5 Game-Changers in 3D Printing

The possibilities of 3D printing appear endless.  A new breakthrough seems to be announced each week, usually about a printer’s ability to duplicate a vital object (a human limb, for instance) that wields tremendous benefit for society.  Here are five “game-changers” that 3D printers are starting to duplicate, with explanations as to why they are game-changers–good and bad. Buildings: Behrokh Khoshnevis generated buzz during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show when his firm, Contour Crafting, showcased a conceptual technique for building an entire home in the space of a single day. Khoshnevis’s presentation is not new (it debuted last year), but it sparked inquiries from important folks in business, humanitarian care, and government. The high-speed and low-cost can allow homes to be more attainable to consumers; conversely, however, that speed and cost may come at the expense of human labor.  It’s too soon to determine whether Khoshnevis’s vision will bear out, but the concept of the 3D-printed dwellings has all the ingredients of being a force of social and economic change. Body Parts: One ongoing 3DP development that’s likely to garner a lot of support is in the development of prosthetics.  Millions of people (and animals, too) suffer deformities due to birth defects or injury; medical institutes have invested in 3D-printed cartilage and limbs to help replace these missing parts. Humanitarian aid groups and international agencies are likely to enlist these institutes, and their 3DP expertise, in order to help wounded refugees and wildlife at reduced expense compared to current methods, such as hand-made prosthetics, that cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Researchers are currently testing 3DP duplication of skin, blood vessels, and even organs. Vehicle Parts: The 3DP process is making its fastest inroads in the production of automotive and aeronautical parts.  Here the industrial application has richest potential by slashing the amount of resources that goes into production.  3DP is an additive process whereby a product is constricted from the ground up, layer by layer; current industrial production is subtractive, milling down a larger chunk of material in order to create a smaller product, thereby leaving behind lots of waste.  The use of fewer resources can therefore cut a manufacturer’s material cost as well as preserve more of Earth’s mineral resources. Wheels, engine blocks, and plane wings are already being manufactured.  Some car companies, such as Porsche and Honda, have freely distributed CAD models of their vehicles for 3D printing. What does all this mean for the consumer?  As as there’s a CAD model, a consumer can produce any part for his vehicle, no matter how obscure, for little cost.  Lancia owners rejoice. Doohickeys: It can be a pain having to search for some obscure, replacement part of a broken appliance or furniture—either because it’s hard to find or it’s absurdly expensive.  Whether a Lego piece or a lamp switch, 3DP’s most useful role for the consumer will be to create small parts.  After all: How many of us remember losing an action figure’s weapons?  Critics chide this factor as being little more than a novelty, but the ability to duplicate such things as outlet covers, pencil holders, kitchenware, and utensils is hard to overlook.  MakerBot’s Thingiverse is the Web’s top source for finding user-generated and free-to-use CAD models, with thousands of entries being added monthly.  The possibilities seem endless. Firearms: Easily the most controversial item, the 3D printing of firearms is having the biggest impact on government policy.   News sources from BBC World News to Wired Magazine have reported on the fledgling industry spearheaded by “crypto-anarchist” Cody Wilson, who has produced and distributed untraceable, open-source firearm...

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Explaining TAA Compliance

If you’ve ever glanced at some of LINKYO’s product overviews, you may have noticed a prominent banner labeled TAA-Compliant.  That then begs the question: What does “TAA-compliant” mean? For starters, TAA is short for Trade Agreement Act — a federal act that’s about…well, trade agreement. With that out of the way, let’s have a quick history lesson: The US Congress and Pres. Jimmy Carter put this particular Trade Agreement Act into law in the tumultuous year of 1979.  (There were, in fact, precursors to the ‘79 law.)  The laws require that bulk products bought by federal agencies from foreign companies have some degree of production done in the United States. The minimum purchase standard is around $193,000, but some countries can work around the standard if they have a special trade agreement.  If you really want to look at the complicated details, you can check out the official guide at: http://goo.gl/M2dLiN. Pertaining to us, LINKYO is an American company that manages and distributes in the USA.  It is, therefore, proudly compliant with the TAA. So whenever you see “TAA-Compliant” logo on any of LINKYO’s product pages, take comfort in knowing that you have an item made in or assembled in the...

