Apr.12, 2012

(Press Release) - voxeljet.de

A trend-setting project led by architect Wieland Schmidt is offering a glimpse of what digital production in the future may look like. As part of the project, designer lamps designs are digitalised and subsequently printed into the final product at voxeljet's 3D service centre.

"The possibilities that additive manufacturing now offers are amazing. We can now print our lamps in batch size one at voxeljet's service centre – quickly and easily. The prints are based on the CAD data of the models – everything else is done by the 3D printers on a fully automated basis. This means that, thanks to voxeljet, we can now complete the last and to date still missing step of the digital manufacturing process, which offers a whole new dimension of freedom not just for architects and artists," says Wieland Schmidt.

This exciting new development started at the Chair for Emerging Technologies at Munich's technical university. This is where Wieland Schmidt, in his role as a visiting lecturer, spent the last semester developing a workflow for the production of complex forms inspired by nature. His work with his students quickly showed: There are problems with modelling free forms. It is anything but easy to convert ideas into meaningful geometry that can be described. And at the end there is always the question: How do we get to a 3D model and finally the real end product?

The focus on complex geometries resulted in a large number of creative works, including excellent designs for lamps whose forms are inspired by nature. Specifically, pictures of diatoms – microscopically small one-cell algae – served as inspiration for this design. The transparent and complex bodies, with their delicate structure that is broken up by a multitude of fine lines, become visible under a scanning electron microscope. The aesthetic micro-architecture consists of elaborate light-weight shells.

The result: an impressive lamp design number 1, which at the time was not built in a static 3D model but rather defined as a parametric geometry. Wieland Schmidt explains the unique feature of this model: "By employing this course of action, we do not define the form but rather individual parameters such as radius, wall thickness, size of opening or rotation angle. Changing one parameter changes the entire geometry. The advantage: The 3D model does not have to be completely rebuilt after such a change is applied.”

Therefore this process offers speed and flexibility when it comes to implementing different changes. It is now easy to try many different variants and optimise the design. Finally, it is the designer and not the computer who selects and defines the final version from a virtually endless number of possibilities. Once the final form has been determined, the geometry is decoupled from the parameter model and a classic 3D model is created. And last but not least, there are other important details, such as providing an opening for the lamp and optimising the polygon before the virtual model is ready for 3D printing.

3D print opens up completely new production possibilities

Students of Munich's technical university, together with Wieland Schmidt, obtained information on the options offered by 3D print technology at voxeljet's premises as part of an excursion during the 2011 summer semester. At its service centre, which is among the largest in Europe, the Augsburg-based firm has specialised in the on-demand production of sand moulds for metal casting, as well as plastic moulds and 3D functional moulds made of plastic. Small-batch and prototype manufacturers from many different industry sectors appreciate the fast and cost-effective manufacture of their casting moulds and 3D models based on CAD data. "What we saw here opened up completely new possibilities for our lamp project: Thanks to the voxeljet technology, the digital production process no longer ends with the virtual model but real and fully functional end products," says Wieland Schmidt.

It is also how the prototype of lamp number one was created directly from CAD data by way of the so-called layer building method. The designer piece was printed on the proven VX800 3D industrial printer. This machine not only works very quickly but is also very precise. The lamp was produced in a build time of a few hours, with the layered application of 100 micrometre thick quartz sand layers that are selectively glued together with a binder.

Wieland Schmidt was quite impressed with the result: "The quality and appearance of the lamp created with 3D printing meets even the highest expectations. Lamp model one was not only printed true to detail and with great precision, but is also mechanically stable, making it possible to immediately start the finishing process."

The stability of the model made it easy to infiltrate it with epoxy resin, grind and subsequently lacquer it. An elaborate three-layer lacquer process was used to optimise the surface quality. In a last step, the lamp was finished by adding mounting equipment and an illuminant. An energy-saving bulb lends a pleasantly warm-white fluorescent colour to the designer lamp.

The design of this lamp, which is inspired by nature, awakens emotions and is right in line with current trends. Visitors to the EuroMold trade fair, who saw the lamps at the voxeljet trade fair stand, were excited by their aesthetics and appearance. No wonder that the product range already includes four different lamp models, all of which are "printed" at voxeljet.

Interested parties can view the lamp collection on the internet and place orders. The continuously digital production of these lamps is already offering a glimpse of the fascinating future possibilities offered by this technology.


Photo credit/source: http://www.voxeljet.de/


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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