Saturday, 31 December 2011

Solidoodle ships

You know how everyone loves to watch YouTube clips of excited owners of brand new gadgets, opening the box and unwrapping the wonders within, such as iPads, iPhones and other exotic technology, well: here is an example of one proud owner's experience opening the box of a brand new Solidoodle 3D hobby printer.

"A nice box showed up at my door earlier this week — a long expected Solidoodle" -- Renaissance Engineer

Laura Hall of Solidoodle was in touch via email and told me that the Solidoodle was: "In a nutshell: FULLY assembled, build size 4x4x4 in a box that's 10x10x10, and $700."

The start-up claims that Solidoodle is the least expensive fully assembled 3D printer on the market. "Considering the next least expensive fully assembled printer out there is $1400 (Botmill), we are excited to be creating one for literally half the price."

Click here for a specification of the Solidoodle

Sam Cervantes, founder of Solidoodle, envisages every tinkering dad, every artist, every child, and everyone non-technically oriented person to unleash their creativity using the Solidoodle. "No waiting anxiously for your designed part to come in the mail, and no epic sign-up process to get to a big machine in a university fab lab.  Take it out of the box already calibrated, plug it in, feed in the filament, and start printing.  Easy."  It's a vision that seems to be increasingly shared with other 3D hobby printer start-ups.

How many RepRap inspired hobby 3D printers do we need? I have no idea, but for a device that is intended to be a kind of Universal Object Printer, the community are sure spawning a lot of different variations. Recently for example, PrintrBot used crowd-funding to kick start its business with $830,827 making and delivering calibrated and assembled 3D printers inspired by the RepRap resources.

PrintrBot target $25,000 achieve $830,827 crowd sourced funding to kick start their business

3D hobby printer start-up PrintrBot have used KickStarter to crowd source seed funding for their venture. Their modest goal was to raise $25,000, a sum which would hardly be noticed in the portfolio of most venture capitalists (VC). Yet that figure is actually quite large for crowd sourced funding if one looks at the typical projects that the funding platform, KickStarter, was set up to support. And that is that makes this story even more surprising, because PrintrBot overshot their target by more than 3000%, achieving pledges of $830,827 from 1808 backers. That's an average of $459  per backer, which is itself an interesting figure being about 1/3 or 1/2 the price of a typical hobby 3D printer on the market today. For example, a MakerBot 'Thing-O-Matic' ships for just over $1000. (no final pricing has been announced for PrintrBot to my knowledge)

The Kickstarter outreach project was originally announced to the RepRap collective/community as being the smallest, simplest, cheapest RepRap 3D printer in the world. There must be a lot of 3D printer enthusiasts eyeing what PrintrBot have achieved here with some envy.

Another interesting aspect of this story is a trend I am seeing more and more where the incubation, ideation and initial design phases of a start up are shared with the community using blogs, Wikis and social media to source ideas and guidance from the community and foster a sense of joint ownership and commitment to the outcome. Raspberry-Pi, for example, a ARM GNU/Linux box with a tiny footprint and unbelievable target price of $25, has been sharing its development process from the get-go. Given PrintrBot's amazing funding achievement on KickStarter perhaps I underestimate the power of communities to contribute in this way, but a few questions immediately come to mind.

$830,837 is a hell of a lot of cash! Would the community fund a second, or third or fourth, 3D printer start-up with so much gusto?

How will others feel when their efforts are not funded so generously? Does this not jar with the principles of the open source hardware movement?

PrintrBot is a spin-off of RepRap whose goals are to provide a free 3D printer to a wide community and to share design improvements that emerge from the community as modified 3D models which could themselves be 3D printed for free (if you owned or had access to a RepRap printer and a suitable length of plastic filament.)  How many RepRap spin-off 3D hobby printer start-ups does the world need? How sustainable is an approach that relies on crowd sourced funding?

There is nothing new about communities pulling together to fund important projects, and this has nothing to do with the Internet or with 3D printing. When parents pool their resources to buy new computers for their school they are supporting their community. They are not, however, doing so to create a commercial venture.