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Understanding Page Yields

If you’ve ever felt confused by the countless types toner cartridges — standard, starter, jumbo — you’re not alone. Cartridge manufacturers don’t do all that good of a job explaining them. And what about page yields? Why is that the number always varies? We’ll break it down for you. First, let’s cover toner. A toner cartridge is what you use on a laserjet printer. Toner is a fine powder that sticks to a lasered pattern that’s been reflected onto a page (via a rotating cylinder). Yes, that was a long sentence, but it summarized a complex process. There are three types of toner cartridges: Starter Standard High-Yield A starter cartridge is included when you buy a printer, but usually yields fewer pages than a standard cartridge you buy separately. A standard cartridge may yield 2,600 pages, but starter for the same model of printer may just yield 1,500. A high-yield cartridge, also known as extended or jumbo yield, is just that: it yields a high number of pages. Using a high-yield toner cartridge will typically save you money, since you’ll have the print output of two to three standard cartridges in one. This also means environmental savings, as fewer cartridges mean less carbon dioxide (CO2) pumped into the atmosphere and less plastic waste in our landfills. Second, how do we determine a cartridge’s page yields? Most serious manufacturers, including Linkyo, base their yield estimates on standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The standard is set at 5% page coverage. Industry estimates find that the average amount of black-and-white printed text/images occupy just 5% of a page–hence the standard. But what does 5% page coverage look like? This IS 5%. This is LESS than 5%. This is MORE than 5% coverage. Multiple factors can affect your toner cartridge’s yields: Climate Resolution Color Age Cooler temperatures and lower resolutions will increase print yields. Older age, infrequent use, images, and color will decrease your yields. Shaking an almost-empty cartridge, will help loosen toner powder and give you a few added pages. Concentrating printing tasks into a single job instead of dispersing them into separate jobs will also save you on...

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Little Known Facts About Blank Media

Let’s make no scruples about it: blank media is well past its prime. Sales of compact discs (CDs) and digital versatile discs (DVDs) have been sliding for years.  Analysts predict the medium to be phased out before the decade’s end. However, we should also point out that millions of CDs and DVDs continue to be sold annually for entertainment and utility purposes. Understanding the various types of blank discs can be confusing, so Linkyo Insights is here to make it simple for you by highlighting major CD and DVD formats–while they’re still relevant… When we talk about blank media today, we pretty much mean a optical disc. An optical disc works in a similar way to the old vinyl record: data is imprinted along a line that spirals out from the center of the disc to the edge. A laser, found inside a playing device, reads the printed data, allowing a user to access whatever music, imagery, or files are on-board. A basic disc has a single layer of spiraled data, but there are variants that can be had with more than one layer–and, hence, more storage. The Compact Disc was the first optical disc to become a success on the market. It was the result of a Philips/Sony collaboration in the early 1980s. The first CD hit the market in 1982, eventually hitting a commercial peak in 2000. The Compact Disc, measuring 4.8 in. in diameter, became the dominant medium for popular music, computer software, and video games in the 1990s thanks to the superior audio/video (A/V) and storage capacity it had over its predecessors. Blank CDs are available as either Recordable (CD-R) or ReWritable (-RW) and be manufactured for a wide variety of burning speeds. A user can burn data onto a CD-R only once, but is able to burn data onto a CD-RW multiple times. A typical (meaning single-layered) CD holds seven hundred megabytes (700 MB), or 74 min. of audio. For much of the 2000s, the Digital Versatile Disc was the mainstay of the home video market, succeeding where the LaserDisc (LD) and Video Compact Disc (VCD) failed. Philips, Sony, Panasonic, and Toshiba partnered to develop the DVD, which stored more data and produced better A/V quality than its predecessors. The DVD debuted in the United States in 1997, quickly becoming the primary medium for movies, TV shows, and a new generation of video games. The DVD’s video resolution is about twice that of its analog predecessor, the Video Home System (VHS) cassette. A blank DVD is widely available in either single-layer (SL) or dual-layers (DL) of storage. Storage ranges from 4.7 (SL) to 8.5 GB (DL). The DVD’s base storage of 4.7 GB is equivalent to that of seven (700MB) CDs. Like a CD, a DVD is available in either Recording (R) or ReWritable (RW) type. Unlike a CD, those DVD types are divided into competing sub-formats of Plus (ex. DVD+R) and Minus (ex. DVD–R). Plus is the newer of the two and uses a more integrated coding system that’s supposed to make it smooth-burning and error-resistant; in truth, the answer to which is superior is a source of unending debate. If you own a relatively new burner or player, it should play either format just fine. Finally, there’s the Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, a hi-def successor to the DVD that hit the market back in 2006. The BD was developed by a collection of corporations (such as Sony and Toshiba) and institutes (namely, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). A BD can range from single to quadruple layers, carrying anywhere from 25 to 128...

