In land where investment banking was king, mortgage based security swaps, dark pools and high frequency trading brought this nation to its knees. The inherent flaw wasn’t over leverage, it was that these strategies are all games based on stealing wealth from one another. But, in a finite system, only so much wealth can be acquired. It was like the country forgot how to produce wealth. Business has been lacking its partner and equal Industry. Throughout history business and industry worked well together in times of peace and in times of war. Industries would produce, and Business would connect. In a time where the world has become more accessible, and the information is readily available, the intellectual talent has migrated from the financial sector. They left to use their mathematical genius and engineering prowess to write algorithms that run large digital companies. These online companies that do search, shopping, auctions, trading can measure their assets in bytes. These businesses have boosted physical industries that weren’t viable, and seemed insane ten years ago, electric cars, space travel, regenerative medicine, tissue engineering. Our society has reached the tipping point where data transfer is cheaper and more viable then physical transfer. Now business and industry can build off of the infrastructure of the internet using 3D printers as tiny modular factories that can traverse the globe in seconds.
Cost of shipping…what is that?
Shipping data vs shipping product, 3D printers are the next best thing to a teleporter. Data can travel across the globe in a manner of seconds/minutes, allowing parts, object, etc is then manufactured on site. This allows us to consolidate the custom parts, complex geometries, and design into a quantifiable number of bytes. This allows manufacturing in industries to become independent of it’s own local and infrastructure in the same way that smart phones and mobile devices have allowed people to work and communicate independently regardless of location. 3D printers are the mobile devices of industry incredibly powerful tools that accommodate 80% of the users needs regardless of location.
Parametric design makes 3D printing scalable
The previous article “Rapid Manufacture: Iteration and Industry” documented how it is now simple and cost-effective for any business/start-up to manufacture fast prototypes. This can be done easily without expensive die/molding cost to fine tune functional prototypes before production is scaled up to the these more industrialized processes. Designs can and should be iterated until an ideal solution is apparent before it enters industry. A growing number of people are bridging the design and computer science to create a parametric designs that are essentially the root algorithms for object design. These parametric designers are the driving force behind the rapid prototyping and rapid manufacture. With a few changes in variable the objects can rebuild themselves to accommodate stresses, loads, power to weight ratios, the list goes on. Parametric designs make rapid prototyping scalable to a point where custom, and standard have equal cost.
Manufacturing on site
Remember these parts are being produced in the low grade shop conditions arguably these are worst case scenarios. The kiln is from 1970, the furnace was made from scratch it does not run on forced air. The investment is not being vacuumed or degassed. The temperature for burnout is being loosely regulated. The vacuum source for casting is a standard shop vac with a steel vessel and high temperature silicone for a gasket. The metal is not high grade casting aluminum, this is scrap 6061 aluminum left over from fabrication work, it is not cleaned or prepared for the blast furnace. The crucible is a simple mullite crucible. This is about as low-tech as you can get.
Applications for Space
Casting functional parts in space there is a huge change in cost of transport vs cost to recycle and remember energy is essentially free in space because solar cell efficiency increases drastically after passing through earths atmosphere. Induction furnaces make an effective way to melt metal in space without have to waste fuel. Vacuum casting resolves the molten metal in zero gravity problem. This makes for an effective solution to manufacturing replacement parts in space, where the time and preparation for launch to the space station, can take months of preparation. Alternatively salvaging scrap material to make replacement parts in space will avoid the high cost of transport. Excess space debris can be salvaged and repurposed into necessary parts to expand in space in a scalable and affordable manner.
Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine
Tissues have been printed for several years now in the growing fields of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Anthony Atala’s work in regenerative medicine e.g. 3D printing the kidney, knee cartilage replacement, etc takes advantage of machines that can manufacture the complex hollow organs with sophisticated internal geometry that we depend on for life.
3D printers make internal geometry an approachable problem by working layers. These organs can be infused with live cells or growth factors using the same pipelines that the blood will be using later to power/feed the organs. Now the research gap is not… Can it be printed at the correct resolution? It is how many inkjet heads are needed to get repeatable in vitro and in vivo results? [Read more about printing powder scaffolds]
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