@Nnanci: Max, - What about th printing components...can you use the same printer to print an electronic part and to print any other solid?
You can't print electronic parts with this type of printer -- just three dimensional plastic structures -- but there are companies that do specialize in printing electronic circuit son flexible substrates -- like Americal Semiconductor Inc (www.americansemi.com) .. in fac tI have acoupel of their flexible / printer MCUs on my desk as we speak :-)
I got some experience from 3d prototyping 12-13 years ago. The wire type we tried was not very suitable for what I was doing (actually it sucked big time), but the sintering was usable as a product right away. We even went ahead and made our first production series using sintering. Today, even the cheap wire printers are better than 12 years ago, but the issue with support and gravity is still a much bigger issue to solve than on sintering types. It works well with self supporting objects (my colleague built one)
Back then, the UV-curing technology didn't exist afaik, but I suspect they are printing relatively brittle objects?
Here is a short explanation of the 3 different technologies I know from the top of my head:
1-UV-curing is the tech where a liquid is hardened using UV light, either from laser or a projector, and the object gets pulled out of a "magic hat", or a liquid container if you like. [I would love to see someone shaping their printer as a magic hat!] You are limited to monochrome (opaque?) objects. You usually need to add some support pegs, or if you are printing gears, you needs breakoffs. If you're a hacker and want to give it a try, here is a shop for the liquid you need:http://spotamaterials.com . I dont know if this tech needs ventilation, but I know the others do. I have no direct experience with this tech, google showed me how its done ;)
2-Sintering is the tech where layers of (usually) plastic powder is melted with a laser. The non melted powder acts as support during print. Adding ink to the plastic is possible to print multi colors. Models needs no support and is the best technology to print gears (or anything complex imho). I guess this is the technology used for metal printing too
3-Wire melting is the most available technology. There are a lot of hack projects doing this. It uses plastic wire of a chosen diameters, melts it and feeds it onto a surface. In theory you could have multicolor if you have several heads or even care to manual switch wire during print. Maybe this is the best tech to do cavities. Since it doesnt need any post processing like hardening or cleaning, you can print hollow objects.
If you want to play, I suggest you try some prints at shapeways.com before you buy. Drawing the actual object is the most interesting part really :) I have access to Solidworks, but I dont know if there are any good free tools out there.
And if I do get one, maybe I'll become a mad scientist, even if I just end up reinventing the pizza-wheel :)
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
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