Tag Archives: 3D Printing

Floor plan for a 3D printed home – [Image source: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/americas-first-3d-printed-houses-99189/]

Thomas Edison Admires 3D Printed Homes

Rejuvenating an Old Dream

Imagine being able to custom order a house built in one day that is weather-proof, insect-resistant, storm-resistant, and cute as all-get-out. This is being done now with a grown-up size 3D printer, and a good supply of ready-to-build concrete. Not your average size classroom printer, but a superb example of relevant technology application.

This technology is a powerful argument for supplying durable and quickly built housing for those in need; for bulging populations in developing nations; and can be used for more than just houses…with application to building commercial structures. Think of quickly built hospitals in remote areas, or in cities in need of medical facilities. Concrete is everywhere in our modern world and can be used in so many places. This technology is now being discussed and employed all over the world. These homes can be quick replacements for those destroyed in hurricanes, tornados and other natural disasters.

Another innovator was working in concrete and building homes in the early 1900’s. Perhaps you heard of him…Thomas Edison…who in 1908 began experimenting with using large steel molds for building concrete structures–two of his pilot buildings were built on the site of his historic home at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park [TENHP] in West Orange, NJ. Both these structures remain in excellent condition today [a potting shed and a large garage]; and are toured by thousands of public and professional visitors to TENHP every year. 

A Thomas Edison designed concrete house being built with steel molds on four walls—circa 1919.
Edison’s beautiful 10-car garage, looks as good today as when built with his concrete in 1908!

Edison’s durable concrete was later used to build Yankee Stadium.  It is worth noting that Edison’s work in concrete revamped the entire industry, increasing typical manufacturing plant outputs by a factor of four. Did we mention he also used his concrete to build the many buildings in the manufacturing complex at his legendary West Orange facility!

Editor’s Deep Dive




Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.
Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

3D Printing Revolution – Body Parts Next

Thirty years ago a niche market, today poised for disruptive growth-3D printing is “the” hot topic. Pioneered in 1986 by 3D Systems Corp, this printing technology fuses successive layers of plastics and metals to build a structure based on Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. Each layer is about 0.1 mm thick, and consists of liquid, powder and sheet materials. It is currently used to make (print) prototypes/products in the automotive and aerospace fields.

The technology is now moving beyond industrial applications to the medical field, to produce hearing aids, dental restorations, artificial knees and hips; and prosthetic devices as well. Human tissue and organs are not far behind. Other application areas include food, power tools, toys, shoes, clothing and musical instruments.

3D Printing Revolution - Body Parts Next

3D Printing Revolution - Body Parts Next

GE, a big dog in the manufacturing world, plans to use 3D printing to make fuel nozzles for its new Leap jet engine-85,000 fuel nozzles to be exact, parts that will be lighter and more durable than traditionally made parts. GE plans to invest heavily in this technology, tripling the size of its 70-person 3D-printing staff, and expanding its factory floor fourfold. HP is one of several players in the burgeoning 3D printing market, and plans to introduce consumer-level printers in 2014. Rumor has it the new company prototype printer is a big fellow, five feet tall, maximizing speed and affordability.

Volume production is still a problem for 3D printing. It just takes time to build up all those layers of material, let alone complex composites. This is a big challenge for the would be leaders in this technology. Getting this right is important and could swing the “Made in China” mantra in the other direction-meaning jobs and economic growth on this side of the pond.

Could we someday soon be seeing small, local 3D printing shops springing up for folks to stop by and pick up their goods, supported by a local delivery service to bring them to you? Think of the gasoline energy that is saved every year because electronic letters via the electronic ether (Internet) have replaced paper and envelope letters previously delivered by snail mail. Experts estimate that even accounting for the energy used to make the electricity to send the email by traditional PC or smart phone, the electronic method of communicating is way more energy efficient, and of course much faster. Why wouldn’t we save energy similarly with sending manufacturing instructions electronically and printing the goods locally?

Yes, 3D printing is poised to be disruptive as it grows up and flexes its economic muscles. Who said manufacturing was dead?

Thomas Edison on Time MagazineThomas Edison says, “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

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