Re: 3-D Printing

From: Brock Hinzmann (
Date: Thu Jul 17 1997 - 22:07:22 EEST

Kevin Robertson wrote:

>I'm not trivializing or citing a negative opinion towards any of the
>"visionaries". It would just be nice to get some benchmark or reference
>point to generalized predictions and statements. Suppose someone posted
>question regarding the recent Mars probe and the frequency of future
>to Mars. It would be very easy to make broad comparisons to the
invention of
>the rocket or airplane, or even teleportation.
>The intent of the posting was to get some clarification on how we
propose to
>get to that point. I happen to be a very pragmatic thinker and would
like to
>see a progression of how 3-D technology will progress from point A to
>b. I do have a very strong appreciation for the "visionaries", who make
>"point B" and stretch our imaginations.
>Kevin Robertson
>ARRK-San Diego, CA USA

Several people have looked at the use of dual/intersecting laser beams to
achieve 3-D printing in a block of (optically) clear gel. One of those
was a spinoff from Battelle (I want to say it was Formigraphic Engines
Technology, but I may be confusing two separate concepts) and I have seen a
patent in Japan. Neither seems to have made any headway.

Another concept I read about a year or so ago was by a company called
American Propylaea Corp, Birmingham, Michigan, who proposed using a
holographic laser image as the light source to expose an entire 3-D volume of
photosensitive material at one time. At that time, the president of the
company, James Fischbach, said it would take 50 years to develop what he called a
durable product generator.

In between, you can expect to see any number of attempts at evolutionary
developments in current layering techniques, which can be seen as special
cases of 2-D printing. Prices at the low end will come down at a steady
rate; accuracies at the high end and the low end will increase. Material
properties will continue to diversify and improve. The goals of current
research are to get net-shape, usable parts from the >>RP<< machine directly.

As long as someone perceives the need and opportunity, they will keep
trying. The timing of breakthroughs is not easy to predict. I can think of
all sorts of reasons why such technologies will not work, but all it takes
is one clever person to make it work and they are off and running and all
of the current technology becomes obsolete.

That's why this discussion is useful. If you are going to spend your
company's money on RP, you need to keep competing technologies in perspective.
We should probably have a regular comparison/discussion of CNC machining
on this mailing list.
As for Mars, I believe someone wrote a book not long ago declaring the
end of science, speculating that all the great discoveries have pretty much
been made. One of the only things he could see shaking things up would be
the discovery of a new form of life or life on another planet. The
discovery of extremophiles in volcanic ocean vents is said to represent a new
form of life and now NASA thinks they may have discovered signs of life on

Likewise, a respectable scientific journal recently criticized the
efforts of proponents of nanotechnology/molecular assembly, who believe you will
be able eventually to throw a bug in a box and >>grow<< anything you want
from basic materials (imagine a future in which everything is made of
diamond-like carbon). While I am equally skeptical about the timing of such
developments, I am sure the proponents are going to keep working on it and
will make some progress, if not accomplish their original goals, and it
was unwise for the journal to deny the possibility of nanotechnology exists.

Brock Hinzmann
SRI International

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