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National Lab Working To Mix Metals and Polymers For 3D Printing

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the can-we-print-a-terminator-yet dept.

Technology 65

Lucas123 writes "Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab are trying to expand 3D printing to include mixed materials at the same time, such as polymers and metals. With those advances, a company could build, for example, body armor for soldiers that are stronger and lighter. If their work pans out, they'll create materials that have properties that simply don't exist today."

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But why 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990609)

Seems to me if you're building body armor, you'd want to target a technology that can pump out a bit more than one piece a week, no? And let me guess, "if" means "totally already exists and we're colonizing the universe now"?

Re:But why 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990757)

because you can make custom designs with minimal retooling or maybe build the armor custom fitted to an individual.
and if you rtfs, because "they'll create materials that have properties that simply don't exist today.".

you want more than one in a week? easy, use more than one printer.

Re:But why 3D printing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990969)

But the article is just full of suppositions and unsubstantiated claims. That's standard for 3D printing stories 99% of the time. It just gets tiresome. No one's built any body armor, and no mixed materials were actually made, and the guy is just holding plastic trinkets.

Re:But why 3D printing? (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45991105)

Next you'll be telling us that there's nothing to that microprocessor fad, because a Sinclair/Timex ZX80 can't really be used to control a nuclear power station.

Re:But why 3D printing? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 8 months ago | (#45990895)

Notice how they never build medical devices or something to help poor people in Africa. It's always something military? Yeah, that...

Re:But why 3D printing? (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45990953)

Notice how they never build medical devices or something to help poor people in Africa. It's always something military? Yeah, that...

Hey now! Military tech very much can be used to help poor people in Africa!

Help them not be alive anymore, for instance.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

dlt074 (548126) | about 8 months ago | (#45991007)

weapons in the hands of the right poor people is what will help the poor people in africa. everything else will just be broken/taken by the wrong people with guns in africa.

I disagree, as a gun-owner myself (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991377)

What Africa needs is less violence, and adding more firearms to the mix is not going to lead to peace.

Re:I disagree, as a gun-owner myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45992319)

adding more firearms to the mix is not going to lead to peace.

Of course it will, read the 2nd ammendment.

(roman_mir, karmabombe'd again)

that's rich (1)

dlt074 (548126) | about 8 months ago | (#45992633)

says the hypocrite who already has a firearm to protect himself and his family.

i'd post AC as well if i were such a judgmental, holier then thou, racist prick. africans have the right to protect themselves whether you like guns or not.

people like you are the reason they continue to wallow in death. rich 1st worlders telling them what they can and can't do with this weapon or this chemical, or this technology.

Re:I disagree, as a gun-owner myself (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45992889)

What Africa needs is less violence, and adding more firearms to the mix is not going to lead to peace.

True. Peace will come much faster if we just let the people who currently have guns murder all the ones who don't.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45991483)

I was just thinking, you know what would be sweet?

A version of the Iron Dome [wikipedia.org] system, scaled down for small arms fire.

Granted, it would be a lot harder to implement without barbequing the innards of every living thing within range, but it sure would do a lot to end petty conflicts. We really don't put enough effort into finding new and novel ways to keep people from being killed.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 8 months ago | (#45994253)

Didn't we just have an article about people fabricating arms for poor people in Africa?

Oh wait... that was legs. Nevermind.

Re:But why 3D printing? (3, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 8 months ago | (#45991019)

Actually the article was about finding ways to build weapons because we already use 3d printing to build medical devices cheaply.
http://3dprintingindustry.com/medical/ [3dprintingindustry.com]
http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/02/robohand-how-cheap-3d-printers-built-a-replacement-hand-for-a-five-year-old-boy/ [arstechnica.com]

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 8 months ago | (#45990929)

Imagine a 3D printer that prints an armor in a week (ridiculously slow). Now imagine 1000 of thems. The army can afford it, they literally burn money all year.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 8 months ago | (#45990989)

Seems to me if you're building body armor, you'd want to target a technology that can pump out a bit more than one piece a week, no? And let me guess, "if" means "totally already exists and we're colonizing the universe now"?

