3D printing can be useful when you only take the benefits of the technology. Sandia National Laboratories’ researchers have developed a 3D printed telescope in a third of the time and at a fifth of the traditional cost.
Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories decided to use Additive Manufacturing processes to build a telescope and demonstrate that it’s possible to take the strengths of the technology and embrace the weaknesses.
The idea was to approach AM technologies as though it were a brand new design tool. During the project, they moved away from the regular process of going from hand drawing to computer-assisted design to machining parts. Mainly concentrating on printing precision parts, the researchers’ idea was to fabricate imprecise parts, quickly, which could then be assembled and perfected using precise tools. The result was a ground-based telescope which was designed, rapidly prototyped and manufactured in about a third of the time that required for a traditionally made telescope. It also cost just a fifth of the price and was lighter in weight too.
In the referred project, 3D printing, module design, and image-correction algorithms all helped to save time and money. A mechanical engineer who led the project Ted Winrow states:
That’s the nuance that seems to get lost, that you have to design differently. It doesn’t plug into a standard design process.”
3D Printing as a New Design Tool
Researchers from the project explain that it’s possible to make a precision structure in two ways. Either you make every piece to exact tolerances or you make rough pieces and use precise assembly to compensate for any imprecise dimensions. Click on the links to find more Additive 3D printers and AM Manufacturers.
With the method used by the researchers, Winrow explains that you can shift money from recurring costs,
“where every part has to be precise, to nonrecurring costs, where you’re just buying one set of tools that you can use for maybe 10 years… So when you’re making production runs you get cost savings. You’ve got time savings because you’re not waiting for each piece to be made.”
Additive Manufacturing can produce lightweight complex parts that regular machining processes struggle with. Nevertheless, the machining process can create a very precise part. Winrow explains that the real issue is whether we can design a system which is
“insensitive to the things that additive is not very good at” so you can take advantage of the good things.
Interestingly, the researchers also approached the lens of the telescope in a similar manner – taking advantage of benefits while designing ways around shortfalls by developing software to maintain image properties.
Winrow states that,
If you talk about things you can give up, things you can compensate for after the fact, it opens up realms on the design side.”
The project has already ended and Sandia National Laboratories‘ structural designers will be taking the learnings from it to benefit further works. To get more info about the project visit Sandia Website.
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Article and featured image:ALL3DP Hannah Watkin Jun 8, 2018, Ignore the Shortfalls Researchers Use Imprecise 3D Printing to Build Telescope https://all3dp.com/sandia-national-laboratories-flips-3d-printing-head-build-telescope/, visited on Jun 9, 2018;