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3D Printing – Why It's Important to Your Project

3D printing is becoming more and more common. But how does it affect the construction industry, and more importantly, how can it benefit Haselden’s clients? Two words: quality control.

Those may not be the first words that come to mind when you picture the stunning displays of 3D printing that are splayed across the internet lately, but when it comes to doing right by our clients, clients quality control is at the top of the list.

Case Study: Weatherproofing

Anyone building in Denver knows that our extreme temperature swings of snow one day and highs in the 70s the next mean weatherproofing is very important. Because of all the layers (sheet metal flashing, liquid waterproofing, drainage board, acoustic mat, pan flashing . . . you get the idea) that are involved in weatherproofing, things can become complex quickly. A recent project of ours required 10+ layers in the weatherproofing system, and we decided to use this as a test to see how a 3D-printed model could help in this type of situation.

Benefits to the Management Team

What we found is this: having a tangible, manipulable object quickly brought clarity to a complicated layering process. The design and construction management team can see how the pieces need to come together at crucial transitioning points, and can look at the piece from every possible angle—even

underneath, which wouldn’t be possible with a full-size mock-up—to evaluate constructability and identify possible issues before they reach the field. Our VDC Department (the masterminds behind this experiment) color-coded the layers to match the color-coding in the drawings. The model layers are also numbered, allowing them to be taken apart and easily put back together in the correct order—much like a puzzle, but with none of the guesswork.

“Using 3-D models can help us identify hidden challenges sooner, rather than going through the change order process later,” notes Haselden Quality Control Manager Frank Bartholomew. “We can flush out constructability issues earlier which reduces rework and schedule delays.”

Benefits to the Field Team

The model also benefits the craft workers in the field. Again, having the opportunity to handle and manipulate the 3-D model provides a greater understanding of the system as a whole. The individual trades don’t just see how their discipline fits, they see how all the trades come together to create the final product. Using a model such as this in a preinstall meeting offers the chance for trades to ask specific questions about installation and bring up any issues with sequencing they may notice.

Construction is an exciting industry, in part because it’s constantly evolving and advancing. We are always learning new techniques and methods. Having a physical object to examine provides all stakeholders the ability to visualize, collaborate, and identify potential issues early on to guarantee a quality building is delivered each and every time. Mock-ups aren’t always feasible for everything you need, but you can almost always print a 3D model.

More to come in next week’s blog post on how Self-Perform VDC Specialist Lisa Johnston is upping the game in concrete!

First ever 3D-printed bridge is now open and it's surely quite impressive

Netherlands opened world’s first ever 3D-printed concrete bridge that is able to carry the weight of almost 40 trucks.

Creators from Eindhoven University spent three months to make this bridge a reality that is situated in Gemert, Netherlands. The bridge is 26-foot-long and has 800 layers. The bridge is however, primarily designed for cyclists and is now all set to support hundreds of cyclists every day.

The bridge spans a water-filled ditch to connect two roads. The 3D printing technique made use of steel reinforcement cables in order to make pre-stressed concrete. As soon as the layers were completed, the bridge was tested by placing a five-ton weight over it. The tests were successful and now the creators believe that they can use the same technology for creating bigger structures, reported Engadget.

Researchers create 3D printed objects that change shape

One of the creators Theo Salet said, “The bridge is not very big, but it was rolled out by a printer, which makes it unique.”

3D printing concrete carries a lot of advantages. It can form any shape and can turn construction to be much quicker. The technique is also more environment friendly than the other traditional methods because it only deposits concrete where it is needed, avoiding cement wastage.

The creators said, “One of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mould is filled. A printer deposits the concrete only where it is needed.”

Netherlands is among the countries excelling in 3D printing technology. Previous year, a Dutch scientist revealed a 3D printer that can construct ‘endless loop’ building. Also, a Dutch start-up MX3D has almost completed printing a stainless steel bridge that would be laid over by June next year, according to The Guardian.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2017

It's a Smartphone! It's a Speaker! It's…3D Printed! Facebook Files Patent Application for Intriguing …

Made-in-Taiwan Used to Mean PC, Now It's 3D

Without “a 2D background, it’s difficult to catch up.”

With consumers and businesses switching to smartphones, the PC market that has long dominated Taiwan’s economy is shrinking, and companies such as Acer are struggling. Taiwan’s exports in March fell 11.4 percent, marking 14 consecutive months of declines for Made-in-Taiwan products. The economy shrank 0.6 percent in the first three months of 2016 from a year earlier, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists’ estimates, the third straight quarter of contraction.