Because body armor is meant to be worn by a human, and every human has a different body shape (sometimes significantly different) from everyone else. Since poorly-fitted body armor can severely impair maneuverability (which is often extremely important in situations where you'd want to wear body armor in the first place), being able to easily create a suit of armor that exactly matches a given body shape is incredibly useful.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#45991257)

poorly-fitted body armor can severely impair maneuverability ...

That is one problem, but there are two bigger problems: weight, and heat.

Body armor fitted to an individual can be no bigger than necessary, thus reducing weight. It can also be fitted to provide air circulation to help keep the wearer cool. Big guys already have a hard time shedding heat, and an overly tight flack jacket makes it even worse.

Re:But why 3D printing? (1)

hey! (33014) | about 8 months ago | (#45998457)

Different model for scaling production. You start by 3D printing a whole mess of 3D printers...

Government driven research... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990615)

will always be at the core of American leadership into new markets

and if it doesn't work out... (2)

swschrad (312009) | about 8 months ago | (#45990639)

... I'm sure the soldiers of the First Army will personally come over and "discuss" the matter...

Re:and if it doesn't work out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990869)

They need sugar-daddy aka pentagon budget.

No (2)

The Cat (19816) | about 8 months ago | (#45990683)

3D Printing doesn't scale. It will never be a viable manufacturing technology. It doesn't matter if you make one or one million pieces, the per-unit cost never goes down because the raw materials for 3D printing have a static price.

That's right, we have perfected the first manufacturing process since the pyramids that has no economies of scale.

Re:No (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 months ago | (#45990853)

The raw materials for mass-production have a static price as well. So obviously, all automation will fail. If only someone told them back in the 1800s, we'd not have wasted time with that worthless Industrial Revolution.

Re:No (2)

cfulton (543949) | about 8 months ago | (#45990901)

I think maybe you miss the point. The 3D printing vision is not that manufacturing will go away (at least not for now), it is that I can get the one off item even if I don't have access to the marketplace, or the item is no longer being made, or the price is higher than if I just made it myself or I want to customize it. For instance, I broke one of the clip-on shelves in my refrigerator. They make the part but they want $65.00 dollars for it. Now I have four more just like it, so if I 3d scan one of them and then print the replacement even if it takes a couple of hours and $10.00 or $20.00 worth of material I've saved both time and money. Even more so if the replacement weren't being sold anymore or if I wanted it to have dividers and added those after the scan.

A bit off topic to the article, I know. But, I don't think I understand some peoples instant negativity to this particular technology. I don't think it will end manufacturing as we know it, but I do think it can become a useful and normal technology. Can't you just hear it - "Hey honey, can you run off a couple more Monster-High dolls for Betty. She really liked the Frankie Stein you printed and wants Draculaura and Deuce Gorgon. I looked at the store, but couldn't find either of them."

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991211)

You could have stated your 'vision' for 3d printing much more succinctly: piracy. And you claim 'you don't understand why some people are negative'.

Some of us have much higher hopes for 3d printing, like actually being able to CREATE new things - one-off manufacturing, prototypes, etc.

Re:No (3, Interesting)

erebus2161 (3441365) | about 8 months ago | (#45991215)

