Wednesday, 25 August 2021

3D Printing & Robotics

 Traditional manufacturing methods have witnessed disruptions in the recent decades, in the form of either robotics or 3D printing (3DP). A convergence of these disruptive technologies, however, promises to change the future of Robotics & other industries as well.

Companies engaged in manufacturing robots stand to benefit greatly from the inclusion of 3DP, in their business processes. Since most robots are required for unique applications, the ability of 3DP helps by speeding-up prototyping. This rapid prototyping helps designers, test new models faster & customize them according to customer or application requirement faster. The result, customized robots can be made available in the market faster, due to a faster product design process. 3DP can also help mass produce customized robot designs & meet the rising demand for higher personalization with relative ease.

Robots, being often used for specific applications, require special tools for manufacturing them as well. This requirement of special tools to manufacture robotic parts with complex geometries, is readily fulfilled by 3D printing them. Different custom parts, for varied applications of the same robot can hence be easily created, by 3D printing them. Design engineers can not only 3D print tooling & fixtures for the robotic assembly process, but also use Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) for new manufacturing methods. 

DfAM methods of making tools help reduce overall costs, by reducing the overall number of parts required because of hybrid machinery & processes. Using DfAM in robotic manufacturing helps reduce waste of raw materials, while increasing overall strength & durability of parts by eliminating potential failure points in robot designs. DfAM can also help fabricate entire robots or major parts of robots. With no prerequisite for molds, robots & robotic parts can be produced in smaller volumes, in rapid & economical fashion. 

Savings in time & money resulting from incorporating 3DP in assembly & manufacturing, can be diverted towards research & innovation to develop better robots. 3DP can also help repair robots with ease. By printing parts that need replacement ‘on-site’ or reverse engineering parts that are expensive to reproduce, repairing damaged robots is made efficient by 3DP. Robotic parts can also be re designed with ease, helping to build & improve on earlier designs. 

Including 3DP methods in robotic design & manufacturing helps turbocharge the entire supply chain, while making maintenance & repair robots easier. The convergence of these disruptive technologies promises a future of automation & efficiency for a host of industries.  

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

3D Printing & the Marine Industry

 3D Printing has been a disruptive force across a wide range of industries for almost a decade. From the Automobile to Aerospace industry, 3D printing has inspired a rethink & reimagination of traditional ways of design, prototyping & manufacturing methods. This disruptive breach can also be seen in the Marine Industry.

New Product Development, as usual, is the first victim of this disruption caused by 3DP in the marine industry. Whether it is the design of a ship’s interior or the shape of its hull, virtually designed models of these, can be rapidly 3D printed. Showcasing new designs of a ship’s interior or exterior, based on a certain operational profile, can also be achieved using the speed of 3D printing. 3DP also helps in fabrication of new tools, that can be used in making the actual manufacturing process faster. 3D printed sand molds can be used to make casted impellers, turbines & pump casings.

Unleashing the creative side of making ships is not the only advantage 3DP brings to the marine industry. The clinical & rapid manufacturing of parts, using just the right amount of raw material makes it economical, to make custom designs, which under traditional methods would be economically unfeasible. This is particularly relevant in marine operations, where different ships are needed for unique climates & applications, making customization in terms of design & build material paramount. For example, ships intended for long voyages can be built with parts & designs that ensure minimum energy consumption, decreasing overall energy consumption of the ship. This is particularly relevant to aircraft carriers that rely on several nuclear reactors to fuel their voyages. 

3D printing is known to reduce weight of parts, by printing whole them whole & making them lighter & stronger in the process. Reducing the weight of ships, by 3D printing major parts whole, allows them to carry more cargo, increasing their utility in a wide range of fields like shipping & defense. 

Wear & tear is a common occurrence in the marine sector, where ships are exposed to some of the harshest conditions on the planet. 3DP provides the advantage of repair services that are time & application sensitive. Parts of a ship that need replacement, can be 3D printed, in port, in a timely manner, facilitating longer service lives for ships that endure heavy wear & tear.

