E-Mail Some Drive Train Parts And Print Them In 3-D ? This Technology Blows My Mind And It's Here!

Talk About Accelerating Technology, I’ve Been Reading About Possibly Being Able To E-Mail A Working Fire Arm To Somebody And Have Them Print Out A Weapon On A 3-D Printer. This Isn’t A Science Fiction Dream. Did You See This Story Pertaining To Cars ?

Today’s U.S.A. Today Ran This Story By John Shinal. I Find It Almost Unbelievable.

Will this lead to smaller parts warehouses and auto parts stores ?
Will it end back orders as we know them ?
Will the process speed up in the near future ?
Will it created all kinds of cars that we can only imagine at the present time ?

I’ve read that there are already people who are buying these 3-D printers for home use. Are you next ?
Beam me up some brake pads !

What do you think of this stuff ?


There’s a 3D shape, which these printers can create, and then there’s materials, such as high strength alloys, which these printers don’t create. They can be used to form prototype parts, but not the parts you’d want to put in your car, if they’re subject to any significant forces.

I watched a show on one of the science or learning channels about a week ago that showed, in detail, how a 3-D printer worked. It consists of hundreds and sometimes thousands of layers of plastic or similar material that build up to create an object. It took hours and sometimes days to complete the work.

I never got into my usual mode of “gotta have this device” because the overall cost at this time is too prohibitive. If it gets to the point, and it probably will, that it’s economical to buy and makes more than plastic items…I may be on board to get one.

I still want a CNC machine but my wife says “in your dreams” and there it stays. I want a CNC machine that can whip out any part…in any medium in just a few minutes. It may happen someday but that someday will be long past my days on this earth.

I’ve seen these work at Sanders Technology (who makes the systems) in Milford and at Graphicast in Peterboro, who uses the systems. I’ve actually held the prototype parts. The ones I saw run used a plaster-like powdered material. Graphicast uses them to make physical prototypes for their customers, to hold and discuss all the ins and outs before beginning to design the molds. Typically the parts will be straight from a CAD program. The parts they can make can be amazingly intricate, and are amazingly accurate.

They’ve got one of these in one of the local private schools and are opening it up for other students in the area to learn about. I’m a little behind the technology front but I believe these are mainly for prototyping in plastic to make the molds to actually produce working parts. I’m not sure how they could produce a part in a high grade or hardened steel yet or produce a real BLT sandwich but it may be coming. I’m thinking its similar to the old Army facsimilie machines only with new media and a third dimension. Probably have to buy the bacon module to get a sandwich printed out though.

@texases Give it time. I saw a video awhile back where they 3D-printed a crescent wrench and used it to torque bolts. As technology improves I wouldn’t be surprised to see them come up with something that can print steel. . Or something as strong as steel but more easily printable.

It’s been possible to do this for years. There was a thread here recently about how to make a crankshaft, and one way is to make it from a single block of steel, and just machine away the stuff that isn’t wanted in the crankshaft assembly. It’s done using digital programming instructions electronically transmitted to a computertized metal milling machine. You can actually buy a crankshaft made this way if you like. Apparently it is not an uncommon way to make high strength crankshafts for high performance cars, like pro racing cars. Vintage VW Beetle enthusiasts use this type of digitally machined crankshaft sometimes too.

The downside is that the machining process is time consuming. A crankshaft can be made by a dropped forge and touched up on a lath faster.

The 3D printing is done differently. Instead of starting with a block of material and machining awy what isn’t wanted, it does it in reverse. It starts with nothing and adds what is wanted. But the choice of materials you can do this with is limited. If you wanted to make a crankshaft, you’d 3D print it, then use that printed object to make a sand mold for casting probably.

Another technology like 3D printing, developed over the last 50 years or so, is sintering. Here, metal powder is shaped into part with heat and pressure. Molds are required, but the product is in final form: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sintering

We have a couple of these machines at my work. They are fairly useless for making production parts, though they would be a model builder or hobbyist’s dream for making small parts. They are in an entirely different league than the 3D printers that can be had for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for hobbyists to play with. Ours are about 10 years old, so the tech has been around a while. They are also temperamental and expensive to run. The chamber where the printing is done must be kept at an ambient of over 300 degrees F or the plastic doesn’t set right and nozzles clog. Too hot and you have other problems. The machine can handle a couple of different kinds and colors of plastics at once.

