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  • BuildFlow Update – March 2019

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  • 3D Printing Geopolymers Recycled from Coal Byproducts

    3D Printing Geopolymers Recycled from Coal Byproducts

    Research into 3D printing consistently yields new methods and materials for additive manufacturing to make use of. Among the most exciting recent material advances was produced by a research team from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. By experimenting with fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion, scientists at NTU were able to produce a 3D printable geopolymer that is strong enough to be used in construction.


    The process pioneered by the NTU team, though revolutionary in its ability to convert fly ash into a usable material, is actually fairly simple. The fly ash is combined with potassium hydroxide and potassium silicate, making a cement-like material. This mixture can set and cure at room temperature, a fact which allows it to be used in 3D printing. With the correct loading direction, this geopolymer actually proved to be stronger than traditional cement.


    Much of the two years that the research team spent on the project was dedicated to optimizing techniques that would allow the new geopolymer to be used in a 3D printer. Though the material readily lends itself to additive manufacturing, the scientists at NTU still had to determine the proper flow rate for printing and make adjustments for the time it takes the geopolymer to set.


    The ability to turn fly ash into a functional construction material has immense potential when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of the construction industry. Though it isn’t hazardous, fly ash is an incredibly common waste material for which few uses have been found up to now. Each year, some 112 million tons of fly ash is produced by India, the world’s leading coal-burning country, with another 100 million tons produced by China and 75 million by the United States. In tandem with 3D printing’s ability to reduce material waste, this type of recycling can make the future of construction as an industry much greener.


    This is just one of the many ways in which new research into 3D printing is expanding the potential of the technology to revolutionize the ways in which everything from consumer products to buildings are created. Owing to the wide range of different uses that 3D printing will have in the manufacturing and building processes of the future, it’s important that today’s students are introduced to it at a young age. Me3D’s classroom 3D printers are an excellent choice for getting students started with 3D printing and helping them explore the vast potentials of the next generation of manufacturing technology.

  • Students Revolutionize Medical Training with 3D Printing

    Students Revolutionize Medical Training with 3D Printing

    Students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville have recently catapulted the study of medicine at the school’s College of Nursing into the future, using 3D printing technology to create the tools necessary for realistic medical training simulations.

    As reported by the 3D Printing Industry, Dr. Lori Lioce, and Norvern Goddard, two scientists working at the university, used the school’s 3D printers to make new medical training tools after making note of this application for the technology. In order to do this, the two enlisted the help of several of their students from both computer science and engineering majors.

    To start off, the team mapped out and printed a cricothyrotomy trainer or model for practicing procedures on the neck. Finding success, they printed four copies in total, enough for use in all the medical courses offered on campus. They also uploaded the designs online for free, allowing anyone who downloads them to print their own versions of the trainer. After that, they made both an onychectomy trainer (thumbnail procedure model) and a vein finder using low-cost open-source designs.

    One of the advantages to 3D printing medical training tools like this is the adaptability inherent in the printing process. The high degree of customization allowable with the digital designs means more accurate and patient-specific models can be made, giving students more realistic experience during their learning.

    Goddard says that, while each item made this way might cost quite a bit, it’s ultimately a cheaper alternative than buying them from a supplier. Additionally, the fact that they can use the school’s resources to print the tools helps to cut down on cost. In all, it’s estimated the College of Nursing managed to save around $6,000 for printing this equipment as opposed to ordering it.

    Both the scientists and the student team plan to spread their knowledge to other schools, hoping to teach others how to 3D print supplies as an efficient way to save costs. Their future plans include an injection simulation pad and a 3D body model.

    Connect with us for more 3D printing innovations and news about the future!

  • Managing 3D Printed Parts With Blockchain Technology

    3D printing is one of the most useful industries to come from modern technology. The uses are numerous. Many people are working hard to make this technology accessible and reliable.

    One of the biggest innovators in 3D printing appears to be General Electric. This company is making waves in 3D printing by combining their work with a new innovative technology.