Last but not the least, reproducing parts that have been made obsolete, due to high costs associated with high traditional methods, is an easy thing to achieve with 3D printing. By scanning existing models of such parts, 3D printing can reproduce these at a fraction of the original cost & in a faster time frame. 

Although, 3D printing whole ships is still a distant reality, the infancy of 3D printing in the marine sector is poised to change it forever, upon maturity. The time when fleets will be 3D printed on demand is not far away.   

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Advantages of 4D Printing

 4D printing, a technology based on 3D printing models using smart, programmable materials has the potential to disrupt multiple industries. In our last blog, on 4D printing: The Technology of the Future, we outlined the differences between 3D & 4D printing. We now will explore the advantages 4D printing promises, across different fields, if applied & implemented successfully

One clear advantage provided by 4D printing is computational folding. Models or parts, too large for a 3D printer to print, can be printed in their secondary forms, thanks to the smart & programmable materials used in 4D printing methods. Smart materials like Shape Memory Polymers, Shape Memory Alloys, Hydrogels, are few amongst a host of new materials being researched & developed, promising models that adapt forms in response to different stimuli of light, moisture, magnetic & electric currents. In some cases, especially where programmable Hydrogels are used, 4D printing promises an almost 90% of reduction in volume. 

Shape Memory Effect (SME), a phenomenon that enables materials to remember their shape under certain conditions, helps & promises, objects that can remember & assume their programmed shapes for a given set of conditions. Parts & models printed with the SME are bound to revolutionize the medical industry. Implants that fit any body structure are a well awaited addition. 4D printing can also create devices that will release medicine under preprogrammed conditions. Any rise in temperature of the body can trigger these devices to intelligently determine the person has contracted fever & administer doses of relevant drugs.  

printing applications get more complex than above examples. We can imagine pipes, that carry water, the most important life supporting material on the planet, 4D printed to perform various adaptations. Using smart materials can enable dynamic pipes, to be 4D printed, adjusting their diameters to flow rates & water demand in a certain region. These can also be programmed to ‘heal’ themselves, in case of damage, ensuring minimum wastage of water.

The Furniture industry is currently facing a barrier in adoption of 3D printing, as many of the objects involved are huge in comparison to 3D printer sizes. 4D printing, can enable simple shapes to be printed, that can change form & shape by adding light or water. Thus, a simple plain piece of ‘smart’ wood, 4D printed, can become a sofa, a chair, or a bed, by adding water or light to it. 

4D printing also promises to change the face of the fashion industry. Clothes that adapt to weather conditions, are being researched. Shoes that can shape based on the activity being undertaken, can promise custom levels of comfort & ergonomics. 

Construction of structures like buildings, bridges & roads that build themselves is a dream application of 4D printing. Reduction in labor cost, time involved in building projects, is a foreseeable advantage here. Add the ability to ‘self-repair’ thanks to innovative constriction materials & 4D printing may lead to indestructible transport systems that are immune to various physical & natural disasters.  

4D printing is now a technology that is being considered with serious thought, by experts in various fields. From shape changing furniture, to implants that fit any body type & selfhealing pipes, self-adapting clothing to bridges that build themselves, 4D printing promises real life magic with discernable advantages in terms of cost, material & time efficiencies. 

Monday, 26 July 2021

4D Printing (4DP): Technology of the future

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing has evolved into a viable, trusted & tangible, technological alternative to a host of traditional manufacturing & fabrication methods. However, lurking in the shadows of this technology, a new development is slowly & steadily acquiring shape & potential to disrupt major industries in a far more radical way than 3D Printing has done so far. Adding the ‘fourth’ dimension of ‘Time’ to the usual three dimensions of length, breadth & height, in an additive manufacturing process has resulted in the discovery of ‘4D Printing’.

The question of ‘what is 4D Printing?’ can hence be answered as follows: Printing, manufacturing or fabricating objects, tools, parts, in a way that allows them to alter shape, size, form & structure, due to external influences in form of energy, like light, temperature or other environmental stimuli, is known as 4D Printing. Majority of research in 4DP is dedicated to combining ‘technology & design’, aimed at inventing self-assembling & programmable material technologies, which have the potential to revolutionize Construction, Manufacturing, product performance & assembly.

