Thursday, 30 December 2010

The World's First 3D Printed Musical Instrument - A 3D Printed Flute

Is this a breakthrough? A flute, printed in 3D.

Is 3D Printing a niche technology? Just one of several fabrication techniques. Or is it a significant breakthrough that will transform manufacturing supply chains and economies with impacts on the scale of the first industrial revolution, or, the invention of Gutenberg's book printing press. Some examples of newly 3D-printed objects hint at what's to come.

Watch this fascinating video of the team at MIT Media Lab who have attempted - and succeeded - to 3D print a working flute (perhaps the first 3D printed musical instrument?).

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Are Voxels next?

Imagine a desktop fabricator capable of making perfectly repeatable, arbitrary, multi material 3D objects with microscale precision. The objects would be composed of millions or even billions of small physical building blocks (voxels). Some building blocks could be hard, some could be soft. Some could be red, others green or blue. Some could be conductive and others could perform computation or store energy. Some could even be sensors and others actuators, and so on and so forth. With a relatively small repertoire of building block types and a rapid assembler, one could assemble a relatively large variety of machines at high resolution. How would that work?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Is Shapeways a shop or a fab shop?

Is Shapeways a shop, or a fab shop? It's both of these today, but is that the right model? Offering the service of printing a design is very different from offering a shop from which to buy things. I can get jewelry, art, home decor etc, from 1000s of outlets. Some of it may even have been 3D printed. Is it realistic for Shapeways to specialize as an outlet for 3D printed objects? Wouldn't it be better for Shapeways to focus on being the best online 3D print shop, and to work with other retail outlets for distribution and channel? Isn't it simply a distraction for Shapeways to try to be a shop as well as a printer? Doesn't it limit the audience? For example, wouldn't authors of 3D work prefer their output to be available on Amazon? Wouldn't people who print through Shapeways appreciate placing their work (if not for personal use) through Amazon, with Shapeways for fulfillment? Wouldn't this generate more orders to Shapeways?

No doubt Shapeways have thought deeply about business model options. I have not. I'm just throwing this out for discussion. Let's go a step further.

If 3D print shops open up all over the planet, what will make you use one or the other? Will it be the experience of designing an object, or of placing an order, or the range of starter designs to mass-customize, or the repository of reusable objects to draw from, or the quality of the printing, or the simplicity of fulfillment, or some other factor? Will having already printed objects (in store) in a gallery make any difference? Does Shapeways want to be vertically integrated, or to work with retail and channel partners? What's going to drive the market? Unless the market blooms for on-demand consumer 3D printing, Shapeways will also be limited. So, what's the single thing that Shapeways can do to drive demand from consumers for 3D printed objects?

Looking at the Shapeways site today, its kind of a hybrid luxury goods shop, and bespoke tailor. Is this the future for consumer 3D printing? Or some other model? Indeed, when 'goods' can be printed, how does the relationship between designer, manufacturer, supply chain and consumer change? Where is the sweet spot for Shapeways?

Friday, 10 December 2010

ZCorp ZPrinter 650 Marketing Video

390,000 colors, 600x540 dpi, feature size 0.1mm, vertical build speed 28mm/hour, layer thickness 0.089mm to 0.102mm, number of jets 1520 .... Watch the video:

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Very First 3D Printer Hobby Shop: The MakerBot BotCave Retail Store

87th Avenue, Brooklyn. It's like the early 70s all over again! I remember visiting the first hobby computer board shops in London. I remember buying my first single board computer. It was called a NASCOM. It was a UK design. It was based on the Zilog Z80 processor. Yes, I had to solder a few hundred components. It took a year to get working. I spent the next 2 years writing a compiler for it in Z80 assembler code. It worked. I still have it, and it still boots (at think I think it does - I tried 2 years ago and none of the capacitors had rotted, so all was ok). It had 64k RAM because I added a 48K RAM card, also built from discrete components. It eventually made it into a rack, with other cards, all built from discrete components.

And so here we are in 2010, and MakerBot Industries has set up shop on 87th Avenue, Brooklyn.

Will the personal computer explosion that followed the period of intense experimentation in the 70s with single board computers be repeated with 3D Printing? Will 3DP be bigger? Will a 3DP capability have as much, or more, impact on the world?

Visit the first hobby shop for 3D Printing here:

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Print 3D for Rapid Tooling

Why do you want a 3D part? Why are you interested in 3D Printing? To make a product or spare part? How about to make a tool for making another part?

Watch how a 3D object (printed by ObJetGeometries) can be used to make a mold which is then used to make the target part .... in this case a flexible keypad.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Shapeways prints a chair in 3D

Shapeways - the Amazon of 3D Printing - surprises us again. They have brought a service to market that is capable of printing objects the size of a chair:

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Shapeways raises $5M and opens HQ in New York

Shapeways recently raised $5 million from Union Square Ventures in New York and Index Ventures in London. This means that Shapeways is now an independent company with Philips, Union Square and Index Ventures as shareholders. The investment enables the company to grow the team, add more features even swifter and open new Headquarters in New York.

Monday, 20 September 2010

NYT covers 3D Printing - speaks about a manufacturing revolution

"A 3-D printer, which has nothing to do with paper printers, creates an object by stacking one layer of material — typically plastic or metal — on top of another, much the same way a pastry chef makes baklava with sheets of phyllo dough. ... These days it is giving rise to a string of never-before-possible businesses that are selling iPhone cases, lamps, doorknobs, jewelry, handbags, perfume bottles, clothing and architectural models. And while some wonder how successfully the technology will make the transition from manufacturing applications to producing consumer goods, its use is exploding."