3D printed ‘super batteries’ from graphene ink!

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2015-08/10/graphene-3d-printed-super-batteries

‘Super batteries’ to be 3D printed from graphene ink

Manchester Metropolitan University is embarking on a project to 3D print “super batteries” from graphene ink.

Wonder material graphene has been widely talked about in terms of its suitability for use in batteries, due to its impressive conductivity, but scientists have struggled with the fact it also has a relatively small surface area, which affects capacity.

3D printing, where layers of graphene are assembled on top of one another, maximising surface area in the process, offers a solution. Now researchers at MMU are analysing techniques for printing with conductive graphene ink, in order to try and create batteries, supercapacitors and other energy storage devices with the help of a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

“We’re trying to achieve a conductive ink that blends the fantastic properties of graphene with the ease of use of 3D printing to be manipulated into a structure that’s beneficial for batteries and supercapacitors,” explains Craig Banks, a professor of electrochemical and nanotechnology and leader of the three and a half-year project. The batteries and supercapacitors would be used to power phones and tablets, or for solar, wind and wave power storage.

“Energy storage systems (ESS) are critical to address climate change and, as clean energy is generated through a variety of ways, an efficient way to store this energy is required,” says Banks, whose work on graphene’s conductivity has been cited over 9,000 times, making him one the world’s most-cited scientists. “Lithium and sodium ion batteries and super/ultracapacitors are promising approaches to achieve this. This project will be utilising the reported benefits of graphene — it is more conductive than metal — and applying these into ESS.”

The combination of the conductivity from the graphene and the 3D nature of the structures, which have “high surface areas, good electrical properties and hierarchical pore structures/porous channels”, should increase the storage capabilities of batteries to meet future demands.

As well as working on the graphene ink, the 3D printing process also must be refined. It currently relies on each layer of graphene being left to “cure” for an hour before the next layer can be applied. Banks is hoping to find a method to speed this process up, perhaps by using UV light. “Ideally, we could have the brilliant scenario where you just plug in and go — printing whatever structure you want out of graphene from a machine on your desk,” he says.

Graphene was discovered in 2004 at the University of Manchester, which has recently become the home of the National Graphene Institute — a £61 million building to house the university’s groundbreaking work. This particular research will be taking place at MMU rather than at the University of Manchester, but it is yet another project that shows the city remains a world-renowned centre for research graphene.

wired.co.uk

by KATIE COLLINS | 10 AUGUST 15

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3D printed eggs used to study the art of deception among birds

http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/6777/20150528/scientists-use-3d-printed-eggs-to-study-the-art-of-deception-among-birds.htm

Scientists Use 3D Printed Eggs to Study the Art of Deception among Birds

3D printing has already established itself within the scientific community. It’s been used to produce tools aboard the International Space Station, replicate body parts for surgical procedures, and now it’s found a new niche among biologists studying bird behavior. It turns out, 3D printers produce mighty fine eggs.

Animal behaviorists at Hunter College of the City University of New York are using 3D printers to produce eggs used in experiments that examine nesting behavior among birds. They’re particularly interested in brood parasites – birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, for the behavior of such birds offers insight into the evolutionary arms race between species.

Successful brood parasites are well-adapted to their deceptive practice, laying eggs that resemble those whose nests they target for takeover. But the foster birds have evolved means of detecting such eggs, based on their size, shape, color, and pattern, and will cast them out of the nests when the interlopers are identified.

“Hosts of brood parasites vary widely in how they respond to parasitic eggs, and this raises lots of cool questions about egg mimicry, the visual system of birds, the ability to count, cognitive rules about similarity, and the biomechanics of picking things up,” says Prof. Don Dearborn, chair of the Biology Department at Bates College, a brood parasitism expert who was not involved in the 3D printing study.

Biologists have been studying brood parasitic behavior for decades, but it was always a challenge to produce realistic eggs for use in their experiments. They tried a variety of materials, such as wood and plaster, but the eggs were expensive and time consuming to produce and a challenge to reproduce consistently.

And that’s where the 3D printers come in.

The scientists from Hunter College used a 3D printer to produce model eggs based on those of the Brown-headed Cowbirds, a North American brood parasite. Some eggs were painted beige to match real cowbird eggs; other were painted blue-green to match eggs of the American robin, a typical target of cowbirds. They were able to fill the model eggs with water or gel, so that the eggs retained the weight and properties of real eggs.

Their experiments were a rousing success. The robins accepted 100% of the blue-green eggs while they rejected 79% of the beige eggs. Similar results were achieved using plaster eggs, but the 3D printed eggs are more consistent and easier to produce. And since they are based on digital models, it makes for easy sharing across scientific communities, which improves the reproducibility of experiments.

