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Comment: Re:So in the future ... (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47974841) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

Really, shipping bulk raw materials is equivalent to shipping finished goods, in your world? Finished goods are usually predominantly waste space, are full of packaging, have to be handled gingerly, and need to be distributed to individuals in different locations. Raw materials are packed together as densely as possible, little to no packaging, can be thrown around, and go straight to just a couple manufacturers. And when import taxes come into play, it's even more extreme, since those are generally based on the price of what you're importing.

Comment: Re: So in the future ... (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47974671) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

You know, I was just thinking, wouldn't it be possible to make a rapid 3d *moulder*, for those bulk parts that you don't require as much precision on (aka, chair)? Picture a stretchable half-mould surface, on a large bed (maybe 50x100cm for a home edition, larger for a workshop) with a grid of little pistons on it that can change it's shape (nothing too high res, maybe one every square centimeter). Picture a second half-mould positioned just opposite, such that the two elements can close off off a 3d space. Such a system could virtually instantly form whatever shape you want, spray the inside with release agent, pipe in a thermoplastic or thermoset resin or wax (for lost wax casting) or confectionary or whatnot, let it set / cure it, and then open up. The pistons could then reshape to ready for whatever shape you want next. If such a moulder would you mess with the two halves individually after they've formed their shapes, you could use it as a composite layup, too. Disposable liners for the mould could be used if sticking / damaging the adjustable mould surface would be a problem.

Wouldn't that be getting awfully close to the potential that mass manufacture currently has? Casting as many times as you want and only having to wait for the product to set? Sure, you'd be limited to relatively simple geometries, but if you need anything more complex, that's what regular 3d printing is for. Hollow shapes could be handled in a two-stage process, first printing out the inner, releasing it, securing it in place, respraying both it and the mould with release agent, then printing out the desired part. I'd think a well-designed moulder could handle that without human intervention.

Hmm, come to think of it, it might even be possible to make a direct metal casting moulder. I know there are high temperature flexible fabrics that can withstand the temperature of most molten metals (various ceramic fiber ones), although I'm not sure whether there are any with sufficient flex for such a role. Oh, hey, carbon fiber and graphite felt are used as a flexible insulating material , that'd probably do the trick.

Comment: Re:Competitive pricing? Depends... (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47974313) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

Come to think of it, this has to be a godsend for Hollywood. They've got the budgets, and you can use the same model for both CG special effects and printing for camera work (whether we're talking about printing for miniatures, animatronics, prosthetics, molds for prosthetics, gadgets or other small objects, etc). No need to have both your 3d artist and a physical artist create the same thing.

Comment: Re:Add 3D scanner service to offer 3D copies (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47972591) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

For this to be more than just a gimmick, UPS needs to offer a 3D scanning service as well.

Which is why I really hope to see Project Tango in the future connect direct with 3d printing.

Scan your scene with your phone, click to print, pick the article in question out of the scene (with simple cutting tools and smart select), assign a material to it (with the app doing its best to choose defaults), possibly apply some filters (welding broken pieces together, for example) or stretch it a bit in different directions to meet your needs if you choose, pick your printing service, pick any other details such as surface treatments and the like, and it gets uploaded, you get billed, and your print arrives in the mail when it's ready.

Comment: Re:So in the future ... (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47972503) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

While I agree with you, I think it's important not to overgeneralize today's methods of 3d printing with being the only methods possible.

  For example, I've often speculated a lot about the prospect of using thermal spraying as a printing method. That is, you have any sort of powder or other fine material, fed into a chamber with the Venturi effect. Therein a custom mix of air and fuel is injected at specifically chosen partial pressures. Consequently, depending on what material you're using, you can choose the impact speed and temperature of the particles, anywhere from "cold" to thousands of degrees and anywhere from less than 1 meter per second up to a thousand or more. The size of the nozzle determines flow rate, so you could swap between different print heads for bulk vs. fine detail. You're essentially unlimited in what materials you can use. You could, for example, print isotropic fiberglass composites by alternately spraying fine chopped fibers and a resin. You could even do so by spraying simple quartz sand at high enough temperatures, fast moving molten sand in the air forms fiberglass. Your resin could be a thermoset powder heated during travel, an epoxy that reacts after being mixed on impact, or a wide variety of other possibilities. High velocity spraying of metal powders produces metal structures stronger than simple casting. You could spray at low velocity chemicals for the filling of things like capacitors or resistors. Thermal spraying is often as it stands used to apply durable clear coatings to materials to protect them, so clearly transparency is no problem. And any printer built around the principle of launching varied small particles at high speeds could polish, sandblast, coat, engrave, paint, or do whatever other surface treatments you wanted. It could build scaffoldings and then obliterate them afterwards. And on and on down the line.

It still wouldn't let you do fine detail, though (if anything you'd struggle to get as high detail as with conventional 3d printers). For detail work you'd have to add in a lithography setup. Some types of feed inputs would require refrigeration to remain as dusts. And of course some things would still be easiest assembled with literal assembly, aka, a robotic arm or two would be quite useful. So we're getting more and more complicated here.