Differentiating between 3DP (3D Printing) & 4DP is hence simple. 3DP works by printing layer upon layer of material of a 2D structure, in a path from the bottom to the top, generating a 3D volume or object. 4DP repeats the same process, however, the difference is the materials used to print these objects. 4DP requires advanced & specially programmed materials that change shape & structure, in response to any changes in their environments.  

One example of these advanced & programmable materials is a Shape Memory Polymer (SMP). SMPs have the ability of large-scale elastic deformation, in response to environmental stimuli. Figure 1 shows us an example of this phenomenon. When a certain change in temperature is induced, the 4D printed inanimate flower object; made of SMP material, changes shape in response to rising temperatures. As is evident in Figure 1, different levels of temperature changes, induce different deformations of the structure.

Different smart printing materials can be used to deliver desired changes in model structures. SMPs as shown in Figure 1, work on the mechanism of the Shape Memory Effect (SME). They fall under the category of Thermo Responsive Materials: materials that change size, shape when thermal energy is applied as a stimulus. Various such materials are currently being developed, namely Shape Memory Alloys (SMA), Shape Memory Hybrids (SMH), Shape Memory Ceramics (SMC), and Shape Memory Gels (SMG). SMPs are currently the preferred materials for 4DP, as they are currently far easier to develop & print with.  

Monday, 19 July 2021

3D Printing & Auto Industry

Automobile industry has been an early industrial adopter of 3D printing. Over the span of a
decade, the Automobile industry has witnessed 3D printing technology transform from a
useful alternative to an indispensable tool. Initially, focused on making prototypes, 3D
printing now is responsible for creating complex parts, speeding up tooling cycles,
enhancing measurement & testing, while also providing customized solutions.

Miniature 3D printed designs of cars are easy to test. With advances in 3D printing &
compatible materials, designers can test various forms & practical functions. This helps in
finalizing optimum design ideas faster, as life size designs of parts & models can be printed
immediately upon approval.

Rapid tooling is growing at an enormous pace within the industry. 3D printing is responsible
for shrinking the tooling process & making it easier to develop task specific tools. Designing
custom tools & 3D printing them saves time, material cost & machine time, making it
profitable for automakers in every way.

Customization for select vehicle models can be an expensive affair for automakers. From the
interior of a car to the essential functional parts, customizing & mass-producing custom
parts in low volume proves costly. Using 3D printing, customized parts can be easily
produced, while lowering cost of customization to OEMs & the end user alike. This is
especially true for EMVs, which require lightweight & specially designed parts to be
produced in low quantity.

Measuring & validating accuracy of parts & fixtures, on demand, is now possible thanks to
3D printing. Using FDM technology, designers can print special tools that last longer & are
lighter as well as mobile. This makes it easy to carry them to any point in the assembly line.
Using rubber like materials also helps avoid scratches & other type of damage on end parts,
making measurement & validation cheaper, faster & more efficient.

Using FDM, SLS or SLM technologies for 3D printing, automakers can test various iterations
of a model rapidly. This also extends to the ability of being able to use multiple materials in
making one model & testing the outcome right away. This helps validate complex part
designs & make designers aware of parts that may not be functional in the real world as

With 3D printing making it easier to design new models, make complex parts with ease, the
automobile industry is on its way to a complete revolution. Shorter lead times in design,
fabrication, testing & validation are helping the industry cater to the varied consumer &
environment needs with ease.

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

3D Printing & Rockets

3D printing is revolutionizing the Aerospace & Aviation industry. As we outlined in our blog on the topic of “3D Printing in Space” (, 3D printing is crucial to driving down the cost per kilogram of putting payloads in space. One of the most important ways 3D printing achieves this, is by making the process of manufacturing ‘rockets’, faster, cheaper & efficient. 

