The CAT processTM

The Computer Aided Three-dimensional (CAT) process is a software invention for making 3D printable parts at any resolution. The 3D print mesh below are for a standard 5/8 in. UNC bolt. The left one has layers at 0.004 in. or 100 microns and its part file is 4.4 MB. The right one has layers at 0.0016 in.or 40 microns. Its part file is 27.8MB. The CAT process creates the same parts at different resolutions with files that can be in Gigabytes. Once printed, the 3D print file can be erased and recreated on demand.

The thread on the left has been printed and destructively tested at the Olsen Center at UNH. They used a Markforge 3D printer with Onxy, a plastic material that includes chopped carbon fiber mix. The destructive test was over 1700 lbs. or 7890 Newtons and can be seen at this Videolink. The thread on the right is being made out of steel using a laser sintering process. The laser melts layers of powered steel to build the part. These parts will have at least another decimal place of strength.

Current printing technology is at 1 micron (0.0000397 in.). This is just numbers for the CAT process, it is software with no scale. A 1.4 Gigabyte prototype was created, printed and erased. The real benefit to the CAT process is to a deliver a warehouse of parts on demand from a laptop computer. 3D printers are expanding in their precision, resolution and materials. All industrial and commercial fasteners, connections and other standardized parts will be small seed files that expand on demand through the CAT process.

The plan is to develop an online store of 3D print files of fasteners with the choice of Unified Threads (standard), wave or key threads. This is making the CAT process into a verified delivery system. Once that is operational, the more marketable application will be gas and fluid connections. These include plumbing, pneumatic and hydraulic applications. Future 3D print parts with be electric, electronic, fiber optic and precision alignments of hundreds of micro channel gas and fluid connections.

To get to gas and fluid connections, the 3D printed threads have to seal. That research lead to a process that works on all 3D printed threaded parts called Z engineered tools. In the picture is a 3D printed w hite cap is screwed onto a nipple that is screwed into a gauge holding 30 lbs of pressure. The test was 30 lbs for 24 hours. The patent pending Z engineering tools includes two kinds of ways to create a seal. It is uniquely 3D printed because of the difficulty in machining. The gas and fluid connection will include a choice of standard pipe thread, wave or key thread. Then the Z engineered tool is added.