Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The applications of 3D printing that are revolutionizing our world. (Part 2 of 2)

In part 1 of this series, we covered the cutting-edge phenomenon of 3D printing. In this blog, we’ll go into the specific uses of the technology that are already changing the world.

The invention of the printing press, the advent of vaccines and modern medicine, the industrial revolution, the computer age, and the prevalence of social media all completely transformed our world, altering the course of history and bringing on innovations that weren’t even imaginable before. But there’s another revolution right at our front door that will be just as profound, yet few people realize it. The dawn of the 3d printing revolution is here and ready permeate into just about every aspect of society. 

Medical applications of 3D printing:
Perhaps the greatest good that will come out of 3d printing will be in the field of medical and surgical advancements. Remarkably, specialized 3d printers can actually serve as “bio-printers,” replicating human tissue, vascular systems, or even bone replacements through the printing process. This isn’t speculation about some futuristic sci-fi technology; this is already possible now! Consider these recent cases, all possible with 3d printing:

A British patient had a titanium pelvis successfully implanted, which was manufactured by a 3d printer.

A patient in Belgium had a titanium lower jaw transplant.

A plastic tracheal splint was successfully used to keep an American infant alive.

In 2014, a five-year old girl in the UK who was born without fully formed fingers on her left hand was given a special gift thanks to 3d printing, a perfect prosthetic hand.

Last year, surgeons in Swansea used 3d printing medical technology to rebuild the face of a motorcyclist that had been critically injured in an accident.

3D printing technology is also expected to make a huge impact in the hearing aid and dental industries.

Already, 3d printers can create human tissue that can be implanted to replace cancerous cells that were removed.

It’s not only humans that can benefit form these medical advances; in 2014 a Chihuahua, born without front legs, was fitted with a special harness and wheels that was made with a 3D printer, which let the little dog get around and enjoy a happy life.

So how does it work? Instead of printing with ink or other materials, medical 3D printers generate layers of living cells that are deposited onto a gel or sugar matrix. These are slowly built up to form three-dimensional structures that replicate tissue or even bone. It’s predicted that within the next decade or so, we’ll be able to “print” fully functioning organs and entire bones. That would ostensibly eliminate the need for organ donors and waiting times, saving thousands or even millions of lives.

Environmental uses for 3D printing:
3D printing will have a monumental positive effect on protecting our environment. Not only does traditional subtractive manufacturing use way more fossil fuels, consume more energy, and produce waste and pollutants, but 3D printing can actually help clean up our current mess. They’ve created automated machines called RecycleBots that can sift through tons of recycled materials to pull out harmful plastics. From there, a processing technology called Filastruder can covert the waste plastics into inexpensive filaments that 3D printers can use, sort of like liquid 3D ink. With billions of plastic water bottles in landfills leaching harmful toxins into our water and soil, this would go a long way to start reversing the process.

More over, the uses of 3D printing to aid and heal the environment are almost limitless. Already in the small Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, they are using large-scale 3D printers to replicate a material that looks and feels like coral. They install it underwater, which fosters real coral to colonize and regenerate their damaged reefs.

3D printing in building and construction.
Of course this is a blog from the Alfano Real Estate Group, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the myriad uses of 3D printing in home building and commercial construction. Large-scale 3D printers can create construction materials similar to concrete to be used to erect buildings. As the technology of 3D printing improves, large-scale commercial projects will be possible. The movement from pre-fab to custom-fab will change what is possible in the realm of home building, with customizations and personalization literally only a click of a button away. Very soon, someone will endeavor to “print” an entire livable house!

Science and research applications.
Although 3D printing technology was invented in the United States, other countries have led the way with developing its applications. China, for one, saw the potential early, committing $500 million and establishing 10 national 3D printing technology institutes to develop the technology. Chinese scientists have already printed ears, livers, and kidneys with human tissue. They can even print chemical compounds.

All across the world, researchers from different fields are practically rejoicing at the practical applications of 3D printing. For instance, archeologists can now print perfect replicates of priceless and fragile relics, which they can then use to further their research and deconstruct and construct at will. It won’t be long before every museum is 3D printing dinosaur bones, statues, and artifacts.

3D printing and digital technology.
In a terrific twist of inventiveness, 3D printers can actually be used to manufacture laptops, computers, and…get this – other 3D printers! They aren’t completely self replicable yet as memory chips or hard drives aren’t being printed yet, but that’s probably coming soon. 

The possibilities extend far beyond our planet earth, as 3D printing is already being used in outer space. In 2014, the International Space Station needed a very specific socket wrench to make some repairs. Instead of sending a craft up to deliver, they sent up a 3D printer with the SpaceX shuttle. The printer, specially designed to work in zero gravity, went to work once NASA emailed the CAD plans, and the astronauts manufactured the tool and made the necessary repairs. It won’t be a surprise if every future space mission is outfitted with 3D printers to make in-mission repairs thousands of miles from home.

