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ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING


cade and a half. I hope it’s going to be a lot faster than that.” “An ideal timeline is yesterday,” Kidder said. “But


realistically it’s going to take time for adoption to grow in the market.”


Simple was good, for a time The STL format did solve the major issue in the 1980s— simplifying CAD data, Dekker said. “These systems would


take hours to process files that we don’t even think twice now about sending as an email attachment,” he said. “At that point, it was an amazing ability to be able to manufacture a part through the process. We’re still using the same data set. They made it as simple as possible and no one has changed it since.” Using STL, a design in


CAD is exported as an STL file, which describes a three- dimensional object as a se- ries of linked triangles. The data has to go through at least one additional step to slicer software that converts the digital 3D models into printing instructions. “Circles can’t be cut nicely


into one or two triangles,” Rogers said. “It takes 20 or 30 triangles or more to get the right resolution of that cir- cular shape, which causes file sizes to blow up huge when trying to represent complex geometry to something the printer would understand.” “As I was coming up to speed on 3D printing, it was obvious there were serious impediments for success for the industry,” said Adrian Lannin, Microsoft group pro- gram manager who worked


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first with paper printing and has worked with 3D printing since 2013. “I saw there were things people were having to do to make 3D printing work that weren’t productive. STL is not efficient for 3D printing. It’s error prone. We’re look- ing at places where we can improve the productivity of additive manufacturing, make it less of an IT headache by having the pieces naturally work together.”


Limitations of STL include: đƫ Accurately defining com-


plex, complicated or large geometric shapes and struc- tures can be difficult and involves creating large files, 10-20 GB of data. These files take a long time to move from the designer’s desk to a 3D printer, which may not even be able to accept the


entire file. đƫ The format does not specify units—inches, centi- meters, millimeters—being used. Those specs have to be sent separately, which opens


up the possibility of errors. đƫ The format does not specify colors, textures or


material. đƫ In fact, the STL format can- not embed any other data beyond the design, including information related to copy-


“As I was coming up to speed on 3D printing, … I saw there were things people were having to do to make 3D printing work that weren’t productive. STL is not efficient for 3D printing. It’s error prone. We’re looking at places where we can improve the productivity of additive manufacturing, make it less of an IT headache by having the pieces naturally work together.” Adrian Lannin of Microsoft


right and file security. đƫ Modifying the file is dif- ficult. The file format can’t distinguish between minor and major changes so any change means the entire work flow must start over, which can add hours to the


design process. đƫ Designs have to pass through a number of steps and translations from con- cept to end result, which again creates the possibility for errors.


Fall 2016


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