In early May of this year, my country’s first successful Long March 5B carrier rocket was equipped with my country’s new generation of manned spacecraft test ships, and the experimental ship was also equipped with a “3D printer” for the first time.
my country’s first “space 3D printing” experiment is also the first international 3D printing experiment of continuous fiber-reinforced composite materials in space. Rail manufacturing and expansion.
This is equivalent to planning to build a construction factory in space to directly provide building materials for the space station, and save the link of launching cumbersome equipment from the earth, and directly provide “building materials” to maintain the construction of the space station.
3D printing technology, a black technology that was once popular in the technology circle in 2015 and 2016, and the same popular equipment such as drones and VR glasses, once became a new technology for niche technology enthusiasts to plant grass.
However, after several years of observation, 3D printing technology has also not ushered in the outbreak of the consumer industry. For most people, the cost of starting an entry-level 3D printer is not high, but the usage scenarios and usage requirements are really awkward. Inexpensive industrial products can basically meet daily needs, while personalized products often have high design and process requirements, and ordinary equipment is difficult to handle.
But 3D printing technology has continued to evolve and is becoming a standard configuration in many technology fields and manufacturing companies. We might as well go into the depth of 3D printing technology to see what new progress has been made in this once high-profile black technology, and what new possibilities are there for the large-scale industrialization of technology in the future?
3D printing: the “Gutenberg Revolution” that subverts traditional manufacturing
3D printing, as the name suggests, is different from our flat printing, it is to make things in a three-dimensional space. The technical principle is also very simple. The most intuitive understanding is like a cake maker extruding and superimposing a little bit of cream to form various shapes of decorations. It’s just that 3D printing can use more materials and can make more complex objects. However, this still fails to understand the revolutionary changes 3D printing has brought to manufacturing.
There are two manufacturing processes in traditional manufacturing, one is equal material manufacturing and the other is subtractive manufacturing.
Equal material manufacturing means that there is no loss of material before and after processing. Just like casting a sword in ancient times, copper or iron is melted, poured into an abrasive tool, and then continuously beaten and quenched to form. The weight of the cast sword is about the same as the weight of the original material. This type of craft has been around for more than 3000 years and is characterized by a very limited set of tools that can be made.
Subtractive manufacturing is a new technology that emerged with the development of the industrial revolution. In the process of manufacturing parts and tools, materials are cut in various ways to obtain the desired shape, so there will be material loss, such as modern metal Manufacturing, using cutting processes such as car, planing, grinding, drilling, etc., is this kind of subtractive manufacturing. Although this process is only 300 years old, it has brought the whole world into the industrial age.
Different from the processes of isomaterial manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing brings a new way of production and manufacturing – additive technology, 3D printing technology is also called additive manufacturing, that is, through a bottom-up It can produce complex structures that are difficult to achieve by traditional processes. This technology is described as a disruptive technology known as the “Third Industrial Revolution” as the invention of the “Gutenberg Press” has brought the progress of Western civilization.
Additive manufacturing represented by 3D printing represents a subversive change in production methods, which is mainly reflected in the following aspects:
First, 3D printing enables lossless production. For example, in the original manufacturing of a turbine engine, the traditional subtractive process used 300 kilograms of raw materials, and finally made a 50 kilogram finished product. And 3D printing only requires 50 kilograms of raw materials to make the finished turbine. It not only maintains the cost advantage of the same material manufacturing process, but also meets the manufacturing of complex structure products, which greatly reduces the manufacturing cost.
Second, 3D printing can meet the needs of mass customization. As long as a product is at the same price, people will be more willing to buy personalized and customized design products. The design side will be greatly developed, and the popularity of 3D printing and consumables will greatly reduce production costs. In the future, whether it is clothing design, home decoration, or daily necessities, businesses in various industries can provide as many customized solutions as possible to meet the individual needs of consumers.
Third, 3D printing can complete complex process production. Due to the production characteristics of 3D printing, it is almost possible to print extremely complex internal structures and textures. For 3D printing, such as traditional craftsmanship, which requires meticulously carved hollow designs, is a simple matter. For example, in the protection of coral reefs, the previous scheme is that people use things like concrete to replace coral reefs, but they cannot simulate the small caves in original coral reefs for fish to hide. And some marine biologists use 3D printing technology to use sandstone as a material to print coral reefs of various shapes, which perfectly solves this problem. The manufacture of super-complex and special-shaped objects has become a unique advantage of 3D printing technology.
