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MM: Making Cheaper, Eco-Friendly Metal With Electricity

In this episode, we examine using electricity to produce cheaper, more environmentally friendly metal, and the world’s largest 3D pen printed sculpture.

Using Electricity to Produce Cheaper, More Environmentally Friendly Metal

Humans have used heat to forge metals for millennia, but a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that there could be a better way to produce metals.

MIT chemists originally hoped to develop a new type of liquid battery, but when they applied an electric charge to the materials in their experiment, they instead produced antimony — a little-used metal most often deployed in semiconductors, batteries and fire retardants.

Electrolysis has been used to produce aluminum since the 19th century, but MIT scientists believe that their newly discovered system could be applied to metals used heavily in industry.

Producing metals with electricity is a much more energy-efficient method for smelting than heat, which could help lower costs for smelters and manufacturers alike.

And whereas conventional smelting produces the air pollutant sulfur dioxide, the MIT process instead generates pure sulfur gas that could be collected and used as chemical feedstock.

Scientists are confident that the process could be translated to produce copper or nickel, and if it can be used to make steel, it could mitigate a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Could this process impact those metals in the same way that the aluminum market was upended more than a century ago? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

World’s Largest 3D Pen Sculpture

In the category of “Well isn’t that neat,” Nissan has created what could be the world's largest 3D printed pen sculpture. The model Qashqai (cash-kai) Black Edition was hand-drawn by a team of artists using 3Doodler 3D pens to celebrate the car's launch in Europe and contains 8.6 miles of plastic strands.

The sculpture took 800 man-hours to complete over a three-week period. The final sculpture is about 14.4 feet long and 5.2 feet high – the same as a real Nissan Qashqai Black Edition.

Lead artist on the project Grace Du Prez indicated that this has been her most ambitious 3D pen structure to date and said “it demonstrates how far 3D printing technology has come and how it can be used by anyone.”

Is this just a fun marketing gimmick or does manufacturing have something to learn from this sculpture? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below. 

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