“For decades, tackling these questions has meant making your own fake eggs — something we all find to be slow, inexact, and frustrating,” says Dearborn. “This study uses 3D printing for a more nuanced and repeatable egg-making process, which in turn will allow more refined experiments on host-parasite coevolution. I’m also hopeful that this method can be extended to making thin-shelled, puncturable eggs, which would overcome another one of the constraints on these kinds of behavioral experiments.”

“3D printing technology is not just in our future – it has already revolutionized medical and basic sciences,” says Mark Hauber, an animal behaviorist at Hunter College and the study’s senior author. “Now it steps out into the world of wild birds, allowing standardized egg rejection experiments to be conducted throughout the world.”

sciencetimes.com

by May 28, 2015 11:29 PM EDT

Disney develops 3D printed 2-legged robot!

http://www.3ders.org/articles/20150527-disney-develops-2-legged-3d-printed-robot-that-walks-like-an-animated-character.html

Disney develops 3D printed 2-legged robot that walks like an animated character

There are just a few companies in the world that need no introduction, and Disney is one of them. After all, who didn’t grow up watching Disney classics? But did you know that Disney does more than shoot box office hits, record terrible catchy songs and avoid theme park-related lawsuits? They also have an active Research Department charged with creating actual, rather than digital, creations which can be used for throughout the Disney imperium. And the department’s latest achievement is impressive: recreating the walking movements of animated characters in bi-pedal robots, which they have done using 3D printing technology.

As three scientists attached to the department in Pittsburgh – Seungmoon Song, Joohyung Kim and Katsu Yamane – explain, they set out to develop robotics that can be used to make Disney’s theme parks and toys more realistic and magical. After all, fit young heros from Disney’s movies and TV shows don’t exactly perform well when moving as stiffly as paraplegic grandmothers. ‘Creating robots that embody animation characters in the real world is highly demanded in the entertainment industry because such robots would allow people to physically interact with characters that they have only seen in films or TV. To give a feeling of life to those robots, it is important to mimic not only the appearance but also the motion styles of the characters,’ they write.

But this isn’t easy. As they write in an article entitled ‘Development of a Bipedal Robot that Walks Like an Animation Character’, the field of robotics struggles to capture life-like movement. ‘The main challenge of this project comes from the fact that the original animation character and its motions are not designed considering physical constraints,’ they write. And of course trying to tackle quirky and fast animated characters is even more difficult, as they movements are not typically designed to be physical correct. ‘[But in recent years] animation characters have evolved to be more realistic. Using computer graphic techniques, we can design 3D characters, and generate more natural and physically plausible motions with them.’

And you might be surprised to learn that their solution is somewhat similar to what you and I would do for a project: just 3D print it and add some servo motors. Of course it isn’t quite so simple, but to capture the exaggerated gait and movement of animated characters they first 3D printed leg components to match the structure of their potato-like character, which you can see in the clip below. ‘We start from animation data of a character walking. We develop a bipedal robot which corresponds to lower part of the character following its kinematic structure. The links are 3D printed and the joints are actuated by servo motors,’ they explain. All these parts were 3D printed using Stratasys’ Object 260 Connect 3D printer in RGD525 material.

Of course these need to be very specifically angled and positioned to ensure that 3D movement can be recreated. And Trajectory optimization software does most of the rest. ‘Using trajectory optimization, we generate an open-loop walking trajectory that mimics the character’s walking motion by modifying the motion such that the Zero Moment Point stays in the contact convex hull,’ they write. Now this process is more difficult than it sounds, but for a full description of data extraction and installing the mechanics you’ll have to dive into the full scientific article here.

But the results are obvious, though not perfect. The robot can definitely walk well, but doesn’t reproduce the digital models perfectly and has a tendency to wobble. ‘When we play back the optimized trajectory, the robot wobbles forward. It is because the robot does not produce the motion perfectly. For example, the stance leg flexes more and scuffs the swing foot at the beginning and end of the swing phase. This causes the swing foot to push against the ground and the stance foot to slip, which results in unstable walking,’ the scientists write.

One solution for this is slowing down the process. ‘We observed that the robot slips less as we play back the optimized motion slower, and the resulting walking looks closer to the optimized walking,’ they write, but conclude that the system just isn’t working optimal for now. While there are few options for more progress – including investigating structural materials and replacing 3D printed parts – it looks like we’ll have to wait a few years before running into mechanically-sound walking Disney characters at Disney world.

