Some of the most interesting work being done with technology today takes place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Located in Livermore, California, the researchers at LLNL have been responsible for astounding work with 3D printers in addition to other technology. Their breakthroughs include finding methods to control emissions, the development of better solar energy plants, the improvement of electronic devices, and so much more – and the 3D printing-related work we cover is only scratching the surface of everything that goes on at the lab.
A lot of what LLNL does will remain unknown to the general public, too. The lab is a high-security facility responsible for a lot of the United States’ national security, and much of its work needs to remain top secret – particularly because that work involves nuclear deterrence. The US Department of Energy, however, which oversees LLNL along with 16 other National Laboratories, unveiled a few parts of the lab to the public through two 360-degree virtual tours.
One of those tours takes viewers inside three of LLNL’s 3D printing laboratories. The first, one of two entirely dedicated to the 3D printing of metal parts, houses a fully 3D printed rocket engine that took eight days and $10,000 to print. Its complex structure, which includes fuel channels running the length of the engine body, would have been impossible to build with traditional manufacturing methods, LLNL explains – plus, when it comes to rocket engines, $10,000 is seriously cheap.
Another piece of important research taking place in LLNL’s metal 3D printing labs relates to the metal printing process itself. Metal additive manufacturing, while it’s exploded into just about every industry within the last year, is still very much a work in progress, and printed metal parts are often plagued with tiny defects that can seriously affect the integrity and performance of the part – not good when you’re dealing with aerospace components in particular. LLNL is working to perfect the process, creating consistently flawless metal parts, and they’ve recently released some of their key research into the issues of metal printing. In the tour, you can peer into the lab where that research takes place – and get a brief lesson on selective laser melting, too.
The next stop of the tour takes us into the lab where researchers are working on the development of new materials. A team of mechanical engineers, chemical engineers and material scientists work with advanced 3D printing techniques – such as projection micro-stereolithography, which enables the creation of super-strong, super-light micro-lattices. Then there’s electrophoretic deposition, an LLNL-developed process that allows multiple materials to be incorporated into one structure – including conductive materials. We also get a look at direct ink writing, which the researchers are using to develop graphene aerogel for better energy storage, in addition to several other applications like stronger football helmets.
Finally, the tour takes us into the bioprinting lab, where researchers have been working on 3D printing functional blood vessels. So go ahead – step inside the laboratory responsible for some of the most important research in the world.
The other tour takes virtual visitors into the National Ignition Facility, which houses the world’s largest laser system as well as some of the world’s top scientists as they work on the development of fusion ignition, clean energy, nuclear power, and much more – not to mention research into the universe itself. Take a look:
LLNL created the virtual tours as a way for the public to get just a little bit of an inside look at the incredible work happening at the lab, but also to attract potential new employees. There are currently hundreds of job openings at the lab, so if you’d like to be a part of the unprecedented research and development happening at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, take a moment to peruse their job listings – you might just find something that’s perfect for you. Discuss further over in the LLNL Virtual Reality 3D Printing Lab Tour forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: DoE]