These 3D-Printed Products Will Surprise You

June 27th, 2017

The technology industry is buzzing at how 3D printing is the next big thing. And it is! But it’s not something that we are just waiting around for something to happen – it’s happening right now.

3D objects can feel limited to plastics, ceramics, and metals. Or the application of 3D printing offers products that are nice and convenient, but not quite yet changing the world. In today’s article, we are sharing some incredible 3D-printed products that will surprise you.

Oral medication
In 2016, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave its first-ever approval to a 3D-printed drug. Spritam is an oral medication that helps treat epilepsy – and its website highlights how 3D printers made it.

The producers of Spritam credit printing process stereolithography (SLA) with helping to create ZipDose Technology. This patented technology is a new way for medicines to rapidly dissolve and disintegrate with only a small sip of liquid, something that hasn’t been done with traditional drug production methods. The 3D printing process means the drug isn’t made using compression, punches, or die casts. Instead, the technique allows the drug’s production to bind layers of powdered medication with a water-based substance. The pill is a solid medicine that has many tiny spaces or holes, allowing it to dissolve quickly.

3D printing allows for this drug to hold a lot more active ingredients, up to 100mg of medication, while still being easy and quickly dissolvable, and still tasting better than a lot of oral medications.

The potential for 3D printing in this field is huge: imagine the taste options printing a drug could offer – while still ensuring precise dosage and easy-to-administer medicine. It’s not a far stretch of the imagination to see a time when a person could print their medicine at home.

Glass
People have been making glass for thousands of years, and it’s even considered an art. So why are we excited about glass that could be 3D printed?

For nearly a century, glass has been made in factories. The process starts with melting sand, and then floating the molten sand sheets into large tanks of molten tin. It’s a process that is very risky and can be unsafe, as it involves extremely high heat. Combustibility of the glass is major concern. Further, glass factories can be significant polluters and users of raw materials, so the environmental risks must be weighed.

3D printing could be changing this decades-old process. In April 2017, a German research team offered a new method for making glass: “liquid glass” that can be shaped into complex shapes using 3D printers, then heated into a solid.

Other organizations have already 3D printed glass, but the process of this German team makes it much easier to create a smooth and transparent object. More complex details are easier to design and execute, reducing the time and cost of creating such glass. That means 3D-printed glass could revolutionize the eyeglass and mirrors industries, reducing the time and materials required for creating these customized pieces, thereby reducing the cost.

It’s also a lot safer, and relies on a lot less valuable environmental resources. As an additive process, 3D printing allows for using a nearly exact amount of raw material, without much waste.

Body tissues
Healthcare was one of the first forecasted industries ripe for a 3D printing revolution. Industry experts and hobbyists alike immediately seized on the potential for 3D printing to offer custom-built medical devices, like pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, and medical models and tools. Traditionally, these pieces require a lot of time and money to build, and their useful lifespan may not be that long, with quality sometimes remaining elusive. 3D printing is already changing that – allowing medical professionals to print pieces as-needed, and customize them to the individual patient.

But recently, several universities and companies are starting something beyond just implants and objects: they are 3D printing skin tissue, blood vessels, and heart tissue.

In January 2017, a collaboration of a Spanish university, research group, hospital, and health firm presented a prototype for a 3D bioprinter that creates human skin. The printed skin can be used directly in transplants to patients, or as research substance for chemical, drug, and cosmetic testing.

Instead of using cartridges of material or colored inks, the bioprinter relies on ‘bioinks’. These bioinks allows the user to mix biological components, such as cells, in a way that the components continue to function. The prototype offers affordability and scalability: depending on the intended purpose, skin can be printed in large quantities or customized for an individual patient.

Bioinks are being used in other bodily tissue printing, though these are still in developmental stages. A Chinese research team confirmed in December 2016 that they had implanted 3D-printed blood vessels into monkeys. Other researchers and scientists worldwide are developing ways to use 3D printing to create heart tissue.

The future of 3D printing is here. With the time, money, and research investments made into this technology, we can fully anticipate revolutions in several important industries in the 21st century.

Viewing Options in PunchCAD Design Software

June 13th, 2017

Experience Level: Beginner

Efficiency is the name of the game and when you get to know the tools that help you view your work in different ways, your productivity will grow by leaps and bounds. In this article we’ll walk through some of the ways you can view and interact with your 2D and 3D CAD designs within the different PunchCAD programs.

The first thing that we suggest familiarizing yourself with is the ‘view’ tab at the top of your PunchCAD software screen.

To start exploring here, we want to open an example that we can reference. To find examples, click ‘File’ from the top menu bar and then select ‘Open Examples’. For this exercise we’re going to be using the example file ‘knot.vc3, but you can use whatever file you would like. ‘knot.vc3’ can be located by clicking on ‘3D Print Files’, selecting ‘Knots’, and then by selecting the first presented option.

Once you’ve opened this example, go into the ‘View’ tab on the menu and select ‘View the Plane’. Your 3D model should look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We recommend really going through each of the options under the view tab to see how they impact the design, and which type of view you personally enjoy the most. One of the main reasons to do this is, when you’ve figured out several views that you find to be the most useful, you might want to add a keyboard shortcut so you can access that view easily and quickly to streamline your design process.

