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  • richardmitnick 10:14 am on February 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "First-of-Its-Kind Hydrogel Platform Enables On-Demand Production of Medicines and Chemicals", 3D Printing, ,   

    From University of Texas at Austin and University of Washington : “First-of-Its-Kind Hydrogel Platform Enables On-Demand Production of Medicines and Chemicals” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    From University of Texas at Austin

    Feb 04, 2020
    Adrienne Lee
    Cockrell School of Engineering

    A 3D-printed hydrogel lattice contains yeast cells that can allow for the continuous production of ethanol. Cockrell School of Engineering.

    A team of chemical engineers has developed a new way to produce medicines and chemicals on demand and preserve them using portable “biofactories” embedded in water-based gels called hydrogels. The approach could help people in remote villages or on military missions, where the absence of pharmacies, doctor’s offices or even basic refrigeration makes it hard to access critical medicines, daily use chemicals and other small-molecule compounds.

    Led by Hal Alper, professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, in collaboration with chemist Alshakim Nelson and his research group at the University of Washington, this first-of-its-kind system effectively embeds microbial biofactories — cells bioengineered to overproduce a product — into the solid support of a hydrogel, allowing for portability and optimized production.

    It is the first hydrogel-based system to organize both individual microbes and consortia for in-the-moment production of high-value chemical feedstocks, used for processes such as fuel production, and pharmaceuticals. Products can be produced within a couple of hours to a couple of days.

    The team describes their new approach in the Feb. 4 issue of Nature Communications.

    Hydrogel Infographic

    “We have taken a completely different angle for fermentation by utilizing hydrogels,” said Alper, whose research expertise is focused in biotechnology and cellular engineering. “Many of the chemicals, fuels, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals we use rely on traditional fermentation technology. Our technology addresses a strong limitation in the fields of synthetic biology and bioprocessing, namely the ability to provide a means for both on-demand and repeated-use production of chemicals and antibiotics from both mono- and co-cultures.”

    As a crosslinked polymer, the hydrogel used in this work can be 3D printed or manually extruded. The gel material, along with the cells inside, can flow like a liquid and then harden upon exposure to UV light. Molecularly, the resulting polymer network is large enough for molecules and proteins to move through it, but the space is too small for cells to leak out.

    The team also found that by lyophilizing, or freeze-drying, the hydrogel system, it can effectively preserve the fermentation capacity of the biofactories until needed in the future. The result of the freeze-drying somewhat resembles an ancient mummy, shriveled up but well-preserved. To revive the hydrogel and enable the production of the chemical or pharmaceutical, one would simply add water, sugar and/or some other basic nutrients, and the cells will then convert into the product just as effectively as before the preservation process.

    One of the novel aspects enabled by this platform is the ability to combine multiple different organisms, called consortia, together in a way that outperforms traditional, large-scale bioreactors. In particular, this system enables a plug-and-play approach to combining and optimizing chemical production. For example, if one set of enzymes works best in the bacteria E. coli, while the other works best in the yeast S. cerevisiae, the two organisms can work together to more efficiently go straight to the product. The research team tested both of these organisms.

    This platform has the added benefit of multitasking, keeping different types of cells separated while they grow, preventing one from taking over and killing off the others. Likewise, by testing a range of temperatures, the team was able to control the dynamics of the system, keeping the growth of multiple cell types balanced.

    Finally, the team was able to show continuous, repeated use of the system (with yeast cells) over the course of an entire year without a decrease in yields, indicating the sustainability of the process over time.

    Medicines such as antibiotics have a certain shelf life and require particular storage conditions. The portability of the biofactory to make these molecules makes the hydrogel system especially useful in remote places, without access to refrigeration to store medications. It would also be a small and compact way to maintain access to several medications and other essential chemicals when there is no access to a pharmacy or a store, like during a military mission or a mission to Mars. Although not quite there yet, the possibilities are promising.

    “This technology can be applied to a wide range of products and cell types. We see engineers and scientists being able to plug and play with different consortia of cells to produce diverse products that are needed for a specific scenario,” Alper said. “That’s part of what makes this technology so exciting.”

    The research was funded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, University of Washington CoMotion and the Royalty Research Fund.

    See the full article here .


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    U Texas at Austin

    U Texas Austin campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883,

  • richardmitnick 9:54 am on February 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Could the next generation of particle accelerators come out of the 3D printer?", 3D Printing, , , Consortium on the Properties of Additive-Manufactured Copper, , , ,   

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab: “Could the next generation of particle accelerators come out of the 3D printer?” 

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab

    February 5, 2020
    Jennifer Huber

    SLAC scientists and collaborators are developing 3D copper printing techniques to build accelerator components.

    Imagine being able to manufacture complex devices whenever you want and wherever you are. It would create unforeseen possibilities even in the most remote locations, such as building spare parts or new components on board a spacecraft. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, could be a way of doing just that. All you would need is the materials the device will be made of, a printer and a computer that controls the process.

    Diana Gamzina, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Timothy Horn, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University; and researchers at RadiaBeam Technologies dream of developing the technique to print particle accelerators and vacuum electronic devices for applications in medical imaging and treatment, the electrical grid, satellite communications, defense systems and more.

    Examples of 3D-printed copper components that could be used in a particle accelerator: X-band klystron output cavity with micro-cooling channels (at left) and a set of coupled accelerator cavities. (Christopher Ledford/North Carolina State University)

    In fact, the researchers are closer to making this a reality than you might think.

    “We’re trying to print a particle accelerator, which is really ambitious,” Gamzina said. “We’ve been developing the process over the past few years, and we can already print particle accelerator components today. The whole point of 3D printing is to make stuff no matter where you are without a lot of infrastructure. So you can print your particle accelerator on a naval ship, in a small university lab or somewhere very remote.”

    3D printing can be done with liquids and powders of numerous materials, but there aren’t any well-established processes for 3D printing ultra-high-purity copper and its alloys – the materials Gamzina, Horn and their colleagues want to use. Their research focuses on developing the method.