Fear of being left behind is a strong motivator for New Kinpo Group Chief Executive Officer Simon Shen. The Taipei-based group last year sold about $7 billion worth of products ranging from electric pianos and pachinko displays to printers and TV set-top boxes. Kinpo also makes hard disk drives, routers, and other devices that link to PCs, leaving the group exposed to the computer industry’s decline. Finding the next big innovation to manufacture and export is an urgent task for Shen. “We need to try something new,” he says. “Otherwise the current product line eventually will be gone.”

Kinpo’s path to something new is through XYZprinting, a company Shen founded three years ago. Building on Kinpo’s track record as an outsourcing manufacturer for such customers as HP and Konica Minolta, XYZprinting makes small, low-cost 3D printers for consumers and small businesses.

Selling 3D printers will be a viable business, Shen says. To make that day come sooner, XYZprinting sells such machines as the da Vinci Jr. 1.0w, a Wi-Fi-enabled 3D printer that can print as fine as 0.1 millimeters and retails for as little as $350 on Amazon.com. The low-cost strategy has established XYZprinting as the No. 1 brand for 3D printers of all sizes worldwide, by the number of machines sold. In the final quarter of 2015, XYZprinting had 31 percent of the global market in desktop 3D printers, according to data recently published by London-based research group Context. The company sold more than 50,000 of its low-cost printers in 2015, giving XYZ a 21 percent share, more than twice that of No. 2 brand 3D Systems. Shen, who expects his company’s total 3D printer revenue to reach about $50 million this year, projects sales will grow to $200 million to $300 million within three to five years.

Bigger names are getting into affordable 3D printing. Mattel in February announced plans to sell the ThingMaker, a 3D printing system designed with San Rafael, Calif.-based software company Autodesk that will enable families to design, create, and print their own toys. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon for $300. In January, Polaroid introduced its ModelSmart 250S 3D printer, produced through a partnership with Environmental Business Products, a London-based manufacturer.

XYZprinting may not have much name recognition, but it does have an advantage, because of Kinpo’s years of squeezing out profits in Taiwan’s notoriously thin-margin electronics industry. “They do very well in cost management,” says Wendy Mok, an analyst with IDC in Shenzhen. “They have the manufacturing background, they know the difficulty of R&D.”

Even so, the 3D printer consumer market “is still in the infancy stage,” says Simon Chan, an analyst in Hong Kong with Bloomberg Intelligence. Printing materials are expensive, he says, and consumers haven’t yet identified must-print products that would increase demand. “The user case is still not really decided,” says Chan. Stratasys, an Israeli-American company that is a major player in 3D printing, is focused mostly on the technology’s use in manufacturing. That’s also the case with most of Shen’s competitors. “We are not seeing a lot of demand” in the consumer market, says Stratasys Chief Business Officer Joshua Claman. Eventually there will be a market for desktop 3D printers, he says, but not before quality and reliability are improved. And inexpensive 3D printers are less versatile, Claman says—most “don’t handle multiple materials and don’t handle multiple colors.”

The biggest threat to Shen’s plans for XYZprinting is across the Taiwan Strait in mainland China. Taiwanese producers of PCs and computer components have lost ground to mainland-based competitors, and the 3D printing industry faces similar competition. There are hundreds of mainland companies making the printers, according to IDC’s Mok. Chinese companies “can learn very fast,” she says. For the most basic 3D printers, “we have seen a lot of Chinese vendors can really produce printers at a very good price.”

Shen says his team, with decades of printing know-how, will be able to stay ahead of its Chinese rivals. “If you don’t have a 2D background, it’s difficult to catch up,” he says. And he’s making sure to diversify the business, producing more expensive machines for industrial use and working with a local university to develop 3D printing of dental implants. XYZprinting is developing a system that can make cookies, chocolates, and other food on a 3D printer. “Eventually,” he says, “I think everything will be possible.”

The bottom line: Kinpo’s XYZprinting is the No. 1 brand for 3D printers worldwide, with 31 percent of the global market.

The strongest weapon to shift geopolitical balances isn't nukes or missiles, it's technology

Technology is the strongest driving force in the world today. (Andrey Borodulin/AFP/Getty Images)

Governments, businesses, and economists have all been caught off guard by the geopolitical shifts that happened with the crash of oil prices and the slowdown of China’s economy. Most believe that the price of oil will recover and that China will continue its rise. They are mistaken. Instead of worrying about the rise of China, we need to fear its fall; and while oil prices may oscillate over the next four or five years, the fossil-fuel industry is headed the way of the dinosaur. The global balance of power will shift as a result.

