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February 17 2014

Tags: 3d printing

February 14 2014

Tags: 3d printing

February 10 2014

NASA Wants to 3D Print Equipment in Space
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The newest adopter of 3D printing isn't some hobbyist in a basement — it's NASA.

The agency is already building some of its customized spacecraft and instrument parts using 3D printing, and someday soon, astronauts might even make tools and replacement by 3D printing them in space.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate has launched several programs to create prototypes of tools for current or future missions using 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, a manufacturing technique that uses Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models to build objects layer-by-layer out of plastic, metal or other materials. Read more...

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January 31 2014

Why You'll Want A 3D Printer In Your Home

When it comes to 3D printing, there are two types of people.

There are those who say, “How convenient! I can 3D print new paper clips whenever I run out. And it only takes two minutes to print each one!”

And there are those who say, “I can order 1,000 paper clips on Amazon Prime and have them arrive tomorrow—no expensive machine required.”

But devotees and skeptics alike get one thing right: 3D printing continues to sit at the juncture between novelty and practicality. It makes sense for some uses, but hasn’t yet proven itself to be a technology we can’t live without. 

Even the most cynical of us can acknowledge that 3D printing is capable of change on a global scale. 3D printing could boost manufacturing productivity if warehouses adopt it. On the medical front, it’s already being used to create functional, affordable prosthetics in Uganda. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show this January, companies showed off their 3D-printed wares like useless plastic tzotchkes, models, and toys. But once the gimmick of printing something out of plastic wears off, the question remains—why do we need these in our homes again?

Larry Crenshaw, AT&T's "director of strategic messaging," told ReadWrite his company invested in a relationship with 3D printing company Cubify because it strongly believes that a more useful era of 3D printing is already on the way. 

“Today it’s novelty, tomorrow it’s tools and things you need,” Crenshaw said.

3D Printing Comes Home

At AT&T’s Innovation Center in Washington D.C., Crenshaw demoed the Cubify for a group of reporters, including me. He passed around a juicer, a paper clip, labeled plant stakes, and other minor practical objects for us to see. He also passed around models of the Washington Monument, which admittedly, weren't practical in the slightest.

Some of Crenshaw's 3D prints. Some of Crenshaw's 3D prints.

The reason companies rarely demo functional 3D prints, he said, is because they take a long time to create, and sometimes, they consist of multiple parts that later need to be fused together. The more time you’re willing to spend on 3D part printing and assembly, the more practical a 3D printer starts to become. 

These plans all came from Thingiverse, Makerbot’s hub for free, Creative Commons-licensed 3D models. Anyone with a 3D printer can create anything from the site: Thingiverse has a section for household goods, as well as one for more challenging, multi-part models with larger payoffs like cameras and functional robots. Now that newer 3D printer models have dual cartridges, it's possible to print multicolored objects and, eventually, multi-fiber objects out of materials other than plastic. 

It's important to realize that to get something truly useful out of a 3D printer, it requires your own labor and time—from adjusting models to specific sizes or shapes, to printing multiple pieces and then assembling them. 3D printing is certainly no Star Trek replicator, spitting out fully formed, complicated items in a matter of minutes—at least not yet.

For this reason, it's easy to see why the emerging technology of 3D printing seems like a step into the past. It could be difficult for companies to grasp why anyone, aside from makers or hobbyists, would want a device that requires so much effort on the user's part. 3D printing does not immediately meet customers' every need, at least by default, so its tempting to say that it never will. 

But time and again, we've seen large corporations reject emerging technologies simply because they're not there yet.

In "Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave," authors Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen note that Xerox let Canon create small desktop copiers because it couldn't imagine why customers would need them. Granted, back then, desktop scanners were slower and clunkier than they are today, but it still seems like a huge oversight considering that hardly any of us still use the oversized copiers of the past. The lesson here is that large companies aren't always right about technologies, and what they consider "novelties" could turn out to be the next big thing.

Crenshaw brought up the example of cell phone texting: Once the realm of tweens, texting was seen as a step backward in technology from talking on the phone. But it soon became so popular, even corporations now embrace SMS. 

“It was a trend with tweens, but companies looked down on it,” he said. “Now, everyone texts. Will 3D printing follow the same roadmap? It could be.”

My guess for the "hidden use" of 3D printing? Absolute and total customization.

