Sunday, March 31, 2013

3D Printers Predicted to Drop in Price

While this statement in itself may not be a shock, it is interesting to note that a recent report by Gartner, Inc - the world's leading information technology research and advisory company - predicts that enterprise-class 3D printers will drop under the $2,000 mark by 2016.  I'd love to share the original article with you, but apparently, I would need to pay US$195.00 in order to access it.  So, instead, here is a link to a different (free) article.

An article in TechCrunch (3.29.13) sums up the infantile state of 3D printing nicely,
At this point 3D printing still needs more than just a lower cost of entry. It needs an ecosystem. It needs a retail marketplace where designers can sell professional-level designs rather than just giving them away on Thingiverse. 3D printing needs local retailers and repair shops. It needs to make inroads into lower educational institutions (lower prices will help there). But 3D printing needs to get here. After all, it’s the future.

The original Gartner report also mentions kiosks or print-shop-style services.  Looks like those kids at UC Berkeley are ahead of the curve!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

3D Printing Vending Machine Comes to UC Berkeley

Meet David Pastewka, Ricard Berwick and Will Drevno.  These three UC Berkeley-affiliates have created the first (known to me) 3D printing vending machine, which they've nicknamed Dolly.  Cute.

Their company is called Dreambox.  As of late March, Dreambox is open for business, with print costs ranging from $3 to $15. The machine lives in Etcheverry Hall, 2521 Hearst Ave. in Berkeley, CA.

From their press kit,

The Dreambox founding team met in 2011 in a mobile application development class and competition at U.C. Berkeley. After working on various startup ideas for over a year, their personal struggles with inaccessible campus 3D printing and 2-4 week lead times from online 3D printing services led them to the idea for Dreambox: freely accessible 3D printing for all. 
A Dreambox is a 3D printing vending machine. It is the simplest way to have your custom models created. Take away the dozens of hours to setup a 3D printer, take away the weeks of waiting to receive an item from a 3D printing service, take away the need for a full-time operator and you’re left only with 3D printing’s unique manufacturing capabilities. 

Check out in this video to learn how it works:

You can read more about Dreambox in Gizmag, Discovery News, or in this great, detailed KQED article.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Making progress...

We've had the Makerbot up and running for a couple of weeks now.  Although I do not have as much time to experiment with it as I would like, we have been making progress.

We printed the cubes, sharks, and "spiral box" from the included SD card.  The (incomplete) chess pawn, and various TARDISes came from downloaded .stl files off Thingiverse.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cornell is Cooking up Some Cool 3D Printers!

In this awesome video, researchers Hod Lipson and Jeffrey Lipton, from Cornell University, discuss some of the ideas that have come out of Fab@Home project.

They explain how food materials such as frostings were used first as support material but then quickly went to prime time.  After people's first taste (pun intended) of food printing, the experimentation quickly escalated.  First up?  Hydrocolloids - the same material used in the 3D printing of living tissues!

Quickly following, people discovered you could 3D print food made of pear jam, liquid turkey, brie, deep-friend corn... basically "anything you can push through a syringe" (Hod Lipson).

Even researchers admit that we "don't see new materials, but just new ways of combining them..." and that one day, they envision the 3D food printer being an appliance we couldn't imagine living without.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Print Item #2: Chess Pawn

This is the first item we printed using Thingiverse vs. the SD card packaged with the Makerbot.  We were able to download the .stl file, use Replicator to create the gcode, and then send it to the printer via USB.  It was off to a fantastic start, but halfway through the sphere on top, the filament got off track (or the table was bumped?), and the kids decided to abort the print.

Engaget Expand: 3D Printing Goes Mainstream

Engaget hosted their inaugural event, Engaget Expand, in San Francisco on March 16 and 17.  There were many wonderful things to see there, but I was most excited to see the presentation, "3D Printing Goes Mainstream" with Hod Lipson, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, Max Lobovsky, Co-Founder, FormLabs, and Avi Reichental, President & CEO of 3D Systems. 

After the talk, I even managed to get my picture taken with Avi Reichental.  I would never want a picture with a pop culture celebrity, but c'mon... this was the CEO of 3D Systems!  I think he was flattered. 

