coarse-textured products. The German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology used a standard 3D printer to produce liquid glass. The acrylic solution had dispersed silica in it and when the object was printed ultraviolet light hardened the material. It was then exposed to high temperatures and as the material burned away, the silica particles fused into smooth, transparent glass.

The internal and external structure of materials like wood have been developed at New York’s Columbia University using a scanning technique combined with 3D printing. An actual wood block was used as a guide to create the model that was first sliced at exact intervals; the images then made by these slices were prepared for 3D printing. The meaning of this success is that other objects with complex internal structures can be 3D-printed. Concrete is another material worth mentioning. The U.S. Marine Corps recently created the world’s first 3D-printed concrete barracks, all of 500-square- foot barracks in 40 hours.

An Italian company WASP has created a 3D-printed house from natural materials in the surrounding area – namely earth and the waste products from rice production. A large-scale 3D printer was used. It has just a few wooden components, took 100 hours to build and has no ecological impact.



Largest 3D Printed Bridge Over Shanghai

Modern Takes Ancient Inspiration

Across the Shanghai Wisdom Bay Pond spans the the world’s longest pedestrian bridge that’s 3D-printed.It’s a single-arch bridge designed and developed by Professor Xu Weiguo from the Tsinghua University (School of Architecture) – Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture. It measures 26.3 meters long and 3.6 meters wide, similar and inspired by the ancient Anji Bridge in Zhaoxian, China.

The structure created used a 3D printing concrete system integrated digital design, cost efficiency, smart technology, and architectural dynamism. The bridge’s handrails are shaped like flowing ribbons on the arch, creating a light, elegant movement across the pond. Made out of 44 hollowed-out 3D-printed concrete units and the handrails are divided into 68 units. The bridge’s components have been printed from composite materials, containing polyethylene fiber concrete to match the structural performance of conventional materials.

The scale of the physical model of the bridge is 1:4 which aims to prove that the bridge could hold all the pedestrians on the entire bridge surface. On actual construction, two robots printed the concrete components over the course of 450 hours. No templates nor reinforcing bars were used which contributed to 33% savings compared to the conventional process of construction. Additionally, there’s a monitoring system installed in the bridge that gives data drawn from vibrations of the stresses and the strains in the embedded wires.

The information gathered will allow for a greater understanding of the practical performance of new concrete materials, and the structural properties of 3D-printed components.

3D printing technology has brought about major changes in the use of concrete as printing material, but it’s not the only material. Columbia University has developed a new technique for 3D printing and scanning, producing a product with the look of timber, having authentic interior grain. Meanwhile, the world’s first 3D-printed steel bridge was recently unveiled at Dutch Design Week.


Building Bridges of the Future in Seattle

In Seattle 3D-printing bridges is still a thing of the future, but not impossible. Today, at 3D Composites, we turn your small ideas into realities. When you’ve got an idea in the works, talk to us and let’s build.

skin cells

3D Printing Technology: Advances To Expect in 2019

3D Printing Technology: Slowly But Surely

According to Paul Benning, Senior Fellow and Chief Technologist, 3D Printing, at HP Inc. (Palo Alto, CA), 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing, has made significant, though incremental, strides in the last couple of years. He cites areas that remain challenges: material properties and seamless integration of 3D printing in the larger manufacturing environment.

The design process will get a boost from generative design. Generative design will automate the process by looking ahead at the design intent and suggests ways to fill in the design. Over time, engineers will be able to input the requirements of a part and a system that will spring up with lots of design variations until it evolves into the most lightweight and efficient design possible. Other production techniques cannot create designs and geometries like 3D printing can by using generative design.


Bioprinting has made considerable advances in the past couple of years, but it is more than printed organs that can be transplanted into patients. Printing small, viable tissues, collections of cells that communicate with each other are the gists of bioprinting, not large organs. For example, testing a new drug with its basic small molecule interaction up to target molecules, then to cellular interactions. The richness of that environment gives R&D teams a much better system to study without having to do live animal studies.

We are not yet there in terms of livers and kidneys or other functional organs, but simpler tissues like cartilage and sections of bladder have been printed and transplanted into animals successfully. More relevant today are biocompatible materials for implantable applications, hearing aids, patient devices.

3D printing advances in functional color parts are becoming mainstream. It’s not only for aesthetics but, it also enables putting assembly instructions or wear indicators on a part, like UPC symbols or digital serial numbers on every single part. It helps track production from raw materials to end of life.