What these are great for is visualizing how a full-size part will look and fit, and for “Rapid Prototyping” where a mold can be made from a printed part and a prototype part made in days instead of weeks or months. They are fascinating to watch. I have a few parts made from these, including a working adjustable “Crescent” wrench made as a demo to be given away to partners. It would not hold up to much actual use, but is pretty cool.

We also have a machine that can take a precise 3D stereo picture of an object and turn it into a CAD drawing. Combine this with the 3D printer and you can have all kinds of fun…

Oblivion, I miss working in the manufacturing industry specifically for the ability to work with (and play with) new technologies and processes. I envy your ability to do so.

My son, joined a private-public club/ that specifically caters to serious hobbies, inventors, developers. Machine shop, Wood shop, Sewing machines, short courses, and of course the 3D machines.

Our senior citizen (50+) clubs have wood shops.
The local community college have well equipement metal shops, and if you have some experience I’d bet they would welcome you if you volunteer in training or mentoring.

I work at the local community college. Okay, the cat’s out of he bag.
No woodshop, but we have a full-on Advanced Machine Tool Technology degree program as well as degree programs in aviation (A&E), and automotive technology. Since I no longer teach, I can’t play on the machinery anymore.

For woodworking, I occasionally make a piece of furniture at home, My most recent was a Queen Anne Highboy with Cabriole legs. I’ve designed and made almost all of the furniture in my house. And pieces for others.

Truth is, I’m constantly endangering my life with some tool or other. But only in industry did I get to be involved with state of the art technology on a daily basis.

@the same mountainbike: I envy you your woodworking skills. I can do a lot of things, but cutting a piece of plywood or a 2x4 to patch something is about the extent of my craftsmanship with wood.

I’m french-canadian. It’s in our blood.

I used to work for a company that had one of these, back in the 90’s so it is not new technology. It was used to make custom orthopedic parts, like a custom knee joint or hip joint. It is used for very unusual circumstances when a stock item will not work.

The doctor would do a cat scan of the part to be replaced with a dime or some other reference included. The cad cam would convert the cat scan into a 3D drawing of the part to be made. The printer would make the part out of a special plastic that has similar properties to the wax used in the investment casting process. Then the part is coated with a sand slurry mix, the plastic melted out in an autoclave and the metal (an alloy of Cobalt Chrome) poured in.

A little polishing on the moving surfaces, some grit blasting on the bone interface surfaces, sterilization and the part is ready for installation.

TSM … your story about the risks of woodworking reminded me of my friend Steve. One day at the water cooler he told me he wanted to remodel his basement. Mostly for the purpose of putting in one of those air-powered flush toilets, which have a cool sound when flushed, a sound which he wanted for his house. Well, Steve had never done anything like this before, and in my opinion Steve is a guy who shouldn’t touch power tools. He just isn’t mechanically adept. He’s smart in many other ways, a genius in some actually, but not w/mechanical things. Even something as simple as checking the gas guage on his car seems beyond his reach. He’s constantly running out of gas. One time I was riding w/him and he ran out of gas on a bridge up by Vallejo Ca, where the freeway crosses the Sacramento River. It’s a big tall bridge. Not a good place to run out of gas. You can see a photo below. He and I pushed the car the rest of the way across the bridge.


Anyway, I told him “Steve, you shouldn’t try this remodeling job yourself. Hire a good contractor instead.” But he decided to do it himself. He bought all the power tools anybody could dream to own, and set out to remodel his basement. After a couple of weeks of reports of various set-backs and successes, I got a phone call: “George! This is Nancy, Steve’s wife. Steve just cut off his thumb with his table saw!”

Well, it turned out Steve had only knicked the tip of his thumb, so all was not lost. And after Steve’s thumb healed, he went right back and did eventually finish his basement. Whenever I visit the first thing he shows me is his air-powered flush toilet. I must admit, the sound it makes, it is pretty cool. Sounds like an F14 taking off! And the other thing I notice is that his thumbs are slightly different lengths. lol

George, Funny (Except For The Injury Part), Good Job Writing The Story !