A Fully 3D-Printed Rocket Is Not as Crazy as it Seems. Investors Agree.

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60 days.

That’s how long it will take to produce and launch a rocket if the parts are 3D printed, according to the CEO of Relativity Space, a startup that seeks to do just that.

Flying something made completely of 3D-printed parts into space sounds, frankly, pretty bonkers. But investors are on board. The Los Angeles-based startup recently secured $ 35 million to go ahead with its plan to produce a fleet of spacecraft using one of the largest 3D printers known to man, known as Stargate.

Relativity is not the first company to bring 3D printing to space. SpaceX has done it for its reusable rockets, and even NASA is looking into which spacecraft parts can be made more reliably and cheaply by 3D printers.

But Relativity stands alone in that it wants to print nearly all of a rocket — 95 percent of it — and by cutting the number of components that go into it, from from 100,000 to fewer than 1,000.

Since its launch in 2015, the company has raised more than $ 45 million, promising to speed up the production of rockets. The company plans to use this most recent cash infusion to buy a second Stargate printer, and to grow its staff.

A first round of tests on the company’s 3D-printed Aeon engines should be carried out before the end of the year. Relativity wants to put nine of those engines on its Terran rocket, which will have a 3D-printed booster, too. The company expects that each launch will cost about $ 10 million.

Relativity aims to send about 1,250 kg (2,756 pounds) into orbit. That’s minuscule compared to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy payload of 64,000 kg (64 metric tons, or 141,096 lbs), which is more than 50 times bigger, but quite a bit larger than the smallest rockets around, which can carry up to 150 kilograms.

But that’s just fine for Relativity. The company wants to tap into different markets, mostly launching commercial telecommunication satellites into low orbit, and feels no compulsion to compete with the likes of SpaceX or NASA. And if you consider that NASA recently made it clear that it has no intention of buying SpaceX’s rockets, Relativity’s plan seems to be a safer bet.

One day, Ars Technica reports, the startup hopes to send its rockets to Mars and back. But for now, it’s secured a solid foot on Earth, with a 20-year lease of NASA’s 25-acre E4 Test Complex at Stennis Space Center, in Mississippi.

Relativity plans to launch a first test flight by the end of 2020, Ars Technica notes. Should that be successful, commercial launches will begin in 2021.

The post A Fully 3D-Printed Rocket Is Not as Crazy as it Seems. Investors Agree. appeared first on Futurism.

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Morehshin Allahyari’s 3D-printed project pushes back against ‘digital colonialism’

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<em>Detail of Morehshin Allahyari’s Ya’Jooj Ma’Jooj sculpture. </em>

The Iranian artist created a series of sculptures of dark goddesses

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Give your Google Home Mini an adorable 3D-printed Android robot body

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Having a Google Home Mini around is often an enjoyable, futuristic experience. But for some, it can feel bizarre saying things aloud to seemingly no one in particular and waiting for a disembodied Google Assistant to respond. Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing, you can make these encounters a little more palpable by giving that virtual assistant living inside your smart speaker an adorable Android robot body.

The STL files for this Google Home Mini body can be downloaded for free from Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory, courtesy of our reader Yaya.

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3D-printed smartphone microscope is good enough for scientists

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Grown inside 3D-printed molds: new ears for children

For the first time, scientists in China have created new ears for five children using their own cells grown in a 3D-printed mold.

All five kids, between the ages of six and nine, were born with one underdeveloped ear, a condition called microtia. Though kids with microtia do tend to have hearing loss in their deformed ear, most of the time they can hear fairly well out of the other one. So, the new ears were grown for cosmetic reasons. First, the scientists made a 3D-printed model of the children’s healthy ears, then reversed it to make a mold of what the other ear would look like. Next, they collected cartilage cells from the deformed ear and grew them in the biodegradable mold for three months. Finally, they grafted the new ears,…

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These 3D-printed objects don’t need batteries to connect to Wi-Fi


One of the big tradeoffs that comes with the convenience of having smart devices run your home is the hassle of keeping them powered, either with batteries or by plugging them into the wall. But a new project devised by researchers at the University of Washington could one day help guide the creation of gadgets that don’t require any power at all to stay online. Vikram Iyer, Justin Chan, and Shyamnath Gollakota from UW figured out a way to 3D-print plastic objects with wireless capabilities baked right in – no power source or electronics necessary. The trio created a weighing…

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This 3D-printed ‘living ink’ could someday help with skin replacements

Tomorrow’s replacement skin could be 3D printed from a new ink embedded with living bacteria.

Bacteria are able to do everything from breaking down toxins to synthesizing vitamins. When they move, they create strands of a material called cellulose that is useful for wound patches and other medical applications. Until now, bacterial cellulose could only be grown on a flat surface — and few parts of our body are perfectly flat. In a paper published today in Science Advances, researchers created a special ink that contains these living bacteria. Because it is an ink, it can be used to 3D print in shapes — including a T-shirt, a face, and circles — and not just flat sheets.

Bacterial cellulose is free of debris, holds a lot of water, and…

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3D-printed bacteria ink could be used to treat burns

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3D-printed synthetic muscle opens door to lifelike robots

3D-printed synthetic muscle opens door to lifelike robots

A ‘soft actuator’ with an intrinsic expansion ability and three times the strength of natural muscle has been developed by researchers at Columbia Engineering – signalling a major breakthrough in the push for lifelike robots.

I recently reported on the unveiling of a robot with flexible sensor ‘skin’, noting that bio-inspiration is enhancing the physical fidelity of robots and helping their mechanical attributes catch up with their AI capabilities. Now, natural muscle has provided the framework for the latest advancement in soft robotics.

Imagine the aforementioned sensor skin placed over synthetic muscle that can expand and contract without external compressors or high-voltage equipment. A group in the Creative Machines lab at Columbia Engineering, led by professor of mechanical engineering Hod Lipson, have made this possible.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said Hod Lipson. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

Read more: Ford Robutt ensures car seats are built to last

The hard road to soft robotics

One of the long-standing hurdles in robotics has been the lack of easily processed soft actuators with the ability to bear high levels of strain. Previous solutions have required high voltages or external compressors and pressure-regulating components.

This latest method combines the elastic nature of silicone rubber with the extreme volume change of the ethanol distributed throughout it. A thin resistive wire provides a small electric current that heats the 3D-printed muscle up to 80°C, causing it to expand by as much as 900 percent. It is also incredibly strong – boasting a strain density 15 times larger than natural muscle and the ability to lift 1,000 times its own weight.

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said lead author of the study Aslan Miriyev. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

Read more: Walmart testing autonomous shelf-scanning robots

What’s next for lifelike robots?

Along with its extremely low cost (about 3 cents per gram), simple fabrication process and environmental-friendliness, its capabilities could enable new kinds of electrically-driven, entirely soft robots.

By mimicking living organisms, soft robotics has enormous potential in areas where robots need to contact and interact with humans, such as manufacturing and healthcare. Soft robots are better suited to replicating the intricacies and dynamic nature of natural motion, such as grasping and object manipulation. In other words, the sorts of delicate tasks performed every day in manufacturing and healthcare.

The researchers aren’t content to settle for the results revealed in their study, titled Soft Material for Soft Actuators. Going forward, they hope to replace the embedded wire by incorporating conductive materials into the muscle, as well as increasing its response time and shelf life.

Beyond that, if natural motion in robots is to be realized, they will need to develop the artificial intelligence required to control the synthetic muscles – brains to match the brawn.

Read more: Number of service robots to reach 264 million by 2026

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