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Airdate: Jun 03, 2014
Scientist: Chris Williams

3d Printing - Applications

3d Printing - Applications
Invisible hearing aids and lightweight aircraft components are just two of the innovations spawned by 3D printing.

Transcript:
3D Printing Applications

Ambience: whistle
The sound of a whistle, but a whistle with a difference it was created with a 3D printer. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Williams: This one actually has a floating ball inside, just like a true whistle.(00:34 - 00:37): [Sound of ball in whistle rattling]

Chris Williams is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech.

A traditional whistle that would have a ball inside would require assembly, meaning you have to make three different pieces two halves of the shell and the ball itself and then, a worker would have to then assemble the three together to make a complete object. But with 3D printing, we can save time by just printing it all at once all components. The beauty of 3D printing is the design complexities we can achieve.

Williams: It originally started as a means to quickly make design prototypes, and the purpose that drives our research is to find ways to take these technologies and actually use them as a means of manufacturing. We have lots of applications, whether it's making helicopters or making custom-fit helmets or making new types of structures that can absorb energy or loads.

The new models of hearing aids these invisible hearing aids that are custom fit to the user those are also all 3D-printed objects. There are airplanes that fly today that have about twenty 3D-printed parts on each aircraft.

Williams: One reason why you might want a 3D-printed part is because of the geometric freedom. You're able to create structures that are lightweight but yet very strong. The only way to do that is through making these complex structures. In the parts that are on the aircraft today, they're actually ductwork, long pieces of ductwork that carry conditioned air throughout the aircraft, and they are very complex surfaces and channels that, again, can only be made by 3D printing. Traditionally, they require multiple steps of assembly and glue and fastening - custom-fit fastening. All that is eliminated because you can just print these components in one piece.

We'll hear more about 3D printing in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner