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    3D printing & sextants - a few surprises
    From: Eric van der Veen
    Date: 2014 Jan 9, 09:55 -0800

    Friends,

    A word on 3D printing following recent posts.

    It is a misconception that 3D printing is limited to floppy plastics.

    Today in the office I had the opportunity to inspect a titanium(!) 3D-printed part.

    This was piece approx. 3 cm in diameter, approx. 7 mm thick. It was designed for a miniature satellite rocket nozzle, and manufactured for us by a Belgian company.

    Surprise 1. This was not done by sintering, as is usual in 3D printing of metals. This was more like a cast on micro-scale with a 3D printer with a very hot printhead and printbed. Thus the result has the same properties (strength!) as if it was machined titanium. Very light, very strong. Incredible.

    Surprise 2. This unit featured approx 10 holes through the full thickness. Holes were diameter 0.3 mm (!!!!). Try that with a drill. You won't succeed, as all but the most expensive drills will break.

    Surprise 3. A machined equivalent (if the drills work out) would be 1-2 days labour, totalling approx. $1200. This 3D piece..... approx $300.

    So, for all you people doing sextant repair, restoration or manufacture...I suggest you keep a close look on how 3D printing technology evolves. It will open possibilities beyond what we can imagine today.

    Eric
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