Printable Insects and the Rise of the Architectural Superprinter

Printable Insects and the Rise of the Architectural Superprinter

[Image: Courtesy of the Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory].

Simulated insect wings have been 3D-printed by a research team at Cornell. The Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory explain that they are in the process of “developing a ???apping-wing hovering insect using 3D printed wings and mechanical parts.” See image, above.

“The use of 3D printing technology has greatly expanded the possibilities for wing design,” they add, “allowing wing shapes to replicate those of real insects or virtually any other shape. It has also reduced the time of a wing design cycle to a matter of minutes.”

[Image: Courtesy of the Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory].

As Popular Science describes it, “Printing the translucently thin wings (constructed of a thin polyester film stretched on a carbon fiber frame) on a desktop printer allowed them not only to cut down on production time, but allows for much faster experimentation with different wing designs.” Further, “the ability to experiment quickly and precisely with various wing shapes and constructions should also allow researchers to more closely mimic real insect wing designs and study the lift dynamics powering a variety of natural flying organisms.”

Somewhat randomly, I might add that a functioning flute was 3D-printed late last year by MIT’s Amit Zoran???whose research partner, Marcelo Coelho, spoke at Foodprint NYC in February 2010 about their joint proposal for a 3D food-printer to be called “Cornucopia.”

I mention this here, though, because the rapidly increasing intricacy of 3D-printed systems and objects seems inevitably to be leading to a day when 3D-printers will be installed permanently inside buildings or construction sites, acting as 24-hour on-site repair personnel???for instance, on-the-spot plumbers and electricians.

That is, fed the right mix of copper, glass fiber, or high-density polyethylene, this architectural superprinter???like a brain installed at the core of the building, or up in an air-conditioned attic room somewhere, blinking in the darkness???will simply print into being all the wires, pipes, and cables that the building might need, even literally printing plumbing networks down into the exact place in which they would otherwise need to be installed. Insulation-printers. Roof-flashing printers. Stair-printers.

In any case, for a video of the Cornell 3D-printed insect wings in action, check out the Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory.

(Vaguely related: The Road Printer).

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Interlocking Floorboards Scanned, CNC-Milled On Natural Grain Lines

Interlocking Floorboards Scanned, CNC-Milled On Natural Grain Lines

This is a really cool idea:

Bolefloor technology combines wood scanning systems, tailor-made CAD/CAM developments and innovative optimization algorithms for placement software developed by a Finnish engineering automation company and three software companies in cooperation with the Institute of Cybernetics at Tallinn University of Technology. Bolefloor scanners??? natural-edge visual identification technology evaluates ???imperfections??? such as knots and sapwood near the edges or ends so that floors are both beautiful and durable. Our process manages and tracks each board from its raw-lumber stage through final installation.

Caveats include A) Bolefloor does not seem to actually be for sale yet, B) no information seems to be available about how much it will cost, and C) the high design/luxury marketing elements suggest any functional claims to improved economy will be negated by elitist pricing.

Even given all that, the floors are lovely, and the concept???we???re going to use computers to cut trees more efficiently and beautifully???deserves a nod. Here???s looking forward to the hobby CNC community???s homebrew version. [via Boing Boing]

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3D-Printed Bike

Eureka Magazine has a profile of this sweet ride, the whole thing ???printed??? from laser-sintered nylon powder.

The ???Airbike??? is made of nylon but, according to EADS, is strong enough to replace steel or aluminium and requires no conventional maintenance or assembly. It is ???grown??? from powder, allowing complete sections to be built as one piece; the wheels, bearings and axle being incorporated within the ???growing??? process and built at the same time. Because it can be built to rider specification, it requires no adjustment.

[Via the RepRap Blog]

Laser Cut Computational Architecture

Photographs of Michael Hansmeyer???s latest work in computational architecture could easily be mistaken for a computer rendering. Weighing about 2,000 pounds, Michael???s take on the classic Doric column is comprised of between 8 to 16 million polygons created by repeatedly applying a smoothing algorithm to an existing column model. Surpassing the upper limit of most 3D printing facilities, Michael decided use a laser cutter to cut out around 2700 1mm think sections, which are then stacked one on top of the other. [Thanks, Jon!]

3D Printing Student Design Competition

3D Printing Student Design Competition

Attention college & high school students with STL files:

The 2011 Design for Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) Competition is calling for innovative designs produced with DDM technologies, or what is popularly referred to as 3D printing.

Designs must be for products ???produced by DDM that have a beneficial impact on a larger design project??? AND be ???integrated into a product or subassembly that effectively illustrates the potential impact of additive manufacturing.???

Basically, you need a design of a fully functional prototype for some kind of device, product, or mechanism that can is used as part of a larger system or assembly of products. And it???s got to be in STL file format.

Check out previous winners to get a good idea of what they???re looking for:
2010 winners
2009 winners
2008 winners

First prize winners will receive a free 1 year student membership to SME, a complimentary pass to the 2011 Rapid Conference, a $300 stipend, plus various recognitions of achievement including an award during the conference.

See complete competition details HERE.

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