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Why Compatible Ink & Toner Cartridges Doesn’t Void Your Printer Warranty

A question that comes up again and again is whether or not using a LINKYO ink/toner cartridge (or any third-party cartridge, for that matter) will void a printer’s factory warranty. The answer is NO. Using third-party ink and toner cartridges–including those from LINKYO–has no effect on your printer’s warranty. Many consumers believe that their printer can only use ink and toner from the original manufacturer. Wrong. That would be like IKEA requiring a buyer to use IKEA-branded tools to assemble IKEA-branded furniture. A more fitting example might be Dell requiring you to use a Dell-branded mouse or USB thumb-drive on one of its computers. It is federally required that a manufacturer preserve its warranty regardless of whether or not the owner uses first- or third-party peripherals with the warrantied item. This is thanks to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, a federal law authored by Sen. Warren Magnuson and Rep. John Moss that set a national standard for product warranties. The Magnuson-Moss law prohibits a manufacturer from putting out a “tie-in” provision–meaning that a manufacturer can’t void an owner’s warranty just because he or she used a properly functioning component made by another company. You can find a thorough explanation on the law at: http://goo.gl/y3eODt. But what about the different types of ink and toner cartridges? There are three you should take note of: Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Compatible Remanufactured An OEM cartridge comes directly from the printer’s manufacturer (i.e. Brother, Canon, Epson, HP). A compatible cartridge is one manufactured by a different company (such as LINKYO), but fully usable for a particular model of printer. A remanufactured cartridge is one that has been re-purposed for continued use on a particular model of printer. As a retailer, LINKYO offers all three types of ink and toner cartridges. All three work fine with their assigned printer models. We’re always glad to clear things...

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Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing

If you’ve been tuning into the latest news, odds are that you’ve heard about 3D printing. Paul Markillie of The Economist declared it the “third industrial revolution.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN referred to it as “game-changing technology.” Even Pres. Barack Obama celebrated 3D printing, christening it as the “next revolution in manufacturing” during his State of the Union address. There’s no denying it: 3D printing is having a major impact–one that consumers are increasingly able to enjoy. Here’s Linkyo Insights’ brief, simple explanation to the ins and outs of 3D printing. —– 3D printing is an “additive” process, meaning that it creates a product by adding layers of material until those layers make up a solid whole. This contrasts with a subtractive process, notably milling, that creates a product by cutting layers of material from a larger mass. An additive process is seen as the more efficient and less wasteful of the two–crucial in an era of greater energy conservation. The process of 3D printing can be broken down into four steps: Model Slice Fixup Print The model stage has the user 3D modeling the object he wants to print. The user does this with a computer-aided design (CAD) program. He or she can develop the model by scratch or by downloading a pre-developed blueprint from a website, such as Thingiverse. This model is then converted into an STL (stereolithography) file. With the slice stage, a program called a slicer remodels the STL file by dividing the object into layers (“slices”). Remember that a printer works by producing layer upon layer until those layers become a complete object. The higher the resolution, the smaller the layer and the more precise the overall object. After the STL model has been sliced, a fixup program checks the model and corrects it of any errors. Once that’s done, the print phase begins. —– Next up–the printer. The printer itself is made up of four key parts: Filament Extruder Hot-End Print Bed The filament is to a 3D printer what ink and toner are to 2D printers. Filament is commonly made of a plastic thread wrapped around a spool, but it can also be made up of other materials. The extruder is the component that delivers (“extrudes”) the filament to the hot-end, the nozzle section. (The extruder and hot-end are often combined.) The filament is then produced in layers on the print bed. There are four types of filament: metal, ceramic, composite, and plastic. Plastic, the most common type, can be subdivided into five categories: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Polylactic Acid (PLA) Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) Polycarbonate (PC) High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) ABS is the most common type of plastic filament. PLA is a runner-up, being both biodegradable and available in soft or hard form. PVA, a dissolvable substance found in lubricants and adhesives, has a small, but growing, niche. PC, used in media discs and bullet-resistant glass, is still in the developmental stage. HDPE, a type of moisture-resistant cheap plastic found in bottles and pipes, has little use because of its proneness to warping and shrinkage. —– 3D printers measure resolution by tenths to hundredths of a millimeter (mm). The more minute the resolution, the longer the printing process. A small object set at 0.3 mm resolution may take 15 min., while the same object may take 3 hrs. to print when set at a 0.1 mm resolution. Of course, it takes a capable printer to put out such a precise resolution–in other words, it costs more money. The good news is that the cost of 3D printers has come down considerably, ranging...

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