    Indispensable copper

    Accelerators boost the energy of particle beams, and vacuum electronic devices are used in amplifiers and generators. Both rely on components that can be easily shaped and conduct heat and electricity extremely well. Copper has all of these qualities and is therefore widely used.

    Traditionally, each copper component is machined individually and bonded with others using heat to form complex geometries. This manufacturing technique is incredibly common, but it has its disadvantages.

    “Brazing together multiple parts and components takes a great deal of time, precision and care,” Horn said. “And any time you have a joint between two materials, you add a potential failure point. So, there is a need to reduce or eliminate those assembly processes.”

    Potential of 3D copper printing

    3D printing of copper components could offer a solution.

    It works by layering thin sheets of materials on top of one another and slowly building up specific shapes and objects. In Gamzina’s and Horn’s work, the material used is extremely pure copper powder.

    The process starts with a 3D design, or “construction manual,” for the object. Controlled by a computer, the printer spreads a few-micron-thick layer of copper powder on a platform. It then moves the platform about 50 microns – half the thickness of a human hair – and spreads a second copper layer on top of the first, heats it with an electron beam to about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and welds it with the first layer. This process repeats over and over until the entire object has been built.

    3D printing of copper devices
    3D printing of a layer of a device known as a traveling wave tube using copper powder. (Christopher Ledford/North Carolina State University)

    The amazing part: no specific tooling, fixtures or molds are needed for the procedure. As a result, 3D printing eliminates design constraints inherent in traditional fabrication processes and allows the construction of objects that are uniquely complex.

    “The shape doesn’t really matter for 3D printing,” said SLAC staff scientist Chris Nantista, who designs and tests 3D-printed samples for Gamzina and Horn. “You just program it in, start your system and it can build up almost anything you want. It opens up a new space of potential shapes.”

    The team took advantage of that, for example, when building part of a klystron – a specialized vacuum tube that amplifies radiofrequency signals – with internal cooling channels at NCSU. Building it in one piece improved the device’s heat transfer and performance.

    Compared to traditional manufacturing, 3D printing is also less time consuming and could translate into cost savings of up to 70%, Gamzina said.

    A challenging technique

    But printing copper devices has its own challenges, as Horn, who began developing the technique with collaborators from RadiaBeam years ago, knows. One issue is finding the right balance between the thermal and electrical properties and strengths of the printed objects. But the biggest hurdle for manufacturing accelerators and vacuum electronics, though, is that these high-vacuum devices require extremely high quality and pure materials to avoid part failures, such as cracking or vacuum leaks.

    The research team tackled these challenges by first improving the material’s surface quality, using finer copper powder and varying the way they fused layers together. However, using finer copper powder led to the next challenge. It allowed more oxygen to attach to the copper powder, increasing the oxide in each layer and making the printed objects less pure.

    So, Gamzina and Horn had to find a way to reduce the oxygen content in their copper powders. The method they came up with, which they recently reported in Applied Sciences, relies on hydrogen gas to bind oxygen into water vapor and drive it out of the powder.

    Using this method is somewhat surprising, Horn said. In a traditionally manufactured copper object, the formation of water vapor would create high-pressure steam bubbles inside the material, and the material would blister and fail. In the additive process, on the other hand, the water vapor escapes layer by layer, which releases the water vapor more effectively.

    Although the technique has shown great promise, the scientists still have a ways to go to reduce the oxygen content enough to print an actual particle accelerator. But they have already succeeded in printing a few components, such as the klystron output cavity with internal cooling channels and a string of coupled cavities that could be used for particle acceleration.

    Planning to team up with industry partners

    The next phase of the project will be driven by the newly-formed Consortium on the Properties of Additive-Manufactured Copper, which is led by Horn. The consortium currently has four active industry members – Siemens, GE Additive, RadiaBeam and Calabazas Creek Research – with more on the way.

    “This would be a nice example of collaboration between an academic institution, a national lab and small and large businesses,” Gamzina said. “It would allow us to figure out this problem together. Our work has already allowed us to go from ‘just imagine, this is crazy’ to ‘we can do it’ in less than two years.”

    This work was primarily funded by the Naval Sea Systems Command, as a Small Business Technology Transfer Program with Radiabeam, SLAC, and NCSU. Other SLAC contributors include Chris Pearson, Andy Nguyen, Arianna Gleason, Apurva Mehta, Kevin Stone, Chris Tassone and Johanna Weker. Additional contributions came from Christopher Ledford and Christopher Rock at NCSU and Pedro Frigola, Paul Carriere, Alexander Laurich, James Penney and Matt Heintz at RadiaBeam.

    See the full article here .

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    SLAC/LCLS II projected view

    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

    SSRL and LCLS are DOE Office of Science user facilities.

  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on May 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, “We think it’s promising that we could one day go 10 times smaller” says Diller., Microrobotics, Smaller and more complex microrobots are needed for future medical applications such as targeted drug delivery; assisted fertilization; or biopsies., The researchers’ optimized approach opens the doors for developing even smaller and more complex microrobots than the current millimetre-size.,   

    From University of Toronto: “No assembly required: U of T researchers automate microrobotic designs” 

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    From University of Toronto

    April 24, 2019
    Liz Do

    Tianqi Xu holds up a microrobot that was fabricated using their automated system (photo by Liz Do)

    Assembling a microrobot used to require a pair of needle-nosed tweezers, a microscope, steady hands and at least eight hours. But now researchers at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering have developed a method that requires only a 3D printer and 20 minutes.

    In the lab of Eric Diller, an assistant professor in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, researchers create magnetized microrobots – the size of the head of a pin – that can travel through fluid-filled vessels and organs within the human body. Diller and his team control the motion of these microrobots wirelessly using magnetic fields.

    Each microrobot is built by precisely arranging microscopic sections of magnetic needles atop a flat, flexible material. Once deployed, the researchers apply magnetic fields to induce microrobots to travel with worm-like motion through fluid channels, or close its tiny mechanical “jaws” to take a tissue sample.

    “These robots are quite difficult and labour-intensive to fabricate because the process requires precision,” says Tianqi Xu, a master’s candidate in engineering. “Also because of the need for manual assembly, it’s more difficult to make these robots smaller, which is a major goal of our research.”

