About Angelo Gentile

A marketing communications writer for Proto Labs, Angelo puts together our monthly Eye on Innovation post among other regular blog features. He has previously worked as an automotive editor, business journalist, magazine editor, and corporate communications professional.

3D Printing’s Next Dimension? 7 Questions for Industry Experts

Rob Connelly

Patrick Dunne

A higher profile for industrial-grade 3D printing over the past decade has led to notable technology developments and potential new applications. The buzz over 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has also created a lot of speculation in the trade press about whether this technology, which has been around for more than 30 years, is poised to make a giant leap forward in capabilities.

“We are just now starting to see the fruits of these developments,” said Rob Connelly, vice president of additive manufacturing for Proto Labs, referring to a spate of recent announcements about advancements in new machines, materials, and software.

We recently interviewed three leaders from the 3D printing industry for insight into the current and future state of 3D printing:

John Murray

  • Rob Connelly, Vice President, Additive Manufacturing, Proto Labs
  • Patrick Dunne, Vice President, Advanced Application Development, 3D Systems, which manufactures and sells 3D printers
  • John Murray, President and CEO, U.S., Concept Laser, a global provider of 3D metal printing systems

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Augmented Reality Emerges as a Tool for Engineering Design

EYE ON INNOVATION

Virtual reality (VR) may be garnering a lot of media buzz these days, but augmented reality (AR) is gaining traction as a technology that offers practical applications for engineers, designers, and technicians.

Big names are getting involved, too, including Microsoft and Autodesk, which have recently teamed up to pair Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 engineering design software.

Though still in the formative stages of development, AR-enhanced design software will help developers to visualize designs, view CAD model holograms, and see how new or replacement components and parts might fit on existing products. A recent article in Mechanical Engineering Magazine, for example, showed how AR allowed designers to visualize new motorcycle cladding and a fuel tank cover on an existing bike (see photo).

Photo: Mechanical Engineering Magazine

How does AR work?

Unlike VR, in which you put on glasses or a headset to fully immerse yourself in a virtual world, AR taps into technology to enhance the world around you. Also using glasses or a headset, AR dangles text, graphics, or video into users’ visual fields that describes, or augments, what they are looking at. Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Self-Driving Tractor Harvests Interest from Ag Industry

The latest innovation in tractors for the modern farm “features everything but the farmer,” muses a recent headline in a story from Bloomberg News about an autonomous tractor concept from CNH Industrial.

“As Detroit carmakers and Silicon Valley tech giants vie to bring driverless cars to U.S. roads, one of the world’s largest tractor makers is looking to do the same down on the farm,” Bloomberg reports.

This self-driving tractor, a Case IH Magnum prototype model from CNH Industrial, was revealed for the first time last month at a farm equipment show in Iowa.
Photo: Wall Street Journal

At a farm equipment show in Iowa in September, CNH Industrial (Case IH/New Holland) revealed its Autonomous Concept Vehicle, which drew strong interest from those in attendance.

The cabless, self-driving tractor—a Case IH Magnum prototype model—is equipped with cameras, radar, and GPS, enabling farmers to remotely monitor planting and harvesting via computer or tablet from their homes, barns, fields, or pickup trucks. A second concept model, the New Holland T8 NH, includes a cab, so that the tractor can be operated either by a driver or in autonomous mode.

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IMTS Showcases Manufacturing’s Diverse Landscape

Amar Hanspal, attending his first ever International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at Chicago’s McCormick Place this week, tweeted that the event “is a digital manufacturing Disneyland.”

And really, it’s hard to argue with that assessment, based on the sheer numbers of attendees (more than 100,000 over the week-long event), exhibitors (over 2,000 companies), seminars, and innovative ideas being featured.

Tony Holtz, left, technical specialist for Proto Labs, discusses rapid overmolding at the International Manufacturing Technology Show Thursday in Chicago.

A stunning variety of participants are visiting the show: Company presidents, chief technology officers, engineers, designers, software developers, entrepreneurs, and college and high school students. This variety showed in the diverse wardrobe: Those in jackets and ties walked the same exhibit halls as those in flip-flops and shorts.

Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, showed up to tour the Association for Manufacturing Technology’s Emerging Technology Center, which featured research and development projects from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Those projects included a 3D-printed SUV and the “additive bionic human,” showing additive manufactured medical implants and body parts.

Various special focus areas showcased 3D printing/additive manufacturing, machining, controls and CAD/CAM, fabricating and lasers, and more.

At the Proto Labs booth, staffers answered an array of questions, including queries about our new rapid overmolding service, the trend of using 3D printing for production parts, and the finer points of five-axis machining, another new Proto Labs service.

EYE ON INNOVATION: ‘Smart’ Backpack Geared For Travelers, Students

More than 35 million Americans are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend. Plus, more than 77 million schoolchildren and college-age students will be getting ready to return to classrooms. The omnipresent backpack—great for traveling and for students—will likely be along for the ride.

These days, backpacks are doing more than just carrying your stuff. Take the iBackPack, which will enable you to connect to the internet, charge your devices, and track your location.

Photo Courtesy: iBackPack

As Gizmo Times reports, the iBackPack includes:

  • Tesla-style battery systems
  • Personal Wi-Fi hot spot that connects to 3G/4G networks
  • Retractable power USB cord
  • GPS tracking system
  • Bluetooth proximity locator—making it easier to find your bag in airports or other crowded locations
  • Bluetooth speaker system
  • Multiple USB connections to charge multiple devices at once.

Storage compartments abound to keep laptops, smart phones, tablets, and documents secure. Plus, it’s water and abrasion resistant, and TSA- and Department of Transportation-compliant.

Photo Courtesy: iBackPack

The product’s crowdfunding success at Indiegogo has been over the top, with nearly $700,000 raised, which is 892 percent of its original funding goal. Funding also has come from Kickstarter and other sources.

Several models of the product are expected to be available by December, ranging in price from $170-$350.

Eye on Innovation is a monthly look at new technology and products.