If you think about how traditional manufacturing methods work, you take a block of something and mill away, or subtract, the surfaces until you have a finished product. With 3D printing, you do the opposite, adding layers of plastic or metal or ceramic (or one of many other materials) until you build a product with little waste.
Most of the parts or products created with a 3D printer are not “thinking” products or parts that have a brain, or a sensor. In a recent visit to GE, the Global Research team took me through a number of new concepts and technologies that they are developing. One of the most interesting is one they call: Direct Write. This development would allow you to create more intelligent 3D printed parts — such as sensors.
Like 3D printing, which has been around since the mid-1980s, Direct Write is not new. The technology is about 15 years old and is the outcome of a DARPA program called MICE (here’s a mouthful: Mesoscopic Integrated Conformal Electronics). DARPA is so often involved in technology innovations that it sometimes astounds me. I visited their press page to get an idea of their scope; it is a lengthy page, to say the least. … (Read more)