    That is why Xu and his labmates developed an automated approach that significantly cuts down on design and development time, and expands the types of microrobots they can manufacture. Their findings were published today in Science Robotics.

    Smaller and more complex microrobots are needed for future medical applications, such as targeted drug delivery, assisted fertilization or biopsies.

    “If we were taking samples in the urinary tract or within fluid cavities of the brain – we envision that an optimized technique would be instrumental in scaling down surgical robotic tools,” says Diller.

    To demonstrate the capabilities of their new technique, the researchers devised more than 20 different robotic shapes, which were then programmed into a 3D printer. The printer then builds and solidifies the design, orienting the magnetically patterned particles as part of the process.

    “Previously, we would prepare one shape and manually design it, spend weeks planning it, before we could fabricate it. And that’s just one shape,” says Diller. “Then when we build it, we would inevitably discover specific quirks – for example, we might have to tweak it to be a little bigger or thinner to make it work.”

    “Now we can program the shapes and click print,” adds Xu. “We can iterate, design and refine it easily. We have the power to really explore new designs now.”

    The researchers’ optimized approach opens the doors for developing even smaller and more complex microrobots than the current millimetre-size.

    “We think it’s promising that we could one day go 10 times smaller,” says Diller.

    Diller’s lab plans to use the automated process to explore more sophisticated and complicated shapes of microrobots.

    “As a robotics research community, there’s a need to explore this space of tiny medical robots,” adds Diller. “Being able to optimize designs is a really critical aspect of what the field needs.”

    The research was supported by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:13 pm on February 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, , Automating materials design, , ,   

    From MIT: “Automating materials design” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    February 2, 2018 [Just showed up in social media.]
    Larry Hardesty

    New software identified five different families of microstructures, each defined by a shared “skeleton” (blue), that optimally traded off three mechanical properties. Courtesy of the researchers.

    With new approach, researchers specify desired properties of a material, and a computer system generates a structure accordingly.

    For decades, materials scientists have taken inspiration from the natural world. They’ll identify a biological material that has some desirable trait — such as the toughness of bones or conch shells — and reverse-engineer it. Then, once they’ve determined the material’s “microstructure,” they’ll try to approximate it in human-made materials.

    Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a new system that puts the design of microstructures on a much more secure empirical footing. With their system, designers numerically specify the properties they want their materials to have, and the system generates a microstructure that matches the specification.

    The researchers have reported their results in Science Advances. In their paper, they describe using the system to produce microstructures with optimal trade-offs between three different mechanical properties. But according to associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science Wojciech Matusik, whose group developed the new system, the researchers’ approach could be adapted to any combination of properties.

    “We did it for relatively simple mechanical properties, but you can apply it to more complex mechanical properties, or you could apply it to combinations of thermal, mechanical, optical, and electromagnetic properties,” Matusik says. “Basically, this is a completely automated process for discovering optimal structure families for metamaterials.”

    Joining Matusik on the paper are first author Desai Chen, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science; and Mélina Skouras and Bo Zhu, both postdocs in Matusik’s group.

    Finding the formula

    The new work builds on research reported last summer, in which the same quartet of researchers generated computer models of microstructures and used simulation software to score them according to measurements of three or four mechanical properties. Each score defines a point in a three- or four-dimensional space, and through a combination of sampling and local exploration, the researchers constructed a cloud of points, each of which corresponded to a specific microstructure.

    Once the cloud was dense enough, the researchers computed a bounding surface that contained it. Points near the surface represented optimal trade-offs between the mechanical properties; for those points, it was impossible to increase the score on one property without lowering the score on another.

    No image caption or credit.

    That’s where the new paper picks up. First, the researchers used some standard measures to evaluate the geometric similarities of the microstructures corresponding to the points along the boundaries. On the basis of those measures, the researchers’ software clusters together microstructures with similar geometries.

    For every cluster, the software extracts a “skeleton” — a rudimentary shape that all the microstructures share. Then it tries to reproduce each of the microstructures by making fine adjustments to the skeleton and constructing boxes around each of its segments. Both of these operations — modifying the skeleton and determining the size, locations, and orientations of the boxes — are controlled by a manageable number of variables. Essentially, the researchers’ system deduces a mathematical formula for reconstructing each of the microstructures in a cluster.

    Next, the researchers use machine-learning techniques to determine correlations between specific values for the variables in the formulae and the measured properties of the resulting microstructures. This gives the system a rigorous way to translate back and forth between microstructures and their properties.


    On automatic

    Every step in this process, Matusik emphasizes, is completely automated, including the measurement of similarities, the clustering, the skeleton extraction, the formula derivation, and the correlation of geometries and properties. As such, the approach would apply as well to any collection of microstructures evaluated according to any criteria.

    By the same token, Matusik explains, the MIT researchers’ system could be used in conjunction with existing approaches to materials design. Besides taking inspiration from biological materials, he says, researchers will also attempt to design microstructures by hand. But either approach could be used as the starting point for the sort of principled exploration of design possibilities that the researchers’ system affords.

    “You can throw this into the bucket for your sampler,” Matusik says. “So we guarantee that we are at least as good as anything else that has been done before.”

    In the new paper, the researchers do report one aspect of their analysis that was not automated: the identification of the physical mechanisms that determine the microstructures’ properties. Once they had the skeletons of several different families of microstructures, they could determine how those skeletons would respond to physical forces applied at different angles and locations.

    But even this analysis is subject to automation, Chen says. The simulation software that determines the microstructures’ properties can also identify the structural elements that deform most under physical pressure, a good indication that they play an important functional role.

    The work was supported by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Simplifying Complexity in Scientific Discovery program.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:27 pm on January 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, , , , , TPL-two-photon lithography,   

    From LLNL: “Lab unlocks secrets of nanoscale 3D printing” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Jan. 3, 2018
    Jeremy Thomas

    Through the two-photon lithography (TPL) 3D printing process, researchers can print woodpile lattices with submicron features a fraction of the width of a human hair. Image by Jacob Long and Adam Connell/LLNL.

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have discovered novel ways to extend the capabilities of two-photon lithography (TPL), a high-resolution 3D printing technique capable of producing nanoscale features smaller than one-hundredth the width of a human hair.