We're all different people with different needs; why shouldn't our physical stuff be just as original as we are? Sure it's easier to order paper clips from Amazon Prime today. But perhaps my personal inclinations might sway me toward printing office supplies in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that fit me and my tasks perfectly. Perhaps the new luxury will be to tailor our things the way celebrities tailor each and every one of their outfits. 

As 3D printing becomes cheaper and faster—today it took Crenshaw one hour and twenty minutes to print this hollow citrus juicer—the cult of convenience won't even need to make way for the cult of personalization. And once you've gotten used to literally creating your environment according to your exact specifications, it could be hard to go back to wearing the same jewelry and buying the same interior furnishings as everyone else on the block.

You should never underestimate the human ego. And that's exactly why it's foolish to underestimate 3D printing. 

Photos by Lauren Orsini for ReadWrite

Tags: 3d printing
Honda Now Lets You 3D Print Its Concept Car Models
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Honda has released 3D printing files for several of its past concept cars, letting you print models of said cars at home

The files, available over at honda-3d.com and published under the Creative Commons 4.0 license, currently let you print out five concepts: the Fuya-Jo, FSR Concept, Kiwami, Puyo, and the NSX Concept.

While plastic models are still very, very far away from real cars, the project makes us wonder when we'll be able to actually 3D print a fully operable vehicle at home

3D printing has advanced extremely fast in the past year or two. This week, Stratasys unveiled a $330,000 printer which can produce multi-color, multi-material objects, and in early January, MakerBot announced a huge 3D printer which lets you print up to 10 items at once Read more...

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January 28 2014

3D Printed Food: It's What's for Dinner
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Although squeezing out food, layer by layer, from a 3D printer may not yet be particularly efficient — nor sound that tasty — companies are already testing how the Jetsons-esque technology can transform the way we eat. Such old favorites as chocolate, candy, and pasta will take on groovier, sculptured forms when extruded from food printers, and the machines will allow the cooking-adverse to prepare "homemade" ravioli at the push of a button. That should free up more time to watch a tech-fantasy film like Her while the food printer is hard at work preparing dinner. Here's a look the 3D printing concepts on the menu at a range of companies: Read more...

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Stratasys Unveils World's First Multi-Color, Multi-Material 3D Printer
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While Star Trek replicators still don't exist, we just moved a little closer to the dream, thanks to a new kind of 3D printer. 3D-printing manufacturer Stratasys just debuted the Objet500 Connex3, the world’s first 3D printer that can produce multi-color, multi-material objects at the same time

This means the one-dimensional design aesthetic seen in many 3D-printed prototypes can now give way to a wide range of dynamic and — more importantly — consumer-ready prototypes in terms of look and feel

"As the first true multi-purpose 3D printer, we believe the Objet500 Connex3 color multi-material 3D printer is in a league of its own, enabling you to dream up a product in the morning, and hold it in your hands by the afternoon, with the exact intended color, material properties and surface finish," Stratasys vice-president of product marketing and sales operations Igal Zeitun, said in a statement Read more...

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January 21 2014

3D Printing's On A Roll, But Still Missing A Beat

Here's a bit of irony: 3D printing is suffering from an image problem. 

This maker movement has been plagued by a reputation for producing plastic knickknacks via complicated, costly machines that are really only suitable for businesses. If 3D printing wants to court mainstream customers—and it badly does—it needs to change this image.

With the hype and attention on consumer 3D printing ramping up, 2014 might be a make-it-or-break-it year for the industry. And that has spurred the major players—and growing competition—to focus on driving down prices and making their machines simpler to use. Those are key steps toward boosting mainstream appeal of 3D printing, but it will take more than that. Much more. Like showing people what they can do with this technology, and why they need it in their homes.

If there's a single issue the 3D printer needs to address, this is it: There's no way 3D printing will take off as a consumer technology until the industry figures out how to make people want it.

Cheap And Easy Does It?

In the business world, 3D printers have already found their place as valuable tools. These machines produce 3D objects of whatever you can dream up and design, layer by layer, usually in plastic, right on the desktop, which gives companies more convenient and cost-effective access to prototyping, small-scale production, mould-making and many other uses. Creative types find it appealing for printing out objects to sell online, or designing plans for toys, jewelry, smartphones cases and other products.