Wikipedia points out there are questions about the legality of taking money from 'investors' without offering any of the security demanded by legitimate investment vehicles. Sites such as ArtistShare, KickStarter and Pledgemusic therefore have a failsafe: They hold funds in an escrow account. If the nominated target is not reached, all funds are returned to the backers. That's all well and good, but it does not resolve questions of the obligation a commercial venture has to the original community from which it leveraged both intellectual property and funding in order to kick start its venture. In that sense, what are PrintrBot's achievements?

PrintrBot owner, Brook Dunn, claims that his design "does away with the finicky calibration and adjustment from which most 3D printers suffer". So the company is bringing in new innovation in that regard. And Dunn's team appears to be expanding. Using the funds they now have pledged, Laine, Alex, Carl, Brook and Brain are planning to set up a bot farm, a kind of 3D printing production line for 3D printers!

Is this a business, or an experiment? The main idea is to build a simpler 3D printer. They used that idea to crowd source the funding? For what purpose?

The PrintrBot Kickstarter page lists what it will do with the cash. If you pledged $1 you will receive a thank you on the PrintrBot website. For $5 you'll receive a personalized thank you card. For $89 you get a "Full set of printed parts to build a Printrbot - just add hardware". For $232 you get a "Bare Bones Kit: Printed parts, bearings, rods, belts, bolts, nuts, including an assembled extruder. (no motors, electronics, or hot end)." For $499 you get "Everything you need in one box to assemble a Printrbot Lasercut ("LC") and start 3D printing." And so the list goes on.

I'm confused. This looks just like a list of advance orders for PrintrBot parts and kits. Won't all the cash be spent shipping out a slew of early orders? How much is genuine investment?

In the Kickstarter round of funding for PrintrBot there were 1808 backers. That's 1808 orders PrintrBot now have to fulfill? Will PrintrBot be able to fulfill all these pledges? And is this really what seed funding is best used for? Replication for commercial success is not the same as innovation. Or does that just happen along the way as the ride continues?

In the world of Venture Capital, $830,827 is a very respectable seed or even Series-A funding round. Those investments would not be regarded, however, as advance orders from end users. VC funding would be used for product development and/or marketing. The Venture Capitalist would bring expertise and resources to the business. A Venture Fund is a partnership between the start-up and the expertise needed to grow the business. That's not something you can get from crowd sourced funding mechanisms such as KickStarter.

Long before PrintrBot decided to use Kickstarter, the founders already knew they could build a 3D hobby printer, after all, RepRap and others had showed the way. What PrintrBot did not know was whether they could sell such kits to consumers. And they faced a common problem in any assembly business of needing funding to source the component parts before any kit or assembled product could be sold.

Crowd sourcing has given PrintrBot a way to avoid investing its own resources. It leveraged the community to fund its own supply chain and simultaneously to validate its market through a batch of initial orders. Nothing wrong in that, but here's the rub: Fulfilling those pre-orders and meeting 1808 pledged obligations is likely to become an all consuming task for PrintrBot. Will it detract from the innovation they need if they are to flourish by distinguishing themselves in the market?

I am not convinced that crowd-funding is a terribly good way to fund a 3D printing start-up business. Even if it works out for PrintrBot, it is unlikely to be repeated. To my eye, innovative 3D printer start-ups should be looking to work with established and resource rich VCs who are able to distinguish between experiments and long term business opportunities. VCs use the rigor of the market and analysis of trends to determine the appropriate level of funding at each point in the development of the business.

I am not a VC nor do I have any links to VCs or commercial interests in any aspect of 3D printing. I am however passionate about the potential. I feel that rather than leveraging the community to crowd source funds for a small number of 3D printer start-ups like PrintrBot or other RepRap spin-offs, I believe that the RepRap Community itself could use crowd-funding to sustain its forward momentum to the benefit of all. For example, what could RepRap do with $830,827? I would put the focus on crowd sourcing the ideas for spending that money, if it were available to the community.