    The findings, recently published on the cover of the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces , also unleashes the potential for X-ray computed tomography (CT) to analyze stress or defects noninvasively in embedded 3D-printed medical devices or implants.

    Two-photon lithography typically requires a thin glass slide, a lens and an immersion oil to help the laser light focus to a fine point where curing and printing occurs. It differs from other 3D-printing methods in resolution, because it can produce features smaller than the laser light spot, a scale no other printing process can match. The technique bypasses the usual diffraction limit of other methods because the photoresist material that cures and hardens to create structures — previously a trade secret — simultaneously absorbs two photons instead of one.

    LLNL researchers printed octet truss structures with submicron features on top of a solid base with a diameter similar to human hair. Photo by James Oakdale/LLNL.

    In the paper, LLNL researchers describe cracking the code on resist materials optimized for two-photon lithography and forming 3D microstructures with features less than 150 nanometers. Previous techniques built structures from the ground up, limiting the height of objects because the distance between the glass slide and lens is usually 200 microns or less. By turning the process on its head — putting the resist material directly on the lens and focusing the laser through the resist — researchers can now print objects multiple millimeters in height. Furthermore, researchers were able to tune and increase the amount of X-rays the photopolymer resists could absorb, improving attenuation by more than 10 times over the photoresists commonly used for the technique.

    “In this paper, we have unlocked the secrets to making custom materials on two-photon lithography systems without losing resolution,” said LLNL researcher James Oakdale, a co-author on the paper.

    Because the laser light refracts as it passes through the photoresist material, the linchpin to solving the puzzle, the researchers said, was “index matching” – discovering how to match the refractive index of the resist material to the immersion medium of the lens so the laser could pass through unimpeded. Index matching opens the possibility of printing larger parts, they said, with features as small as 100 nanometers.

    “Most researchers who want to use two-photon lithography for printing functional 3D structures want parts taller than 100 microns,” said Sourabh Saha, the paper’s lead author. “With these index-matched resists, you can print structures as tall as you want. The only limitation is the speed. It’s a tradeoff, but now that we know how to do this, we can diagnose and improve the process.”

    Through the two-photon lithography (TPL) 3D printing process, researchers can print woodpile lattices with submicron features a fraction of the width of a human hair. Photo by James Oakdale/LLNL.

    By tuning the material’s X-ray absorption, researchers can now use X-ray-computed tomography as a diagnostic tool to image the inside of parts without cutting them open or to investigate 3D-printed objects embedded inside the body, such as stents, joint replacements or bone scaffolds. These techniques also could be used to produce and probe the internal structure of targets for the National Ignition Facility, as well as optical and mechanical metamaterials and 3D-printed electrochemical batteries.

    The only limiting factor is the time it takes to build, so researchers will next look to parallelize and speed up the process. They intend to move into even smaller features and add more functionality in the future, using the technique to build real, mission-critical parts.

    “It’s a very small piece of the puzzle that we solved, but we are much more confident in our abilities to start playing in this field now,” Saha said. “We’re on a path where we know we have a potential solution for different types of applications. Our push for smaller and smaller features in larger and larger structures is bringing us closer to the forefront of scientific research that the rest of the world is doing. And on the application side, we’re developing new practical ways of printing things.”

    The work was funded through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. Other LLNL researchers who contributed to the project include Jefferson Cuadra, Chuck Divin, Jianchao Ye, Jean-Baptiste Forien, Leonardus Bayu Aji, Juergen Biener and Will Smith.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:46 am on December 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, , , Daniel Vogt, Falkor research vessel, , NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, , PIPA-Phoenix Islands Protected Area, , ROV-remotely operated underwater vehicle, , , Squishy fingers help scientists probe the watery depths,   

    From Wyss Institute: “Squishy fingers help scientists probe the watery depths” 2017 

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    Wyss Institute

    October 28, 2017
    Lindsay Brownell

    Wyss researcher Daniel Vogt tests out soft robotics on deep sea corals in the South Pacific.

    As an engineer with degrees in Computer Science and Microengineering, Wyss researcher Daniel Vogt usually spends most of his time in his lab building and testing robots, surrounded by jumbles of cables, wires, bits of plastic, and circuit boards. But for the last month, he’s spent nearly every day in a room that resembles NASA ground control surrounded by marine biologists on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, intently watching them use joysticks and buttons to maneuver a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to harvest corals, crabs, and other sea life from the ocean floor.

    The squishy fingers are made of a soft, flexible material that is more dexterous and gentle than ROVs’ conventional grippers. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Deep corals of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area: How Wyss Institute researchers are changing underwater exploration. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    This particular ROV’s robotic metal arm is holding the reason why Vogt is here: what looks like a large, floppy toy starfish made of blue and yellow foam. “Devices like this are extremely soft – you can compare them to rubber bands or gummy bears – and this allows them to grasp things that you wouldn’t be able to grasp with a hard device like the ROV gripper,” says Vogt, watching the TV screen as the “squishy fingers” gently close around a diaphanous bright pink sea cucumber and lift it off the sand. The biologists applaud as the fingers cradle the sea cucumber safely on its journey to the ROV’s collection box. “Nicely done,” Vogt says to the ROV operators.

    This shipful of scientists is the latest in a series of research voyages co-funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the Schmidt Ocean Institute, a nonprofit founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt in 2009 to support high-risk marine exploration that expands humans’ understanding of our planet’s oceans. The Institute provides marine scientists access to the ship, Falkor, and expert technical shipboard support in exchange for a commitment to openly share and communicate the outcomes of their research.

    Falkor is equipped with both wet and dry lab spaces, the ROV SuBastian, echosounders, water sampling systems, and many other instruments to gather data about the ocean. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Vogt’s shipmates are studying the mysterious deep sea coral communities of the deep ocean, which live below 138 meters (450 feet) on seamounts which are mostly unexplored.