Therefore, the use of 3D printing to make portraits, cartoons, and print all kinds of everyday objects is just a rare ability to use 3D printing technology. We can continue to take a quick look at some of the anti-sky capabilities that 3D technology can achieve today.
The new evolution of 3D printing: new light curing, micron-scale multi-material and 4D activation technology
It has been more than 100 years since 3D printing was developed from concept to mature technology. In 1892, the United States Patent Office registered a patented technology for making three-dimensional map models by lamination, which became the initial form of 3D printing technology. It wasn’t until the 1980s that 3D printing technology really started to mature.
In 1984, American scientist Charles Hull invented Stereolithography (SLA), which uses light to catalyze photosensitive resins and then shape them, and first began to try to commercialize 3D printing. In 1986, the United States Helisys company developed the layered entity manufacturing technology (LOM). In 1988, American Scott Crump invented Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), and in 1992 launched the first 3D industrial printer based on FDM technology.
Since then, 3D printing technology has entered a period of rapid iterative development, such as the newly emerging laser sintering technology, ultraviolet light sensing and droplet ejection integrated technology, which has greatly improved the precision and scope of manufacturing. By 2007, there were companies already trying to make another 3D printer out of a 3D printer. By 2012, 3D printers will be able to print complete cars and airplanes, as well as the body’s jaw prosthesis and artificial liver tissue from human cells.
It is worth mentioning that a company called Carbon3D in the United States released a new light curing technology in 2015-Continuous Liquid Interface Manufacturing (CLIP), which can be 25 to 100 times faster than any previous 3D printing technology. times.
(Carbon 3D’s resin-accelerated 3D printer)
This method involves submerging the table in a resin container and then using a projector to shine a pre-programmed image onto the table through a transparent window in the bottom of the container. Then, a layer of resin is fixed at one time by laser irradiation. Because the bottom window can undergo a curing reaction through the central enterprise organization window area, the worktable continues to rise, and the completed part is pulled out from the liquid resin.
(Currently the fastest resin 3D printer in the world)
Based on this technology, Northwestern University chemist Chad Mirkin and colleagues have developed a new high-speed resin 3D printer that is ten times faster than the 2015 device. Mirkin chose to pump a layer of clear oil to the bottom of the vessel to stop the polymer reaction. At the same time, this layer of oil also acts as a coolant, which will take away the heat generated during the printing process and prevent the printed parts from deforming. This also means that this printer can not only print anaerobic resins, but also opens up a vast space of new materials for 3D printing.
Another development in 3D printing is the 3D printing of a variety of viscous materials, which can control the material properties of printed objects at the micron scale.
Earlier this year, “Nature” magazine published this new printing technology, which can quickly switch between various viscous materials with just one nozzle, and can also use multiple nozzles, greatly reducing the printing time of specific structures. This technology is inspired by the “ink direct writing” process of 3D printing software or biological materials, but the difficulty lies in how to achieve high-frequency switching of multiple materials. The research team developed a microfluidic nozzle with up to eight viscous fluids at the tip of the nozzle to form separate filaments. Its working principle is to pressurize different fluids in sequence to switch materials at a frequency of up to 50Hz. Print feature sizes up to 250 microns.
This switching frequency is high enough to print “voxel-like” structures—that is, each point (voxel) representing the structure in the 3D mesh can have a different material property, allowing precise control of local material properties. A variety of 3D printing is possible, such as the use of different hardness materials to make paper folded according to the crease, and the use of different hardness silicone rubber robots.
The application of new materials has added a new dimension to 3D printing, that is, time. That is, by combining shape memory polymers, these materials will respond to changes in ambient temperature and humidity, allowing 3D printed objects to have certain mechanical motion capabilities, a technology that can be called 4D printing.
One class of 4D printing methods is to introduce a changing external magnetic field to trigger actions. One of these 3D-printed grid-like structures can be filled with a liquid that hardens with a magnetic field, and if hardened in the event of a crash, could be used to protect future car seats.
More promising 4D printing can be applied to human organs, including compressible and stretchable blood vessel stents, which can be precisely controlled to reach the designated position of the blood vessel before opening and expanding the structure. At present, 4D printing scaffolds with a width of only 50 microns have been realized to realize the printing of skin and liver organs, but the most ambitious development direction is to print fully functional body organs, but the current technology is still far from being applied. Levels of Human Organ Transplantation.