Like parents choosing to buy computers for schools, crowd-funding seems more suitable for community decisions than it does for commercial enterprises. But what do you think? If you are a member of the RepRap community, or work in or around a 3D printing start-up, please add your comments below. I am genuinely interested in understanding the views of the community on how best to avoid a possible rash of poorly equipped RepRap spin-offs many of which may fail to stall beyond the initial orders they receive.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Buildatron and the Alpha One Labs hacker collective in NYC Brooklyn

PCMag has posted a comprehensive behind the scenes look at yet another 3D Printer start-up Buildatron.

Like me, PCMag see parallels with the early hobbyist computer industry of the late 70s and early 80s. However, PCMag is going to have to be careful to scale back hype and claims that 3D printers can print themselves. Some simple parts perhaps, but certainly not all and certainly not the important ones. That future is a long way off.

Today, the only parts a hobby 3D printer can print of itself are a few basic plastic components that are used to join various far more important parts together. Indeed, I don't think the vision of 3D printers printing themselves is even that important to the future of 3D printing.

Buildatron hangs out in hacker space called Alpha One Labs in Brooklyn. A lot of these hacker collectives are popping up all over the world. Another, also in Brooklyn, is called the NYCResister, and was founded by Bre Pettis, also founder of MakerBot Industries.

Hacker collectives are important to the 'maker culture' - epitomized by magazines such as MakeZine - because they let individuals share expensive tools and exchange the knowledge and physical experiences of working in the world of real ("made") things, and not just the rather more ephemeral "digital" world.

Out best wishes to Buildatron and to all the other 3D Printer startups listed in this blog. There is no doubt that some will move beyond maker experiments and become a permanent fixture of the coming 3D print revolution. Is there a 3D Print "Dell" out there?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie 3D Printed Toy Car

This tiny 3D printed car was printed on the Objet Eden 3D printer and scaled down from 4cm in length to a tiny 1cm in length. Even in the tiniest car, the wheels remain fully functional and there is no deformation of walls or loss of fine details.

3D Printing collapses the loop between the customer, innovation, realization and sales!

Fishman Acoustic Amplification works with the world's top instrument builders, artists and retailers. Using its Objet desktop 3D printer, Fishman can print mechanically accurate guitar amplification device prototypes that customers can't tell apart from real production parts. In-house 3D printing allows Fishman to go through multiple design iterations in a single day, enabling the company to rapidly perfect its designs without compromising on quality or missing sales cycles. Here is the story in their own words:

Books about 3D printing start to appear on

Books about 3D printing are starting to appear on Amazon. Expect a lot more over the next few months and years. How many? A LOT more!

Sample of 3D printing books on


Monday, 12 December 2011

The Economist reports from EUROMOLD 2011

Points mentioned in the article:

  • 300 exhibitors working in 3D print/additive manufacturing
  • 3D printers the size of cars, many desktop units
  • Building up products layer by layer or drop by drop in plastic, powered metal
  • Exhaust manifold, artificial leg, aircraft door hinge, shoes, fashion
  • 3D products have flowing lines, more like art with an organic look
  • Some 3D printed objects copying nature, human aesthetic 
  • 3D printed bones have curves to precisely fit the patient
  • Titanium printed bones can replicate lattice-like internal structure of human bone
  • Bundles of vertical filaments can make objects light and strong
  • Heat exchanger optimum design like a fish gill
  • A car mirror 3D printed to include channels for wiring
  • Gearbox hydraulics could be 30% lighter if 3D printed
  • An unmanned aircraft drone in laser-sintered nylon incorporating a geodetic structure - possible with 3D printing
  • Layers are laser sintered into solidity or cured with heat or UV
  • Clock mechanism made 'in one go' in a 3D printer
  • Compound materials - rubberlike at one end fading to stiff at other
  • Camera body soft where gripped, hard where the lens is mounted
  • Fashion applications - shoes, smart phone cases

An ATM skimmer made with the help of a 3D printer?

In July 2011, a customer at a Chase Bank branch in West Hills, Calif. noticed something odd about the ATM he was using and reported it to police. Authorities who responded to the incident discovered a sophisticated, professional-grade ATM skimmer that they believe was made with the help of a 3D printer.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Will Maker Culture spark the next tech boom?

The Economist has run a piece on maker culture, automation electronics and 3D printing. As in this blog The Economist has also noted that "The parallel with the hobbyist computer movement of the 1970s is striking".

"It is easy to laugh at the idea that hobbyists with 3D printers will change the world. But the original industrial revolution grew out of piecework done at home, and look what became of the clunky computers of the 1970s. The maker movement is worth watching.
(My thanks to Stephen Low for spotting this story)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

BNN interview: ZCorp and Terry Wohlers, Additive Manufacturing Consultant

Video interview here:

Wohlers: "Boeing has 20,000 parts on fighter jets without a single failure."
BNN: "How many of those parts were made with 3D Printing?"
Wohlers: "All 20,000 parts were made with 3D Printing"

Get the latest Wohlers report here

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Rook and the long road to the Cambrian dawn of 3D Printing

All over the world, a tiny group of very special people are hard at work at something hardly anyone understands. No, they are not just printing 3D objects on 3D printers that they can buy, rent or access over the web via a 3D printing service. No, they are 3D printing (and fabricating in other ways) the parts they need to bring their own designs for a 3D printer to life.

The Rook 3D printer is one such development. It's creator Jolijar is blogging about it here. And each time that happens, someone injects a 3D printer innovation into the 3DP-technology innovation stream. In this case, it's something to do with  "getting rid of that horrid threaded rod approach"!

Innovations add up over time. Eventually, these innovations are released or leak onto the Web, via open source hardware specifications, or by uploading designs for parts for new 3D printers into object repositories like the Thingiverse. There, they can be downloaded, printed and used to make new objects, including parts of new 3D printers. And as this happens, each generation of 3D printer design is just a little bit better than the last.

Maybe the rate of innovation in 3DP won't be as rapid as with the far more malleable open source software projects. Maybe it will be a lot slower. Maybe the analogies to the Cambrian explosion of creativity that occurred when we hooked up computers via IP networks to form the WWW are utterly unrealistic. Maybe 'digital evolution' will always over-shadow a 3DP evolution. Nevertheless, something is happening. 3D Stuff is being digitized as 3D models. There, it too can be 'digitally evolved'. That new stuff is then being 3D printed. And some of that stuff is new parts for new kinds of 3D printer.

Talented engineers are working hard to make it work, and to bring about a new industrial Cambrian dawn. It's very exciting, but its also a very long road.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A lot of schools are going to be doing 3DP in the future

The students in an engineering class have acquired the power to transform the designs in their heads into objects they can hold in the palms of their hands.

Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School’s new 3D printer is state of the art technology that gives B-R engineering students a big advantage in applying to college and excelling once they get there.

Read more:

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shock horror? ZCorp to be acquired by 3D Systems

Three-dimensional printing technology company Z Corp. of Burlington is being bought by 3D Systems Inc., in a deal in which Z Corp’s parent, Contex, is selling it and another subsidiary for $137 million combined. What to make of it?

3D Systems has been acquiring and consolidating capabilities over the last years. The signal this sends about 3D Printing is unclear. Consolidation usually occurs late in an industry, once commoditization has set in. This is hardly the case for 3DP, or has all the additive technology already been invented and now it is just a case of commercializing it? Or is this a Street-led land grab or simply opportunistic. An interesting question would be why would Contex decide to sell ZCorp? Its 3D printers are among the world's fastest, most affordable and the only ones capable of simultaneously printing in multiple colors.

There seems to be statement here by Ratos, a private equity conglomerate with interests in Contex:

The combined businesses now acquired by 3D Systems generated revenue of $58 million in the 12 months ended in June. Shares of 3D Systems fell $1.02, or 6.1 percent, to $15.81 in afternoon trading.

3D Systems is quoted on the stock market (Nasdaq: TDSC). Is the quarter-to-quarter grind good for 3DP and for innovation? The company seems very focused on the market. Are they aggressively acquiring in the hope of aggregating sufficient capability for further rounds of funding, or to buy out competition in a niche market? Their CEO naturally talks up the impact of 3DP technologies on traditional manufacturing and how 3DP is the basis of future competitive advantages in personalized manufacturing, yet these are very long term effects, incompatible with quarterly shareholder pressure.

A big focus on all 3DP firms is to democratize the market. What they mean is, lower the price point and move the systems out of the design shop and into the hands of consumers. That's going to take a lot of cash.

3DP continues to amaze - a 3D Printed Chain

A few years ago, when the first objects emerged from 3D printers, the most striking attribute was the ability to print an object with moving parts, in one go, with no need to 'assemble' the object.Today, several years on, that continues to amaze. Here, UK industrial fabrication company IPL shows off a 3D printed chain, hot off the press of their Objet EDEN 350v.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

PrintRBot - another Home Assembly 3D Printer

PrintRBot is an Open Hardware project in Lincoln, CA by Brook Drumm. Brook claims that the kit is designed to be the simplest 3D printer yet. He says "There are some great kits out there - the Makerbot, the Ultimaker, the Prusa Mendel, and others - but none as small and simple as the Printrbot."

"This all-in-one 3D printer kit can be assembled and printing in a couple of hours. Other kits will not only take you many more hours to build, they will also have hundreds more parts, and they will cost more. My design also does away with the finicky calibration and adjustment from which most 3D printers suffer."

Is this the printer a kid could put together? The company has assembled the electronics, the hotend, and the connectors on all the motors and components... no soldering required!"  So what's left to assemble? Why leave the last tasks to the user? What's the attraction of that?

Michael Dell brought PCs to the masses by offering a limited palette of options but shipped a working PC to your home or office having sourced the components from around the world. Who will be the Dell of 3DP?

Fayetteville Free Library offers 3D printing and a hackspace, as well as books!

The Fayetteville Free Library of Fayetteville, NY recently has assumed a new mission in efforts to serve its constituencies with 3D printing facilities. The “FFL Fab Lab” is a space set aside with 3D printing technology, which seeks to encourage innovation and learning of the concept. At the foundation of the FFL’s Fab Lab will be a MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D printer, donated to the library.

Friday, 18 November 2011

NY Times blog says that 3D Printing is a disruption

"Downloading — quite often stealing, in the eyes of the law — music, movies, books and photos is easier than bobbing for apples in a bucket without water. It has kept legions of lawyers employed fighting copyright violations without a whole lot to show for their efforts in the past decade.
You think that was bad? Just wait until we can copy physical things."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Clarks Shoes integrates 3D Printing into its design process

"Clarks, a world leader in footwear for men, women and children, has transformed its development process to release better, more stylish shoes earlier in the fashion life cycle. Headquartered in the UK, the global company has removed weeks – and in some cases, months – from the design process by digitizing prototyping with help from Z Corporation 3D printing technology.

Traditionally, shoemakers use paper sketches, factory-manufactured samples and design reviews to move concepts toward production. Multiple cycles are the norm. 3D printing of new digital designs enables Clarks’ digital development team to create detailed, colorful physical shoe models in hours instead of the two weeks it used to take for manufactured samples to return, dramatically reducing time and cost."

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Origo concept 3D Printer for kids

"Origo is a concept product right now but it should be available soon. Clad in purple plastic, the system is a standard extruder-type 3D printer that can make various small objects out of a thin stream of plastic. The founders, Joris Peels and Artur Tchoukanov, are two experienced 3D printing experts. Peels was the community manager for i.materialise and Shapeways. They designed the Origo to have a minimum of moving parts and a simple UI using 3Dtin as a design platform."

"Origo: 3D Printing @ Home" by Artur Tchoukanov from Umeå Institute of Design on Vimeo.

Right now, I am just an idea. I will be as easy to use as an Xbox or Wii. I’ll be as big as three Xbox 360’s and as expensive as 3 Xbox 360’s. I will sit on your desk and quietly build your ideas, drawings and dreams.
There are other 3D printers. But none will be as easy to use as I will. None will be as reliable or work as hard for you. I’m not a kit or an industrial machine. I’m not complicated. I’m an appliance, like a toaster or a microwave. Only I’m purple and make your stuff.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

3D Print your Own Robot Nation

Is this the template for the killer app of 3D Printing? "It's the future, and it’s here ... starting with robots, like we knew it would. Your creativity is endless – make it real." ---Kodama Studios (the people who brought you Artify for the iPhone)

3D creation for everyone - Kodama’s coolest plaything yet, My Robot Nation, launches at SIGGRAPH 2011!’s (a joint venture with Offload Studies and Z-Corp) fun and easy creation tools let everyone, everywhere make and share totally unique designs, then materialize them in the real world as full-color 3D printed figures! 

Additional Background here:

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Will 3D Printing Change Absolutely Everything It Touches?

Robert “Buzz” Kross, Senior Vice President of the Manufacturing Industry Group at Autodesk, thinks so.

Nike ID Service

"3D printing has been refined to the point where digital models can be duplicated into physical prototypes or production parts that closely resemble mass-produced products in looks and function ...Yesterday’s factory is evolving into a global community of custom design and personal fabrication services"

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Multi Material 3D Printing and an observation about 3D Printer Ads

The Objet260 Connex is a multi-material 3D printer. The printer can, in a single print job, combine up to 14 material types, textures and shades, drawn from a palette of over 60 materials, including rubber, transparent!, to engineering plastics ...

I love the way 3D printers are advertised. Many of the ads focus on the ability of the printer to perform seemingly impossible feats and diverse tasks, opening possibilities that, until you see them with your own eyes, would never occur to you.

The way 3D printers are marketed in 2011 reminds me of the early ads from 1984 for that seminal computing device, the Apple Macintosh. Many of the Macintosh ads also focused on the 'new new' things you could DO with Apple's suite of early WIMPS (window, icon, menu, pointing device) driven applications, such as never before seen (other than in a lab at PARC) graphical bitmap editing.

Below the Objet260 ad is the famous 1984 ad by Steve Jobs, a wonderful example of his showmanship. I've written before about the parallels between the emergent consumer 3D printing capability and the early PC industry. Does this portend similar explosive growth for the 3D Printer? Who will be the Steve Jobs of the consumer 3DP industry? Are the PC, and the 3D Printer, both generic multi-purpose devices, following a similar trajectory?

Friday, 22 July 2011

A 3D Printed Crab

It is occasionally fun to profile a specific 3D Printed object, just to get a sense of the 'art of the possible'. This crab caught my attention. Printed on a ZCorp printer in full color. From the ZCorp Flickr photostream, the model may have been created by 3D services company OffloadStudios.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Clone Factory 3D Prints You

Would you like a 3D Printed Doll of yourself, at a special time in your life? Perhaps your wedding, during pregnancy ... the possibilities are endless. The Clone Factory, a commercial operation in Japan will take on the challenge.

(My thanks to Danny Choo for introducing me to Japanese cultural trends and how they are beginning to intersect with the world of 3D Printing and Digital Replication)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

3D Printing and the future of manufacturing-driven growth

"An economist visiting China sees a large number of men digging with shovels to build a dam. His host points to how many men are employed. The economist points out that fewer men with the right equipment could build more efficiently. “But then we wouldn’t be employing the other men,” the host replies. “Well, in that case, why not give them all spoons?”"

Mark P. Mills, writing for Forbes is optimistic. He says "The third manufacturing revolution is upon us.  America has the advantage.  The whole world will participate and economic growth, and full employment, will follow, again."

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Will 3D Printing Revive American Manufacturing?

According to Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes and writer on innovation, "The transformative technology of the 2015-2025 period could be 3D printing."

He writes in Forbes that "This has the potential to remake the economics of manufacturing from a large-scale industry back to an artisan model of small design shops with access to 3D printers. In other words, making stuff, real stuff, could move from being a capital intensive industry into something that looks more like art and software. This should favor the American skill set of creativity."

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A ready-to-wear 3D-printed bikini. A breakthrough in fashion + technology?

The N12 bikini is the world's first ready-to-wear, completely 3D-printed article of clothing. All of the pieces, closures included, are made directly by 3D printing and snap together without any sewing. Created by Continuum Fashion, they claim the "N12 represents the beginning of what is possible for the near future." Watch the video here:

"N12 is named for the material it's made out of: Nylon 12. This solid nylon is created by the SLS 3D printing process. Shapeways calls this material "white, strong, and flexible", because its strength allows it to bend without breaking when printed very thin. With a minimum wall thickness of .7 mm, it is possible to make working springs and almost thread-like connections. For a bikini, the nylon is beautifully functional because it is waterproof and remarkably comfortable when wet."

Learn more about the inspiration behind this surprising project with serious design and fabrication implications here:

Friday, 20 May 2011

3D printing – An ‘Industrial Revolution in the Digital Age’?

Lisa Harouni, Managing Director at mass-customization startup Digital Forming, says that “This technology [3D Printing] has been around for 20 years, but it’s about to hit the public in a big way,” she later explains. “It’s going to affect every facet of life — letting you manufacture bespoke products on demand that can be customized for an individual, and giving designers the freedom to make complex parts with less waste of material and a lower carbon footprint because it’s made locally."
  • 3D printed trinkets are eliciting all the head-turning excitement of a Maserati roaring along La Croisette during the Cannes Film Festival
  • Investors are starting to believe that something transformative is about to happen
  • The technology has been around for 20 years, but actually several different technologies are competing, and there is probably space for all of them at this stage
  • 3D printing lets you manufacture bespoke products on demand that can be customized for an individual
  • 3D printing  gives designers the freedom to make complex parts with less waste of material
  • Within Technologies, is already custom-designing products ranging from stiffer, lighter wings for Formula One cars, to cobalt chrome finger implants and lightweight titanium spinal fusion implants for medical use
  •  You can build your own entry-level 3D MakerBot printer from a kit for just £800 ($1,300)
  • Digital Forming, a 3D startup, works with partners whose industrial-scale machines cost up to £1 million ($1.6 million)  and can custom print items as complex and sensitive as watch mechanisms
  • Some compare the Digital Forming software to a 3D version of Microsoft Word for 2D home printing
  • A better term for 3D Printing may be Additive Manufacturing
  • For Digital Forming, the focus is now on building a global network of industrial-scale manufacturing centers, and using its software to help companies open up their products to customization

How small could a 3D Printer be?

Printers which can produce three-dimensional objects have been available for years. However, at the Vienna University of Technology, a printing device has now been developed, which is much smaller, lighter and cheaper than ordinary 3D-printers. They claim that with this kind of printer, everyone could produce small, taylor-made 3D-objects at home, using building plans from the internet – and this could save money for expensive custom-built spare parts.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Scott Summit explains the current state and future potential of 3D

Scott Summit, industrial designer and co-founder of Bespoke Innovations talks about the heady cocktail of 3D Scanning, Parametrics and Digital Fabrication:
  • 3D Scanning: Getting a physical thing into digital form so that ...
  • Parametrics: We can tweak it and manipulate it and reference it ...
  • Digital Fabrication: And then make that new, resulting thing physical so that we can do something with it

Sunday, 8 May 2011

This 3D Printed car can't be real? Can it?

3D printing gurus Stratasys took engineering company Kor Ecologic out to a couple fancy dinners, one thing led to another, and now we have the Urbee, the world’s first 3D-printed car.

The Urbee claims to be a fully-functioning automobile, the parts of which are entirely 3D printed, windows and everything.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

3D Printed StrandBeests

I first came across the work of Theo Jansen in the early 90s. I was utterly seduced by his art, engineering and vision. Now, his world has crossed over, is becoming more known, and has intersected with another of my interests, 3D Printing.

It appears that printing a small StrandBeest is possible. Shapeways, the consumer 3D printing service, offers these as on-demand 3D prints. So, if you don't want to try to build one yourself, you can now have one on your coffee table, for just a few dollars.

Friday, 25 March 2011

How to make a tiny Ornithopter? Print it in 3D

An ornithopter with a mass of 3.89g has been constructed using the 3D printing technique and has demonstrated an 85-second passively stable untethered hovering flight. This flight exhibits the functional utility of printed materials for flapping wing experimentation and ornithopter construction and for understanding the mechanical principles underlying insect flight and control.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Does this count as 3D Printing?

The range of technologies, techniques and approaches that are being described as 3D Printing continues to expand. Here, a "3D printer" uses living cells to produce a human kidney.

"Researchers at the institute have developed a technique and equipment for printing transplantable organs. The seven-hour process begins with collecting 3-D images of the organ that needs to be replaced. Next, a small tissue sample is taken from the patient and used to seed a specially-designed printer. The printer then replicates the tissue layer by layer to create a new organ"

Play the video at TED here

Would you ride a 3D Printed Bike?

The European Areospace and Defence group (EADS) has shown off the first bike made from nylon – which they’re saying could replace traditional steel and aluminium bikes due to the affordable method it’s created. Drip by drop, each part of the bike is made from powder using the Additive Layer Manufacturing process of 3D printing, with the machine connected to a computer loaded with the CAD bike design.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Video: The Kinect has become a Camera for 3D Printers

"Here's one of the more unique uses of Microsoft's Kinect. A project called Fabricate Yourself turns the Kinect into a 3D printer of sorts. Well, a 3D modeler for a 3D printer. You'd best follow along with the video. The gist is that the Kinect takes 3D photos of whatever (in the video, it’s of enthusiastic young people), then the images are converted to the relevant file format, then passed off to a Dimension 3D printer."

Friday, 11 February 2011

The Economist frontpage Feb 2010: Print Me a Stradivarius

3D Printing hits the home page of The Economist The violin illustrated was made using an EOS laser-sintering 3D printer (and apparently it plays beautifully). The Economist article claims that 3D printing from digital designs will transform manufacturing and allow more people to start making things. Read both articles here:

* Examples of 3D printed objects include aircraft landing gear, medical implants, jewellery, football boots, lampshades, racing-car parts, solid-state batteries, complex mechanical devices and customized mobile phones
* More than 20% of 3D printed output is now production product, not prototype
* The technical term for this field is 'additive manufacturing'
* Within Technologies have 3D printed a flexible 'chain mail' metal glove, available in steel or titanium
* A new industrial revolution is on the way
* With traditional manufacturing techniques, 90% of the material is waste, cut away swarf. With 3D pritning, unused material can be re-used to print another part. Typically, a 3D printed part requires about 10% of the material required otherwise.
* 3D printing uses less energy to create parts
* 3D printing is not always slower per part
* Machining a part traditionally means having material where you might not need it for the final product. 3D printing puts material only where needed.
* 3D printed parts can be lighter, e.g. in aerospace applications
* Although current 3D printers have small build chambers, gantry like devices will be able to print very large parts in the future
* 3D printing can create internal structure in a material. e.g. Titanium with inner bone like lattice
* A company called Digital Forming is working with mobile operators to apply consumers to order custom printed designs
* Shapeways is now printing more than 10,000 each month
* EOS claims that a single machine would allow a Dentist to print 450 unique dental crowns in a single day
* Stratasys are printing parts for their own range of 3D printers
* Factories of the future will have 3D printers working along side existing machines, e.g. milling, presses, foundries and plastic injection moulding
* Rapid Quality Manufacturing says that small to medium sized metal components can be 3D printed in hours or days, against days or weeks for traditional process. (And the printers can run 24/7 unattended)
* A team at Loughborough University has invented a high-speed sintering system and believes that it can make parts for Burton Snowboards for 16 cents each, competitive with injection moulding
* 3D printed lampshades has become an industry with sales volumes in the 1000s
* Prediction that within 5 years, it will be competitive to have 3D printed runs of 10,000s to 100,000s
* Expectation of the 'Digital Production Plant'  - less capital tied up in tooling costs, work in progress and raw materials
* Chinese companies are adopting the technology
* DHL organized a conference which posited threats to the logistics industry - i.e. print where you need things
* 3D printing lowers the cost of entry to manufacturing  (analogy with early PC industry)
* Good ideas will now be able to copied ever faster, so expect some battles on intellectual property
* Competitive advantages may be shorter-lived than ever before
* "The beneficiary will be customers - revolution may not be too strong a word"