3D printing and the culinary arts:
How can 3D printing possibly have anything to do with food? In one of the most fun uses of this technology, you can even put edible liquefied substances in 3D printers as “ink.” Already, chefs and culinary experts are using chocolate, frosting, cheese, and many more with specialized 3D printers for food that use syringes to dispense the treats and make some incredible edible works of art.

The easy of 3D printing consumer goods:
Just about any objet can be produced with a 3D printer, including anything made from plastic, glass, precious metals, polymers, and sand and glue mixtures. Already we’re seeing 3D printing taking over the world of consumer goods, as jewelry, models, children’s toys, and fashion prototypes by companies like Nike and Under Armour are under way. The potential to get a perfect fit for eyeglasses, bikinis, and shoes is a reality now without custom manufacturing. How archaic it seems now to pre-make standardized shoes and hope our feet fit into them instead of measuring the foot perfectly with the aid of computers and producing the exact-fitting footwear.  The Vapor Lasor Talon football cleat was produced in 2012 and New Balance is also manufacturing custom fit shoes.

3D printing is also expanding the frontiers and definitions of art, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in and Time Magazine, who recently listed 3D printed design among their 100 most influential designs of the year.

3D printing automobiles:
Car manufacturers around the world are hard at work developing large-scale 3D printing to the point where they can completely produce a car with additive manufacturing. It seems that will be a reality in months, not years, as already the Swedish supercar manufacturer, Koenigsegg, announced the release of One:1, a supercar that is made of mostly 3D printed parts. As far back as 2010 the Urbee, a hybrid auto with an ultra-modern look made by U.S engineering group Kor Ecologic, used some 3D printed parts. And Local Motors, an American car manufacturer, is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cincinnati Incorporated to get their additive manufacturing systems up to par so they can print entire cars from start to finish.

The controversy around 3D printing firearms.
Just like with any brand new and ground breaking technology, there is a dark side to its use as criminals or profiteers look to cash in. The makers of 3D printing never imagined that people would be using these printers to make fully functioning firearms right at home, but that’s become the reality in recent years.

Ammunition is also in play as 3D weapons manufacturer, Defense Distributed has already designed an AR-15 type magazine that holds more than 650 rounds and a 30-round M16 magazine.

Of course when someone prints a gun at home it’s not registered, permitted, and the bullets are untraceable. There have been several instances of this happening in the United States and in 2014, a Japanese man, Yoshitomo Imura, was sentenced to 2 years in prison for making 3D firearms.

But interestingly enough, it’s not the actual firearms themselves that authorities worry the most about, but the design plans or CAD drawings. If those are readily disseminated online, then virtually anyone could make their own firearm.

The issue is so concerning, yet in such a gray area, that the US Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center recently released a memo citing "significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing,” and that “Proposed legislation to ban 3D printing of weapons may deter, but cannot completely prevent their production. Even if the practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of these 3D printable files will be as difficult to control as any other illegally traded music, movie or software files."

Monday, April 27, 2015

Answering the 15 most common questions about real estate appraisals.

What is an appraisal?
An appraisal is an estimate or professional opinion of value based on a comprehensive inspection of the subject property, and then comparing the findings to similar properties sold in the same neighborhood. The purpose of the appraisal is to define the market value of the property – what a reasonable sales price would be – at the present time.

What are the three parts of the appraisal process?
There are generally three parts to any appraisal process:

1) The inspection.
After the appraisal is ordered, a licensed appraiser comes out to the subject property and inspects it, colleting data they’ll use to determine value.

2) Researching comparable properties.
Post inspection, the appraiser researches similar homes that have sold or are active or pending listings to gauge a base of market value. The appraiser then adjusts that value based on particulars of the subject property and other macro factors.

3)The final appraisal report.
The appraiser produces a final report that details his or her findings and issues their final value estimation.

When do you need an appraisal?
An appraisal is ordered every time there is a mortgage loan issued (refinance or purchase), a sale of a home, and sometimes in other circumstances, like a divorce, total asset evaluation, or loan modification. 

Who owns the appraisal?
The party who ordered the appraisal owns it, and the appraisal company cannot legally release any of the information or the report to anyone else without written authorization.

How do they value your property?
The goal of an appraisal is to calculate the actual market value of your home. They do this using several method of valuation, including the comparable sales price approach. With that, the appraiser compares your home to others on the market that have sold recently, called “comps” or comparables. Ideally, appraisers compare your home to identical homes that have sold in your same neighborhood within a few months. If those criteria don’t exist, they start comparing to similar homes a little further out that have sold within the last 6 months or so. Based on this data and an inspection of your home, they make adjustments and come up with an estimated appraised value.

