Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Find 3-D Printed Parts Provide Low-Cost, Custom Alternatives for Lab Equipment

04.03.2015

The 3-D printing scene, a growing favorite of do-it-yourselfers, has spread to the study of plasma physics. With a series of experiments, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that 3-D printers can be an important tool in laboratory environments.

"The printer is now a crucial piece of our laboratory and used regularly," said Andrew Zwicker, the head of Science Education at PPPL and lead author of a paper that reports the results in the current issue of the American Journal of Physics. "The versatility of the printer is such that our first reaction to an equipment need is no longer whether we can find or purchase the required piece of equipment, but can we print it?"


Elle Starkman/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

3-D printed parts provide the stands for the aluminum globes in PPPL's Planeterrella, a device that simulates Northern Lights.

Three-dimensional printers create objects by laying down layers of material, whether plastic, metal, ceramic or organic. A computer controls a moveable nozzle that extrudes the hot material according to digital computer-aided design (CAD) files. Each layer is thin, often measuring only several hundred millionths of a meter in height.

Hobbyists have used 3-D printers to build curiosities such as sets of interlocking rings. But researchers have become interested because the printers can build customized parts for experiments, often at very low cost. And because a 3-D printer can produce parts quickly, the time between when a need is recognized and when a part is ready to install can be just a few hours.

During the experiments, Zwicker and his team printed plastic parts, including a cone and a cylinder, to test basic properties such as size, shape, use as an electrical insulator and ability to operate in a vacuum. The researchers also printed parts for an electrode in a plasma physics experiment, and replacement parts, such as a guard for a cooling fan and a handle for a piece of test equipment.

Zwicker needed to see if the parts could withstand moderate vacuum environments in some plasma physics experiments and could withstand physical stresses. The team also needed to determine whether the dimensions of the parts matched the specifications of the designs.

The dimensions proved accurate, but only up to a point: On average, the individual layers were larger or smaller than the specifications by a fraction of a millimeter. While this degree of accuracy was not enough for objects that had to be built with a high level of precision, it was good enough for many laboratory purposes.

The plastic parts passed the vacuum tests and stress tests, too. Zwicker wanted to know if the parts began to emit hydrocarbon gas — as plastics sometimes do — that would contaminate the vacuum and ruin plasma experiments at moderate pressures. But as long as the plastic was kept below 75 degrees Celsius, no hydrocarbon gas was detected.

Next, the team placed small bars of 3-D printed plastic in a machine that tested the ability of a material to withstand pulling, and found that printing did not weaken it. In general, the strength of printed parts matched that of bulk plastic.

Finally, Zwicker found that a 3-D printer was an important tool for producing dielectric insulators for electrodes.

"The ability to print this material in any size, shape, or configuration provided an unmatched flexibility to quickly and efficiently test new configuration ideas for different experimental conditions," Zwicker said.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, which is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

John Greenwald | newswise

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles
13.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Simpler interferometer can fine tune even the quickest pulses of light
12.07.2018 | University of Rochester

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>