LED light bulbs, improved heating and cooling systems, and software systems in automobiles have gradually been increasing fuel efficiency over the past decades. But the big shock to the energy industry came with fracking, a new set of techniques and technologies for extracting more hydrocarbons from the ground. Though there are concerns about environmental damage, these increased the outputs of oil and gas, caused the usurpation of old-line coal-fired power plants, and dramatically reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil.

The next shock will come from clean energy. Solar and wind are now advancing on exponential curves. Every two years, for example, solar installation rates are doubling, and photovoltaic-module costs are falling by about 20 percent. Even without the subsidies that governments are phasing out, present costs of solar installations will, by 2022, halve, reducing returns on investments in homes, nationwide, to less than four years. By 2030, solar power will be able to provide 100 percent of today’s energy needs; by 2035, it will seem almost free — just as cell-phone calls are today.

This seems hard to believe, given that solar production provides less than one percent of the Earth’s energy needs today.  But this is how exponential technologies advance. They double in performance every year or two and their prices fall. Given that California already generates more than 5 percent of its electricity from utility-scale solar, it is not hard to fathom what the impact of another few doublings would be: the imminent extinction of the fossil-fuel industry. Exponential technologies are deceptive because they move very slowly at first, but one percent becomes two percent, which becomes four, eight, and sixteen; you get the idea. As futurist Ray Kurzweil says, when an exponential technology is at one percent, you are halfway to 100 percent, and that is where solar and wind energies are now.

Anyone tracking the exponential growth of fracking and the gradual advances that were being made in conservation and fuel efficiency should have been able to predict, years ago, that by 2015, the price of oil would drop dramatically. It wasn’t surprising that relatively small changes in supply and demand caused massive disruptions to global oil prices; that is how markets work. They cause commodities futures and stock prices to fall dramatically when slowdowns occur.  This is what is happening to China’s markets also. The growth of China’s largest industry, manufacturing, has stalled, causing ripple effects throughout China’s economy.

For decades, manufacturing was flooding into China from the U.S. and Europe and fueling its growth. And then a combination of rising labor and shipping costs and automation began to change the economics of China manufacturing. Now, robots are about to tip the balance further.

Foxconn had announced in August 2011 that it would replace one million workers with robots. This didn’t occur, because the robots then couldn’t work alongside human workers to do sophisticated circuit board assembly. But a newer generation of robots such as ABB’s Yumi and Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer can do that. They are dextrous enough to thread a needle and cost as much as a car does.

China is aware of the advances in robotics and plans to take the lead in replacing humans with robots. Guangdong province is constructing the world’s first “zero-labor factor,” with 1,000 robots which do the jobs of 2,000 humans. It sees this as a solution to increasing labor costs.

The problem for China is that its robots are no more productive than their counterparts in the West are. They all work 24×7 without complaining or joining labor unions. They cost the same and consume the same amount of energy. Given the long shipping times and high transportation costs it no longer makes sense to send raw materials across the oceans to China to have them assembled into finished goods and shipped to the West. Manufacturing can once again become a local industry.

It will take many years for Western companies to learn the intricacies of robotic manufacturing, build automated factories, train workers, and deal with the logistical challenges of supply chains being in China. But these are surmountable problems. What is now a trickle of manufacturing returning to the West will, within five to seven years, become a flood.

After this, another technology revolution will begin: digital manufacturing.

In conventional manufacturing, parts are produced by humans using power-driven machine tools, such as saws, lathes, milling machines, and drill presses, to physically remove material to obtain the shape desired. In digital manufacturing, parts are produced by melting successive layers of materials based on 3D models — adding materials rather than subtracting them. The “3D printers” that produce these use powered metal, droplets of plastic, and other materials — much like the toner cartridges that go into laser printers. 3D printers can already create physical mechanical devices, medical implants, jewelry, and even clothing. But these are slow, messy, and cumbersome — much like the first generations of inkjet printers were. This will change.

In the early 2020s we will have elegant low-priced printers for our homes that can print toys and household goods. Businesses will use 3D printers to do small-scale production of previously labor-intensive crafts and goods. Late in the next decade, we will be 3D-printing buildings and electronics. These will eventually be as fast as today’s laser printers are. And don’t be surprised if by 2030, the industrial robots go on strike, waving placards saying “stop the 3D printers: they are taking our jobs away.”

The geopolitical implications of these changes are exciting and worrisome. America will reinvent itself just as does every 30-40 years; it is, after all, leading the technology boom. And as we are already witnessing, Russia and China will stir up regional unrest to distract their restive populations; oil producers such as Venezuela will go bankrupt; the Middle East will become a cauldron of instability. Countries that have invested in educating their populations, built strong consumer economies, and have democratic institutions that can deal with social change will benefit — because their people will have had their basic needs met and can figure out how to take advantage of the advances in technology.