With 3D printers gaining more popularity it's only a matter of time until people start printing their own functional gadgets at home. We've seen some creative designers build working guitars
and even firearms
in just the past few months alone, but these aren't exactly products most people would need around the house. Teague Labs' John Mabry may have found a much more practical device to print with his "13:30" headphones, which were assembled from 3D printed components and fitted together by hand.
Formlabs, a start-up led by MIT researchers, has created a desktop 3D printer that uses stereolithography (SLA) technology normally reserved for costly high-end printers. While other at-home 3D printers use a process where ABS plastic is melted and extruded in thin strips, SLA uses lasers to cure liquid resin in microscopic layers. The Form 1 3D printer, which is described as the first "prosumer" 3D printer, accomplishes this using the same type of laser found in your Blu-ray player.
As useful as 3D printers are becoming in industrial design, they still aren't exactly eco-friendly and are still mostly limited to small scale objects. You couldn't really use one to print a building just yet, but a group of architects may have taken a step in the right direction with a new machine called the Stone Spray. Using natural soil and sand, the Stone Spray can construct intricate solid structures at almost any location, even on vertical surfaces.
There are plenty of different 3D printers to choose from these days, from the popular Makerbot Thing-O-Matic
to the budget-priced Solidoodle
. These all have one drawback however in that they aren't exactly portable. Most need to be disassembled to be moved and even the fully-assembled Cubify
printer isn't really built for travel. But now, two MIT students have developed the PopFab, a machine that does 3D printing and more, all while fitting inside a small suitcase.
is starting to surf a wave that could take it from a specialist manufacturing process to household product. The price of machines is coming down
and the array of objects that can be created
is going up, but it's not yet clear exactly how this potential will be realized in the consumer marketplace. One possible pathway is being explored by Fujifilm: introduce 3D printers using the established "kiosk" model that's been so successful for digital photo printing.
Thanks to the popularity of 3D printers like the Replicator
and the Cube
, there are plenty of devices out there for crafting almost any solid object from just a design. But what if you're more interested in building a 3D object from something a little less voluminous like, say, a simple line drawing? The materials used to create most 3D printed object unfortunately aren't sturdy enough to recreate objects that thin. That's why New York-based design consultancy, Pensa, has built the DIWire Bender, a machine that follows vector diagrams to bend and shape pieces of wire into elaborate structures.
For about a year, former aerospace engineer Sam Cervantes served as the chief of operations for Makerbot, the Brooklyn-based 3D printer manufacturer. While the reasons for his departure hasn’t been made public, his subsequent activities have – he’s been developing another 3D printer, known as the Solidoodle. He recently unveiled the latest model, the Solidoodle 2, which comes fully-assembled for just under $500.
Already, people are pretty excited at the idea of being able to create inanimate objects using a 3D printer. Imagine, though, if you could create and print an actual moving robot, using a printer-like device in a store. If a group of scientists taking part in a new project are successful, that’s exactly what you will some day be able to do.
If you ever had more than one type of toy for building things as a child (LEGO, Tinkertoys, Duplo, etc.), odds are you tried to mix the sets together at some point with creative, though disastrous, results. Apparently the folks at F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab had the same experience and have created the Free Universal Construction Kit to solve this childhood dilemma. By downloading free designs and using a 3D printer, you could have your very own pieces to connect ten different brands of building toys to each other and construct even more elaborate contraptions and structures.
Are 3D printers not amazing enough already? Apparently some scientists at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) didn’t think so, as they have now built one that can create intricate objects as small as a grain of sand. While the ability to 3D-print such tiny items is actually not unique to the TU Vienna device, the speed at which it can do so is. According to the researchers, this makes the commercial production of things such as medical implants much more viable.