The invention of new technology promotes the application of new materials, and the application of new materials will innovate various product characteristics. When 3D printing technology is increasingly controlling the composition of objects from the microscopic level, that is, printing objects composed of different materials and different characteristics, then this will inevitably bring new possibilities to many materials and manufacturing industries.
The new industrial machine of 3D printing: new production methods and new supply chain methods
When the technology of 3D printing has reached the innovative node of micron-scale, multi-material and active material integration, the large-scale application of 3D printing in the industry seems to be close at hand. So, what disruptive effects will 3D printing technology have on major industries and daily life?
(Israeli scientists 3D printed a “beating heart” through cells)
First of all, the most important thing is that the innovation of 3D technology in process, structure and material will bring about brand new products.
1. New technology brings new product innovation. In the medical industry, doctors need to make particularly personalized diagnosis for patients. For example, medical devices that need to be applied to the human body also require extremely customized manufacturing processes, such as joints suitable for femoral head necrosis, and 3D printing that can withstand the pressure of coughing and sneezing. The windpipe, and the moving heart. For some complex tumor removal operations, doctors can use 3D modeling and 3D print realistic organ models for doctors to practice in advance.
In the production of clothing and footwear, large-scale production of products such as rubber soles and helmet linings for American football players can also be carried out through the latest light-curing molding technology.
2. The structural innovation of 3D printing will also bring new breakthroughs. For example, using computers and robots to precisely control automated pouring to print more stable and longer bridges with 3D concrete; a start-up company called Relativity Space is using 3D printing to make rockets, which has the advantage of being able to produce traditional manufacturing methods. Refrigeration tunnels in realised geometries; and airlines like Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and others are starting to use 3D printing to make metal parts for jet engines, a method that is cheaper than milling and makes Complex components are lighter.
3. The use of new materials will also bring about new production methods. For example, 3D printing technology can use a new metal material called microlattice. The interior is empty and completely transparent, but with excellent elasticity, it is suitable for high safety and low quality requirements such as aircraft bulkheads and doors. Due to the complex structure, traditional industrial manufacturing processes are difficult to apply, but the manufacture of such materials can be easily accomplished using 3D printing technology.
Furthermore, 3D printing technology will greatly change the supply chain system.
For example, a medical team in the United Kingdom conducts the diagnosis of malaria parasites in the wild in Tanzania, and some equipment parts and consumables for light microscopes are often damaged or in short supply. The researchers designed a set of 3D models of microscopes that could be printed in the field with 3D printers, in addition to cameras, motors and lenses.
And like the 3D composite material printing in my country’s space capsule test at the beginning, it is also the accumulation of technology in advance for future space construction. In the future, as long as there are mature and efficient printing equipment, as long as the data model of the product you want to manufacture can be obtained, localized material acquisition and printing can be realized, which will completely change the traditional time-consuming, delayed, bloated and linear supply chain system.
Now, we have seen 3D printing technology, which has brought many changes in the fields of medical devices, aerospace, construction, automobile, industrial manufacturing and so on. Judging from the current situation, this kind of change will be faster and faster, and the fields will be wider and wider.
In the future, 3D printing will subvert the production methods of traditional industries, and will also bring more new industrial opportunities.
Kurzweil, the god-level futurist who wrote the book “The Singularity Is Near”, once used a metaphor of the “lotus pond effect” to describe the exponential growth of technology. If it takes 8 days to cover half of the lotus pond with lotus leaves, it will not take another 8 days to cover the whole lotus pond, but only one night.
The development of 3D printing technology also seems to be characterized by this subtle exponential growth. It took nearly 100 years from the conception to the actual implementation of the technology, and it took 30 years from the technology just started to today’s micron-level, multi-material, activation and other technologies, and the next mass production and application of 3D technology may be Faster acceleration, and we may see more and more products made by 3D technology appear in our lives in the next 10 years.
One last thought.
In this hot summer of “street stall economy”, if you have ideas and design ability, can you buy an entry-level 3D printer to provide passers-by with a variety of personalized dolls, avatars, and accessories? What about design printing?
You see, Bubble Mart, who made a fortune just by relying on a small “blind box”, has applied for a Hong Kong stock market listing. Maybe your entrepreneurial journey started with a 3D printer?
At least, is this very “worldly” stall economy a little high-tech all of a sudden?