14:50
TEDSalon London Spring 2011

Lisa Harouni: A primer on 3D printing

Filmed:

2012 may be the year of 3D printing, when this three-decade-old technology finally becomes accessible and even commonplace. Lisa Harouni gives a useful introduction to this fascinating way of making things -- including intricate objects once impossible to create.

- 3D printing entrepreneur
Lisa Harouni is the co-founder of Digital Forming, working in "additive manufacturing" -- or 3D printing. Full bio

It is actually a reality today
00:15
that you can download products from the Web --
00:18
product data, I should say, from the Web --
00:22
perhaps tweak it and personalize it
00:25
to your own preference or your own taste,
00:28
and have that information sent
00:30
to a desktop machine
00:33
that will fabricate it for you on the spot.
00:36
We can actually build for you,
00:38
very rapidly,
00:40
a physical object.
00:42
And the reason we can do this
00:45
is through an emerging technology
00:47
called additive manufacturing,
00:49
or 3D printing.
00:51
This is a 3D printer.
00:54
They have been around
00:56
for almost 30 years now,
00:58
which is quite amazing to think of,
01:00
but they're only just starting
01:02
to filter into the public arena.
01:04
And typically, you would take data,
01:06
like the data of a pen here,
01:09
which would be a geometric representation of that product in 3D,
01:12
and we would pass that data with material
01:15
into a machine.
01:17
And a process that would happen in the machine
01:19
would mean layer by layer that product would be built.
01:21
And we can take out the physical product,
01:23
and ready to use,
01:26
or to, perhaps, assemble into something else.
01:28
But if these machines have been around for almost 30 years,
01:31
why don't we know about them?
01:34
Because typically they've been too inefficient,
01:36
inaccessible,
01:39
they've not been fast enough,
01:42
they've been quite expensive.
01:44
But today,
01:46
it is becoming a reality
01:48
that they are now becoming successful.
01:50
Many barriers are breaking down.
01:52
That means that you guys
01:54
will soon be able to access one of these machines,
01:56
if not this minute.
01:58
And it will change and disrupt
02:01
the landscape of manufacturing,
02:03
and most certainly our lives, our businesses
02:05
and the lives of our children.
02:08
So how does it work?
02:10
It typically reads CAD data,
02:13
which is a product design data
02:15
created on professional product design programs.
02:17
And here you can see an engineer --
02:19
it could be an architect or it could be a professional product designer --
02:21
create a product in 3D.
02:24
And this data gets sent to a machine
02:27
that slices the data
02:29
into two-dimensional representations of that product
02:32
all the way through --
02:34
almost like slicing it like salami.
02:36
And that data, layer by layer, gets passed through the machine,
02:39
starting at the base of the product
02:42
and depositing material, layer upon layer,
02:44
infusing the new layer of materials to the old layer
02:47
in an additive process.
02:51
And this material that's deposited
02:53
either starts as a liquid form
02:56
or a material powder form.
02:58
And the bonding process can happen
03:01
by either melting and depositing or depositing then melting.
03:03
In this case, we can see a laser sintering machine developed by EOS.
03:06
It's actually using a laser
03:09
to fuse the new layer of material to the old layer.
03:11
And over time --
03:14
quite rapidly actually, in a number of hours --
03:16
we can build a physical product,
03:18
ready to take out of the machine and use.
03:20
And this is quite an extraordinary idea,
03:22
but it is reality today.
03:26
So all these products that you can see on the screen
03:29
were made in the same way.
03:32
They were all 3D printed.
03:34
And you can see,
03:36
they're ranging from shoes,
03:38
rings that were made out of stainless steal,
03:40
phone covers out of plastic,
03:43
all the way through to spinal implants, for example,
03:45
that were created out of medical-grade titanium,
03:48
and engine parts.
03:50
But what you'll notice about all of these products
03:52
is they're very, very intricate.
03:54
The design is quite extraordinary.
03:56
Because we're taking this data in 3D form,
03:59
slicing it up before it gets past the machine,
04:02
we can actually create structures
04:05
that are more intricate
04:07
than any other manufacturing technology --
04:09
or, in fact, are impossible to build in any other way.
04:12
And you can create parts with moving components,
04:16
hinges, parts within parts.
04:19
So in some cases, we can abolish totally
04:21
the need for manual labor.
04:24
It sounds great.
04:26
It is great.
04:28
We can have 3D printers today
04:30
that build structures like these.
04:32
This is almost three meters high.
04:34
And this was built
04:37
by depositing artificial sandstone layer upon layer
04:39
in layers of about five millimeters to 10 mm in thickness --
04:42
slowly growing this structure.
04:46
This was created by an architectural firm called Shiro.
04:48
And you can actually walk into it.
04:51
And on the other end of the spectrum,
04:53
this is a microstructure.
04:55
It's created depositing layers
04:57
of about four microns.