    The best place to find those corals is the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a smattering of tiny islands, atolls, coral reefs, and great swaths of their surrounding South Pacific ocean almost 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. PIPA is the largest (the size of California) and deepest (average water column depth of 4 km/2.5 mi) UNESCO World Heritage Site on Earth and, thanks to its designation as a Marine Protected Area in 2008, represents one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems. With over 500 species of reef fishes, 250 shallow coral species, and large numbers of sharks and other marine life, PIPA’s reefs resemble what a reef might have looked like a thousand years ago, before human activity began to severely affect oceanic communities. The team on board Falkor is conducting the first deep water biological surveys in PIPA, assessing what species of deep corals are present and any new, undescribed species, while also evaluating the effect of seawater acidification (caused by an increase in the amount of CO2 in the water) on deep coral ecosystems.

    The deep ocean is about as inhospitable to human life as outer space, so scientists largely rely on ROVs to be their eyes, legs, and hands underwater, controlling them remotely from the safety of the surface. Most ROVs used in deep-sea research were designed for use in the oil and gas industries and are built to accomplish tasks like lifting heavy weights, drilling into rock, and installing machinery. When it comes to plucking a sea cucumber off the ocean floor or snipping a piece off a delicate sea fan, however, existing ROVs are like bulls in a china shop, often crushing the samples they’re meant to be taking.

    This problem led to a collaboration between Wyss Core Faculty member Rob Wood, Ph.D. and City University of New York (CUNY) marine biologist David Gruber, Ph.D. back in 2014 that produced the first version of the soft robotic “squishy fingers,” which were successfully tested in the Red Sea in 2015. PIPA offered a unique opportunity to test the squishy fingers in more extreme conditions and evaluate a series of improvements that Vogt and other members of Wood’s lab have been making to them, such as integrating sensors into the robots’ soft bodies. “The Phoenix Islands are very unexplored. We’re looking for new species of corals that nobody has ever seen anywhere else. We don’t know what our graspers will have to pick up on a given day, so it’s a great opportunity to see how they fare against different challenges in the field.”

    Daniel Vogt holds the ‘squishy finger’ soft robots aboard Falkor. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Vogt, ever the tinkerer, also brought with him something that the Red Sea voyage did not have on board: two off-the-shelf 3D printers. Taking feedback directly from the biologists and the ROV pilots about what the soft robot could and could not do, Vogt was able to print new components overnight and try them in the field the next day – something that rarely happens even on land. “It’s really a novel thing, to be able to iterate based on input in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with no lab in sight. We noticed, for example, that the samples we tried to grasp were often on rock instead of sand, making it difficult for the soft fingers to reach underneath the sample for a good grip. In the latest iteration of the gripper, ‘fingernails’ were added to improve grasping in these situations.” The ultimate goal of building better and better underwater soft robots is to be able to conduct research on samples underwater at their natural depth and temperature, rather than bringing them up to the surface, as this will paint a more accurate picture of what is happening out of sight in the world’s oceans.

    PIPA may be somewhat insulated from the threats of warming oceans and pollution thanks to its remoteness and deep waters, but the people of Kiribati, the island nation that contains and administers PIPA, are not. The researchers visited the island of Kanton, population 25, a few days into their trip to meet the local people and learn about their lives in a country where dry land makes up less than 1% of its total area – a true oceanic nation. “The people were very nice, very welcoming. There is one ship that comes every six months to deliver supplies; everything else they get from the sea,” says Vogt (locals are allowed to fish for subsistence). “They’re also going to be one of the first nations affected by rising sea levels, because the highest point on the whole island is three meters (ten feet). They know that they live in a special place, but they’re preparing for the day when they’ll have to leave their home. The whole community has bought land on Fiji, where they’ll move once Kanton becomes uninhabitable.”

    Daniel Vogt tests the squishy fingers on the forearm of CUNY biologist David Gruber, who spearheaded their development along with Wyss Faculty member Rob Wood. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute.

    Research that brings scientists from different fields together to elucidate the world’s remaining unknowns and solve its toughest problems is gaining popularity, and may be the best chance humanity has to ensure its own survival. “One of the most eye-opening part of the trip has been interacting with people from different backgrounds and seeing the scientific challenges they face, which are very different from the challenges that the mechanical and electrical engineers I’m with most of the time have to solve,” says Vogt. “I’ve been amazed by the technology that’s on Falkor related to the ROV and all the scientific tools aboard. The ROV SuBastian is one-of-a-kind, with numerous tools, cameras and sensors aboard as well as an advanced underwater positioning system. It takes a lot of engineers to create and operate something like that, and then a lot of biologists to interpret the results and analyze the 400+ samples which were collected during the cruise.”

    Vogt says he spent a lot of time listening to the biologists and the ROV pilots in order to modify the gripper’s design according to their feedback. The latest version of the gripper was fully designed and manufactured on the boat, and was used during the last dive to successfully sample a variety of sea creatures. He and Wood plan to write several papers detailing the results of his experiments in the coming months.

    “We’re very excited that what started as a conversation between a roboticist and a marine biologist at a conference three years ago has blossomed into a project that solves a significant problem in the real world, and can aid researchers in understanding and preserving our oceans’ sea life,” says Wood.

    Additional videos detailing Vogt’s voyage, including the ship’s log, can be found here.

    See the full article here .

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    Wyss Institute campus

    The Wyss (pronounced “Veese”) Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.

    Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Tufts University, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs.

  • richardmitnick 8:24 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, AMAZE, ,   

    From ESA: “3D printed metal mutants arise from Europe’s AMAZE programme” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    14 November 2017


    3D printed support
    Released 13/11/2017
    Copyright AMAZE – Thales Alenia Space/Renishaw
    Sun sensor and antenna support bracket produced through the AMAZE metal 3D printing programme, courtesy of Thales Alenia Space and Renishaw.

    Europe’s lead in metal 3D printing has been strengthened by the four-year AMAZE programme, producing lighter, cheaper, organically shaped parts. ESA was among 26 academic and industrial partners developing novel processes and products for high-performance sectors.

    Launched in 2013, AMAZE – short for Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste and Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products – was the largest R&D programme for 3D printing ever run.

    ESA helped to initiate the programme, which was funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme and coordinated by the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

    The Agency joined manufacturers Airbus and Thales Alenia Space in assessing prototype products for space use, while comparable end-users did the same for the automotive, aeronautics and nuclear fusion sectors.

