Our new 3D Printing Live! conference, which took place in Santa Clara on November 20 & 21, was very well received. It featured lectures by academics from institutions including Princeton, Harvard and Rochester and industrialists from companies including IBM and Microsoft. The breadth of topics was particularly impressive.
Presentations covered the challenges involved in 3D printing objects at sizes ranging from microns all the way up to hundreds of metres. Professor Jennifer Lewis from Harvard University described their 3D printed batteries that are smaller than a grain of sand. Tethers Unlimited explained the challenges of building objects on Earth that are able to withstand the traumatic journey into space before explaining how they intend to put 3D printers into orbit in order to build large and delicate structures in-place.
Technologies covered ranged from the cheap desktop thermoplastic 3D printers to expensive industrial metal printers. Saswitha de Kok from LeapFrog described their company's success in the desktop 3D printer market and applications from prototyping to encouraging children to study science. Ken Vartanian from Optomec and Toby Tingskog from Sandvik Osprey both covered high-end industrial solutions for printing production-quality functional objects including electronics. Professor Denis Cormier explained some of the challenges involved in high-end printing using lasers or electron beams including the need to evacuate the entire build chamber, replacing the air with low pressure Argon in order to prevent explosive oxidation of the fine metal powders.
Several exciting developments in research were also presented. Professor Michael McAlpine from Princeton University described some of their successes with bionic nanomaterials including the evolution of a cochlear implant into a 3D printed bionic ear with interwoven bioelectronics that exceeds the capabilities of a natural human ear. Professor Michael Dickey from North Carolina State University described their success in developing and 3D printing a liquid metal that they also used to create headphone wires that can stretch to eight times their normal length whilst remaining conductive.
Software solutions and their implications were also discussed. Emmett Lalish from Microsoft explained that everyone can typeset using a word processor today but Computer Aided Design (CAD) is far too complex for the average user so Microsoft are working to make CAD accessible to ordinary people. Patha Bose from IBM described their vision for a software-defined supply chain and how they believe 3D printing has the potential to change manufacturing to a large extent.
Attendees took the opportunity to ask the lecturers many different questions ranging from technical aspects of their work to the future implications of expiring patents. Overall 3D Printing Live! was a huge success and we look forward to repeating this success at 3D Printing LIVE! Berlin on April 1-2 - see www. www.idtechex.com/3DPrintingEurope.
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