Your comment just demonstrates you don't actually understand how economies of scale work. The reason things get cheaper the more you make and sell is because of all the costs that go into producing an item that aren't directly involved in the manufacturing process as well as costly aspects of the manufacturing process that 3D printing eliminates. First we have design. 3D printing doesn't affect this at all, however it is one of the costs that is reduced per item in an economy of scale. Which means 3D printing does scale and invalidates your argument right off the bat. Second we have the manufacturing process. This usually involves specialized equipment, like molds for plastic components or custom robotics for assembly. Producing that equipment is a cost that must be recouped with the sale of the item. The more items you produce and sell, the more the cost can be distributed. 3D printing eliminates this cost. Instead we just have one general piece of manufacturing equipment which can be distributed among the entire manufacturing community. Third, there's the cost of human labor which is significantly reduced by 3D printing. Finally, there's the costs of defects. If there's a 10% chance of an item being defective, producing 10 means one will be defective on average and the cost of that one item can be distributed in the sale price of the other 9. But if you only produce one and that one is defective you must produce a second one that now costs twice as much in order to recoup the cost of the defective one instead of 10/9ths the price. So, 3D printing does scale, but not as much as ordinary manufacturing, but that's OK because it is cheaper than ordinary manufacturing even at scale.

Re:No (1)

The Cat (19816) | about 8 months ago | (#45993795)

I know that if I want to make one million plastic mold injection action figures, my per unit manufacturing costs are about forty cents.

If I fill a building with 3D printers and run them day and night, my per unit manufacturing costs on those same one million action figures are about twelve dollars.

The four cents I save on each unit by amortizing the costs of design, human labor and defects is negligible.

So yeah, maybe next time a little less wiseass and a little more "hey, maybe this guy did his homework on this" would serve you better.

Re:No (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 8 months ago | (#45991271)

3D Printing doesn't scale. It will never be a viable manufacturing technology. It doesn't matter if you make one or one million pieces, the per-unit cost never goes down because the raw materials for 3D printing have a static price.

That's right, we have perfected the first manufacturing process since the pyramids that has no economies of scale.

Oh, come now. It's not the only such manufacturing process. For example, xerographic and ink-jet printing are both the same way, and that's why neither of them have ever become viable for "manufacturing".

That's why all the large-format photographic film suppliers are still thriving -- if inkjet or xerographic printing weren't so slow and expensive, print shops would probably have moved over to that technology long since. In fact, in an alternate reality I like to call "ours", that's exactly what happened.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991367)

Are you trying to claim that printed materials that are actually manufactured (books, magazines, newspapers, money, etc) are done using inkjets and xerographic processes? I sure hope not, because it is done with presses.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991899)

Are you trying to claim that printed materials that are actually manufactured (books, magazines, newspapers, money, etc) are done using inkjets and xerographic processes? I sure hope not, because it is done with presses.

Inkjet presses [fujifilmusa.com] are available. They make it practical to print smaller runs than offset lithography, in part by eliminating the need for printing plates. This is very much analogous to 3D printing making small runs practical by eliminating the need for molds.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991929)

Three words for you: Print on demand.

And a few more: fastest growing segment of the (hardcopy) publishing industry.

Re:No (1)

Kilroy_here (1143497) | about 8 months ago | (#45992399)

Actually printing production can also be done with ink jet printers. Have you ever looked at any of the grand format printers from companies like Gandi or vutek? 5 meter platens and 4 to 8 color printing. http://w3.efi.com/Vutek/Products

Re:No (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 8 months ago | (#45994417)

I'm sorry. I had hoped my last sentence would serve as a "sarcasm" flag.

Inkjet and xerographic technology have massively changed the face of printing, even though presses are still used for large-scale runs (and probably will be for the foreseeable future). Arguing that "3D Printing doesn't scale" is probably exactly as silly as arguing that inkjet or xerographic printing doesn't scale. If the manufacturing and operating costs of the printers drop by orders of magnitude, and the quality of output rises by orders of magnitude, who cares that large-scale mass-production will still be cheaper with conventional technologies? There's plenty of room for the world to change below that threshold.

Re:No (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991691)

3D Printing doesn't scale.

Neither does knitting or sewing. Too bad garments which are anything but blankets will always be priced out of reach.

It will never be a viable manufacturing technology.

Right, just like knitting or sewing.

Weapons, armor (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990701)

Why does every discussion of 3D printing seem to devolve into how it could make better weapons or armor? How about using metal and plastic to make elaborate layered circuit boards we can drop inexpensive chips into and make even cooler stuff? And I don't mean detonators.

