Quality Progress - January 2014 - (Page 50)
BY PETER MERRILL
The New Revolution
3-D printing is changing manufacturing and the world as we know it
WITH THE THEME of this QP issue be-
The innovator looks for unmet needs,
ing technology, it was an easy decision to
and there are so many out there. The
focus the Innovation Imperative column
innovator asks: Where do people waste
on 3-D printing. It is one of the most
time, and where are they having trouble
exciting new technologies since the tran-
getting things done? Whether it is finding
sistor of the last century, and since the
the right nuts and bolts for a household
steam engine two centuries before that.
task, finding a new pair of shoes of
But in this column, I want to focus less
the right style, color and fit, or at the
on the technology and more on the pos-
extreme, waiting for surgery or an organ
sibilities the technology brings. The tech-
transplant, 3-D printing will at some time
nology is changing at an amazing pace. If
in the not-too-distant future provide an-
I had written this column two years ago,
swers to frustrating tasks. It's not there
the facts and the data I quote would have
yet, but at the present pace of develop-
been very different. Two years from now,
ment, it's getting closer every day.
this column will likely be obsolete.
So what are the possibilities? Imagine
you are doing a job around the house
Many readers are likely already familiar
and you're missing a bolt or screw of the
with 3-D printing technology, so I will
correct thread, or even a wrench of the
discuss it only briefly. It combines the
right size. You waste an hour hunting for
technologies of inkjet printing, com-
it, then-in frustration-drive to the store
puter-aided design (CAD) software and
to buy what you need.
advanced materials. You've already seen
Ten years from now, you will go to your
3-D PRINTING is a process that makes a
solid object of virtually any shape from a
it in movies. Remember "Mission Impos-
you need the CAD software, which has
computer, or more likely your handheld
sible III" when Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise)
become well-developed in recent years.
device, input the data for the item you
and his team build a mask he will wear
You need hardware-similar to your
desktop printer. Finally, you need mate-
3-D printing will at some time in the
not-too-distant future provide
answers to frustrating tasks.
rial, which is where the challenges are.
The first step in all 3-D printing processes is for software to identify crosssections through the item to be built and
calculate how each layer must be created.
The machine builds up the item a layer
at a time by applying a thin layer of resin
or by using a laser to melt metal powder.
need, press "print" and your 3-D printer-
to impersonate the evil villain? You see
The material hardens in the pattern of the
which will be the size of your present
the mask being built in a series of layers
cross-section. It's just like in the "Mission
desktop 2-D printer-will make what you
using a computer image and injecting a
need while you have a cup of coffee.
material onto a base where the material
This is not something from science
fiction writer Isaac Asimov1-this is the
50 QP * www.qualityprogress.com
The tray on which the item sits drops
solidifies. The computer image is repli-
about a millimeter or less, a new layer of
cated on the mask.
resin is applied and the process repeats.
Conceptually, that's all it is. Practically,
A variation on this operates like inkjet
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Quality Progress - January 2014
Mr. Pareto Head
Breaking Down Barriers
Follow the Fundamentals
Back in Service
Quality in the First Person
One Good Idea
Quality Progress - January 2014