04:59
So really the resolution is quite incredible.
05:02
The detail that you can get today
05:05
is quite amazing.
05:07
So who's using it?
05:10
Typically, because we can create products very rapidly,
05:12
it's been used by product designers,
05:15
or anyone who wanted to prototype a product
05:18
and very quickly create or reiterate a design.
05:21
And actually what's quite amazing about this technology as well
05:24
is that you can create bespoke products en masse.
05:28
There's very little economies of scale.
05:31
So you can now create one-offs very easily.
05:34
Architects, for example,
05:37
they want to create prototypes of buildings.
05:39
Again you can see,
05:41
this is a building of the Free University in Berlin
05:43
and it was designed by Foster and Partners.
05:46
Again, not buildable in any other way.
05:48
And very hard to even create this by hand.
05:51
Now this is an engine component.
05:56
It was developed by a company called Within Technologies
05:59
and 3T RPD.
06:02
It's very, very, very detailed
06:05
inside with the design.
06:07
Now 3D printing
06:09
can break away barriers in design
06:11
which challenge the constraints
06:13
of mass production.
06:15
If we slice into this product which is actually sitting here,
06:17
you can see that it has a number of cooling channels pass through it,
06:20
which means it's a more efficient product.
06:24
You can't create this with standard manufacturing techniques
06:27
even if you tried to do it manually.
06:30
It's more efficient
06:32
because we can now create all these cavities within the object
06:34
that cool fluid.
06:37
And it's used by aerospace
06:39
and automotive.
06:41
It's a lighter part
06:44
and it uses less material waste.
06:47
So it's overall performance and efficiency
06:49
just exceeds standard mass produced products.
06:52
And then taking this idea
06:55
of creating a very detailed structure,
06:57
we can apply it to honeycomb structures
06:59
and use them within implants.
07:01
Typically an implant
07:04
is more effective within the body
07:06
if it's more porous,
07:08
because our body tissue will grow into it.
07:10
There's a lower chance of rejection.
07:12
But it's very hard to create that in standard ways.
07:15
With 3D printing,
07:18
we're seeing today
07:20
that we can create much better implants.
07:22
And in fact, because we can create
07:24
bespoke products en masse, one-offs,
07:26
we can create implants
07:29
that are specific to individuals.
07:31
So as you can see,
07:33
this technology and the quality of what comes out of the machines is fantastic.
07:35
And we're starting to see it being used
07:39
for final end products.
07:41
And in fact, as the detail is improving,
07:43
the quality is improving,
07:45
the price of the machines are falling
07:47
and they're becoming quicker.
07:50
They're also now small enough
07:52
to sit on a desktop.
07:54
You can buy a machine today for about $300
07:56
that you can create yourself,
07:58
which is quite incredible.
08:00
But then it begs the question,
08:02
why don't we all have one in our home?
08:04
Because, simply, most of us here today
08:07
don't know how to create the data
08:09
that a 3D printer reads.
08:11
If I gave you a 3D printer,
08:13
you wouldn't know how to direct it
08:15
to make what you want it to.
08:17
But there are more and more
08:19
technologies, software and processes today
08:21
that are breaking down those barriers.
08:23
I believe we're at a tipping point
08:25
where this is now something
08:27
that we can't avoid.
08:30
This technology
08:32
is really going to disrupt
08:34
the landscape of manufacturing
08:36
and, I believe, cause a revolution
08:38
in manufacturing.
08:40
So today,
08:42
you can download products from the Web --
08:44
anything you would have on your desktop,
08:46
like pens, whistles, lemon squeezers.
08:48
You can use software like Google SketchUp
08:51
to create products from scratch
08:54
very easily.
08:56
3D printing can be also used
08:59
to download spare parts from the Web.
09:01
So imagine you have, say,
09:04
a Hoover in your home
09:06
and it has broken down. You need a spare part,
09:08
but you realize that Hoover's been discontinued.
09:11
Can you imagine going online --
09:14
this is a reality --
09:16
and finding that spare part
09:18
from a database of geometries
09:20
of that discontinued product
09:22
and downloading that information, that data,
09:24
and having the product made for you at home,
09:27
ready to use, on your demand?
09:29
And in fact, because we can create spare parts
09:32
with things the machines
09:34
are quite literally making themselves.
09:36
You're having machines fabricate themselves.
09:38
These are parts of a RepRap machine,
09:41
which is a kind of desktop printer.
09:43
But what interests my company the most
09:46
is the fact that you can create
09:49
individual unique products en masse.
09:51
There's no need to do a run
09:54
of thousands of millions
09:56
or send that product to be injection molded in China.
09:58
You can just make it physically on the spot.
10:01
Which means
10:05
that we can now present to the public
10:07
the next generation of customization.
10:09
This is something that is now possible today,
10:12
that you can direct personally
10:14
how you want your products to look.
