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British technology takes printing to new speeds – around 50mph (80km/h) or more

Issue #1106 – Britain’s BBC news service is today featuring a British company that has developed a rapid manufacturing technique using relatively standard printing technology that is capable of building products from nylon that is as tough as steel. In order to demonstrate the capabilities of the technique for building everyday products in the future, the company has built a working prototype bicycle from nylon – shown on the BBC’s Breakfast TV program this morning.

In itself, the technology behind this manufacturing process is not actually new. ‘Spraying’ nylon from its nozzles, and laser fusing, the process uses a printing device akin to a wide format flatbed printer to build up the 3D product layer by layer. Up to now, the process has been used in the manufacturing of small, high-tech parts for the aerospace industry for use in satellites and aeroplanes. 3D printers are actually used in many industries and universities for prototyping and/or model/ornament making.

3D printer3D printer and bike parts

However, to be able to prove that 3D printing using synthetic materials can be used in the manufacture of everyday products that would normally be associated with the use of high-tensile materials, such as steel, is a massive advance. It has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs, reduce the weight of products and minimise demand (hopefully) for some of the earth’s natural resources. The company concerned, Bristol-based EADS, hopes that development of the process will help bring Britain back out of recession.

Nylon bikeNylon bike – strong as steel

Mention can also be found on the internet regarding the use of 3D printing with metals and its development for creating 3D edible products from icing and suchlike.

For the BBC this actually follows an item in June 2008 about a bicycle frame made from cardboard. Clearly bicycles are popular demo prototyping items because most people can identify with them as an everyday product but at least it shows that invention and innovation are alive and well. We will certainly benefit from and see more products manufactured using 3D printing technology in the future.

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