3D Printing

Tuesday, 06 April 2021 18:59

3D printing, Recycled filament

Plastic pollution has become one of the most persistent environmental concerns, as a constant increase of the demand and production of disposable plastic products, overpassing the environment’s ability to decompose them. Sadly, the plastics industry fails to recognize the propagation of social and political changes regarding single-use plastics, especially, plastics made from fossil fuels.


Today, single-use plastics account for more than 40 percent of the plastic produced every year (ourworldindata.org)

Plastic pollution is an issue that stresses worldwide cooperation, similar to climate change. Studies reveal that the production of plastics from fossil fuel is only cost effective when the components not used for plastics are used for energy production, treating plastic more as a byproduct of the industry. Therefore, if the industry transitions away from fossil fuels, and towards renewable resources, then the production of wasteful single-use plastic could be severely reduced, if not completely eliminated.


Plastic filament is one of the most used raw materials to 3D print, FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printers are the most common type of 3D printers available. There are several types of filament available with different properties, ranging from color, type of plastic and other mechanical properties, nevertheless some eco-friendly filaments do exist; varying from the CO2 footprint to the chemical properties and environmental impact when disposed.

Regardless of the benefits, 3D printing generates large amounts of waste, to enumerate some, starting from the result of failed prints to rejected support structures. Furthermore, the ability to create components without machining or tools causes that many prints are used as disposable prototypes.


Support material is generally required with complex geometry 3D prints, specially where overhangs exist.

Generally, most “Eco-Friendly” plastic filaments aren’t easy to find and neither a cheap alternative, but recycled filament could be an option that helps reduce the CO2 footprint, following the criteria of the 6R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Redesign and Remanufacture), PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) are the most promising regarding the fabrication of “green” filament, ranging from a factory process to a domestic plastic extruder.

ABS is a petroleum derivate product, generally recyclable and PLA is biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic derived from resources such as corn, roots, sugarcane and other renewable resources.


PET Translucent Re-filament, made from old PET bottles, up to 90% recycled (re-filament.com)

Nowadays, market offers various filaments made from second hand PLA, PET, ABS, and HIPS. Re-Filament, a Dutch startup company made filament from recycled plastic bottles (PET) and old car dashboards (ABS), other commercially available filament spools from HIPS are made from old refrigerators or automotive parts.


ABS Recycled Plastic filament made out from old car dashboards, developed by Re-Fil. (re-filament.com)


There are other alternatives to make your own recycled filament, such as buying an existing Filament extruding machine or even building it by yourself. (filabot.com)

Published in 3D Printing
Tuesday, 09 March 2021 03:32

3D Printing Food

For the inexperienced, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three dimensional solid objects from a digital 3D model. Objects are usually created layer by layer. 3D printing is revolutionizing the 21st century production industries, from shoes, to airplane and car parts, to medical devices, and more.

Simplifying the definition, 3D printed food is nothing more than what Its name suggests, regular edible ingredients processed by means that they can be extruded through a nozzle onto a surface, the goal, to produce a meal on demand or with peculiar or complex shapes and geometries that are either impossible to reproduce manually or would take an extraordinary amount of time or resources.

Brill, Inc., has introduced a full-color, professional-grade culinary 3D printing system, powered by 3D Systems. (brill3dculinarystudio.com)

3D Printing Chocolate

The 3D printing industry has reached many food markets so it is no surprise that it made impact on the chocolate industry. Several big brands such as Hershey and Nestlé had been experimenting with 3D printed chocolate, 3D printing brings creativeness and innovation to the cacao based franchise, 3D models can be turned into an edible chocolate creation.

Hershey Kiss being printed by their CocoJet 3D printer. (www.3dsystems.com)

Most chocolate 3D printers work with the same principles of a regular FDM 3D printer. Instead of a filament, chocolate 3D printers use a syringe, which is loaded with molten chocolate and then it keeps the chocolate at temperature as it prints. The extruder head moves around and lays down the melted chocolate with the shape desired in layers. The chocolate eventually cools and becomes solid. The whole system needs to be compliant with food safety standards in order for the 3D printed figure to be edible.

Chocolate 3D printers haven been around for around 6 years, so the chocolate industry has yet to expand and learn what more could be done with 3D printers. Chocolate 3D printers aren’t suitable for mass production but it is perfect for gourmet, visually attractive food presentations, or just design new shapes. The main problem with chocolate 3D printers is the temperature, the chocolate has to be heated enough to melt and maintain melted in the syringe, at the same time it must be cool and dry enough to maintain its shape as it is laid into its final shape.

