by General Fabb
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.
This week's selection is Mask 3 by artist Stuart Wade. Wade has developed a series of 3D printed masks inspired by "native masks and patterns". The others in the series are, of course, Mask 1 and Mask 2, both similar in style but very different.
At first glance, the design of the Masks seem very traditional until you look closer. Then they seem much more futuristic. Traditional inspiration with tomorrow's style.
All three Masks are available at Shapeways in Wade's online shop, "Diligence", where he sells several unusual art objects including some killer bug models. Wade also operates a "Diligence" site offering images and prints of his many fascinating 3D renderings.
You can own your own copy of the 8.3cm tall Mask 3 in a wide variety of materials provided by Shapeways. The least pricey is Sandstone at USD$18.74, while we'd prefer the Mask in Antique Bronze Glossy at USD$175.43.
James Shorrock writes on Hypebeast his thoughts on how 3D printing could change the future of the shoe manufacturing industry.
He proposes that while shoe prototyping has already led to much more rapid shoe design, eventually shoes could be 3D printed directly, based on current experiments with different materials. Once the correct cushioning and aesthetic qualities are achieved, then it's only a matter of production capability:
As soon as the time needed for the printing process drops to minutes not hours, and as equipment becomes cheap enough to purchase on a wide scale, 3D printed shoes will become more and more ubiquitous.With the current pace of technical progress, we would expect 3D printed shoes to be a reality within the decade.
Certainly costs and speed would have to be much greater to enable practical shoe manufacturing and that might happen in that many years. But we think there's another twist in this puzzle of much greater significance.
If you 3D print shoes for manufacture, we suggest that EVERY shoe should be form fit exactly to the wearer's foot. People will pay more for "perfect" shoes - your shoes require the most careful fitting of any worn item. Everyone knows what happens when you wear a poorly-fit shoes.
In time personalized shoes should become the norm and we'll giggle at those still wearing mass manufactured shoes.
We may be past the pioneering stage in 3D printed fashion. While there have been several experimental forays into 3D printed clothing and accessories, we're now seeing more fashion designers join the 3D printing movement.
Today we're reading of designer Catherine Wales, who previously worked on projects for Yves Saint Laurent, has developed an eight piece collection specifically using 3D print technology.
The pieces are form fit directly for the model. Wales starts the process by precisely measuring the subject and then designing the piece around that shape. She says:
I start by scanning the body and importing that data into a 3D software programme, then design the product around the curves of the body, so that they fit like a second skin. I also use my pattern cutting and fit knowledge to add or cut away from that shape in areas that will provide lift or desired reduction.
This work may be seen by you if you happen to visit the Arnhem Mode Biennale in the Netherlands before the end of July or the Design Museum in London in August.
These works are no doubt expensive to produce, but are unique to the individual. Uniqueness counts in fashion and that is something best done by 3D printing.