    The New Technology

    General Electric has turned their focus to one of the most exciting new IT protocols available today. The team behind their 3D printing projects are looking to improve the validity of their supply chain verification system. To do this, GE is adopting a new blockchain based solution.

    Presently, GE is responsible for the production of objects through additive manufacturing processes—aka 3D printing. This process requires high standards and each object must meet industry quality regulations.

    Improving the reliability of their supply chain verification is critical for ensuring long-term success. As each object passes through phases of creation and inspection, updates are provided to a ledger.

    With blockchain technology, critical metadata is logged on what’s known as a distributed ledger. The ledger is shared among every user of the system—this makes changing the information stored in the ledger nearly impossible. Any and all updates are stored across every node, meaning there is no longer a central point responsible for the integrity of the data.

    The Future Of 3D Printing And Blockchain

    The versatility of blockchain technology is seemingly endless. The adoption of new blockchain ledgers will guarantee the reliability of supply chain processes in many industries—especially 3D printing.

    3D printing is somewhat new territory as well. The quality and efficiency of 3D printed objects need to be monitored and maintained during production. Any new technology that can increase this reliability is only going to further the advancement of the field.

    We can only anticipate more advancements as creative individuals work wonders with this amazing new technology. Be sure to check back for more information on the latest in 3D printing.

  • Netherlands Builds World’s First Commercial 3D Printed Houses

    Netherlands Builds World’s First Commercial 3D Printed Houses

    3D Printing Technology in the Netherlands


    The city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands is soon to be home to a community of five homes built sustainably and efficiently using 3D printing. The community, known as Project Milestone, will begin with a small, 1,000-square foot home with walls just under 2 inches thick. Later houses will be larger and more complex, featuring multiple stories, patios, and even balconies. These will be the first concrete 3D printed houses in the world that people can actually live in.


    One of the main advantages of using 3D printing technology to build a home is that unique shapes can be made on a smaller scale. With past technologies, building unique shapes would only be cost-efficient on a larger scale. Another great advantage is the fact that concrete will only get laid down where it is needed. Past technologies wasted much of the building resource and are, therefore, much less sustainable. Cement production, for example, is one of the largest CO2 sources in the world. This type of construction will lower CO2 emission.




    Designers chose to name this project Milestone for two reasons. First, they consider it a special moment in time. 3D-printing is one of the most disruptive technologies of the century, having been used in numerous fields already. It has been used in medicine to print transplants during surgery; used to make pizza, and even to create art. Because of 3D printing’s higher sustainability and its decreased material costs, its use is destined to increase.


    The second reason for the name Milestone is because of the actual appearance of the houses themselves. Keeping in mind the wishes of future residents, designers made sure the houses would be beautiful as well as cheap and functional. The houses will be designed to resemble large stones from the outside as if the small community of five houses had suddenly fallen into the field.


    The first house will be constructed off-site and brought to its eventual location. It is expected to be finished in early 2019. By the final and fifth house, designers are hoping the entire construction will be done on-site.


  • Scientists 3D Print Human Heart Tissue

    Scientists 3D Print Human Heart Tissue

    3D Printing News

    A major breakthrough in the world of 3D printing and medical science has just occurred in Chicago, as medical technology firm BIOLIFE4D has successfully printed a human cardiac patch.

    Reported by 3ders.org, the patch made by the group was especially notable for including multiple different kinds of cells rather than just a single kind, making it much more adaptable and viable for use in patients with different types of heart failure. Additionally, the process was unexpectedly quick, only taking a few days to complete. The group’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Ravi Birla, echoes this, saying that being able to print a cardiac patch this quickly was simple “unheard of” up to this point.

    In order to make the patch, BIOLIFE4D researchers took blood samples from those intended to receive the patch. A specialized process is used to convert the ordinary blood cells into unspecialized adult induced pluripotent stem cells, meaning cells with the potential to grow into any other type of cell in the human body.

    Grown in a nutrient gel with the right care, these iPS change into the cells needed for transplant. After that, they’re loaded into a specialized 3D printer as a bio-ink, which safely prints the cardiac patch in the shape needed for transplant.

    3D Printing Technology

    This is merely the beginning of what this kind of technology can do, however. Bioprinting combined with iPS samples could revolutionize the way transplant surgeries are undertaken, as the stem cells’ adaptability opens the door for 3D printing entire organs from a patient’s own genetic material, drastically reducing the likelihood of rejection.

    Steven Morris, BIOLIFE4D’s CEO, says he couldn’t be prouder of the results so far. He states that, from the beginning, the company’s goal has been to save lives, and that their most recent accomplishment puts them one step closer to reaching that goal.

  • GM Realizes Massive Cost Savings with 3D Printing

    GM Realizes Massive Cost Savings with 3D Printing

    Automotive manufacturing giant General Motors, a company that was among the first automakers to seriously explore the potential of 3D printing, recently revealed that it has saved $300,000 over a two year period as a result of the technology. The company now hopes to save millions more by implementing and standardizing 3D printing more widely across its manufacturing facilities.


    Impressively, the $300,000 GM was able to save with 3D printing is the result of a single printer that was put into use in the company’s Lansing Delta Township factory. When purchased two years ago, the printer cost only $35,000. It has since been used for prototyping and for making specialized tools for the factory.


    With a single printer having returned nearly 10 times its original purchase price in only two years, GM now plans to deploy 3D printers in all of its production facilities in the near future. Cumulatively, the savings from using 3D printing technology in all GM factories could easily range into the millions of dollars. Combined with other emerging technologies, such as AI, big data, and drones, the company hopes to revolutionize the entire manufacturing process.


    Beyond saving money, GM reports that its 3D printer has also improved safety at the facility. Pieces of specialized safety equipment can be produced on the printer in much the same way that tools are.


    GM’s huge savings as a result of 3D printing implementation offer yet another clear indication that the future of manufacturing will rely heavily on this emerging technological field. Production jobs 10, 15 and 20 years from now will likely require working knowledge of 3D printing hardware and software. If today’s children are to be ready for these jobs, it’s important that they learn how to use additive manufacturing tools now. Classroom 3D printers, like those made by Me3D, are ideal for teaching kids the basic concepts of 3D printing so that they are prepared for the manufacturing jobs of the future.

  • Adidas Prepares for Mass Manufacturing with 3D Printing

    Adidas Prepares for Mass Manufacturing with 3D Printing

    Footwear giant Adidas recently announced its plans to greatly expand the role of 3D printing in its manufacturing processes. The company is planning an ambitious project to put 3D-printed midsoles into as many as 100,000 pairs of shoes by the end of 2018, with millions of pairs featuring the midsoles within a few years.


    Though the plan to expand the usage of 3D printing in manufacturing its sneakers is a major step forward for Adidas, it’s far from the first time the iconic footwear manufacturer has embraced additive manufacturing technology. Adidas first announced in April of 2017 that it planned to incorporate its specially-designed 3D-printed midsole in the Futurecraft 4D sneaker. That sneaker was released in January of 2018, making it the first mass-market shoe to incorporate 3D printing as part of its overall manufacturing process.


    Adidas’ 3D printing is facilitated by a startup called Carbon, which uses digital light synthesis (DLS) methods of additive manufacturing to create the company’s new midsoles. The process, similar in principle to digital light processing, utilizes UV light and proprietary liquid resin to produce prints faster than other resin-based 3D printing processes are capable of. The increased speed of printing is a major component in Adidas’ plans to mass-produce shoes with 3D-printed parts.


    If successful, the expansion of 3D printing to millions of pairs of shoes over the course of only a few years would make Adidas one of the most prolific users of additive manufacturing in the world. Though the technology has already been explored for product support purposes and more specialized manufacturing, few everyday consumer products are currently made using 3D printing. As the technology advances and becomes more widespread, though, companies like Adidas are likely to bring it into the mainstream of product manufacturing. With this development, future manufacturing jobs are apt to depend more and more heavily on 3D printers, making it essential that today’s students begin learning to use them. With classroom 3D printers like those offered by Me3D, kids can engage with additive manufacturing technology and learn skills that may one day be essential for securing employment in the manufacturing sector.