The industry has the core 3D-printing technologies – Multi Jet Fusion, selective laser sintering, stereo- lithography and binder jet additive manufacturing which will drive growth in bringing 3D-printed metal parts to the market. Likewise, the cost factors for 3D printing – runs of thousands to tens of thousands of parts – are economically advantageous, making 3D technology a much more productive and valuable part of the manufacturing ecosystem.


Getting There in Seattle This Year

Though considered a slow revolution, 3D printing is expected to make a more impact inroads in the manufacturing industry. We look forward to a more exciting and fruitful 2019.

liquid drops

New 3D Printer: Builds Solids Out of Liquids

Shining A Light To Transform

“The Replicator” is the next generator 3D printer, the name shared with a Star Trek device that could make objects out of thin air. However, the 3D printer, built at the University of California in Berkeley, uses light to build solid 3D objects from a gelatinous solution.

The printer isn’t quite that advanced, but it is a step forward for 3D printing. What is its light source? It uses a repurposed digital video projector as a source to create objects that are smoother, more flexible and more complex than a traditional 3D printer. It uses just an ordinary, off-the-shelf video projector, plugged into a laptop and used to project a series of computed images, while a motor turns a cylinder that contains 3D-printing resin.

How does it work?

The projector holds a lot of 3D-computed models that it beams out as a series of light patterns directed at a gelatinous resin contained within a jar. The resin is composed of light-sensitive molecules and dissolved oxygen, and as the jar is slowly spun in place, the light beams at it. Oxygen is depleted, allowing the molecules in the resin to form cross-links. Those links are the key to the transformation, turning the liquid into a solid.

We know that traditionally, 3D printers use the typical layering process by which the printed object takes shape and form from the bottom up as horizontal layers are added one on top of the other.

The researchers have already created a number of different objects using the new printer, including a replica of Rodin’s Thinker statue, another is a smooth and highly flexible doughnut, and a model of the lower jaw.

Presently, the printer is limited to producing objects within a diameter of 4 inches (10.16 centimeters) and doesn’t produce any waste, the liquid can be reused in subsequent prints. Also, the replicator allows the fabrication of 3D objects around pre-existing structures. With these advantages objects can be mass-customized even more.


Exploring Ideas for 3D Printing in Seattle

If you’ve got an idea for 3D printing, just bring it over to us at 3D Composites, your 3D printing company in Seattle. We do traditional 3D printing of models as we look forward to new approaches in 3D technology.


Rockets To Space: Revolutionary and Fully 3D Printed

Space Ambitions Soon To Be Realized

Cape Canaveral in Florida is one of America’s busiest spaceport and soon it will become the new home of a startup company, Relativity Space, that has ambitious plans to have its very own launch site at the Cape for its future 3D-printed rockets. After a successful new deal with the US Air Force, Relativity will modify the site to suit its rocket technology. As of now, Relativity has done 124 test fires of its rocket engine, in pursuit of launching the company’s first rocket by 2020.

Since the way rockets have been built hasn’t really changed in the last 60 years, Relativity aims to upset the entire process of making rockets. The company wants to veer from the traditional way of using the assembly line of machines that are complicated and time-consuming, and workers piecing together the different machine parts. It’s going to automate the entire rocket-building process using giant 3D printers -everything from engines to the propellant tanks.

With headquarters in Los Angeles, Relativity has the largest metal 3D printer by volume, capable of creating parts up to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Called Stargate, printers like this for manufacturing can produce about 95 percent of the vehicle through 3D-printed automation, while 5 percent will use human interaction – testing, shipping, and very small amounts of manual assembly.

Printers like Stargate are meant to save money by consolidating the parts needed for each vehicle, making incredibly complicated parts in just one piece. The company will be able to produce rockets with 100 times fewer parts than normal. For example, the engine injector and chamber are made of just three 3D-printed parts, when traditionally, such sections would require nearly 3,000 parts.

All the complexity is in the software; It’s able to make shapes of almost any complexity. The design can also quickly be adjusted if needed, simply by changing the software. 3D printing will allow the company to simplify the manufacturing process, shortening the time it takes to build each rocket. The goal is to get to a point where it only takes 60 days to manufacture one vehicle. That is achievable because of the robotic automation and 3D-printing technologies.


Looking To Be Part of Space Exploration in Seattle

3D Composites, 3D printing company in Seattle, has been in the business of supporting the aerospace industry for 30 years. We look forward to being a part of rocket launches in the near future.