3D printing is a sizable market but it has even greater potential for growth. According to market research firm Gartner, the 3D printer market will grow as much as 75% this year. Most of that growth—to the tune of $536 million— will reportedly be fueled by enterprise customers, but consumers are also expected to spend $133 million on 3D printers this year.

No wonder companies are marketing lower prices and simpler features on their 3D printers. XYZ Printing, for example, homed in on the common "assembly required" aspect of 3D printers by showcasing its fully-built, plug-and-play "da Vinci," a line of printers that "uses easy-load filament cartridges," a booth rep told me at the Consumer Electronics Show. But that's not the only reason da Vinci's a noteworthy entry: The company will be offering it in March for the bargain price of $499. 

Pirate3D, a startup that was Kickstarted into existence last year, had its rather Applesque-looking Buccaneer printer on view as well. Early backers got a sticker price of $247, with shipments starting possibly as soon as March, and full retail pricing for current pre-orders has settled in at $497.

For a machine that usually costs thousands of dollars, these newer 3D printers seem downright cheap. Even MakerBot, a premiere name in 3D printers, has a new smaller and lower-priced version coming out. At $1,375, the Replicator Mini definitely isn't the least expensive, but it's less than half of the price of its next-generation full-size Replicator ($2,899), and less than a third of the price of its new extra-large Z18 ($6,499)

The Replicator Mini is tailor-made for average users. It was even designed with a single button for one-touch operation. And all of those appliances come with snazzy new software for mobile and desktop, according to Bre Pettis, CEO and founder of MakerBot.

When I spoke to Pettis, the one word that came up numerous times was "easy"—from controlling print jobs to accessing the integrated Thingiverse catalog of 3D printing blueprints.

"With each of these," he said, "we're making it easy to make a model, integrate it into the MakerBot library [or browse through the] Thingiverse catalog and print to your MakerBot 3D printer." These are separate from Windows 8.1 including 3D printing drivers last year, and Adobe's new built-in support for 3D printing in Photoshop CC. Taken together, this means anyone who wants to try their hand at designing will have the capabilities practically anywhere.

But designers aren't the only ones who can use these appliances. 3D Systems has a new Sense 3D handheld unit, which can scan people and objects. Or if a user doesn't want to create their own blueprints, they can simply download other people's plans from places like Thingiverse, Shapeways or 3D Systems' Cubify online, and print them out at home. The latter even sells sophisticated, high-ticket products—like lighting and furniture—that arrive already printed out.

Tempt Them With Your Wares

I'd previously set out a three-step plan for turning 3D printing into a consumer tech revolution. 

  • Step 1: Bring down the price. (Check.)
  • Step 2: Make it easier to use. (Check.)
  • Step 3: Convey the benefits of 3D printing. (...um...)

A lot of effort has gone into the first two steps, and the results show. Now 3D printing has found a niche alongside connected home innovations and wearables as one of the hottest emerging technologies today. But those first couple of tasks are groundwork for the third and most important step, which is key for creating demand.

Now, it seems 3D printing's evangelists and marketers are finally starting to catch on.

MakerBot's Pettis took a moment during his CES presentation to talk about a young amputee who 3D-printed his own artificial arm. It cost far less than the price of a typical prosthetic, and he can continue doing so as he grows and requires different sizes.

3D printers can also offer other surprising uses. The people behind the Pebble smartwatch used their MakerBot Replicator for their brand-new Pebble Steel model—but not in the way you might think. "We had to take [the Steel] outside, but we couldn't show everyone what we'd been working on," Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky told me. "We actually printed a cover for it, to make it look like the original Pebble." In other words, they printed a disguise that changed the look of the metal gadget, in the same way Apple used to cloak its iPhone 4 prototypes in old iPhone 3GS cases (until one got lost in a bar, of course). 

3D Systems' Cubify plugged its 3DMe service, which lets users create 3D-printed figurines of themselves. Of these examples, this one appears to be the most intriguing for the broadest array of people. Parents can give their child the best toy ever—an action figure that looks like him or her—or even 3D print a futuristic version of a family portrait, which used to be complicated and tricky, involving scanning and staying stock still. 

3D Systems showed off other noteworthy innovations at the sho, including its Chefjet and Chefjet Pro kitchen-ready 3D food printers. And Intel, which gave its own demonstration of a 3D camera and scanner working with a 3D printer, even gave every attendee at its presentation a 3D-printed chocolate candy. While food applications aren't necessarily intended for the home yet—perhaps just for pastry kitchens and NASA labs—they do tip to an intriguing potential future use. 

Today, musicians can 3D print instruments, and tech enthusiasts can output smartphone cases, tablet stands, earbud cases, and more for themselves or as gifts for everyone they know for every gift-giving occasion for the rest of their lives (or for as long as the machine works). And why not? Once the device has been procured, the PLA or ABS plastic filament tends to be cheap. 

If 3D printing is in the spotlight right now, then real-world examples and the best of online 3D printing catalogs are the show. For example, when Amazon or Apple market their tablets, the first thing people see are the apps. That's because when you put a device in front of people, there's always one crucial thing they want to know—what you can do with them. It's time to show them. 

Tags: 3d printing

January 16 2014

Adobe Adds 3D Printing Tools to Photoshop
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Adobe is adding new tools to Photoshop that let users create and edit designs for 3D printing

Before 3D printers crank out objects, a user needs digital model — either one they create or download from the Internet. One you've got one, though, you'll need software that supports 3D imagery if you want to edit it. As of today, Photoshop users can design, edit and customize those 3D models similar to how you might adjust a 2D picture within the app.

The move is part of an effort from the company to bring 3D printing to the mainstream Read more...

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January 09 2014

3D Printer Injects Sculptures Into Jell-O Shots
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Early adopters of 3D printer technology are still struggling to find creative uses for the devices beyond one-off prototypes and weird toys. But a new model could be just the kind of fun twist 3D printing needs to go mainstream: it creates tiny 3D figures inside Jell-O shots.

The laptop battery-powered device was created by Netherlands-based software developer Jeroen Domburg, who cobbled it together as a cool treat for a friend’s 25th birthday party

Back in 2012, Domburg received well-deserved attention when he created a Raspberry Pi-based, fully functional miniature gaming console with a 2.4-inch display. Read more...

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Put Your Face on a 3D-Printed Action Figure
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Maybe you've always wanted to have curves like Kate Upton's, or muscles like Channing Tatum's. Or you just want to own an action figure of yourself, but with a better body. Look no further — your slightly narcissistic dreams are about to come true.

At this year's CES, Cubify offered a peek at 3DMe, a service that allows you to create 3D-printed figurines using photos of yourselfMashable's Lance Ulanoff took a quick peek at the offerings at the Cubify booth.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more CES coverage.

Image: Mashable, Lance Ulanoff

Read more...

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January 02 2014

CES 2014: 5 Tech Trends to Watch
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The new year is upon us, which means the annual International CES is just about here, too. In less than a week, more than 150,000 people will descend upon Las Vegas to either unveil or take in the latest consumer technology the world has on offer.

Although most high-profile product launches happen outside of CES these days (think Apple, Samsung and Google), the show still sets the tone for tech in the coming yearIn 2013, 4K, smartphone integration and new kinds of interfaces — like gesture and eye tracking — gained traction. Sony debuted a 4K downloading service, apps that control gadgets appeared everywhere, and companies like Leap Motion introduced new ways of interacting with computers. Read more...

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December 23 2013

The New Industrial Revolution: Everyone's a Maker
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We're in the midst of another Industrial Revolution, and it's all thanks to 3D-printing. While there are several startups working to expedite adoption of the innovative technology, MakerBot is the household name looking to get 3D-printers in the hands of the masses.

"It's a new way of designing and creating and manufacturing," says MakerBot Founder Bre Pettis, who started his career as a teacher. In the classroom, Pettis strived to empower his students through creativity, so education and learning are "built into the DNA of MakerBot" — it's a useful tool for designers and hobbyists, engineers and kids. (MakerBot Academy is the company's White House-supported initiative to get a 3D printer in every school in America to inspire a new generation of designers and makers.) Read more...

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December 20 2013

A College Kid Couldn't Afford a 3D Printer, So He Built One Himself
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When college student Shai Schechter didn't have access to an affordable 3D printer on his SUNY Purchase campus in New York, he set out to build his own model — one that would still crank out 3D-printed objects, but at a much lower cost.

