Top 5 Posts of 2007

 

While Fabbaloo just started publishing in 2007, we still believe it's appropriate to list our most popular posts of 2007.

5. Real Objects from Virtual Designs. We described Fabjectory's niche service for creating 3D objects from your Second Life avatar or Nintendo Mii.

4. DesktopFactory Wins Award. We reported on DesktopFactory's win at the Popular Science Best of 2007 awards.

3. World of Warcraft Figure Printing. We pointed out Figureprints, a niche 3D printing service - for WoW characters.

2. $4995 for Desktop Fab. The post that started it all, describing the breakthrough technology that should change how 3D printing is viewed in 2008.

1. 3D Printing on Paper. Thanks to a link from Gamestar.de, a German language gaming site, this post describing how paper can be used as a 3D printing medium was the most popular not only in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also the rest of the world too.

Our thanks go to all Fabbaloo readers for our success in 2007, and we wish everyone the best in 2008!

Three Three Dimensional Wishes for 2008

It's that time of year when we must reflect on the past and look forward to the future. While there were many interesting developments in 3D printing during 2007, the most newsworthy item was far and away DesktopFactory's announcement of their sub-$5000 3D printer.

But what about 2008? What should we expect to see? We're not certain, but there are three things we'd like to see in 2008:

 

  1. Sub-$5000 3D printers become generally available. Yes, DesktopFactory's device will no doubt eventually emerge from the beta-sphere, but it sure would be nice for them to have some competition. Well, maybe not for them, but for us! Competition would lower prices, raise the profile of 3D objects and introduce the concept of 3D printing to a much wider audience.
  2. Design libraries appear. If we are to have 3D printers in our offices and later our homes, we'll need something to print on them. We would like to see Internet-based libraries of 3D designs suitable for downloading by 3D printer owners. Free or commercial, it doesn't matter to us. What matters is that when I need a spoon, I can quickly find a design and print one without having to crank up difficult-to-use CAD software and design one from scratch.
  3. Media standardization. We've seen many different forms of 3D print media, including various brands of proprietary goop, sugar, bizarre powdery substances and even common 2D dead-trees (paper). This is no way to build the massive industry 3D will hopefully become. Sooner or later we'd better start standardizing on media - not specific formulas initially, but at least the type of media. In the 2D world, you have really only two kinds of media: those for inkjets and for lasers. This sure isn't so in the 3D world - yet.

 

Considerations for 3D Printing

We frequently scan the Internet to find the latest on Fabbing, and lately we keep finding many postings regarding DesktopFactory's sub-$5000 3D printer. We're guilty of that ourselves.
Many of these postings imply that 3D printing is going to be relatively straightforward. Just purchase the now-inexpensive printer and you're good to go!

But it's not like that.

There are critical and necessary components beyond the printer hardware that bear consideration, and most pundits seem to miss them. In this post we'll discuss what they are, while in future posts we'll dig deeper into what they really mean.

The three key considerations are:

 

  • The printer itself. We often discuss these on Fabbaloo. DesktopFactory's device will be the first of many that are inexpensive. 
  • The printing media. Our familiar 2D printers use paper as their media, but realize there are different kinds of paper, and even unusual 2D media such as blank CDs or T-Shirt iron-ons. The world of 3D printing is no different, and perhaps much more complicated. Current 3D printers print on a variety of substances, some common like sugar, while others are complex proprietary chemical substances. Some are wet, others are dry and powdered. Some are powdered and become wet. Each has different characteristics - and cost.
  • The designs. What exactly do you print? In the 2D world, you must either create a document (with office-type software) or use a document that someone else has created. Again, there is no difference in the 3D world: you must create or find a design. No objects appear without a design first. But you don't use commonly available office tools to create 3D designs - today you must use specialized modeling software that many people do not yet know how to use. 3D printing services sometimes prepare designs for you in advance, and you merely select an existing design.


We believe that the latter two items will ultimately prove much more interesting than the printers themselves, just as today's 2D printers are more or less a commodity and we focus our attention on the documents and media instead.

