Look around. Nearly everything that you interact with was likely a creation of three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) — homes, furniture, automobiles, lighting, smartphones, computers. At its most basic level, a CAD program takes a designer’s two-dimensional sketch and extrudes, or solidifies, that drawing into a three-dimensional model. Depending the industrial focus of the CAD program, and the modular extensions used to support and enhance its software, product developers and engineers are able to design extremely intricate products that can be built or manufactured. At Proto Labs, every single part submitted for manufacturing arrives as a 3D CAD model in one of several different file formats derived from different CAD programs. Continue reading
Long ago in a galaxy not far from here, fuel was cheap. Vehicles were large and not particularly efficient. Devices were heavy and tended to stay in one place, and iron was king. That was then; today, all that has changed. Energy is costly, vehicles are smaller and lighter, our devices travel with us in pockets or purses, and iron is something you pump for exercise. To meet our ever-growing demands for economy and portability, we have been steadily replacing iron with aluminum and plastic, and increasingly with magnesium.
It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about the current state of manufacturing without mention of 3D printing, an additive process that uses digital CAD models to build physical, real-life objects, layer by layer. While additive manufacturing has existed for more than 30 years, it wasn’t until the last few that 3D printing, led by increased accessibility, has become the poster child for progressive technology within the industry — NASA prints telescope! Designers print runway pumps! Scientists bio-print human organs!
It’s undoubtedly an exciting time in manufacturing that has many eager to see what the future brings, but can the promise of a printed world withstand the heat? We deconstruct the layers of 3D printing to find the substance beneath the style. Continue reading
Modern science has allowed surgeons to fix the human body amazingly fast, yet leave behind only small traces that repairs were performed. One of the more commonly used methods to achieve this is by a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopic surgery, where small incisions are made into a patient’s skin, a laparoscope is inserted to provide a magnified view of the patient’s organs, the procedure is performed, and the incision is closed by stitching or surgical staples. You can have your gallbladder removed before breakfast and be binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your couch by dinner.
Typically, the small openings created during laparoscopic surgery are closed in one of two ways: manually stitching subcutaneously (beneath the skin) with a bio-absorbable, thread-like material and a curved needle that moves from one side of the hole to the other to close it tight, or with a surgical stapler that inserts metal staples into the skin to close the wound. The first technique is more time consuming, but leaves less surgical evidence. The latter method is faster, but can cause scarring and infection. Chuck Rogers, Ph.D., and Kenneth Danielson, M.D. of Massachusetts-based Opus KSD are nearing the launch of a device that combines the best of both worlds: the ease of a stapler with proprietary bio-absorbable subcutaneous fasteners. Continue reading