Here’s another example of art imitating life and life imitating art. A lot of people regard Elon Musk, founder of Tesla car company and SpaceX rocket company, as the inspiration for at least some of the aspects of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies (Musk had a cameo in Iron Man 2 where they talk about building an electric plane before the race in Monaco). Now they’ve flipped the script and Elon has invented a new way to navigate 3D CAD models that is similar to what Tony Stark uses to design the Iron Man suits in the movies. The best way to wrap your mind around the concept is to think of touchscreen interaction in three dimensions. Hopefully this makes creating and interacting with CAD models significantly more intuitive for everybody. I have full confidence that the open-source community could actually make something similar to this using an Xbox Kinnect and an Arduino microcontroller. We here at Flux Auto think the power of 3D modeling and digital manufacturing should be in as many hands as possible. Pun not originally intended, but we’ll go with it since it works really well here.
The CIDEA company released this fascinating video documenting the build of a quarter scale model of a 1927 Miller 91 Race Car. They showcase the four currently used methods of 3D printing plastic parts from CAD models. There’s definitely a lot more out there than just a desktop MakerBot (they are awesome, too). This is what the future of manufacturing and innovation is going to look like. It’s going to be awesome for people who like to make things.
The Ford Motor Company has come up with an interesting new variation on digital rapid prototyping. Usually when you talk about Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) machines, they fall into one of two categories. The first is a subtractive process where a part is cut out of a block of raw material like a sculpture. The machine removes all of the waste material until all that’s left is the part as defined by the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) model. Additive CNC machines, like 3D printers, are a relatively new technology that have recently opened up rapid prototyping to enthusiasts everywhere. These machines build parts by starting with nothing and precisely adding material to the exact shape of the CAD model. What you’re left with is a physical representation of the digital information with no waste material.
Ford’s Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T) is a new genre of rapid prototyping. Their machine takes existing raw material in the form of mass produced sheetmetal and manipulates it into the desired shape as defined by the CAD model. It appears that two round tip styluses press into the sheetmetal from the top and bottom in order to make the desired bends. After multiple passes, the two machines turn flat sheetmetal into the equivalent of a stamped part. The cool part is the finished product that comes out of the F3T machine should have pretty similar material properties and strength to the equivalent mass produced part without the time and money involved with making expensive dies. Like the other forms of rapid prototyping, this technology will be great for cost effective low production parts.
Here’s another story of how amazing things can happen when you build things for yourself. This is Robohand of South Africa. They use Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printers to create prosthetic hands for children born without fingers. Engineering, tinkering and making give you the power to change the world for the better.
This is the amazing story of a Bald Eagle named Beauty. Beauty’s story starts tragically. Somebody literally shot her in the face and left her for dead. That’s so ridiculously terrible it sounds like it would be a joke answer to the question of “What’s the most unpatriotic thing that one person can do?” Beauty’s bullet wounds left her without the upper half of her beak which meant she couldn’t eat, drink or care for herself. Luckily she was brought into the care of Birds of Prey Northwest who were able to keep her alive but they weren’t able to find a way to repair her beak. That’s where Nate Calvin of the Kinetic Engineering Group stepped in to volunteer his services. He scanned what was left of Beauty’s beak and then was able to model a replacement for her. The new beak was created using a rapid prototyping 3D printer and then attached with dental epoxy applied by Nate’s personal dentist giving Beauty back the life that was taken from her.
Beauty’s New Beak via Birds of Prey Northwest
There are a lot of religions and philosophies that believe that there is balance in all things. It’s a tragedy that a terrible human being used technology that mankind has built to harm this beautiful animal. Thankfully somebody was able to turn that tragedy into triumph using some of the same knowledge and innovation. I’d like to think that any problems that man creates for himself are also within our ability to fix and solve. That’s why I studied engineering and it’s also the core motivation for this entire Flux Auto project. Global warming and energy production will be a generation defining challenge in the not-as-distant-as-you-may-think future. Lets do everything we can to make sure we’re ready to take it on.