3ders.org

by Alec | May 27, 2015

http://www.3ders.org/articles/20150527-disney-develops-2-legged-3d-printed-robot-that-walks-like-an-animated-character.html

3D printing industry to quadruple by 2020

http://www.rt.com/business/253785-3d-printing-industry-growth/

Reuters / Pichi Chuang

Wave of future: 3D printing industry to quadruple by 2020

3D printing can produce almost everything from human stem cells to a car,and is at its most popular in the industry’s 29–year history. It has grown by 35.2 percent in 2014 and is expected to become a $20.2 billion global industry by the end of the decade.

The global industry for 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is sometimes called, was worth $4.1 billion last year, following a 34.9 percent growth on 2013, according to Wohlers Report 2015. The industry has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 33.8 percent over the last three years.

It’s impossible to find another industry with more than 25 years of experience that could have such kind of growth, says consultancy founder Terry Wohlers, who has been tracking the growth of the additive manufacturing industry since the 1980s.

The 3D printing technology industry began in 1986, and was worth just $295 million in 1995. The worldwide market for 3D printers, associated materials and services is expected to grow by 56 percent this year to $5.2 billion compared with $3.3 billion in 2014, according to the data from research firm Canalys.

“As we expected, the 3D printing market has grown substantially over the past few years. We have seen improving print speeds, a wider range of materials and new forms of additive manufacturing methods,” Joe Kempton, Canalys research analyst says. He pointed to the increase in vendors from Asia, which is taking on dominant existing markets, such as Germany and the US.

3D printing is a technology which allows designing objects using software and then manufacturing using a layering technique. It is a prototyping process where a real object is created from a digital 3D-model, which can be a scan of 3D images or can be drawn using computer-assisted design or simply can be downloaded from the internet. People in 3D printing usually say “If you can draw it, you can make it”.

An estimated 526 additive manufacturing (AM) systems were sold in 1995 from 15 system manufacturers located in the US, Germany, and Japan. In 2014, 49 system manufacturers in 13 countries produced and sold an estimated 12,850 industrial 3D printing systems. Last year hundreds of mostly small companies worldwide produced and sold nearly 140,000 desktop 3D printers that sell for less than $5,000 each.

Promising future

3D printing, combined with the internet, can rewrite history say experts. Now everything can be downloaded and printed at home. Additive manufacturing allows people to print real-life products and part replacements in their home or office. The only requisite is a 3D printer which allows printing the object in three dimensions, and printing materials such as plastics, waxes, ceramic, and metal. However, the process is a long one, it takes hours or even days to print a 3D model and often a tiny error can make the entire print useless. The high cost of a 3D printer is also a big drawback for the individual home user; home 3D printers today vary in price from £300 to £3,000.

READ MORE: Wi-Fi EYE: Scientists developing 3D-printed eyeballs with filters & camera

The 3D printing revolution is expected to continue and to challenge not only traditional manufacturing but also to have a remarkable effect on automotive, medical, and other industries. Sixty-seven percent of manufacturers are already using 3D printing according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

One of the most important applications of 3D printing is in the medical industry. With 3D printing, surgeons can produce mockups of parts of their patient’s body which need to be operated on. Almost everything from aerospace components to toys will be possible to build with the help of 3D printers. 3D printing is also used for jewelry and art, architecture, fashion design, art, architecture and interior design.

3D printers will continue to fall in price and improve in speed and quality. The aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors will continue to be the major revenue drivers going forward over the next five years, according to Canalys.

With 3D printing, companies can now experiment with new ideas and numerous design variations with no extensive time or tooling expense. General Electric, Boeing, and BMW have already invested millions of dollars into the technology which is considered by some as the most interesting of our time.

References:

rt.com

http://www.rt.com/business/253785-3d-printing-industry-growth/

First 3D printed rocket

Human-sized and weighing 3kg, this £6,000 project is the world’s first 3D printed rocket. Will its maiden voyage be the success that its team hopes it to be?

http://www.taipeitimes.com/…/biz/arch…/2014/10/13/2003601926

Fueled by beer and the enthusiasm of amateurs, a British team on Friday said it was preparing to launch the world’s first ever 3D printed rocket.

Showing off the human-sized rocket in a central London office, Lester Haines, head of the “Special Projects Bureau” at technology magazine The Register, described the technical challenges and “big future” of 3D printing in aeronautics.

“You can do highly complex shapes that simply aren’t practical to do any other way,” he said, dressed in a white lab coat sporting the project motto “Ad astra tabernamque,” which means “to the stars and the pub.”