Do I think such a thing is right around the corner? Of course not. Could my conception turn out to not work well at all as a 3d printer? Quite possibly - as far as I know, nobody's ever tried. But I'm just pointing out, when talking about future tech, you shouldn't evaluate it based on how today's tech works.

Comment: Re:So in the future ... (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47972399) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

Problem will be printing small things, atomic scale assembly, not just squirting some plastic parts

And yet you want to 3d print a fuel cell for a car? How do you plan to 3d print a PEM?

At least 3d printing a battery might be plausible if you have a 3d printer that can take an extremely wide range of materials (not a li-ion battery, though, you run into the same sort of membrane problems.. I really doubt there's any technology that will allow you to just jet down a membrane material and have it allow through your specific desired ions, at a sufficient flow rate, without leaks)

And where on earth are you getting that printed titanium parts are cheaper than non-printed? Have you ever priced titanium printing? iMaterialise, for example, offers it. A 2x2x4 cm bounding box with a mere 1 gram of titanium (picture how little that is that is compared to a plane) costs a staggering $124. Titanium laser sintering printers are slow energy hogs that cost a king's ransom and even titanium powder itself is absurdly priced compared to bulk titanium. And no, the stats aren't better, they're slightly worse for the exact same shaped part. Maybe you can make a more optimally shaped part and that'll allow you to get better performance, but in terms of raw material properties, it's unimpressive.

Comment: Re:this is opposite of economy of scale (Score 1) 141

by Rei (#47972103) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

At least you could get the spare part. I have an electrolux refrigerator in Iceland which I bought used; one of the food compartment lids broke a week ago. Electrolux doesn't have a service center in Iceland and none of the other ones overseas will export to me, they said "just find someone local who sells electrolux refrigerators and order through them", except that none of the local retailers have been willing to.

And at least it's an Electrolux. What if it was a company that had gone out of business?

I want to see a certification label that manufacturers can put on their goods that certifies that replacement parts are printable and their models are in a free open database. Perhaps with multiple levels of certification - "Bronze" certifies that at least some parts are printable, "Silver" certifies that at least 60% of all parts are printable, "Gold" certifies that at least 90% of all parts are printable, and platinum certifies that 100% of parts are printable. That doesn't mean "printable cheaply" or "that a particular printing service will be able to do it" or that it's "no assembly required". Just simply that "it's conceivable that you could print it and make use of it, you have the necessary models available to you".

Comment: Re:So in the future ... (Score 3, Insightful) 141

by Rei (#47972051) Attached to: The UPS Store Will 3-D Print Stuff For You

I'd imagine NASA made that with laser sintering, which produces parts at highway robbery prices.

That said, I think you're being a bit overly pessimistic. 3d printing is rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping is not mass production, but it's an incredibly useful thing in its own right. And some things are only ever needed in low volumes, mass production will never apply to them. Most consumers only think of consumer goods, but it's industry for which 3d printing can really shine. For consumers, it's really only useful for custom goods - not "white plastic chair", but "snow globe containing scuptures of my family" or "earrings based on my particular rare nerdy hobby" or whatnot. It could potentially be useful for small spare parts, too, if manufacturers would start keeping a universal a database - sometimes tracking down spare parts can be almost impossible (for example, you live in a non-serviced area, or the company goes out of business) or the delays insufferable.

I also think that it's possible to have a smooth continuum between 3d printing services and bulk manufacturing services. Picture a system where you design your part, whether for personal use or commercial sale. Each time you buy one, it's 3d printed. But you also have the option to prepay to tool for higher production volumes, on the same site. Maybe you have to wait for quotes, maybe the site automatically assesses tooling costs, times, and unit costs for you... whatever the case may be. The higher the volumes you pay to tool for, the lower the cost per unit you can get. And of course such a system could automatically recognize when others are already producing the same parts for something and use an existing production line, or where an existing line could be easily modified to produce your part, or could suggest modifications to your part to make use of an existing line... there's a wide range of possibilities. The service could, without the user having to pay for it, tool up to produce a part that many people are ordering in small quantities (paying back the upfront cost via the lower production cost, then slowly reducing the purchase price). Assembly services could be likewise made available to users. But the short of it is 3d printers could be part of a continuum of manufacturing possibilities made simple for users behind companies that deal with the actual contracting out for production, in exchange for a couple percent cut of the profit. The user is simply made aware of the possibilities and picks the ones that best suit them - whether it's "I want this custom bracelet" or "I want one of these bike gears... good, that works well, now make me 10.000 of them".

Comment: Re:They're not astronauts, they're ballast. (Score 2) 77

For space tourism flights to the International Space Station, they're regarded as spaceflight participants rather than 'proper' astronauts (or cosmonauts).

Having seen quite how much training fully qualified astronauts and cosmonauts have to go through, I wouldn't be surprised if they become some vaguely protected terms in the not-so-far future...

If you aren't rich you should always look useful. -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine