You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

DeSimone: Seeing the light in 3-D manufacturing


One of the great virtues of technology is the democratization of creative power. In fields such as photography, film, entertainment, publishing, graphics and social activism, virtually anyone with access to a computer can translate ideas into reality and find an audience. This democratization has led to the ability for people everywhere to share, join and build on diverse ideas, generating an explosion of global creativity unmatched since the Renaissance, and giving a voice to artists, aspiring artists and ordinary citizens the world over.

Now, this same democratization is beginning to transform manufacturing, as technology gains the capability for the localized production of three-dimensional objects on a specialized type of printer. Such parts can then be mass produced — or generated in more limited quantities if desired — and used to make cars, airplanes, consumer electronics, medical devices and other products. This process — commonly called 3-D printing — promises to streamline the expensive and time-consuming traditional method of designing and testing a prototype for a new product, then finding a supplier who can make that product reliably and affordably. Instead, individual engineers — whether they’re in Timbuktu, Tahiti or Texas — will be able to design and produce such products in-house or through a service bureau for specific local uses with an unprecedented degree of flexibility, precision, creativity and control.

Or at least that’s what we’ve been expecting for two decades. Instead, as exciting as the technology is, 3-D printing has thus far been constrained by slow speeds and a limited range of materials.

However, in a development that may sound as though it’s straight out of science fiction, a new process uses ultraviolet light to overcome these barriers. This new technology called CLIP — Continuous Liquid Interface Production — can produce functional parts from a wide range of tunable materials at game-changing speeds, opening new possibilities not just for 3-D printing, but for 3-D manufacturing. We “grow” parts continuously from a pool of liquid resin by carefully balancing the interaction of oxygen and ultraviolet light. As presented in a TED Talk and the research journal Science in 2015, the process can produce complex, commercial quality objects with the material properties needed across a range of industries. Possibilities include unique and mechanically strong materials that could be used in the automotive or aerospace industries, as well as great elastomers for use in areas like athletic apparel. This innovation will be the subject of my keynote address at the annual conference of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) this month in Dallas.

3-D manufacturing will enable a world of new applications in virtually every manufacturing industry, from automotive and aerospace, to electrical equipment, to consumer-product industries. The technology will finally realize its full potential as an essential manufacturing tool.

Another area of exceptional promise is medicine. The technology could be used to produce a host of medical devices on-demand and personalized for the individual patient, such as new forms of drug and vaccine delivery vehicles. Surgical implants — such as stents — could also be quickly produced to match the dimensions of a patient’s individual anatomy.

This new technology combines ideas from the fields of chemistry and physics to create a new manufacturing process. The applications are limitless and will influence a broad range of manufacturing industries in an increasingly connected world. By embracing the vast potential in 3-D manufacturing and the wide array of people and communities it can positively affect, we can make manufacturing and production more democratic and egalitarian. The promise of this technology isn’t just empowering people with tools; it’s giving them the chance to make the tools they need themselves — an unprecedented shift that could be a significant step forward in providing more equality and opportunity for all.

DeSimone is the co-founder and CEO of Carbon3D and a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University. He will be a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation this month at the White House.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Herman: Putting faces with Austin names on the Vietnam Wall
Herman: Putting faces with Austin names on the Vietnam Wall

The mission is admirable. And now, thanks to people dedicated to putting faces with names, a local portion of it is a mission accomplished. Just about a year ago, when a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was on display during the Vietnam War Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library, I told you about Janna Hoehn’s wonderful and challenging...
Paul Krugman: How to build on Obamacare
Paul Krugman: How to build on Obamacare

“Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” So declared Donald Trump three weeks before wimping out on his promise to repeal Obamacare. Up next: “Nobody knew that tax reform could be so complicated.” Then, perhaps: “Nobody knew that international trade policy could be so complicated.” And so on. Actually...
Jack Hunter: Libertarians are flexing their political muscle
Jack Hunter: Libertarians are flexing their political muscle

The American Health Care Act—the “ObamaCare-lite” legislation championed by most Republicans including President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan—is dead. And it was the most libertarian members of Congress who did the most to kill it—from the very beginning. Reason’s Eric Boehm writes, “On January 13, a week before...
Letters to the editor: March 28, 2017
Letters to the editor: March 28, 2017

Re: March 11 commentary, “Why ending funding for arts, humanities will hurt us all.” Times are hard when the director of the Harry Ransom Center writes a Viewpoints commentary for continued free tax money to “fund” this facility. The arts are very important — but I wonder if the director realizes how much in debt this...
Commentary: Bills would allow nurses to fill doctor shortages
Commentary: Bills would allow nurses to fill doctor shortages

In the shadow of Congress failing to improve health care, Texas lawmakers have a golden opportunity to sharply increase access to care: They could substantially increase the number of primary-care providers — and it wouldn’t cost a dime. We’ve got a real problem here. According to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation...
More Stories