What market factors go into finding your home’s value?
Appraisers look at a bevy of factors to determine a property’s fair market value. That number is a snapshot of value at that exact time, but also takes into account the future benefits and ongoing value of the property. Those include economic, social, governmental, and environmental factors that could exert influence on home values in the area.

Appraisers look at 4 macro factors:

1) Demand:
The desire or need for people to buy and live in such a home.

2) Utility:
The specific home’s ability to fit the needs of future owners.

3) Scarcity:
The amount of other homes in the area and on the market that could fit those needs, i.e. the competition.

4) Transferability:
The simplicity and ease with which the property can be sold or transferred to another owner.

What do appraisers look when they inspect a home?
Exterior condition of your home.
Roof composition, age, and condition.
Square footage.
How many bedrooms and bathrooms.
The age of the home.
The general condition.
HVAC system.
General maintenance.
Home improvements and remodels.
Pools, fireplaces, outdoor living, and permanent extras.

Are the appraised value and price the same?
Remember that appraised value is a professional opinion what the home is worth on the current market, but in certain circumstances, a buyer and seller may agree on the a price that is higher or lower than the appraised value. The appraised value is not necessarily the price of the home, but a good pinpoint of value.

How long is an appraisal good for?
An appraisal is valid for lending purposes for up to a year after it’s issued. But usually after six months has passed, borrowers may consider getting an updated value. They can do that with a re-certification of value through the appraiser, without having to order a whole new report.

Why do lenders always need an appraisal?
Lenders require an appraiser because it’s the best way to ensure their investment is sound. If the property did not hold enough value or had serious flaws or problems, the mortgage lender would end up losing a lot of money if the borrower defaults and they have to take the property back.

What can you do to influence the outcome?
In theory, the only thing you can do to raise your home’s appraised value is to keep the property in good condition, make all necessary repairs, and possibly remodel or upgrade. But it can’t hurt to keep your home clean, uncluttered, and looking neat when the appraiser comes to inspect. Even better, make a list of any repairs or remodels you’ve done that could possibly improve the value, including any high-end or brand new materials or appliances. Your realtor could also supply a list of accurate comparable properties for the appraiser to consider, which may help your case.

Is the assessment the same as an appraisal?
Assessed value is actually issued by the municipality in order to gauge how much to charge for property taxes. Most areas require a reassessment of properties every ten years or less to account for rising prices and market factors.

What kinds of appraisers are there?
While appraisers go through rigorous training, examinations, and state licensing, not all appraisers are created equal. There are residential real estate appraisers who cover single family homes up to a million dollars as well as multi-family buildings up to four units, certified residential appraisers who can value properties over one million dollars, and certified general appraisers who can also value commercial properties.

Who’s interest does the appraiser represent?
Appraisers are neutral third-party professionals that base their findings solely on independent market data.

Are appraisals standardized?

Most appraisers across the country use standard forms, the most being the 1004, which is the appraisal report for residential real estate used by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two largest mortgage backers.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This Mother's Day, entertain your mom with the fun and interesting history of her special day!

Every second Sunday in May, we pay tribute to the greatest and most important women we'll ever know - out mothers! By now, Mother's Day is so ingrained in our national conscience that we take our mothers out to brunch, buy them cards, and present them pretty flowers en masse, but how many of us know how the holiday actually started? So this year, entertain your mom with a few fun and interesting facts about the origin about her special day. 

About Mother’s Day:
Mother’s Day is a holiday in the United States that falls on the second Sunday in May every year.

Mother's Day is “meant to honor mothers and their influence in society, maternal bonds and motherhood itself.”

It was first made an official holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, but the origins go back much further and are quite controversial and tragic.

Many other countries have their own Mother’s Day or a similar maternal day of recognition, though origins and traditions vary. In some parts of the world it’s celebrated in March, other months, or assimilated with International Women’s Day.

The great debate - is it "Mother’s Day" or "Mothers’ Day?"
Over the decades, the correct spelling of the holiday has created some derision and controversy. Some people think it’s “Mothers' Day,” which mean we’re celebrating all mothers. Others insist that “Mother's Day” is correct, as the holiday was created so we can pay tribute to our own mother, only. Even advertisements sometimes get it wrong.

The official, correct answer is that it’s “Mother’s Day.” Why?

"It wasn't to celebrate all mothers. It was to celebrate the best mother you've ever known—your mother—as a son or a daughter,” according to Ann Reeves Jarvis, who founded the holiday.

The sordid history of Mother’s Day:
The origins of Mother’s Day are somewhat misunderstood and overlooked. The day is sometimes attributed to Mothering Sunday, a Christian holiday. Some people think it came from Cybele or Hilaria, Greek and Roman festivals that centered on honoring matriarchs, but neither of those are related to our modern tradition.