    Laser-based 3D printing
    Released 13/11/2017
    Copyright AMAZE – Fraunhofer ILT/Airbus
    High-rate laser-based laser melting of pylon bracket in Inconel 718 metal, courtesy of Fraunhofer ILT and Airbus

    “The work of AMAZE ranges right across the process chain,” explains David Wimpenny, Chief Technologist for the National Additive Manufacturing Centre, based at the MTC.

    “It includes new approaches to part design, along with the challenge of reliably finishing and inspecting the resulting parts, introducing novel materials, improving production throughput and developing common industrial standards.”

    Tommaso Ghidini, heading ESA’s Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division, comments: “The Agency’s participation in AMAZE was an opportunity to create synergies and cross-fertilising benefits with our existing Advanced Manufacturing Cross-Cutting Initiative, harnessing game changing manufacturing technologies for space.”

    To draw maximum benefit from the process, parts need to be designed specially. With 3D printing it is only the volume of material being fused together that is paid for, with no waste to be cut away, so the lighter the weight of the part the cheaper it ends up.

    David Wimpenny adds: “It’s really opened the eyes of designers: through 3D printing, complex, performance-optimised, lightweight parts actually end up costing less than traditional alternatives.

    “During AMAZE we’ve been literally growing parts to bear the loads required; the result has been these organically shaped metal parts weighing less than half the of the original component, manufactured all in one – removing joints which represent potential points of weakness.

    3-m-wide titanium cylinder
    Released 13/11/2017
    Copyright AMAZE – ESA/IREPA
    Among the largest items produced by AMAZE, this 3-m diameter structural cylinder was printed in titanium alloy Ti64 using ‘directed energy deposition’ melting powder with a laser, courtesy of ESA and IREPA.

    “This complexity means that file sizes can be huge – several orders of magnitude larger than a normal CAD file – and it can take a long while to process all that data. But another AMAZE development has been new software tools to radically reduce the time involved.”

    New materials were developed to meet specific industrial needs, including the first 3D printing of InVar, an alloy of nickel and iron that is highly prized by the space sector for its ability to withstand orbital temperature extremes without expansion or contraction.

    3D printing of vanadium and tungsten was also demonstrated. These high-melting point metals are suited for use within nuclear fusion reactors as well as rocket engines.

    Temperature-resistant InVar-printed component

    Assessing a range of different 3D printing techniques, the variety of produced parts varied hugely, from millimetre-scale samples to metre-scale structural items.

    “Just as important was increasing the speed and productivity of the process, from a few hundred grams to kilograms per hour, without compromising quality,” explains David Wimpenny.

    “We achieved this in various ways, including increasing the number and power of the lasers used for material melting.”

    Pylon brackets

    “We’ve also worked to ensure the powder feedstock is optimised for the process. The powder particles have to have the correct size and shape to provide the right flow properties to give consistently high-quality, defect-free layers.”

    Another challenge was the post processing, finish and inspection of the parts, including standardised non-destructive test procedures. Medical-style three-dimensional CT scanning is one solution that was explored, with AMAZE findings going towards an ongoing effort to develop a common ISO standard for the field.

    “The industrial partners in the project are now commercialising the results of the project and the AMAZE experience has helped to forge a research community which will continue to increase the knowledge and improve the capability of additive manufacturing processes going forwards”, says David Wimpenny.

    For instance, Norsk Titanium – supported by developments made during AMAZE – has become the first company to manufacture structural aircraft components using metal 3D printing.

    Tommaso explains that the ESA–RAL Advanced Manufacturing Lab at Harwell in the UK, has played an important role in assessing the performance of AMAZE’s aeronautical and space outputs: “It has helped to define verification strategies used for critical applications, putting them on a fast track for adoption by projects.”

    David Wimpenny concludes that AMAZE has helped maintain Europe’s pre-eminence in the field of metal 3D printing, “But we shouldn’t be complacent. Global competition is fierce and it’s critically important Europe maintains its lead.”

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on August 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, ,   

    From LLNL: “Lawrence Livermore teams up with Autodesk to investigate design of next-generation materials” 

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Aug. 17, 2015

    Stephen Wampler

    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineers Eric Duoss (left) and Tom Wilson use an additive manufacturing process called direct ink writing to develop an engineered “foam” cushion. Photo by George Kitrinos/LLNL

    Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and a Bay Area company are joining forces to explore how design software can accelerate innovation for three-dimensional printing of advanced materials.

    Under an 18-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), LLNL will use state-of-the-art software for generative design from San Rafael-based Autodesk Inc. as it studies how new material microstructures, arranged in complex configurations and printed with additive manufacturing techniques, will produce objects with physical properties that were never before possible.

    In the project, LLNL researchers will bring to bear several key technologies, such as additive manufacturing, material modeling and architected design (arranging materials at the micro and nanoscale through computational design).

    LLNL and Autodesk have selected next-generation protective helmets as a test case for their technology collaboration, studying how to improve design performance.

    “As an organization that is pushing the limits on generative design and high-performance computing, Autodesk is an ideal collaborator as we investigate next-generation manufacturing,” said Anantha Krishnan, LLNL’s associate director for engineering.

    “With its extensive cross-industry customer base, Autodesk can help us examine how our foundational research in architected materials and new additive manufacturing technology might transfer into a variety of domains.”

    Mark Davis, Autodesk’s senior director of design research, called helmet design an excellent example of a design problem with multiple objectives, such as the constraints of desired weight, cost, durability, material thickness and response to compression.

    “Giving the software goals and constraints as input, then allowing the computer to synthesize form and optimize across multiple materials, will lead to the discovery of unexpected, high-performing designs that would not have otherwise been pursued,” Davis added.

    Patrick Dempsey, LLNL’s director of strategic engagements, noted: “Livermore is excited about combining its knowledge in materials and microstructures with the capabilities of a global leader in design software to demonstrate the ability of additive manufacturing to create new products.”

    Through the application of goal-oriented design software tools, LLNL and Autodesk expect to generate and analyze the performance of very large sets – thousands to tens of thousands – of different structural configurations of material microarchitectures.