 

QuickQuote by QuickARCProvides Quick Quotes

Unlike many 3D Printing services, QuickARC has a new online facility for generating quotes for printing complex 3D objects. Typically, this particular service would be used by Architects or Builders for developing building models (as is shown in their website's header). QuickARC has the ability to accept 3D models in two modes:

 

  • Architect's Zone - "Submit your 3D CAD files (in STL format) and get a Quote for your project". In this mode you specify 3D Printing information, including which process to use (Solid Laser, Powder, Plastic Extrusion, Durable Powder or Multi-Jet Polymer), material color, dimensions, etc. We'd use this method if we had a CAD file ready to go.
  • Builder's Zone - "Enter your property specs and get a Quote for Interactive 3D Models of your project". In this mode you must specify physical characteristics of your project, including number of floors, type of material on the sides, appliances and fixtures, etc. This method would best be used by those without CAD files who simply want basic non-custom building models.


Via QuickARC

 

More on FigurePrints

There's been quite a buzz around the net regarding the newly opened FigurePrints service, which prints 3D replicas of World of Warcraft characters. We've seen many articles, but most simply mention it briefly. Meanwhile, WowInsider posts a complete interview with FigurePrints founder Ed Fries. As a long-time WoW player (since it was Beta!) and tech-whiz, he came up with the brilliant idea to combine 3D Printing with WoW, hence FigurePrints.

Highlights:

 

  • Ed realized the opportunity about a year and a half ago after looking at a 3D creature from Spore.
  • Used the WoW Model Viewer (open source software) as a base to build the necessary software.
  • Ed's venture has been encouraged by Blizzard (makers of WoW) all the way.
  • Character information is extracted from Wow, combined with poses and attachment information and finally massaged by custom software to convert it all to 3D printable format.
  • The figurines are basically handcrafted and therefore FigurePrints can't handle the expected customer volume - so they have a lottery system to draw "winning" customers each month. So far: 4000 entries. Keep trying, guys!


Ed does not reveal the printer being used, but based on the process description (color ink, white powder, blow off excess, etc.) we suspect it is likely a Z-Corp Spectrum Z 510 printer. Watch this video to see how it works.

 

Via WowInsider

Cosmic Modelz

The rash of 3D services continues. This time it's Cosmic Modelz, which appears to use Z Corp printers to produce "one-of-a-kind collectibles" from your own artwork. While not open yet, it remains to be seen if they can compete with JuJups or some of the other 3D print services.

Via Cosmic Modelz

3D Printer Found in Department Store!

Yes, this is real! A Make Magazine reader posted pictures and description of this Dimension printer found at Toronto's Umbra Concept Store. Evidently visitors can drop by to see the printer creating objects for Umbra's designers - who are occasionally present to answer questions.

I'm not sure how successful this concept would be for drop-in customer prints, like Kinko's does for 2D print; customers would need some chairs to sit in while awaiting their objects for eight or ten hours. Or maybe even some sleeping bags...

The Make posting's most amusing bit was the comment from Jimmy Smits, who said:

 

meh! That is a worthless Dimension model fused deposition modeling 3-d printer using plasticine .01 mm orb shaped media with a melt temp of a mere 376.77 celcius and a final cool temp hardness of only 5 DPH on the Vickers Hardness Test. I made a better one last summer out of a modified Legos Mindstorms kit, an Epson 800 inkjet printer, my 1,00,000,000 volt telsa coil's flyback transformer, and using liquid titanium as media. I'm also tired of these capitalist corporations trying to make a buck and using the latest technology to stay at the cutting edge. What do they think this is, a free country.

Sure, Jimmy, we wish!

 

It's not the Kinko's scenario as described by Jackie Fenn of Gartner yet, but it's getting a lot closer to reality.

Via Make Magazine

"Will 3D Printing Finally Go Mainstream?"

Apparently so - this article appears twice: once in C|NET and again in FrogDesign. Tim Lebrecht, Director of Marketing for frog design (frog is most famous for designing many Apple products) postulates that the emergence of several 3D printing services, such as Jujups and Cosmic Modelz is a result of recent price-shattering devices such as Z Corp's 3D printers.

While promising, Tim says "we're still sitting here with our seat belts fastened" waiting for the 3D revolution. We at Fabbaloo also believe it's coming, and new 3D print services will popularize the concept even more.