To access your keyboard shortcuts, simply click on ‘Short Cuts’ under the ‘File’ tab. In the image below you can see we’ve selected ‘View’ in the ‘Category’ section, and in the ‘Command’ section to the right you can see each view option you might want to assign.

When you’ve decided on a command you want to have a shortcut for, simply add the keystroke you want to use for the shortcut, and then click ‘Assign Key’ on the right side of the Short Cut Manager.

When you are in your project, all you have to do to access the shortcut is press and hold shift while you select your command key.

Another feature that’s useful to familiar yourself with as you make 3D CAD designs with our software is the Dynamic menu – where you can choose between ‘Dynamic Pan’, ‘Dynamic Zoom’, and ‘Dynamic Rotate’.

 

 

 

 

What makes each of these tools so unique and helpful is they allow you to interact with your designs intuitively and freely. The dynamic tools let you grab hold of your designs, move and rotate them, and zoom in and out.

The Knot example is a perfect design to test these different tools out – as the differences between sides are so obvious, and you will quickly discover how you prefer to manipulate your designs so they can be viewed and worked on effectively.

Taking a little time to practice the dynamic tools and the view commands will save you a lot of time with your designs in the future, and is a great first step to mastering your skills with CAD software.

Online Tools To Learn The Fundamentals, Applications, And Theories Of CAD

May 21st, 2017

If you’re approaching CAD for the first time, perhaps you’re a self-starter who simply digs right into the software, starts playing around, and a few iterations later, you’ve designed something.

There are also people who feel overwhelmed by the power of CAD. Designing something from scratch can feel frustrating or overwhelming, no matter how simple or complicated it is. For those who feel that way – you’re not alone!

Design and computer-aided design are skills that professionals spend years mastering, and if you’re an at-home hobbyist, you may think ‘Why bother?’

No matter which camp you fall into to, the good news is that many CAD software programs are designed to be easy to use and intuitive. We really believe that the only overwhelming part of computer-aided design is simply the sheer number of things you can do with it. Once you understand how all those tools relate, CAD makes a lot more sense.

We believe it is important for everyone to have some theoretical foundation of design before jumping into any CAD software. With you in mind, we’ve put together our favorite online spots for getting a good understanding of the concepts that are at work in CAD software.

Getting started

Let’s start with the basics.

Remember that computer-aided design is based on a cross-section of real world disciplines, including drafting, engineering, architecture, and more. You certainly don’t need to be an expert in any of these fields, but knowing just a tiny bit about them can really help wrap your head around all the options your CAD software provides – we promise.

While you could simply google “learning CAD”, you’ll most likely wind up with software-specific directions on how to build a shape.

For this article, however, we’re recommending resources from world-class research and learning institutions so you can understand the concepts that computer-aided design is based on.

Whether you’re designing a large-scale architecture project or a simple mechanical game to 3D print, you’ll want to have a basic understanding of the following fields:

Engineering. Taking the long view, engineering is applying math and science (and sometimes economical or practical knowledge) to build or innovate structures, tools, processes, and more. In design, engineering is often broken down into sub-sections, such as civil engineering, materials or chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and more. As the purpose of engineering is to find a solution to a problem, you can apply engineering theories to anything you’re building – in CAD or otherwise.

Architecture. While architecture is technically a subset of engineering, it is often treated as a separate field that focuses on structure and materials. Whatever you’re designing in CAD, understanding architectural theories will smooth out your learning curve.

Drafting. When you hear drafting in terms of CAD, it’s not about a football draft or a first draft. Design drafting refers to the process of creating a technical drawing (blueprints, instructions for a 3D printer, etc.)

While we strive to recommend free and affordable resources, some do require a payment or a free “audit” version of the material. Do what makes sense for your skills and wallet.

Once you’re experimenting in your CAD software, take advantage of YouTube tutorials from CAD enthusiasts to learn specific tricks and tools. We also offer our very own video tutorials.

Without further ado, here are our favorite places to get a crash course in each field or deep-dive into more advanced topics. Browse for just the right amount of information you need – no need to take the full class to understand any basics.

Coursera

Coursera offers courses from world-class learning institutions, especially on topics related to 21st century learning. For CAD beginners, we love the following classes:

Coursera provides a variety of free and full-paying classes, so check with each class. Often, classes that do require a subscription offer an option to simply ‘audit’, or view for free, a portion of the class content. We think this is the way to go to get your feet wet.

MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is basically the world-leader in engineering, so expect heavier topics. The school offers a lot of free content that will provide anything from basics to graduate-level topics in the following fields: Architecture, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Mathematics, and more.

Lynda.com

Lynda is a learning resource from LinkedIn, everyone’s favorite professional network, so you can expert high-quality courses from industry-leading professionals. The breadth of this collection is incredible, so simply search for a term and browse the videos – some are a few minutes long, and others up to hours.

Lynda offers a free 10-day trial before requiring a paid subscription, but check with your local library – many provide free access to Lynda for any library-card holders.

Udemy

This is a good place to start applying your knowledge to your CAD designs. We like Udemy because you only pay for the class that you want, and with prices that average $20-30, we think it’s a steal. Our favorites include Architectural Drafting Simplified and Mechanical Engineering & Drafting: Sketch to Success, which focuses on 2D CAD drawings.

Happy designing!