    In addition to benefiting from the use of computer software, helmet design also stands to receive considerable advantages from additive manufacturing.

    Helmets represent a class of objects whose internal structures not only need to be lightweight, but also must absorb impact and dissipate energy predictably.

    Advanced additive manufacturing techniques are expected to allow the LLNL/Autodesk researchers to produce complex material microstructures that will dissipate energy better than what is currently possible with traditionally manufactured helmet pads such as foams and pads.

    LLNL’s Eric Duoss, a materials engineer and the co-principal investigator for the CRADA with Lab computational engineer Dan White, believes the agreement could lead to new design methodologies with helmets as just one example.

    “The difference in the design method we are proposing versus historically is that many of the previous manufacturing constraints can be eliminated,” Duoss said.

    “Additive manufacturing provides the opportunity for unprecedented breakthroughs in new structures and new material properties for a wide range of applications,” Duoss added.

    It has yet to be determined what kinds of helmets will be designed under the CRADA, but sports helmets, including football, baseball, biking and skiing, are possible, according to Duoss.

    “One of the important things we hope to gain from this CRADA is to know what a great helmet design looks like, and we aim to build and test components of those helmet designs,” he said.

    Within the past two years, the Lab’s Additive Manufacturing Initiative team has used 3D printing to produce ultralight and ultrastiff mechanical materials that don’t exist in nature (published in the journal Science), produced mechanical energy absorbing materials (published in Advanced Functional Materials) and printed graphene aerogels (published in Nature Communications).

    Francesco Lorio, primary investigator on the Autodesk team and a computational science expert, explains: “By combining the advanced additive manufacturing techniques at LLNL with our ability to compute shapes made of complex combinations of materials, we stand to find breakthrough designs for the helmet.” His team envisions a future where any product can be composed of bespoke materials “appropriately distributed at the micro and macro scale to optimally satisfy a desired function.”

    Other LLNL staffers working on the project are: computational engineers Nathan Barton, Mark Messner and Todd Weisgraber; chemical engineer Tom Wilson, materials engineer Tim Ford, chemist Jeremy Lenhardt, applied physicist Willy Moss and mechanical engineer Michael King.

    The Lab’s Additive Manufacturing Initiative team is developing new approaches to integrating design, fabrication and certification of advanced materials.

    Using high-performance computing, new materials are modeled virtually and then optimized computationally. The Lab is simultaneously advancing the science of additive manufacturing and materials science, as demonstrated by its work in micro-architected metamaterials – artificial materials with properties not found in nature.

    Autodesk Inc. is an American multinational software corporation that develops computer-aided design software for the architecture, engineering, manufacturing and entertainment industries. LLNL will be working with the firm’s in-house research group, Autodesk Research.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 10:03 am on August 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, , ,   

    From U Arizona: : Printing the Future of Engineering” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    August 14, 2015
    Daniel Stolte

    Students in Hao Xin’s lab perform measurements on a 3-D printed prototype of a Lüneburg lens. (Image: Hao Xin)

    3-D printing is revolutionizing the ways engineers think about and make highly complicated devices, with applications ranging from wireless communication to air traffic control to earthquake-proof buildings.

    Lüneburg lenses are sought-after devices that could greatly advance wireless communications, among other applications. (Image: Hao Xin)

    Hao Xin opens the door to his lab and points to an object that looks like some kind of strange, synthetic sponge made by an alien race much more advanced than ours.

    “This is a prototype of a Lüneburg lens that we made,” Xin says.

    A lens?

    Never mind the fact that it’s neither transparent nor made of glass, but of a porous yet weirdly symmetric-looking, plasticky substance of oddly unappealing, pale gray color. Move your eyes closer, and your mind gets lost in a dazzling array of a myriad of tiny branchlets connected to each other at right angles, forming a thicket that gets denser toward the center of the object.

    “This lens is not made for light,” Xin says, “but for electromagnetic waves in the terahertz range, which is between microwaves and radio waves.”

    Hao Xin is an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the UA’s College of Engineering.

    Now things make a bit more sense. Unlike light visible to humans, which is pretty picky and travels only through air, water or transparent things (for the most part), terahertz waves pass through anything from synthetics to textiles to cardboard. Because many biomolecules, proteins, explosives or narcotics absorb terahertz radiation in telltale ways, waves of this range can be used to detect such substances in airport security lanes, for example.

    Xin, a professor in electrical and computer engineering who heads the Millimeter Wave Circuits and Antennas Laboratory at the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering, is harnessing the possibilities of three-dimensional printing to create materials and structures that not too long ago would have been written off as science fiction.

    “By using 3-D printing and new design approaches, we are able to come up with components such as antennas, wave guides, lenses and holographic devices that are better than existing technology and haven’t been possible to make before,” he says.

    In one line of research, Hao Xin’s team is developing 3-D printing solutions to the challenges of combining different materials, as in this coplanar waveguide, a device that is used to transmit microwave-frequency signals. (Image: Hao Xin)

    As computers, communication devices and other IT applications get smaller and can do ever more amazing things, engineers have to overcome ever greater challenges in designing and building the components that make them work.

    Some applications require the invention of new materials. Some require new ways of manufacturing. And some require both.

    Xin’s group is one of the first to adopt 3-D printing approaches to make so-called metamaterials, engineered materials with properties not found in nature. Unlike conventional materials such as metals or plastics, metamaterials consist of assemblies of elements made from conventional materials, usually in repeating patterns. Their special properties arise not so much from the properties of their ingredients, but from the shape, geometry and orientation of their subunits. They can be designed to affect electromagnetic waves, sound and even the shockwaves of an earthquake in ways that would be impossible to achieve with traditional materials.

    This horn antenna (used to focus beams of terahertz radiation) made by a 3-D printer in Xin’s lab is another example of fabricating sophisticated devices more simply and cost-effectively than conventional processes. (Image: Hao Xin)

    “Traditionally, it has been very difficult to make those three-dimensional, periodic structures,” Xin explains. “Oftentimes, someone produces a two-dimensional prototype of a three-dimensional object to demonstrate some desired property, but those aren’t very practical, nor do they have all the properties they need in order to work for application in question.”