Consider that every World of Warcraft player may now print their character with FigurePrints. This is because FigurePrints simply took 3D print technology and applied it to a specific domain. We'll see many more experiments like this in the near future, as innovative geniuses around the world find similar niches.

Via frogdesign and C|NET

Designer Uses 3D Printing

As many designers have discovered, 3D printing can be very useful to render an actual three-dimensional model of their imagined item. From idea to sketch to drawing, the next stage is a model. But rather than using the traditional tedious process of manual construction, contemporary designers are frequently finding that a 3D printer can be much more efficient - and enable new designs not easily made with older techniques.

Designer Mnatsakanyan Lilith represents this approach with her kitchen kettle concept, where semantic concepts can be seen evolving through each stage.

Via BlueYonder

Online Group for 3D Fans

Dave Mainwaring has created a Google Group for discussions of 3D printing technology. There's not many members yet, but I am sure it will grow.

Via Google Groups

Objet Wins Gold Award

At the Euromold fair Objet Geometries won the Gold award for their new Connex 500 3D printer. We've covered this amazing device before, but if you didn't read our post, the 500 is notable for its ability to print using multiple materials simultaneously. This means that you can print objects with hard and soft parts, as well as different colors.

Via PRW.com

Buy Your Own Fab - Today!

It's getting dangerously close to that holiday season, and what better gift than your own fab? What, you don't have $40,000 for a Z-Corp? Neither do we.

Sure, we've heard about the DesktopFactory $5000 3D printer, but who's seen them in the stores? Meanwhile, you could always build your own Fab@Home or RepRap 3D printer - if you are handy with a soldering iron.

However, we found a shop that sells Fab@Home kits, or even preassembled units at a lower cost than even DesktopFactory. And they are available today! Koba Industries' Prostores offers several different kits in various stages of assembly. A pure kit is priced at USD$3100, while a mostly-assembled kit is USD$3600.

Via Koba Store

More 3D Figurine Services

There seems to be a sudden outbreak of services for printing 3D figures lately. Fabjectory has been around for a while, but the blogosphere was lit up on Figureprints just a few days ago. Now I find another one: a German service called "Fabidoo". No English on their site, but thanks to the miracle of translation, I can tell you a little bit about how it works.

After registration, you select a figurine from their library, or you can design your own. They seem to have an extensive library of over 100 multicolored shapes to choose from, in three different sizes. I get the sense that their library is fluid and constantly changing with new inventions. Selected figurines are printed and sent to you. Simple! Fabidoo also explains how they make the figures with a 3D Printer.

I am always wondering how 3D printing is going to break out into the mainstream, and with today's discovery it appears that there is definitely a niche business in making small figurines. With the massive size of today's gaming, could figurines be the start of the mainstream for 3D printing services? Once established, what other objects might these services build for us?

Via Fabidoo

3D Printing... on PAPER!

This one is a total surprise to me. I thought I had heard of all techniques for 3D printing - until today, when I read Deelip Menezes' blog, where he pointed out Ireland-based Mcor Technologies. They make a 3D printer that uses paper as media:

 

The Mcor Matrix desk top modeler can produce ready to use, three dimensional models from standard A4/Letter paper. This cost effective model maker will enable students, designers, engineers and hobbyists create 3D models at 2D prices.


Mcor provides specialized software that renders 3D objects into "slices" suitable for sending to the printer. The software even identifies and models the necessary support structures used temporarily during printing. Standard paper sheets are glued together during the printing process to form the 3D structure, using a "patented selective adhesive system."

 

Mcor claims the Matrix printer operations at "up to 40 times less expensive" than traditional 3D printers, since you can use typical A4 paper such as you can easily find at your neighborhood office supply store. The printer is not cheap; for its 1Q2008 Ireland and UK introduction, the projected price is €15,000 - 18,900 (USD22,000 - 28,000), but the media certainly will be a lot less expensive than that of their competitors ("the cost of the build material is 0.01 euros per cubic centimetre".)

