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3D Printing News Briefs, January 15, 2022: 3D Laser Printing, Housing, & More

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We’re starting with some interesting research in 3D Printing News Briefs today, which could help reduce the cost and size of 3D laser printing. Moving on, a cancer patient is possibly the first person in Kansas to receive a 3D printed pelvis. A new project at Iowa State University will focus on designing 3D printed housing for the rural parts of the state. Finally, students at George Mason University are working to develop their first 3D printed solar car.

Researchers Invent Two-Step Laser 3D Printing Process

Electron microscopic reconstruction of a 3D nanostructure printed with the two-step absorption process (left) and light microscopy (right). Courtesy of professor Rasmus Schröder, University of Heidelberg, and Vincent Hahn, KIT.

A team of researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Heidelberg University in Germany published a paper about their work creating a two-step 3D printing process that works with blue continuous-wave laser diodes on compact 3D printers, as opposed to the larger 3D laser nanoprinters more commonly seen. Typically, pulsed laser systems are used for AM because they support two-photon absorption, which essentially has two photons being absorbed at once to excite a molecule to a higher energy state, triggering a chemical reaction that hardens a material into a 3D printed structure. This team’s two-step absorption process starts with a molecule being transferred by one photon to an intermediate state, and a second photon then transfers it to the excited state, triggering the necessary reaction; the differences are that the photons don’t have to be absorbed at the same time, and the laser power required is much lower, meaning less cost and size of machine. The process requires photoresists, so the team worked with chemists to come up with a photoresist system based on a photo-initiator that supports two-step absorption.

“It is a big difference between using a femtosecond laser as large as a big suitcase for several €10,000 or a semiconductor laser that is as large as a pinhead and costs less than €10,” stated KIT professor Martin Wegener, one of the co-authors of the paper.

“To me, a device that will be as large as a shoebox appears realistic in the next years. That would be even smaller than the laser printer on my desktop at KIT.”

3D Printed Pelvis Implanted in Kansas Man

A 3D printed titanium pelvis has given an active father of five and cancer patient a new lease on life. Curt Melin, who recently moved from Kansas to Missouri with his family, saw his doctor about concerning leg pain that would flare up after coaching soccer, and learned that he had chondrosarcoma of the hip and pelvis; a very rare diagnosis. The only option was to lose his leg, and that was not acceptable to Melin, so he asked his doctor for another solution to save his leg, and his life. Dr. Kyle Sweeney with the University of Kansas Health System turned to 3D printing, and made a plan to implant a 3D printed partial pelvis into Melin, using imaging to meld together a CT scan and MRI of the affected area. The surgery was successful, and Melin is now walking with a crutch, though he hopes to graduate to a cane next year. Additionally, he’s supposedly the first person in Kansas to get a 3D printed pelvis.

Melin said, “I immediately jumped on it and I said, well if it’s the first one that KU ever did I’ll be your guy.

“It was the best-case scenario….very very grateful for that.”

ISU 3D Printing Housing for Rural Iowa

This gantry 3D construction printer being prepared for delivery to a construction site is similar to the one ISU researchers will use for the project. Photo from Black Buffalo.

Iowa State University (ISU) has received a $1.4 million Strategic Infrastructure Program grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), specifically for the College of Design’s 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies (3D AIT) Housing Project. The goal of the project is to develop faster, less expensive solutions for housing in rural areas of the state by 3D printing homes, in response to high demand for houses in these communities due to more remote work, higher costs of urban living, and ex-urban migration. The multidisciplinary team, which includes architecture and education professors, multiple graduate and undergrad students, and more, will use the funding for equipment and materials, including mobile CNC machining, onsite robotics, virtual and extended reality, concrete materials and components, and a 3D construction printer. Participants will work with Brunow Contracting on a demonstration build in a 40-unit development in Hamburg, as part of that city’s flood recovery efforts, and they’ll learn about zoning and building codes, design, affordability, community engagement, and how 3D printing can help achieve a faster response to natural disasters and potentially reduce costs and material waste and usage.

“The Strategic Infrastructure Program supports first-class, innovative projects that provide a competitive advantage for Iowa’s industries. This project checks that box and more,” said Debi Durham, the Executive Director of the IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority. “3D printed technology is not just a disruptor to the construction industry, it provides a solution for quality, affordable housing in the state, which the Governor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board has recognized as critical to growing Iowa’s economy.”

George Mason University Students Developing 3D Printed Solar Car

Hypernova Solar, Mason’s student-run solar car team, meets at the MIX to discuss progress and moving forward with building a 3D-printed, solar-powered car for competition. The team is building the 3D printer, pictured here, that will be used to build the car. From left to right: Mason undergraduates Abigail Kennedy, Phoenix Lee, Brandon Escobar, Kareem Elsharkawy, Petr Soucek. Photo by Shelby Burgess/Strategic Communications/George Mason University.

Finally, the student solar car team at George Mason University (GMU), Hypernova Solar, is working to develop the first fully 3D printed solar-powered car; we’ve seen 3D printed solar car concepts, and prototypes with 3D printed parts, and even a solar race car with a 3D printed roll cage, but not a fully 3D printed version. The 50-member student group, which was founded in 2019 by engineering alumnus Alex Hughes, works at the university’s MIX, and hopes to compete against other universities in the American Solar Challenge. The team is building a proof of concept car—the Hypernova One—and once it’s finished, they’ll design, build, and test a second car for competition. The students are having fun and learning a lot during the process, and are even developing their own conveyor belt 3D printer to build the shell of the car out of PETG, which is more flexible and heat-resistant.

“I’ve been impressed by the team’s passion and drive. They are constantly pushing boundaries on what they can do within a university setting,” said Hypernova Solar’s faculty advisor Colin Reagle, who teaches in the Mechanical Engineering department.

“The opportunity to build a unique machine like this is a huge draw to a diverse group of students. I can’t wait until you see them rolling around campus in this vehicle inspiring the next surge of students.”

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