    Xin’s team has successfully created highly complicated structures using 3-D printing, such as the Lüneburg lens, which has applications ranging from microwave antennas to radar calibration devices.

    “A Lüneburg lens makes a fantastic antenna that can be used for wireless communication and radar installations,” Xin says, “but traditionally it is built manually, which is not cost-effective, and you can’t make it very precise. Now we can make it at much lower cost and more precise.”

    Xin’s lab also uses 3-D printers to make a range of conventional things, such as regular antennas and integrated circuits. It is one of the first to apply the approach to metamaterials to build innovative electromagnetic applications, and it has support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Air Force Office of Research, Raytheon and even Google.

    Earlier this year, the team made waves when it published the first successful attempt at designing what many consider the holy grail of metamaterials: a negative refraction metamaterial that not only bends electromagnetic waves (in this case, microwaves) backward but also does not diminish energy in the process. All previous designs suffered from the fact that the waves lost a large portion of their energy when passing through the material.

    Xin’s accomplishment could bring negative refraction metamaterials closer to applications aiming at manipulating electromagnetic radiation in new ways.

    One of them is a so-called phased array, a sophisticated assembly of antennas capable of focusing and pointing a beam of electromagnetic radiation. Used in radar applications for a long time, such arrays form a vital part of the next generation of wireless communication such as the 5G network.

    “Unlike rotating radar antennas that you see at airports, which are limited to rotating speeds based on mechanical parts, a phased array doesn’t move and has no moving parts that can fail,” Xin explains. “Plus, the antenna can scan as fast as microseconds and in any direction you want.

    “But for traditional phased arrays, the manufacturing cost and the mechanical assembly are quite expensive, and sometimes problematic. So if we use a 3-D printer where we can print a vertically integrated phased array, it is cheaper and offers better performance in a smaller footprint.”

    Therein lies the main advantage of 3-D printing over traditional assembly, according to Xin: It becomes possible to build extremely complex and intricate structures consisting of different materials in three-dimensional space rather than by stacking two-dimensional components, each made from one material.

    “Take the way we design electronic components, for example,” Xin says. “Traditionally, everything is printed on a flat circuit board, and if you need vertical integration, you have to make another board, and another, and then you connect them together. That is a costly process.”

    On the other hand, 3-D printing allows putting one material with one property in one location, and a material with a different property in another location, Xin explains.

    “It doesn’t matter how complicated the structure you’re building,” he says. “You can even think more futuristically. Your smartphone is essentially a three-dimensional block made of metal, glass, semiconductors and plastics. Of course, today we can’t yet do this, but if 3-D printing technology becomes sufficiently advanced, we may be able to print the whole cellphone at once.”

    See the full article here.

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    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

  • richardmitnick 12:09 pm on February 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 3D Printing, , ,   

    From Ames Lab: “Ames Lab, Critical Materials Institute speed metals research with 3D printer” 

    Ames Laboratory

    Feb. 13, 2014
    Ryan Ott, Critical Materials Institute, (515) 294-3616
    Laura Millsaps, Public Affairs, (515) 294-3474

    To meet one of the biggest energy challenges of the 21st century– finding alternatives to rare-earth elements and other critical materials– scientists will need new and advanced tools.

    The Critical Materials Institute at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has a new one: a 3D printer for metals research.

    3D printing technology, which has captured the imagination of both industry and consumers, enables ideas to move quickly from the initial design phase to final form using materials including polymers, ceramics, paper and even food.

    But the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) will apply the advantages of the 3D printing process in a unique way: for materials discovery. By doing so, researchers can find substitutes to critical materials– ones essential for clean energy technologies but at risk of being in short supply.

    CMI scientists will use the printer instead of traditional casting methods to streamline the process of bulk combinatorial materials research, producing a large variety of alloys in a short amount of time.

    “Metal 3D printers are slowly becoming more commonplace,” said Ryan Ott, principal investigator at the Ames Laboratory and the CMI. “They can be costly, and are often limited to small-scale additive manufacturing in industry. But for us, this equipment has the potential to become a very powerful research tool. We can rapidly synthesize large libraries of materials. It opens up a lot of new possibilities.”


    The CMI printer, a LENS MR-7 manufactured by Optomec of Albuquerque, N.M., uses models from computer-aided design software to build layers of metal alloy on a substrate via metal powders that are melted by a laser. Four chambers supply metal powders to the deposition head that can be programmed to produce a nearly infinite variety of alloy compositions. The printing occurs in an ultra-low oxygen glove box to protect the quality of highly reactive materials. In a recent demonstration run, the printer produced a one-inch long, 0.25-inch diameter rod of stainless steel in 20 seconds.

    The process will overcome some of the obstacles of traditional combinatorial materials research.

    “The problem is that it’s been typically limited to thin film synthesis. These thin film samples are not always representative of the bulk properties of a material. For example magnetic properties, important to the study of rare earths, are not going to be the same as you get in the bulk material,” explained Ott.

    Combined with computational work, experimental techniques, and a partnership with the Stanford Synchrotron Light Source (SSRL) for X-ray characterization, scientists at the CMI will be able to speed the search for alternatives to rare-earth and other critical metals.

    “Now we have the potential to screen through a lot of material libraries very quickly, looking for the properties that best suit particular needs,” said Ott.

    This research is supported by the Critical Materials Institute, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies. DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that bring together scientists and engineers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds to accelerate scientific discovery in areas vital to U.S. energy security.

    See the full article here.

    Ames Laboratory is a government-owned, contractor-operated research facility of the U.S. Department of Energy that is run by Iowa State University.

    For more than 60 years, the Ames Laboratory has sought solutions to energy-related problems through the exploration of chemical, engineering, materials, mathematical and physical sciences. Established in the 1940s with the successful development of the most efficient process to produce high-quality uranium metal for atomic energy, the Lab now pursues a broad range of scientific priorities.

    Ames Laboratory shares a close working relationship with Iowa State University’s Institute for Physical Research and Technology, or IPRT, a network of scientific research centers at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

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