Modern era requirements of space travel, scientific research, military reconnaissance & broad coverage offerings by mobile & broadband networks to name a few, require space launches of humans &/or satellites into space. This is where launch vehicles or rockets, as they are most commonly known, come into the picture. Launching any payload into space with a rocket, however, is an expensive & risky affair. On average a rocket used to put payloads into space has more than 100,000 parts, drastically raising the probability of errors & mistakes, which may lead to a mishap. To add to this risk, rockets require huge amounts of fuel &have a comparatively low payload carrying capacity in terms of weight. Hence, the heavier the payload, higher the cost of launching it into space. This is where 3D printing changes things. 

Traditional rockets designs like the Titan rockets, which powered the Apollo missions to the Moon, have more than a 100,000 parts. These need to be fastened together with nuts & bolts, specials glues, which have to withstand enormous pressure during launch. 3D printing can help manufacture rockets & rocket parts, ‘whole’, using novel methods of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM). This leads to an almost 100x reduction in the number of parts & components. This not only makes the rockets stronger in terms of withstanding external pressures, but also lighter. 

Using 3D printing to manufacture rockets, drastically reduces lead times. Designing 3Dmodels in proprietary virtual modelling software & printing these models takes a short time of only 60 days, in some cases. This is a 10x reduction compared to traditional methods, where it would take more than two years to manufacture a new rocket that is ready for space launch. 

In addition to making the process of manufacturing rockets faster, 3D printing also helps in making them efficient. Fuel tanks & engines make up for the heaviest parts of a rocket. By designing fuel tanks in one piece using novel metal alloys (carbon fiber, titanium aluminide, graphene), 3D printing can help make fuel tanks leak proof & lighter. Engines also benefit greatly due to unique & efficient thruster & combustion chamber designs. Rockets manufactured using 3D printing have been proven to provide almost 98% more thrust, at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods of making them. This means more lighter, powerful & efficient rocket engines & more space for carrying items in the payload to be delivered. 

As the Human race slowly approaches the dream of inter-space & inter-planetary travel, rockets & their indispensable utility in space launches remain paramount to realizing this dream. Luckily, for all of us who dream of travelling to the stars, 3D printing is here to expedite this voyage into the star-studded highways of space, by making rockets faster, cheaper & more efficient than ever before. 

Monday, 5 July 2021

3D Printing & Batteries

Batteries have become indispensable tools in the battle against fossil fuels & the rise of the EMVs (Electric Motor Vehicles) has highlighted the curial role they play in this struggle. The revolution in energy storage has also brought us Electric Boats & Airplanes in addition to EMVs. As usual 3D printing is playing a pivotal role in making batteries cheaper, efficient & compatible with a wide array of applications across the Automobile, Aviation & Marine industry. 

3D printing is known to provide a capacity for rapid prototyping & the ability to achieve economies of scale at a blazing speed. Batteries produce energy in different cells that are put together inside them. Traditional methods of manufacturing require these to be produced separately & put together to form a single battery unit. With 3D printing methods, custom batteries with suited shapes of cells can be printed ‘whole’, eliminating extra time & improving the speed at which large amounts of batteries can be produced. This greatly reduces the cost of manufacturing batteries. 

In addition to reducing the price of manufacturing for batteries, 3D printing, also helps in raising the efficiency of batteries, in terms of the amount energy being stored. Porous electrodes in a battery help raise energy density. 3Dprinting can produce such electrodes that are porous at a ‘nano’ level, using a three dimensional ‘lattice’ structure. This lattice structure helps in exposing more surface area of the electrodes, where the chemical reactions that make a battery work are achieved. Hence the battery produces more energy. 

3D printing also aids in fabricating batteries of various shapes & sizes. As a battery can be 3D printed ‘whole’, battery makers do not have to glue together different cells that make up a battery. 3D printed batteries hence can be fashioned into desirable shapes & are lighter than their traditional counterparts. This helps product designers in the EMV, Aviation & Marine industries design vehicles, planes & boats, respectively, with a higher level of freedom & concern for accommodating cumbersome battery shapes. 

With 3D printing disrupting & revolutionizing manufacturing methods of batteries, a cleaner future, free of fossil fuels has dawned & the time when mankind achieves net zero emissions is on the horizon.