Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Shapeways raises $30M led by VC Andreessen Horowitz

The significance of consumer 3D Printing Services has been confirmed by a $30 million Series C round of financing, led by the prestigious venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The current investors of Shapeways, including Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital also participated in the round. Chris Dixon, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, is joining the executive board of the company.

"Shapeways eliminates the fixed costs of manufacturing and makes use of breakthrough advances in 3D printing," says Chris Dixon, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, who is also a big fan of 3D printing.

"We believe that technology is at its best when it enables human creativity. The Internet unlocked the world of bits. 3D printing is unlocking the world of atoms."

According to an infographic released by Shapeways, the service hosts 10,000 shops with over 1,000,000 3D-printed products. And 60,000 new designs are uploaded every month.

"Shapeways Shop Owners are the future of small business: they don't have inventory, they rapidly iterate on products, and they have direct access to consumer feedback," said co-founder and CEO Peter Weijmarshausen.

Friday, 19 April 2013

FormLabs set up 3D Printer Farm to fulfill Kickstarter commitments

Formlabs, the promising stereo lithography start up that raised $2,945,885 on Kickstarter and was then sued by 3D Systems for patent infringement, but decided to move full steam ahead into production, is now building a printer farm to fulfill its commitments to backers.

As a first step, Formlabs are required to 3D print four hundred and twenty five (425) unique Gyro Cubes. And that is a not insignificant undertaking.

Since I contributed to Formlabs' Kickstarter round, I am one of those people waiting for my Gyro Cube.

And I for one am prepared to be very patient.

As one wise person said in a Formlabs blog thread, a thread filled with people who backed Formlabs at higher levels and who are naturally impatient and excitedly waiting to be shipped a complete FORM 1:

The Sinclair C5
"If they do, we’ll all be in on the ground floor of an exciting new technology – something that might be as revolutionary as the PC. I recall spending way too much for flash-in-the-pan early home computers…Timex-Sinclairs, Commodore 64’s, Amigas, early Mac’s, etc. Wanna be on the bleeding edge? You gotta grab the train as it rolls through the station and hang on tight, ‘cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride."

That's right.

For me, history is repeating itself. Three decades ago it took me two years and a lot of hard work before my home-built kit computer, the seminal NASCOM 1, could take on real work.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Here come the Chinese 3D Printers

Just as we reported a story in which Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann argued that if the USA stood a chance of being part of a so called "third industrial revolution" it must make 3D printers (You Must Make The New Machines), China is gearing up to do just that.

China is making and exporting 3D printers even though additive manufacturing is only just starting to gain momentum the world over.

Chinese R&D is ramping up. China now has four major research centers, including Xi'a Jiaotong University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and Tsinghua University, working to bring 3D printing into the mainstream.

In Jackie Chan's latest movie CZ12, also known as Chinese Zodiac, there is a scene in which the actor uses specially made gloves to scan a bronze animal head that once crowned the famed fountain clock of the imperial retreat Yuanmingyuan Park (the Old Summer Palace). The action star then recreates the bronze head using a printing machine that operates three-dimensionally.

Global sources


Monday, 8 April 2013

3D Printed DNA "Portraits"

Forget everything you heard about the ability of 3D printing to product customized products such silver jewelry with an imprint of the terrain of the area where you live. If the following stories are anything to go by, things are going to get a whole lot more personal yet.

Using 3D printing, American artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portrait sculptures from the analyses of genetic material collected in public places.

From cigarette butts to hair samples, she works using random traces left behind from un-suspecting strangers. Using DNA facial modeling software and a 3D printer, physical models are conceived, reconstructed from ethnic profiles, eye color and hair color.

Not impressed?

Let's step up. A design house called Tjep working in collaboration with another design house called DutchDNA (it could only happen in the Netherlands) have created objects that reflect personality.

Here, the DNA of a dancer has been converted into the shape of a fluid table, reflecting her flexibility and motion, which is assumed to be 'present' in her DNA.

DNA sequencing was outsourced to BaseClear Technologies.

What this story illustrates is that the combination of 3D software, computational design and additive manufacturing (a.k.a. "3D Printing") are set to fill the world with the weird and the wonderful, the beautiful and the ugly.

We sit on the threshold of a manufacturing and design renaissance.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Now it's "4D Printing" apparently

Just as everyone was getting their head around "3D Printing", along comes "4D Printing" jumping on the same meme.

Just as "3D Printing" is in reality a set of over twenty diverse manufacturing processes sharing little but the concept of layer-by-layer construction, "4D Printing" is an equally meaningless term, even if the idea is intriguing.

Researchers postulate that very soon we will be able to print objects in 3D, that then evolve, morph, merge with other objects, or otherwise assemble themselves, over time. And as Dr Who knows all too well, Time really is the 4th Dimension!

Take a look at this vision for the future of 4D manufacturing:

Thursday, 4 April 2013

You Must Make the New Machines

Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann says the U.S. has a chance to invent the manufacturing technology of tomorrow.  Rather than trying to bring back manufacturing jobs, the United States could find an advantage in new types of manufacturing machinery.

The U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs since 2000. Industries have moved offshore. America’s trade deficit in physical goods is $738 billion a year.

So what’s the path forward?

"My guess is that developments around information technology, 3D printing, and networks will allow for a redesign of manufacturing. The world will be massively investing in it. The U.S. is well positioned to be the source of those machines. It can only be rivaled by Germany and Japan.", says Hausmann.


IT Industry wakes up to 3D Printing?

You know a topic has crossed the chasm when the mainstream IT media want to talk about it, even though they are sorely ill-equipped to do so. I'm not aware of many IT pundits and analysts being 'up' on their material science and manufacturing process.

NetworkWorld's traditional stomping ground is IT Security, LANs and WANs, IT Infrastructure Management and Data Center. So its was with some surprise that they announced the Three biggest misconceptions about 3D printing.

We believe that NetworkWorld picked up on '3D Printing' as a result of an article by IT Analyst group Gartner who have released a report predicting that "Enterprise-class 3D printers will be available for less than $2,000 by 2016". And the misconceptions are:

    Misconception #1: Access to 3D printers should be limited to a select few
    Misconception #2: 3D printing is an over-hyped, consumer fad
    Misconception #3: 3D printing requires lots of training

Wow. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Gartner on 3D Printing