In fact, Julia Howe, the woman who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic, first attempted start a Mother’s Day in 1872. The day was meant to be an antiwar observance to honor mothers who lost their sons in battle. It was celebrated mostly in Boston for about 10 years before losing popularity and fizzling out, becoming nothing but an asterisk in history.

But there were other contributors at work around that time. In the late 1850s, a woman named Ann Reeves Jarvis from West Virginia started Mother’s Day work clubs. The clubs were formed to “improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination,” which were significant problems at the time.

When the country fell into war, Ann Reeves Jarvis’s Mother’s Day clubs turned their efforts to aiding wounded soldiers. The number of injured and dead during the Civil War was alarming, so from 1861 to 1865, her club endeavored to tend to the wounded from both sides of the conflict.

When the Civil War ended and the country looked to sew together the fragile fabric of unification, Jarvis and her Mother’s Day club organized Mother’s Friendship Days, picnics, and other events to try to unite former Confederate and Union factions and promote peace. Jarvis formed a committee to establish a national Mother’s Friendship Day, but it didn’t take hold during her lifetime and she died in 1905.

But she did leave behind a precocious daughter, also named Ann Jarvis, who picked up her mother’s work. The younger Jarvis rallied for a Mother’s Day again, partly to serve as a memorial to the life’s work of her fallen mother. The first popular Mother's Day was celebrated in 1908 and the holiday grew in popularity. In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the terms ‘Mother's Day' and ‘the second Sunday in May' and also created Mother's Day International Association.

And finally, in 1914, the holiday achieved the penultimate recognition, when President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day an official national holiday.

Controversy and tragedy around Mother's Day.
But instead of being a moment of joy and achievement for Ann Jarvis to remember her mother, history took a dark turn. Instead of honoring the original mission of promoting peace, unity, and honoring the fallen, Mother’s Day became increasingly commercial. By 1920, only 6 years later, the original spirit of the holiday was largely forgotten and the day was all about buying flowers and giving gifts, an agenda promoted by retailers, florists, and restaurants, etc.

Ann Jarvis was appalled by how the national holiday had developed and rallied to reverse the current. The woman who was responsible for founding Mother’s Day now dedicated herself to reforming the holiday. She wrote letters, protested, organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even took the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, when the President’s wife used the holiday to raise funds for charities. The fight against a commercial Mother’s Day consumed her until the 1940s, when her obsession landed her in a sanitarium. She died at 84 years old in 1948 in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in Philadelphia, shattered, dispirited, and financially destitute despite forming one of the most popular holidays in American history.

By the time she died, Mother's Day was observed in 45 countries around the world.

Mother’s Day by the numbers:
The National Retail Federation reports that total spending on Mother’s Day will reach $19.9 billion this year.

Last year, Americans spent $162.94 per person on their mothers for the holiday.

That’s down about $6 from the year before, so we’re slacking with spoiling our mothers!

Every Mother’s Day, we make approximately 122 million phone calls to our mothers in the United States.

According to the U.S. National Restaurant Association, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year for people to dine out.

Traditional gifts for our mothers include flowers, a Mother’s Day card, gift cards to her favorite store, vacations, trips to the spa, books, etc.

That's a lot of flowers!
Of all the flowers purchased for holidays in the U.S., and astounding 25% are purchased for Mother’s Day.

Numerous studies have shown that there are actually health and psychological benefits to receiving flowers.

Carnations are the most common flower we give to our mothers on the holiday.

But the color we choose shouldn’t be arbitrary; the tradition goes that on Mother's Day, you give pink and red carnations if your mother is still alive and you’d honor a grave or memorial with white carnations if she has passed away.

Mother's Day cards:
Other than florists and restaurants, Hallmark is the big winner on Mother’s Day. The greeting card company first started selling Mother’s Day cards way back in 1920, and now reports that the day of homage to our moms is the third most popular holiday for cards, behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

Every year, we send or exchange about 133 million Mother's Day cards according to Hallmark.

Interesting facts:
At any given time there are about 4.1 million new mothers in the United States, women aged 15 to 50 who gave birth in the last 12 months.

Stepmothers can be honored on Mother’s Day, too. About 14 million children have stepmoms and 5.6 million live with their surrogate maternal parents in the U.S. these days.

August is the most popular month in which to have a baby.

The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, by a woman in Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets.

One U.S, mother has three children who were all born on the exact same date. Jenna Cotton gave has a son, Ayden, that was born Oct. 2, 2003, another son, Logan, who was born Oct. 2, 2006, and a daughter, Kayla, who came into the world on Oct. 2, 2007. Statisticians calculate that the odds of a mother having three children born on the same date in different years at about 7.5 in 1 million.