10:16
We're all familiar with the idea
10:19
of customization or personalization.
10:21
Brands like Nike are doing it.
10:23
It's all over the Web.
10:25
In fact, every major household name
10:27
is allowing you
10:29
to interact with their products
10:31
on a daily basis --
10:33
all the way from Smart Cars
10:35
to Prada
10:37
to Ray Ban, for example.
10:39
But this is not really mass customization;
10:41
it's known as variant production,
10:43
variations of the same product.
10:45
What you could do is really influence your product now
10:48
and shape-manipulate your product.
10:51
I'm not sure about you guys,
10:54
but I've had experiences
10:56
when I've walked into a store and I've know exactly what I've wanted
10:58
and I've searched everywhere for that perfect lamp
11:00
that I know where I want to sit in my house
11:03
and I just can't find the right thing,
11:05
or that perfect piece of jewelry
11:07
as a gift or for myself.
11:10
Imagine that you can now
11:12
engage with a brand
11:14
and interact,
11:17
so that you can pass your personal attributes
11:19
to the products that you're about to buy.
11:22
You can today
11:26
download a product with software like this,
11:28
view the product in 3D.
11:30
This is the sort of 3D data
11:32
that a machine will read.
11:34
This is a lamp.
11:36
And you can start iterating the design.
11:38
You can direct what color that product will be,
11:40
perhaps what material.
11:42
And also, you can engage in shape manipulation of that product,
11:44
but within boundaries that are safe.
11:47
Because obviously the public are not professional product designers.
11:49
The piece of software will keep an individual
11:52
within the bounds of the possible.
11:55
And when somebody is ready to purchase the product
11:59
in their personalized design,
12:01
they click "Enter" and this data gets converted
12:03
into the data that a 3D printer reads
12:06
and gets passed to a 3D printer,
12:10
perhaps on someone's desktop.
12:15
But I don't think that that's immediate.
12:18
I don't think that will happen soon.
12:20
What's more likely, and we're seeing it today,
12:22
is that data gets sent
12:24
to a local manufacturing center.
12:26
This means lower carbon footprint.
12:28
We're now, instead of shipping a product across the world,
12:31
we're sending data across the Internet.
12:34
Here's the product being built.
12:36
You can see, this came out of the machine in one piece
12:39
and the electronics were inserted later.
12:41
It's this lamp, as you can see here.
12:43
So as long as you have the data,
12:45
you can create the part on demand.
12:47
And you don't necessarily need to use this
12:49
for just aesthetic customization,
12:51
you can use it for functional customization,
12:53
scanning parts of the body
12:55
and creating things that are made to fit.
12:57
So we can run this through to something like prosthetics,
12:59
which is highly specialized to an individual's handicap.
13:02
Or we can create very specific prosthetics
13:05
for that individual.
13:09
Scanning teeth today,
13:11
you can have your teeth scanned
13:13
and dental coatings made in this way to fit you.
13:15
While you wait at the dentist,
13:17
a machine will quietly be creating this for you
13:19
ready to insert in the teeth.
13:22
And the idea of now creating implants,
13:24
scanning data, an MRI scan of somebody
13:28
can now be converted into 3D data
13:31
and we can create very specific implants for them.
13:33
And applying this
13:37
to the idea of building up what's in our bodies.
13:39
You know, this is pair of lungs and the bronchial tree.
13:41
It's very intricate.
13:44
You couldn't really create this or simulate it in any other way.
13:46
But with MRI data,
13:48
we can just build the product,
13:50
as you can see, very intricately.
13:52
Using this process,
13:56
pioneers in the industry are layering up cells today.
13:58
So one of the pioneers, for example, is Dr. Anthony Atala,
14:01
and he has been working
14:04
on layering cells to create body parts --
14:06
bladders, valves, kidneys.
14:08
Now this is not something that's ready for the public,
14:12
but it is in working progress.
14:14
So just to finalize, we're all individual.
14:17
We all have different preferences, different needs.
14:19
We like different things.
14:22
We're all different sizes and our companies the same.
14:24
Businesses want different things.
14:26
Without a doubt in my mind,
14:28
I believe that this technology
14:30
is going to cause a manufacturing revolution
14:32
and will change the landscape of manufacturing as we know it.
14:34
Thank you.
14:37
(Applause)
14:39

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About the Speaker:

Lisa Harouni - 3D printing entrepreneur
Lisa Harouni is the co-founder of Digital Forming, working in "additive manufacturing" -- or 3D printing.

Why you should listen

Lisa Harouni is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Forming, a company that works on the software side of 3D printing -- the design tools needed to run the new generaion of 3D printing processes. She has a background in economics, and worked in the G7 Economics team at Deutsche Bank AG before moving over to the consumer products business.

More profile about the speaker
Lisa Harouni | Speaker | TED.com