3D printing chocolate allow chefs make unique creations and reproduce them rapidly and affordably, no matter how intricate or specific the design (sculpteo.com)

3D Printing Meat

Meat alternatives are leaving a mark and some companies like Impossible Foods have already partnered with big franchises Like Burger King, plant-based meat went from something very few had heard of to something that now trends between vegans and meat eaters; this is a glimpse into a different future for meat. Total emissions from global livestock are around 7 Gigatonnes of Co2-equivalent per year, representing 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Promoters of meat alternatives say these meatless meats could help change and gradually help the climate crisis.

Redefine Meat is applying proprietary 3D printing technology, meat digital modeling, and advanced food formulations to produce animal-free meat with the appearance, texture and flavor of whole muscle meat (which they call Alt-Meat products).

The Israeli-based company conducted a largest-scale public blind-tasting. The food truck concept was named “There’s a new meat in town”. (redefinemeat.com)

Until recently, alternative meat has replicated ground beef or similar products that have a uniform consistency. 3D printing uniquely enables the production of precise geometries and patterns that can duplicate the muscle and fat structures found in cuts of meat. 3D printing also offers the flexibility to print different shapes, sizes, or combinations of fat and synthetic muscle without retooling or resetting the machines

NovaMeat have managed to reproduce a realistic fibrous fleshy meat alternative steak product. (novameat.com)

Another startup named NovaMeat creates realistic meat alternatives by 3D-printing plant-based proteins, one of the pioneers to simultaneously replicate both the texture and appearance of a cut of an animal’s muscle. Unlike burgers and meatballs, steak and other whole muscle cuts, such as chicken breast and pork chops, are difficult to imitate with only plant ingredients given their depth of texture.

NovaMeat employs protein from rice, peas and algae fibers, natural plant-based colorants, and some fats such as canola, olive and coconut oil in their meat paste formulation. (novameat.com)

It’s safe to consume 3D printed food as long as it has been prepared in an appropriate machine in a clean environment (as with any other kitchen). In addition to creating amazing-looking meals, there are other positives in 3D printing food such as the personalized meal and required daily diets (making food have the specific required nutritional values a person requires); with 3D printed meat we saw the potential global benefits to the environment, but another advantage to consumable 3D printed goods is the easy reproducibility of products, and the precision and time in which this can be produced. Only time will tell how things will work out for the 3D printed food industry but our hopes and expectations certainly aim high.

Published in 3D Printing
Thursday, 04 February 2021 18:24

3D Printing in 2020

In 2020, 3D printing persistently advanced its path towards industrialization and innovation. The developments that pushed 3D printing to where it is today will continue further into 2021, indicating that new projects will surge, technological necessities will need to be satisfied, and new challenges will need to be overcome, all bringing forward new applications for 3D printers and expanding towards new horizons.

Let’s go through what the 2020 brought to the 3D printing world and what it implies for the future.

3D printing during the pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic brought challenges to almost every single country, the most difficult where how to manage and stop the spread of the virus and how to get enough medical supplies (valves for reanimation devices, etc.), we saw a fast response of the global 3D printing community aiding to these specific problems.

Ventilator valves where really scarce during the COVID19 outbreak, and thus the 3D community ran to model and print working prototypes to be used in hospitals. (REUTERS)

The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in a significant shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) worldwide. Professional additive manufacturing providers, makers, and designers in the 3-dimensional (3D) printing community have posted free COVID-19–related 3D printer designs on their websites.

In reaction to the acute shortage of protective wear for medical personnel during the pandemic situation, professional additive manufacturing providers, makers, and designers in the 3D printing community quickly developed and mass-produced protective face shields.

Prusa3D came out with a final design called Prusa PRO Face Shield, which meets the standard of EN 166:2001 for protection against drops and sprays (protection class 3) . (prusa3D.com)

3D printing communities across the world became a massive driving force in the effort to produce protective wear for those, who need it the most. (prusa3D.com)

Development for 3D printed structure on the Moon

ICON is a company that has won NASAS 3D printed habitat challenge, and has become the selected to develop a fully operational 3D printer capable of sustaining the harsh conditions of the moon’s surface, this while printing enhanced lunar structures and building a sustainable site for Off-Earth exploration. As part of its Artemis program, NASA is attempting to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, and it has already used 3D printing to develop rocket engine part.