“NASA are already 3D-prinsting metal rocket parts, so it’s obviously got a big future,” he said.

The project — sponsored by German data analytics firm Exasol AG — was suggested by readers of The Register and goes by the grand title “Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator,” or LOHAN for short.

It took 30 committed team members, including doctorate aeronautical engineers, four years to build the rocket.

The biggest challenge was getting the standard hobbyist rocket motor to fire at high altitudes, Haines said.

The team said it plans to launch the rocket from Spaceport America, the home of Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, later this year, after securing the £15,000 (US$24,000) needed for liftoff on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

A huge helium balloon will lift the rocket 20,000m into the stratosphere, at which point the onboard GPS is set to ignite the engine, catapulting it to speeds of about 1,610kph.

The 3kg rocket, which cost £6,000 to print, is then scheduled to use an onboard autopilot to guide it back to Earth, all captured by an onboard video camera.

Haines explained how 3D printing’s main advantage was in speeding up the process of refining prototypes, requiring only a tweak to the computer-aided design plans that instruct the printer.

He called LOHAN “a because it’s there project,” which had no commercial value, but added that the number of potential uses for similar unmanned aerial vehicles was “endless.”

With the countdown on, Haines dispelled any suggestions the crew was feeling the pressure.

“We got some of the team turning up for a beer tonight,” he revealed. “It’s going to get really messy.”

References:

3D printing drugs?

The medical industry takes another colossal step forward!

http://rt.com/usa/182120-3d-printer-drugs-science/

AFP Photo / Jean-Philippe Ksiazek

Scientists believe they have come up with a way to print drugs, using a 3D printer. They say they can create a capsule, which can be swallowed, and it will also allow doctors to alter a dosage according to the specific requirements.

A team of researchers, from the Louisiana Tech University, believes they have come up with a solution to find a biodegradable material, which could be used to contain everyday drugs, as well as chemotherapeutic compounds for those needing cancer treatments. The 3D printer would be able to create the capsule, meaning that medicine only needs to be inserted before it is sealed, Science Daily reports.

“After identifying the usefulness of the 3D printers, we realized there was an opportunity for rapid prototyping using this fabrication method,” said Jeffery Weisman, who is a doctoral student in Louisiana Tech’s biomedical engineering program.“Through the addition of nanoparticles and/or other additives, this technology becomes much more viable using a common 3D printing material that is already biocompatible. The material can be loaded with antibiotics or other medicinal compounds, and the implant can be naturally broken down by the body over time.”

Weisman believes that one of great advantages of the new technology will be its ability to tailor the contents of a drug for particular needs. This could mean a dose of antibiotics could be made stronger or weaker, depending on the requirements of the patient. It would also mean hospitals or pharmacies would not have to wait for deliveries from pharmaceutical companies. As long as they have the drug in question, they can create the dosage in the medical facility, or drug store.

“One of the greatest benefits of this technology is that it can be done using any consumer printer and can be used anywhere in the world,” Weisman said.

Dr. David K. Mills, who is a professor of biological sciences, also added that there are other uses that 3D printers could have in the medical industry. The vast majority of antibiotic implants, which are put inside someone undergoing an operation to ensure there is no risk of infection are made out of bone cements. Bone cements, which are normally used to anchor joints, such as a hip or knee, have to be mixed by the surgeon and are non-biodegradable, meaning the implant has to be removed once the operation has been completed. The researchers now believe that these antibiotic implants can be made out of bio-plastics, which can be broken down by the body, thus meaning no additional surgery is needed.

“Currently, embedding of additives in plastic requires industrial-scale facilities to ensure proper dispersion throughout the extruded plastic,” explains Mills. “Our method enables dispersion on a tabletop scale, allowing researchers to easily customize additives to the desired levels. There are not even any industrial processes for antibiotics or special drug delivery as injection molding currently focuses more on colorants and cosmetic properties.”

So far 3D printers have been used to create the outer shells for devices such as hearing aids. Phil Reeves, who is an expert in the 3D printing industry, says that there are currently around 10 million hearing aids in circulation and that this is a conservative estimate, according to Forbes.

The great advantage of using a 3D-printed hearing aid is that it gives the user much greater comfort, as it can be adjusted to the exact measurements required. This would simply not be possible if it was mass produced in a factory.

Meanwhile, in February 2012, the BBC reported how a woman in the Netherlands was given a replacement jaw, made out of titanium powder, which had been created by a 3D printer.

Layerwise, the company who helped design the product said:

“Once we received the 3D digital design, the part was split up automatically into 2D layers and then we sent those cross sections to the printing machine,” the company added.

References: