The future of 3D printing
(based on an IEC e-tech article by Gabriela Ehrlich)
Bass started by explaining that 3D printing is older than one thinks. It started roughly 25 years ago but its success is directly linked to the progression of the Internet and of the overall digital environment; 3D printing lies at the cross path of the digital and the visible world.
New technologies require new thinking
Bass defended the idea that new technologies such as 3D printing need to be used to do things that we couldn’t even conceive of before. In his view taking a new technology to do the same old thing a tiny bit differently is simply not that interesting.
Some challenges to overcome
Bass gave a quick overview of what has been happening in 3D printing over the past few years and some of the shortcomings that need to be addressed if we want to move to the next level. In his words these include:
1. Reliability. Failure rates for 3D printing are insanely high. For those who 3D print all the time there is a certain level of anxiety when they walk over to the printer in the morning to check whether a project successfully printed, often finding that it hasn’t.
2. 3D printing quality is low. The resolution is simply not high enough; the quality of parts is not good enough.
3. Speed. 3D printers are simply too slow. If a cube of 10 cm3 takes 1 hour to print, then a cube of double that size (20 cm3) will take 8 hours and one of four times the initial size (40 cm3) will take 64 hours. This is a difficult barrier to remove.
4. Materials. Most of the materials available today are not good enough for the products that are being printed.
IEC sets Standards for quality, safety
A number of IEC TCs (Technical Committees) and SCs (Subcommittees) work on identifying, developing and coordinating International Standards for the electric and electronic components that are installed in the 3D printers being used in additive and substractive manufacturing processes.
Amongst many other relevant parts and components are switches and relays (TC 17: Switchgear and controlgear, TC 121: Switchgear and controlgear and their assemblies for low voltage, and their SCs), servo and stepper motors used to move the extrusion head or the sintering laser (TC 2: Rotating machinery) and power supplies (TC 96: Transformers, reactors, power supply units, and combinations thereof). Most important are the different types of lasers used for sintering metals and polymers.
TC 76: Optical radiation safety and laser equipment, is the leading body on laser standardization, including the high-power lasers used in industrial and research applications. Its work is essential to 3D printing.
Read the full e-tech article here.