“Building humanity’s first home on another world will be the most ambitious construction project in human history and will push science, engineering, technology, and architecture to literal new heights,” said Jason Ballard, Co-founder and CEO of ICON. (iconbuild.com)

NASA has pointed that, through the Artemis program, the Moon will be the first Off-Earth site for sustainable surface exploration. Building a sustainable presence on the Moon requires more than rockets. Robust structures will need to be built on the Moon to provide better thermal, radiation, and micrometeorite protection.

Direct-to-Textile 3D Printed Clothing

3D printing continues to offer fashion designers greater freedom in creating complex geometries with fabric, the European Union has funded a research project called Re-FREAM, an effort uniting artists, designers, and scientists as they combine 3D printing and textiles to rethink the manufacturing process of the fashion industry.

The Re-FREAM goal is to develop new concepts for the future of fashion by means of new processes and aesthetics that are inclusive and sustainable.

Stratasys first introduced its PolyJet technology back in January 2020, a technology that creates objects by jetting fine droplets of photopolymers, materials that solidify when exposed to UV light. Last year, Stratasys started working with fashion designers to show their PolyJet direct-to-textile printing technology, from design through to production, demonstrating the possibility for localized manufacturing and mass customization.

PolyJet 3D Printers are scaled to meet diverse needs in capability and production capacity. The printers fall within two groups: single material at a time and multi-material simultaneously. (Stratasys)

This collaboration follows closely not only of their unveiling the new ability to 3D print onto regular textiles, but also onto sustainable fabrics in vivid colors, creating a shimmer effect when the clothing is in motion, while maintaining the comfortability of regular fabric outfits.

Japanese-style kimono designed by Ganit Goldstein using direct-to-textile PolyJet multi-color 3D printing. (Stratasys)

Another advantage of Stratasys PolyJet™ 3D Printers is that they are certified by Pantone, as meeting the PANTONE validated standards of color quality and realism. Backed by this authentication, PolyJet solutions are perfectly aligned to meet the strict requirements of design studios as they match the design-to-manufacturing process.

This validation allows for simple and accurate color communication between designers and manufacturers. (pantone.com)

High-volume 3D printing is around the corner

At the moment, 3D printing is generally viewed as a technology suitable for low level to mid-volume production. That it will most likely be the case in 2021, but every year we also see more opportunities and developments that will help us achieve higher-volume production with 3D printing.

Conveyor belt 3D printers, have max printing size limitations on X-Y axis but with a theoretically infinite sized z-axis print size or even a continuous production of 3D printed parts, the limitation of this technology is its speed and supported materials, thus not a viable alternative for High-volume 3D printing.

Continuous production of 3D printed parts is a possibility with this technology, it isn’t required that all the printed parts are of the same model. (Blackbelt3D)

Another approach to achieve a high-volume production of 3D printed parts is deploying hundreds of 3D printers and making a Printing Farm, large scale 3D printing is generally less expensive than injection molding below an average of 50000 units/parts, the downside of this continues to be the manufacturing speed (of each 3D printer) and the increase in control required for all the deployed printers, this to ensure quality and reduction of errors.

The whole point of a 3D printing farm: On-demand, efficient manufacturing. (all3dp.com)

On the long run, the on demand nature of additive manufacturing can make production cheaper than other large volume processes, it even has the advantage of customization and personalized production batches, as each printer can lay-out different 3D models, another advantage is the no tooling costs involved, meaning products are brought to market at a much faster rate.

Published in 3D Printing
Friday, 23 October 2020 17:54

3D Printing Magnets

Most off the shelf magnets have a simple design and work with one side as the north pole and the opposite as the south pole. Programmed magnets or polymagnets on the other hand are customized structures of magnets that alternate polarity in a specific designed patter to achieve a desired behavior, by designing different magnetic fields on the same side is possible to achieve different mechanical performances as a latch or spring without requiring a physical spring or many movable parts.

Correlated magnets have the unique characteristic of having alternating North and South poles on one side, resulting in simultaneous attract and repel forces or event to attract or repel at a certain spatial orientation. Correlated magnets can usually be designed to interact only with other specific programmable magnets. Correlated magnets can even be programmed to attract and repel at the same time. Compared to conventional magnets, the correlated magnet provides five times stronger holding force (attraction force) and thus higher shear resistance.

