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Third Industrial Revolution: Technion Gets 3D Metal Printer

February 1, 2015

“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.  Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”  (Daniel 12:4)

The Hebrew Prophet Daniel seemed to indicate that in the last days there would be an increase in knowledge.  Recent technological innovations certainly seem to indicate that we are on the cusp of yet another major change that will affect the lives of almost everyone in the coming days.

Indeed, a revolution in printing has arrived in Israel that is being hailed as the “Third Industrial Revolution.”

A 3D metal printer capable of producing metal components is operational for the first time in Israel.  The Israel Institute of Metals (IMM), with a research institute linked to Israel’s Technion in Haifa, recently produced this machine that prints metal components, including those made of titanium and other metal alloys.

Some components will be used in the aerospace industry.  Other products such as engine blades, dental implants, and knee implants, and so much more can also be printed.


Students at Technion in Haifa (Source: Flickr / Vesselin Kolev)

The technology starts with a design created in a 3D modeling program, such as CAD (computer-aided design) software.  Or an existing object is scanned into the program with a 3D scanner.

The printer slices the design into hundreds or thousands of individual 2D layers.  It then melts metal powder particles with an electronic beam and deposits the material layer by layer until the 3D object is complete.

3D printing has been around since its invention in 1980 and has been used to print almost anything that can be made out of plastic and other materials, such as prosthetic limbs, car parts, and toys.  Only in the past few years, though, has it been affordable enough to buy at your local computer supply store, starting as low as $500.

3D printer-Bukobot

The Bukobot Reprap 3D Printer is a a low cost open source 3D printer.

This innovative field that is now printing 3D metal components and even living tissue has come to be called the “third industrial revolution.”

In the first industrial revolution in Britain (late 18th century), the textile industry was mechanised and spread around the globe.  In the second industrial revolution in America (early 20th century), the assembly line ushered in the era of mass production.

In this third industrial revolution of the 21st century, products will not be mass produced.  Digital technology like 3D metal printers allows any 3D design to be endlessly tweaked and individually customized.

It is especially applicable to the aerospace industry where highly intricate devices are required.  Also, it is useful in the fields of medicine and dentistry in which every patient has individual needs.

The equipment in place at the Technion has already printed a fuel tank prototype for a nano-satellite which was also developed at the Technion.

3D metal printing-product

A metal product printed on a 3D printer

This new system which was manufactured by the Swedish company ARCAM, employs an electron beam (EBM) in a vacuum that manipulates electric and magnetic fields in order to melt metal powder particles.

The use of the EBM eliminates the need for a laser beam and is safer and cheaper than existing methods.  The total cost of the system, including installation and training of staff comes to about €850,000 ($982,000), and was funded in part by the Office of the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy.

Previously, there were a total of three 3D printers in Israel, but they are all based on the laser system.

This is the first 3D printer to be installed in an academic institution in Israel.

Noting that IMM is the most appropriate place for installing such a printer, the Institute of Metal’s director, Haim Rosenson says, “The establishment of three-dimensional printing center at IMM will help promote this industry in Israel, provide for current and future needs, and encourage the conversion of manufacturing facilities to production using advanced technologies.”  (No Camels)

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