"We have a laser- and powder-based 3D printer at school, but it costs about $500 for a bucket of powder and that only lasts for about one or two prints," Schechter said. "It's never used because it is so expensive and classes weren’t offered that much in the curriculum."

He approached his sculpture professor about building a new 3D printer that uses plastic instead, and sought the help of three good friends. Read more...

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December 03 2013

House Votes to Extend Law Banning 3D-Printed Guns for 10 Years
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Legislators want 3D-printed guns made entirely of plastic to be illegal in the U.S. for another 10 years. The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act, a 1988 law banning any weapon that can evade metal detectors.

Lawmakers pushed to extend the law, which was slated to expire on Dec. 9, amid fears that 3D printing would give criminals an unprecedented chance to smuggle a functioning weapon into a secure building. Availability of 3D printers and designs for 3D-printed guns, like the infamous Liberator, is rapidly increasing as the technology becomes mainstream. Read more...

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7 Things You Didn't Know About 3D Printing
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The future is coming, and it's going to be manufactured in a whole new way.

3D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing, so GE decided to give it its own holiday: 3D Printing Day. They're celebrating by designing and 3D-printing holiday gifts for their fans all day on December 3. After all, even elves deserve a break for the holidays, right?

But what exactly are 3D-printed things made of, and how will the process influence the way manufacturers work? Take a look at seven things you probably didn't know about 3D printing, and join the 3D Printing Day celebration with the hashtag #3DPrintMyGift. Read more...

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November 22 2013

Smithsonian Brings Historic Artifacts to Life Through 3D Printing
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The Smithsonian Institution is leading the way for major museums going digital with the 3D archive of historic artifacts available for viewing and printing it launched on Nov. 13. From supernovas to a sculpture of President Lincoln's head, a variety of historic objects are available for download in the Smithsonian's X 3D Explorer web portal — currently in the beta version.

The Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office scanned more than 20 artifacts for interactive viewing with technology provided by Autodesk and 3D Systems. After registering on the X 3D site, anyone can view and download the 3D images for personal or educational use by enabling Web GL, a JavaScript API that renders 3D graphics in a browser, and then print them on a 3D printer. Read more...

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November 21 2013

Suit Shopping? Strip Down in the Back of This Guy's Truck
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Getting a custom suit made usually demands rulers, tape measures and something called an "incline tool" to get the measurements just right. It also takes time –- well over an hour, at least — not to mention a lot of patience and a trained eye.

But at the Arden Reed tailor truck, it takes little more than a click and a short wait. The 3D scanner does the rest.

Carlos Solorio, co-founder of Arden Reed, claims that this is the most efficient way to get a bespoke suit. The company has done away with the traditional measuring procedure and managed to fit the entire process into a 20-minute visit. Arden Reed offers a wide selection of fabrics and options for its suits, creating just about any kind of suit a man would need. Read more...

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November 15 2013

Making a Cross-Country Trip in 2 Days on 3 Wheels
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Driving across the country requires a significant amount of time and fuel, but one team hopes to make the trek using only 10 gallons of biofuel over the course of two days

Earlier this year, engineer Jim Kor and his team conceptualized Urbee 2, a 3D-printed car comprised almost completely of 3D-printed plastic parts. It can carry two passengers and drives on just three wheels.

Now, the team is hoping to test out Urbee 2's performance on the road for an extended period of time. The team's current Kickstarter campaign asks for funding for the book Driving for Our Lives: a road trip through the Ecosphere. It details the creation of Urbee, which the team calls "the greenest car in the world." Any remaining money after publishing the book will go toward the Urbee 2 project; if the team raises $3 million, they will drive from New York to San Francisco in 2015, Kor told Mashable Read more...

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October 25 2013

NSA Monitored 35 World Leaders and Other News You Need to Know
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Welcome to this morning's edition of "First To Know," a series in which we keep you in the know on what's happening in the digital world.

Today, we're looking at three particularly interesting stories. According to another leak from whistleblower Edward Snowden in The Guardian, the NSA has been monitoring the phone conversations of 35 world leadersAmazon reported a loss of $41 million in the third quarter, but also announced a 24% jump in sales. In England, officers raided a factory where they believed criminals were using 3D printers to make plastic guns.

Check out the video above for more on these stories. Read more...

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