Anyway, I've since learned that 3D Systems was founded in 1986 in Valencia, California, by Chuck Hull, the inventor and patent-holder of the first stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping system.  In 2003, Hull was succeeded by Abe Reichental, current CEO. In 2012, both Reichental and Hull were listed among the most influential people in rapid technologies by TCT Magazine.  (It's worth reading the TCT Top 5 Talk Back.)

Here is a link to a January 2013 interview (video included) with Abe Reichental at CES, discussing the promise of consumer 3D printing.

From the talk itself, I found the following noteworthy:

  • The first consumer computers were mainly used for gaming, so it's OK that 3D printers, as a gadget, are there right now.  Eventually, PCs became so easy to use; everyone had one.  We are just not there yet with consumer 3D printing.
  • Currently, there are 62 companies in the consumer 3D printing field. (Here are just a few!) The speakers believe that these companies mostly represent replication, not innovation - yet innovation is where the opportunity lies (esp. in terms of the user experience).  Reichental said that when the software for 3D printing becomes as easy to use as Word, PowerPoint and Adobe software, then it will become relevant.
  • Comment about gamifying CAD... hmm.... I am just starting with middle school kids and 3D printing myself.  Will CAD prove engaging enough on its own?
  • One hurdle for the 3D printer is that not everyone likes making things... unlike a 2D printer - basically everyone needs to print documents at some point or another.
  • Professor Lipson said the next big thing will be the multi-material printer.  He likened it to the revolution of color printing following black and white.
  • And, in case you are holding your breath... 3D Systems is considering a consumer 3D chocolate printer.
  • Why are people drawn to 3D printing?  The panelists point out that people have an "inherent desire to personalize and customize."  They pointed out the extend folks will go to to personalize their clothes, their cars, their hair....
  • Of course, there was discussion of copyright - a virtually unexplored aspect of 3D manufacturing at the consumer level.  One panelist argued that our current copyright system needs to be congruent with current speed of ideas in regards to patents & copyright.
  • Finally, and perhaps most striking for me was the statements that "with unimaginable, comes the unintended."  Isn't that always the case with technology, whatever it may be.  Already, the industry is dealing with controversy around guns and 3D printing.  As fast as controls are put in place, there are people ready to circumvent them.

Don't just take my word on it, you should watch the video:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our Makerbot's Big Day

Tonight, the kids and I set up the Makerbot.  It was all very exciting!  Every time it moved its extruder nozzles so we could calibrate, or changed the color of the LED lights, we would get excited all over again. :)

The LCD panel / menu is a nice touch, as is the SD card slot.  We opted to do a test print from an existing file, and settled on the dual extrusion calibration cube.

And, finally, the cube we had all been waiting for:

Ends up this calibration clube had a number of intricate designs on the inside layers; it was fascinating to watch what it coud do!  Total print time was about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Yep, these consumer 3D printers aren't too speedy.  But it is well worth the wait!

Stay tuned for more adventures of our 3D printers....

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Evolution of BPC's 3D Printers

Back in 2011, I was fortunate to meet Brook Drumm, who sold me one of his early production Printrbots (left, below - please note, it is resting inside an egg crate... this is not part of the printer.  I just need somewhere to put my laptop while I am teaching).  His original goal was to get these printers in the hands of kids (see original Kickstarter project) and we helped him do just that.  Of course, by now, the PrintrBot has become more sophisticated - while still remaining rather affordable.  (In fact, I have a couple of boys who have used their Bar Mitzvah money to purchase and build their own!)

Since January 2012, when Makerbot first announced that they has a consumer machine that could print two colors at once (dual extrusion), I have wanted one....  Now, a year or so later, I have finally purchased my first Makerbot Replicator (right, below)!

As you may know, Makerbot has recently come out with a new Replicator 2 (single extrusion) and will soon be releasing the Replicator 2X (dual extrusion).  I had a tough decision to make.  In the end, I decided to go with the Replicator 1.  Not only was the price more realistic ($1999 vs. $2799), but the Replicator 1 still runs with open source software, while the newest Makerbots come with Makerbot's own proprietary software.  (Read the controversy, as well as Makerbot's response.)  I feel like, in the spirit of Making, I needed to share the open source model with my students.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Will 3D Printing Change the World?

Nice overview video by PBS Off Book, a "web-original series from PBS Arts that explores cutting edge arts and the artists that make it."  It hits all the interesting highlights, including medical 3D printing and the complexities of 3D Printing and copyright.