A Call For A 3D Printing X-Prize

A Call For A 3D Printing X-PrizeAfter re-reading our post on entrepreneur Peter Diamandis’ new book, Abundance, we were reminded that Diamandis was the original proposer of the X Prize. The X Prize is now a foundation that pays for the development of amazing technological achievements. The most famous X Prize was the first one, which spurred the development of a private spaceship: Spaceship One. 
 
We wondered if 3D Printing should have an X Prize. 
 
Yes, we think so. While there are lots of people working on various forms of 3D printing today, the developments are typically incremental enhancements to current 3D printing tech. And to remind readers, today’s 3D printing technology, while amazing, has significant challenges in material types, precision resolution, workflow complexity, color and especially the time required to print. Advances encouraged by an X Prize could dramatically overcome those limitations and bring 3D printing into the mainstream. 
 
Let’s imagine a potential X Prize scenario for 3D printing, if one had a sponsor: 
 
The prize: One Million US Dollars to the first team to produce a 3D printer by Dec 31st 2015 that can produce: 
 
  • A specified complex geometry object involving moving parts weighing at least 500gm and sized at least 300x300x300mm
  • The object in completely finished form in less than 10 minutes
  • The object in full color
  • The object with a resolution of 0.005mm or better
  • Functional basic electrical circuits embedded within the object
  • The object in at least two materials of different hardness
 
And one more thing: the 3D printer’s parts should in total cost no more than USD$2,000. 
 
Ambitious, but then so is a private spaceship.  
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6 Responses

  1. There's a difference between ambitious and utterly ludicrous.

    10 minutes, for 300mm, with a 5 micron (!) tolerance in full colour, with different shore hardnesses, with conductive multi-material capability?

    So we're going to need 60,000 layers to hit that tolerance (best case scenario) in the Z, in 600 seconds. That's a layer every millisecond, ruling out any mechanical approach entirely. The only technology capable of switching that fast would be DLP. So really what you're looking for is the material more than the machine – a photopolymer capable of not only changing colour when illuminated with different wavelengths, but also capable of changing conductivity and shore hardness. That or a machine that reconstructs molecules on an atomic scale with extreme speed.

    Such a project is worth hundreds of billions billions in development in and of itself, and would change the landscape of manufacturing in its entireity. Somehow, I don't think your paltry million dollars is really going to spur on this sort of development.

    Perhaps a 3D Printing X-Prize should focus on something actually achievable, not something that teeters on the edge of physics and requires technology akin to a star trek replicator.

  2. There's a difference between ambitious and utterly ludicrous.

    10 minutes, for 300mm, with a 5 micron (!) tolerance in full colour, with different shore hardnesses, with conductive multi-material capability?

    So we're going to need 60,000 layers to hit that tolerance (best case scenario) in the Z, in 600 seconds. That's a layer every millisecond, ruling out any mechanical approach entirely. The only technology capable of switching that fast would be DLP. So really what you're looking for is the material more than the machine – a photopolymer capable of not only changing colour when illuminated with different wavelengths, but also capable of changing conductivity and shore hardness. That or a machine that reconstructs molecules on an atomic scale with extreme speed.

    Such a project is worth hundreds of billions billions in development in and of itself, and would change the landscape of manufacturing in its entireity. Somehow, I don't think your paltry million dollars is really going to spur on this sort of development.

    Perhaps a 3D Printing X-Prize should focus on something actually achievable, not something that teeters on the edge of physics and requires technology akin to a star trek replicator.

  3. What happened to the Gada Prize? I know you've covered it in the past. It's a much smaller prize (and much more reasonable in requirements) than your proposed hypothetical X Prize, but it also actually exists. I think the Grand Prize is still looking for funding, but the Interim Prize competition which ends this coming December is fully funded.

    http://humanityplus.org/projects/gadaprize/

  4. What happened to the Gada Prize? I know you've covered it in the past. It's a much smaller prize (and much more reasonable in requirements) than your proposed hypothetical X Prize, but it also actually exists. I think the Grand Prize is still looking for funding, but the Interim Prize competition which ends this coming December is fully funded.

    http://humanityplus.org/projects/gadaprize/

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