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990769)

Because clickbait

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990883)

Because the only way to invent new things is to invest in the military. Nothing good has come from non-military government research.

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 8 months ago | (#45990933)

Because humans are a war like species. They're most happy when blowing shit up.

I'd be so down with a nice set of powered armor peiced together in my own garage with a printer and a dremil tool. :D

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45991009)

Because humans are a war like species. They're most happy when blowing shit up.

I'd be so down with a nice set of powered armor peiced together in my own garage with a printer and a drem[e]l tool. :D

I do admit, being able to build one's own, personal mech-suit does have its appeal...

Anyone up for a game of Real Life Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots?

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 8 months ago | (#45991151)

Oh yeah! Or making your own knock off one of those Japanese Kuratas robots that were floating around a year or so back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iZ0WuNvHr8

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990963)

Because you deleted every e-mail with the instructions for printing your detachable penis.

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#45990975)

Why does every discussion of 3D printing seem to devolve into how it could make better weapons or armor?

Human nature.

As much as we try to deny it, at our base we're still extremely violent, hate-filled, xenophobic tribalists. As a species, anyway.

How about using metal and plastic to make elaborate layered circuit boards we can drop inexpensive chips into and make even cooler stuff? And I don't mean detonators.

Oooh, detonators! What a clever idea!

Your government will now thank you for your contribution to their military-industrial complex in the only way they know how.

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

nschubach (922175) | about 8 months ago | (#45992093)

By taxing you until you can't afford what you need, needing the government to supply you that (because of their taxes), then taxing you more because they can't afford to provide it for you?

Re:Weapons, armor (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 8 months ago | (#45990981)

How about the most obvious application of being able to mix metals and plastics together: Converting yourself a whale tank using transparent aluminum!

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45994159)

I worked with some guys that did mix metal and plastic in the 1980s by using PVC powder, iron powder, and a projectile hitting the die block at mach 1. Many weird things become possible such as anti-bacterial filters of controlled size - stick the composite in a solvent and you have a metal sponge with holes through it exactly the size you designed for.

Re:Weapons, armor (2)

Misagon (1135) | about 8 months ago | (#45991053)

Look at rebuilding your 3D printer into a CNC router. Then mill your circuit boards.

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 8 months ago | (#45991061)

Why does every discussion of 3D printing seem to devolve into how it could make better weapons or armor?

It doesn't. MIT Technology Review has an article [technologyreview.com] in the current issue on 3-D printing lithium-ion batteries.

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991071)

I remember the old Connections show with James Burke.
It usually turned out that the root reason for most (if not all) technological advancement was military in nature
Mostly because the stakes are high, it is well funded and they are willing to take on risk
I would not expect this to change any time soon

Re:Weapons, armor (4, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 8 months ago | (#45991673)

The ironic thing is that the first time I heard about 3D printing, over 10 years ago (it was called stereolithography), was to produce prototype parts for IV roller valves for hospitals. After that, it was used for short runs of parts, replacements for things that have long since stopped being made, and other niche markets.

The pursuit of guns came a lot later when the technology came out of the factories.

With accurate 3D printing, we can make circuit boards as an integral part of a product. It might not be useful for large-scale production, but there are likely some objects where having the ability to not have to assemble something and have no weak seams or welds might be of great use. A seamless Faraday cage comes to mind. Perhaps a bottle for highly compressed gas?

I think part of adopting a technology is how it appeals to some peoples' banal nature. A lot of people love pr0n, so it propelled the Internet into homes. Printing out a firearm of questionable use got 3D printing on the map. Paranoia got solar adopted by both the right wing and left wing in the US.

There are a lot of uses for 3D printing. I'm probably going to wind up with a Makerbot so I can prototype a few lock mechanisms. If they actually work, then I will moved to sintered Iconel for the key and the lock. After that, hand some of the locks to the local locksport group and Youtube SPP people and see if the lock passes the real world muster. That way, if it actually is something pick resistant, I can always state an average time a pro can open the lock, rather making vague "unpickable" claims.

