Hillsboro 3D Logics printing plant: If you can imagine it, they can print it.

Sterling Logan with his metal 3D printer at right. (KATU)

A recent start-up company, 3D Logics in Hillsboro, has the only metal 3D printer in the Portland area.

We got an inside look at their facility earlier this week and found out that if you can imagine it, it can be printed out.

3D Logics founder Sterling Logan has always been interested in design and 3D printing.

So he started his own company in a Hillsboro business park.

“The demand is becoming more mainstream, I guess you’d say,” Logan said. “We service a wide variety of industries. We focus on medical, aerospace, automotive and other industrial industries. But we also make art pieces, so a wide variety of customers that come to us.”

The company has two of the printers, and both use a powder-based technology.

“Metal starts with a metal powder and melts it layer upon layer until we have a full metal object,” Logan said.

That can mean anything from a small metal, geared-trinket they give to visitors, to a scale model of a jet engine, parts for artificial knees or anything that can be imagined and created on 3D modeling computer software.

“The plastic, same technology,” he said. “Uses a powder based bed that we use a laser to melt it layer upon layer and end up with a plastic part.”

Metal pieces are laid down on a solid slab of metal and during the process are fused to the block by the heat of the laser.

Removing the pieces involves a decidedly low-tech saw that slices the parts off the bed.

“After the parts come out they still need a little polishing, and smoothing,” Logan said.

For metal parts, that involves dropping them into a spinning machine with small plastic pieces shaped like chocolate chips.

Plastic parts emerge from a large cube surrounded by confectioner sugar-like polymer and are blasted clean with compressed air.

Logan and his two colleagues also like to have fun.

A polymer rose is incredibly life-like.

But there are also parts for a light saber, a drone body, Thor’s hammer and other whimsical but fascinating pieces lying around the shop.

They run the gamut from the sublime to the mundane.

To the practical or hard to find.

“This is a door handle for a 1954 Kaiser Darrin,” Logan said, holding a somewhat misshapened handle. As we were learning to use our machine in the process, we did make some mistakes. This is an example of a part that did not build correctly.”

But make no mistake, they are helping re-build bodies in a bionic way.

“We’re making medical implant pieces out of stainless steel and titanium,” he said. “And I think that’s really where the greatest benefits of 3D printing comes in is like when we can do patient specific implant pieces.

“Someone breaks a bone and they need a special piece for their body we can use CT scans and then make a part and 3D print it, specifically for their body. What makes the metal 3d process unique, Logan saids, is the ability to make parts that can't be milled or manufactured in a lab by hand because of their intricacy.

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