3D printing is getting popular everywhere. Starting from plastic 3D model used to create toys, later helped in creating complex tools, Now NASA is using the 3D printing technology to create rocket parts using metals. This technology made a very good progress within a year.
3D printing was very old technology attempted in1880s used carbon electrode arcs to fuse two pieces of metal. When Humphry Davy first discovered the electric arc in 1800s.
Using Direct Metal Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technology NASA recently used to build rocket motor components out of steel. NASA engineers were able to produce complex models with dimensional accuracy with traditional fabrication methods.
Direct Metal Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is an additive metals manufacturing technology with a growing presence in the healthcare, aerospace and high technology engineering and electronics sectors.
The SLM process uses a high powered laser to fuse fine metal powders together layer by layer direct from CAD data to create functional metal parts. After each layer a powder re-coater system deposits a fresh layer of powder in thicknesses ranging from 20 to 100 microns. The SLM system uses commercially available gas atomized metallic powders to produce fully dense metal parts in materials including Titanium, Stainless Steel, Cobalt Chrome and Tool Steel.
A startup company Shapeways does 3D printing service. Shapeways used to get designs from the customer through their website, print the design using industrial 3D printers and shipped to the customers.
Users upload design files, and Shapeways prints the objects for them or others. Users can have objects printed from a variety of materials, including food-safe ceramics.
Shapeways printed and sold more than one million user-created objects. They use variety of materials to choose from, and even offers precious metal printing in silver.
When Apple was selling bare-bones phone cases for exorbitant prices, many people decided to create their own models with the help of Shapeway’s tools. A price of $8.00 per cubic centimeter for stainless steel, $6.00 handling fee, and optional gold plating of $9.00 made it a no-brainer for the artistically inclined.
Currently there are two new technologies that offer us very higher resolution parts. One tool uses two photon laser curing helps extreme precision by laser absorbers in the binders which are only activated by simultaneous absorption of two photons.
The other tool is the femtosecond laser. Previously used in corrective eye surgery, now it is used in 3D printing.