• Tangential Leaps Forward

Welcome and Printed Fantasies

Welcome to Tangential Leaps Forward, a blog where science, fantasy, and sports mix according to one man’s stream of consciousness. Today I’ll talk a little bit about 3D printing and the amazing work people are doing with it. But first – What is this blog all about?

  • It’s about the epic space battles in Star Wars with TIE fighters shooting at Alliance X-wings in deafening surround sound when the vacuum of space should be the only thing deafening.
  • It’s about the aerodynamics of a baffling knuckleball or the exit velocity of a Miguel Sano homerun.
  • This blog is about Brent Weeks capturing my imagination in the Black Prism when he set up a magic system based upon the different wavelengths of visible light that a magician can control.
  • It’s about the researcher toiling away in the laboratory that dares to imagine something so new and breathtaking that people question their sanity.

Basically, anything that makes me think twice about something I don’t normally give a second thought to or makes me question what I thought I knew about a subject is fair game.

This blog will not rip on people for attempting feats of greatness. Tim Tebow just signed a $100,000 contract with the New York Mets after not playing the game of baseball for the better part of a decade.  The guy has some pretty high odds against him ever making it as a professional player and has made himself a lightning rod for criticism. I don’t see the need to shoot down someone’s dream for the sake of a snarky blog post. We need more people to take risks and to try things regardless of the odds. I hope the guy makes it, and I hope everyone else with a fledgling dream ignores the insignificant voices trying to stand in their way.

Ok, that was too much of a soapbox, and I’m going to step off of it because I feel like I’ve established some ground rules…let’s get onto some fun stuff.

Ever heard of 3D printing? Most people have and it has become fairly common for developing polymer based prototypes before sinking money into molds or other forms of manufacturing.  While there are several types of printers and the newer ones can even print multiple materials at once, most of the machines function similarly. Conventional 3D printers deposit thin layers of material on a platform using a method analogous to an inkjet printer.  After a layer is printed on the platform, the platform moves downward a short distance and the plastic is deposited on top of the existing layer where it cures and starts to form a 3D structure.  This technique is pretty amazing in its own right, and it’s even found its way into Hollywood like on this episode of the Big Bang Theory.

This technology is really useful, but I wouldn’t be writing about it if there weren’t people pushing the limits of what was possible.  Take the people at carbon3d.com – they’ve developed a technique that draws a three dimensional part from a liquid polymer bath and they call their technique continuous liquid interface production.  Here’s a clip of them 3D printing a model of the Eiffel tower.

Did you see where it came from?  It looks a little bit like magic, which might actually by a synonym for their technique that projects light through an oxygen-permeable window into the reservoir of UV-curable resin.  The images project through the membrane, cure and are drawn upwards from the bath while the next series of images is projected onto the resin.  Their technique gets rid of the anisotropic properties of conventional printers, has an excellent surface finish, and does it in a fraction of the time.  Keep working on this guys, and let me know when I can buy some stock.

Next up is something equally amazing – why print just polymers when we could 3D print metals or even living tissue? That might sound ridiculous…or a little creepy, but check out this clip of work being conducted at Wake Forest.

Or if you need a carbon fiber bike for your next road race-just 3D print it

This field of research amazes me and it makes me wonder how many of the people working in this field grew up as Trekkies.  Their work gets us one step closer to the food replicators we saw on The Next Generation.

Just remember, people only call it science fiction if it hasn’t been invented yet – once a person plants the seed of an idea, it can be impossible to stop them.  They will grab their dream and push science until it catches up. Next time, we’ll look at the beauty of fluid dynamics, since it has nothing to do with 3D printing and that’s how this blog is going to work!

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