UVa Today: 3D Printing

February 20, 2013

On this edition of UVa Today Bob Beard talks with David Sheffler about 3D printing.

Sheffler is a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at UVa's School of Engineering and uses 3D printers with his students to create design prototypes.

"To make a plastic turbofan engine to scale five years ago would have taken two years, at a cost of about $250,000," Sheffler said. "But with 3D printing we designed and built it in four months for about $2,000."

A 3D Printer works with a computer model of an item, and slices it into extremely thin layers. A printer-head tool injects beads of plastic onto a movable tray one fraction of an inch at a time, slowly building up the object.

The technology for 3D printing is fairly new, so the process is fairly slow and costly. However, Sheffler believes in ten years the 3D printer will be a common household item, like a microwave.

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