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45997695)

Don't buy a Makerbot man. They are super expensive, and there are better alternatives out there. Buy a printrbot, or if you want a expensive toy a LulzBot TAZ or Kossel.

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45998689)

Perhaps a bottle for highly compressed gas?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respirocyte [wikipedia.org]

The proposed design of the spherical nanorobot is made up of 18 billion atoms arranged as a tiny pressure tank, which would be filled up with oxygen and carbon dioxide, making one complete transfer point at the lungs, and the reverse transfer at the body's tissues.

Re:Weapons, armor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991843)

Iron man. Duh.

Re:Weapons, armor (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 8 months ago | (#45997639)

Simple: humans are violent by nature, its in our DNA. War and competition are what drives the world. Peace and submission does not.

About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991107)

I've been wondering where this has been for at least a decade!

Where was this a decade ago? Really?!? Did we not have the computational power? Was there no funding? Was no one thinking about it? Was it all pie in the sky theoretical, even then? I recall a few papers, hinting around it. But I found no where that it was actively being tried.

To me, it seemed fairly obvious to try mixing such things! Then again, I'm a lowly IT Admin, who has a minor interest in chemistry and physics, combined with computational science.

Re:About time! (1)

east coast (590680) | about 8 months ago | (#45991517)

To me, it seemed fairly obvious to try mixing such things!

Then why didn't you produce it if it was so obvious to you?

From TFS (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 8 months ago | (#45991433)

" body armor for soldiers that are stronger and lighter"

But where do we get the soldiers that are stronger and lighter?

Re:From TFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991485)

New blueprints with less fat, more muscle tissue.

Re:From TFS (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#45992933)

" body armor for soldiers that are stronger and lighter"

But where do we get the soldiers that are stronger and lighter?

First you 3D scan them.
Then you run them through a CAD program to remove the non-essential parts, and replace the remaining parts with lighter and stronger materials.
Then you 3D print them.

Re:From TFS (2)

suutar (1860506) | about 8 months ago | (#45993335)

Target price, $6 million each :)

Re:From TFS (1)

Joey Vegetables (686525) | about 8 months ago | (#46012255)

Your age is showing. :) (Mine too, of course.)

DIME (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45991657)

The big thing at Livermore is weapons, right? The next big thing isn't going to be defensive, it's going to be offensive. Think of the possibilities when you can 3D print up some Dense Metal Explosive interlaced with, say, a little sad Keanu Reeves figure?

sigh... (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45991707)

> body armor for soldiers that are stronger and lighter.

Is you sure?

Impact on manufacturing? (1)

pablo_max (626328) | about 8 months ago | (#45996945)

My wife, who is an exec in company which produces very high end precision components from both milling and molding has told me that the owner of the firm is very afraid for the future of the business because of 3D metal printing.
I, however have told her I do not agree at all. Rather, I see 3D printing as a great opportunity for her firm to make even more complex components which today cannot be made. Her point is that anyone will be able to do it though.
Sure, maybe they could, but I think they won't. Of course, there will be some folks who want their own 3D metal printer, but it will be decades before they are so cheap that a person can just buy it without thinking about it, like an ink jet.
Much of my work is in the automotive sector, as is much of my wife's customer base. One thing that I have learned about auto manufactures. They do not make their own parts and they do not want to make their own parts. They never will either. They spec out the new model and source the bits and pieces from various suppliers. Then, they put them all together.
This is true for most industries I think.
In fact, I would say that 3D printers will actually let you expand into other market segments.

What does slashdot think? Will everyone really print at home and more importantly, will business just print their own bits?

Huh? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#46000447)

they'll create materials that have properties that simply don't exist today

Current materials have properties like their melting point, resistivity and density.

Will these future ones have a quognon modulus, voctitude and pluness?

How About This (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 8 months ago | (#46003539)

A 3D printer that can make a nut and bolt?
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