by General Fabb
3D software giant Autodesk has released an infographic portraying the need for, guess what? 3D design software. (Click on the image above to see the fine details).
It may be in their self-interest, but they have a valid point. The infographic indicates that a surprising amount of newly released products are subject to recall because of faulty design, either for safety reasons or simply because they didn't work properly.
Their point is that proper design counts. In a world of digital manufacturing and specifically in 3D printing, you must spend time carefully designing your item before you consider printing it. They also hope you use Autodesk software to do so.
Which isn't unreasonable, as they have perhaps the largest portfolio of 3D design software around.
One of the most interesting items to 3D print on a high-power color 3D printer turns out to be shoes. We were blown away when we first encountered a color 3D printed shoe last year - the visual realism is only broken when you pick up the shoe and realize its made of sandstone.
We've discovered a number of shoe print images on Zprint's Flickr stream, some of which we show here. All of these are not real shoes. They are 3D prints, each made on a Zcorp color 3D printer. Be sure to click on these images to see full size detail.
Why 3D print unwearable shoes? Because they're prototypes. They're meant to test the visual attractiveness of a specific design. Shoe designers develop dozens of variations and print them all out for inspection by the company decision-makers. It's far easier to test prototypes in this way than actually making a real version of the shoe. Should a shoe pass this test, then it may be considered for actual manufacturing.
Boston, Massachusetts is the original home of ZCorp, now owned by 3D Systems. It's also the home of the Boston Bruins NHL hockey club, currently battling the Chicago Blackhawks for the championship Stanley Cup.
In 2011 the Bruins won the cup and the folks (or perhaps fans) at ZCorp printed out the Bruins official logo above. Since that time we've seen multiple sports logos developed specifically for 3D printing. Normally these logos are 2D items, so it takes some creativity to convert them into 3D structures.
On Thingiverse we found this Pittsburgh Penguins logo and model for a Winnipeg Jets Galaxy S4 Phone Case. Both are downloadable and there are many more sports-logoed items available.
This is terrific for sports fans, but is it entirely legal? While the Bruins logo above seems to have been 3D printed for internal use by ZCorp, the downloadable items on Thingiverse are publicly available.
Sports teams protect their logos diligently, as placing them on salable merchandise is a major source of income. Counterfeited jersey sales are frequently shut down, sometimes by police action.
But what happens if the merchandise is distributed for free? And 3D printed? We strongly suspect the Thingiverse items do not have licenses from the respective owners. Will the owners be concerned if their logo is placed on objects and freely distributed as a printable 3D model? While no money changes hands during a Thingiverse download, there could be issues in the future when license owners see a dent in their profits because free printable equivalents replace salable items.
3D Systems continues its acquisition run with the announcement they've agreed to take on Phenix Systems, a manufacturer of metal 3D printing devices.
France-based Phenix Systems uses the "Direct Metal Selective Laser Sintering" process, which uses high-powered lasers to fuse layers of metal powder into solid objects at very fine resolutions. The process is very similar in concept to 3D Systems' SLS process, but uses metal instead.
3D Systems has not yet bought the 13-year old Phenix outright; instead they've "only" acquired some 80% of Phenix's shares. However, they intend to pursue the remaining 20% after the main acquisition deal closes in July, with the goal of a clean 100% ownership.
3D Systems' strategy is to offer as many different 3D printing processes as possible, as they (correctly) believe that no single process can serve all needs. With this acquisition, they've added a key capability to their already daunting arsenal of 3D printing processes.
Via 3D Systems
We've been working with 3D printers for so many years it's sometimes hard to recall what it was like when first encountering a 3D printer. That's why we're reading a post on GeekDad by Brad Moon, who decided to dive deep into 3D printing by purchasing a 3D Systems Cube personal 3D printer.
Moon spent some three weeks with the Cube, learning the hardware and software. Moon noticed and appreciated 3D Systems' consumer approach to the Cube's design, particularly its WiFi connection and colorful appearance.
We were most interested in the challenges perceived by GeekDad, challenges that face not only the Dad in question, but all general consumers.
While Moon had minor complaints about finishing objects and plastic problems, the two major challenges were not surprising: First, the cost of the machine and its plastic were seen to be still too high for a general consumer. Secondly, the print time was perceived to be far too long to hold consumer interest.
We agree with that assessment, and often find print times similarly frustrating - especially when they're measured in days instead of hours. Moon expects costs to drop and speeds to increase.
So do we.
A fundraising campaign has launched for the Nautilus 3D printer. It's a resin-based DLP printer, using a process similar to that used by Formlabs and 3D Systems. The Nautilus uses a DLP projection system to fuse each layer of photo-curable resin.
The Nautilus was developed by a team of four from Beijing who were fascinated with 3D printing and decided to do something about it, focusing on cost. They hope to raise funds to start serious manufacturing of this very low-cost device.
The device as pictured above is said to be able to produce up to 6 layers per minute at a minimum layer size of "less than 0.1mm" each. We like the resolution, which is among the best we've heard of. The speed of the Nautilus seems pretty good: six layers per minute means 17 minutes per cm or 42 minutes per inch. We're not sure what software drives this machine, but we can say the build volume is 102x77x1200mm at 0.1mm resolution and half that when printing at 0.05mm resolution.
One interesting feature is a selection of different resins. They provide a standard resin that apparently is comparable to other manufacturers, plus a high-strength resin capable of making machine-usable parts. The resins are said to cost a fraction of other resins.
Their focus on low-cost is pretty clear: the Indiegogo campaign lists the least expensive kit (which to be clear, does not include the DLP projector) is a mere USD$387, far lower than any other resin 3D printer we've seen. They also offer a "whole printer", which may or may not be assembled, for only USD$1099.
This could be the start of a big thing.
Via Indiegogo (Hat tip to konkit)
In July of this year Digital Grotesque will launch. It's a project to produce "an elaborate, fully-enclosed room that is entirely 3D printed."
Computational architects Benjamin Dillenburger and Michael Hansmeyer designed Digital Grotesque and exhibited a 1:3 scale prototype at the recent 2013 Swiss Art Awards in Basel. They hope to produce a full scale version next month. They say:
We explore the new potentials of digital design using a reduced, minimalist approach that nonetheless transcends rationality. Inspired by the natural process of cell division, we develop an algorithm that iteratively divides and transforms the initial geometry of a simple cube. Despite simple rules, a complex world of forms arises at multiple scales: between ornament and structure, between order and chaos, foreign and yet familiar: a digital grotesque.
The room is 3D printed in sandstone at high resolution on a VoxelJet, one of the largest 3D printers available today. While the 1:3 prototype is much smaller than the full scale version, it still weighs 350kg and is 1.2 x 1.15 x 0.6 meters. The digital model is made of a rather large 80M faces.
What is 3DPrintingPriceCheck? It does exactly that. Jonas Neubert, creator of the online service, just released a significant update to the service, which now includes STL upload, instant quotes from some 3D print services, more materials and even lead time estimates.
The service makes shopping for the best deal easy. You simply drag and drop your STL model onto the web page and it looks up (or estimates) the pricing and lead time for printing said model at popular 3D print services. The services covered now include: i.materialise, Kraftwurx, Panashape, Ponoko, Sculpteo and Shapeways.
But it's much more than simply pricing. Each report includes direct links to the service's description of the material and their particular design rules. You can inspect them to ensure that your print will actually succeed on the least expensive service. It's always better when things work!
3DPrintingPriceCheck also includes filters for service and material type. Using these you can quickly identify which services have the best prices for particular materials, or which service turns around your print fastest.