In this episode of the Ignite Alabama podcast we take a big-picture look at 3D printing technology from the perspective of Dr. Kenneth Sloan, UAB professor of computer science and director of the 3D Print Lab at UAB.
Consider this the introductory episode to 3D printing technology, also known as additive manufacturing. Dr. Sloan’s area of expertise is in computer science for 3D modeling.
The 3D Print lab at UAB is mainly used for teaching and research but contract 3D printing can be performed on a limited scale for anyone who has the CAD model program written for a project.
In terms of materials, the UAB 3D Print Lab can print in both ABS and PLA thermoplastics. ABS is a very sturdy plastic, while PLA is a non-toxic biodegradable plastic that’s suitable for medical type implants. Dr. Sloan gets into the difference briefly in his comments.
I first learned about 3D printing or additive manufacturing when I was a contributing writer for Fabricating Equipment News way back at the dawn of the 21st century. I was writing on rapid prototyping and innovations in fabrication and machining and was constantly interviewing researchers and engineers who were working on the cutting edge of that technology in the time between 1999 and 2002 so it’s exciting to see how the technology is advancing along with our growth computer processing capacity and understanding of materials science.
In this interview, Dr. Sloan talks about how the rapid advancement of computing capacity has made 3D printing possible. He provides some insights into the viability of 3D printing for custom manufacturing and the challenges of 3D printing for traditional mass production of inexpensive items.
Dr. Sloan provides several examples of how dentists are using 3D printed implants and other items in today’s dental practice.
We also get into the subject of how students can prepare for careers that will involve 3D modeling and new approaches to machining, fabrication in manufacturing.
One of my goals for Ignite Alabama, as a podcast and a movement, is to help raise awareness of the many new technologies that are now available to entrepreneurs and to help everyone from business advisers to policymakers to investors to educators generate ideas to move our economy forward.
I’m working now to line up interviewers with other researchers, scientists and engineers who look at 3D printing from other angles such as biotech applications for burn treatment and materials research for industrial applications of 3D printing, such as in development by Rolls Royce using titanium to print a component for one of its jet engines. That part is already being tested.
If you have an interest in being featured on the show, please reach out to me. The easiest place to find me online is LinkedIn.