Depending on the amount you intend on printing, this device might end up being less expensive to use than the highly-anticipated Desktop Factory USD5,000 (or €3,400) 3D printer. Desktop Factory says "The cost of the build material is expected to be about $1 per cubic inch." Translating the DesktopFactory media price to euros, my rough arithmetic tells me that its media cost is €0.0415 per cubic centimetre, or 4.15x as expensive as Mcor's.

This means that the the Mcor Matrix could become less expensive than the DesktopFactory after printing some 370,000 cubic centimetres worth of 3D objects, since you're saving around €0.03 per cubic centimetre. How much is that? Approximately 370 litres, or about 600-800 hand-sized objects, or a print per day for two or three years.

This technology tells me one certain fact: 3D printing is still in its infancy and there are many paths it may take. Great idea, Mcor!

Via Deelip Menezes and Mcor

Another Building-Sized Fab

Two posts on gigantor-sized fabs this week! The Information Sciences Institute's Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis's Contour Crafting Technology enables fabbing on a building-sized scale. Apparently the Doctor plans on releasing the USD$1.5M machine very soon, and we will soon see if this type of "personal" manufacturing will work. Be sure to check out the videos, especially the "Video of operation of actual Contour Crafting prototype machine".

We're definitely a long way from having entire complete buildings being simply printed - but this technology will permit onsite fabbing of the basic structure, leaving a portion of the construction for manual labor. It likely won't do electrical wiring or complex installation of tricky components such as furnaces, insulated windows or intricately carved Italian marble lobbies. But I am sure those too will come in time.

Via ISI and MirageStudio7

Stratasys FDM 900mc

Stratasys is showing off their new FDM 900mc Additive Fabrication System at the Frankfurt EuroMold trade show. While WAY out of the financial range of hobbyists, this device uses different movement technology to ensure finer control over additive mechanisms, resulting in greater printed resolution. The big feature is a truly massive 3x2x3 foot build chamber, which is fantastically larger than pretty much anything else.

The device is intended for professional manufacturers or services that produce short production runs that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive. We suspect the FDM 900mc will sooner or later be made available to hobbyists via web-based 3D print services. So perhaps those tiny build chamber restrictions will go away? According to the press release, seven devices have so far been ordered for delivery in 2008.

One interesting tidbit about the FDM 900mc is that some 32 of its parts are themselves made with direct digital manufacturing.

Via BusinessWire

RedEye Goes European

RedEye RPM is opening a new "European rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing center in Leuven, Belgium." RedEye is a sub of Stratasys, which produces high-end 3D printing equipment. RedEye provides 3D printing services to engineering firms and manufacturers for low-volume runs, presumably using current Stratasys hardware - possibly including that new FDM 900mc device. RedEye is not for the hobbyist, but perhaps in the future they'll offer low cost services for the masses.

Via PR-inside.com

3D Trendwatching

Trendwatching.com has selected Desktop Fabbing (or as they call it, "Make It Yourself", MIY) as one of their eight Important Consumer Trends to Watch in 2008. They mention the several 3D printing or fabbing services such as Ponoko and of course the omnipresent yet-to-be-seen-in-the-wild DesktopFactory USD$5000 desktop fab.

Along with "MIY", the seven other consumer trends were: "Status Spheres", "Premiumization", "Snack Culture", "Online Oxygen", "Eco-Iconic", "Brand Butlers" and "Crowd Mining". Man, my buzzword detector is going to catch fire...

Via TrendWatching

Printing an Entire Building!

It's not exactly desktop fabbing, but it is definitely interesting. French architectural firm R&Sie plans on building an "Ice Museum" by fabbing the entire building from pre-made wood media. Unlike typical 3D printers that create objects by gradually adding material, the technique to be used for the Ice Museum will be subtractive - sheets of wood will be milled into intricate layers that are then glued together, eventually forming the entire building. Should be interesting to watch.... but duck when the CNC arm comes swinging by!

Via TreeHugger

Make Your Own Watch!

Frederic Hakoune uses 3D printing technology to produce his own watch - and it works. Well, he didn't print the clockwork mechanism itself, but the housing certainly looks good. Frederic posts pictures of the entire process, from design blueprints, the actual printing operation and of course assembly.

Via Facebook

+