There are four main functions that correlated magnets can achieve: align, attach,
latch, and spring. (ifixit.com)

Correlated Magnetics Research (CMR) was developed to pursue research and development of the programmable Magnets technology, CMR co-founder and Chief Scientist, Larry Fullerton, was inspired by youthful imagination to create a self-assembling toy to spark his grandchildren’s interest in math, science, and physics; Fullerton inspired by this idea experimented and finally created this programmable magnets, the idea is so unique that CMR has already filed over 100 patents.

One of their more promising developments are magnetic gears, where conventional gears use mating surfaces of mechanical interlocking teeth, magnetic gears employ alternating magnetic fields to transmit torque removing friction by contact; nevertheless, the achievable torque density of magnetic gears is indeed considerably lower than the one of their mechanical counterparts, although, on the plus side, they also do not suffer irreparable damage if their specified torque is exceeded.

The programmable magnetic gears developed by CMR may allow for smaller, more efficient
magnetic gears with higher torque density in the future (polymagnet.com)

The world first's 3D magnetizing printer was developed by CMR, which is called MagPrinter. This printer consists of a magnetizing coil in a cabinet with a motion-control system. A polymagnet can be easily made from reprogramming a conventional magnetic material in a few minutes.

The MagPrinter imprints Polymagnets in batch mode on a large, movable stage with maxel (magnetic pixels) sizes ranging from 1mm to 4mm. By overlapping maxels, the printer can produce very high-resolution patterns and even images embedded in the magnetic material itself. The MagPrinter produces Polymagnets on the strongest Neodymium magnets, flexible materials, ferrites and specialized materials such as Samarium Cobalt.

The Mini MagPrinter. Half the size of the original MagPrinter (polymagnet.com)

CMR Mini MagPrinter could be the most fantastic toy to hit Makerspaces since desktop 3D printers. The only downside is that even this mini version is still quite expensive at $45,000, but on the other hand, a batch of traditional made-to-order magnets cost will quickly elevate to thousands of dollars too. CMR’s technology will largely be limited to research institutes and universities, but well-funded makerspaces might also have a shot at it.

The Mini MagPrinter. will do for magnetics what 3D printing systems did for mechanical prototyping (polymagnet.com)

Published in 3D Printing
Friday, 04 September 2020 23:18

3D Printing Glass

Additive manufacturing is the base of 3D printing, it has several methods but the most used and common are SLA (Stereolithography) or SLS (selective laser sintering) and FDM (fused deposition modeling). Both generally use polymers as the main material to produce prints and here is where things can get complicated, in this article we will cover the use of glass and its raw materials used to produce 3D prints.octype html>

Back in 2015, MIT researchers developed a 3D printer that melts glass to later extrude it to a desired form (mit.edu)

3D printing glass is not an easy task, there have been a few organizations and scientists that were able to produce a 3D printed glass piece. Most of these methods rely on high temperature to help reach the glass melting point to later mold it into the desired form, glass will require temperatures around a 1000 ºC to reach its fusion point.

MIT 3D printed glass pieces are beautiful and of complex shapes. (mit.edu)

A team of engineers from the University of Washington succeeded by using glass powder and a binder solution to make particles react and thus being able to lay them and form a desired glass object. The technique allows a new type of material (glass) to be used in a typical powder based 3D printing system.

This 3D printing method was named Vitraglyphic process and was created in 2009 (washington.edu)

In 2017, a German group of researchers from KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) used an SLA process to create intricate glass objects. In SLA printing, light is used to selectively harden liquid materials into solid parts, layer by layer. The team applied the SLA process to a special ink containing glass nanopowder suspended in a photocurable polymer, and then they fired the piece at 1,300 ºC to burn off the polymer and densify the glass.

Complicated high-precision structures made of glass can be manufactured with this method (kit.edu)

Most recently (November 2019), ETH Zürich have used a similar method as the KIT researchers, they have developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded, the resin can be cured by UV Light using commercially available DLP 3D printers.

Complex objects can be made from different types of glass, or even combined in the same object using the technique (ethz.ch)

After the resin is cured into the desired form, the piece is subjected to two different temperatures: at 600˚C to burn off the polymer framework and then at around 1000˚C to densify the ceramic structure into glass. During the firing process, the objects shrink significantly, but become transparent and hard like window glass.

Published in 3D Printing

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