3D Printing Additive Tech
Ambience: 3D printer
We’re listening to the sounds of a technology that’s enabling us to make things that were previously impossible to create. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Williams: the sound you’re hearing is the sound of it passing from left to right depositing droplets of polymer that, when added layer by layer, result in a completed product.
Chris Williams is with the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech. He’s demonstrating 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
Williams: So, traditional manufacturing, it’s all subtractive, meaning we take a block of material, and we subtract, the material that we don’t want to get to the product that we do want. Now, the challenge with subtractive manufacturing is that it inherently constrains what we can make because there’s only certain types of designs that we can put in and subtract away material, but those constraints are completely eliminated with additive manufacturing.
We take a model, and we slice that model into cross-sectional layers and we make, or we print, each layer one at a time from the bottom of the part all the way to the top. And when you do things in an additive context, you’re able to make new and exciting products that can be optimized to have the best types of performance that we would like. So, what we can start making, for example, is what’s called a cellular material.
So, we see these types of materials in nature. Things like honeycomb or wood or coral or even our bones are these lightweight materials that have incredible stiffness and strength, and it has to do with the internal porosity, the holes that are within these structures. And humans, have always had a hard time making these types of structures with traditional manufacturing, but with additive, we can make these structures with ease. This allows us to make these types of cellular materials that are very lightweight, but yet very stiff and rigid.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner