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: http://www.tauntongazette.com/education/x1059073553/MOLDING-YOUNG-MINDS-3D-printer-makes-an-impression-at-Bridgewater-Raynham-High-School#ixzz1ee1QDKq4

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."