We were pretty impressed with Amanda Ghassaei's 3D-printed records, but apparently the Tech Editor at Instructables isn't content to blow our minds with her digital fabrication prowess just once. As of this weekend, she's back with a veritable encore: a Laser Cut Record.
Although all the documentation for that project is available here, and the 3D models can be printed through an online fabrication service, I felt like the barrier to entry was still way too high. With this project I wanted to try to extend the idea of digitally fabricated records to use relatively common and affordable machines and materials so that (hopefully) more people can participate and actually find some value in all this documentation I've been writing.
As with the 3D-printed vinyl, the laser cut record is hardly high-fidelity... but that's not the point. The point is, it's really f'in cool.
Earlier this year, we had took a look (and listen) at Amanda Ghassaei's 3D-printed 33's. I suppose it's no coincidence that the muffled but recognizable playback obliquely evoked the soothing sounds of "a printer or scanner arm moving back and forth across a two- or three-dimensional stage." Swedish art hacker Rickard Dahlstrand apparently arrived at a similar conclusion, but he's upped the ante by actually programming a 3D-printer to chirp out ditties, "using a Lulzbot 3D-printer to visualize different classical musical pieces." On the occasion of the recent Art Hack Day in Stockholm, he took the opportunity to "explore the alternative uses of 3D-printers to create unique art by 'printing' classical pieces of music while at the same time acting as an instrument and performing the music itself."
In short, the step motors—which control the movement of the stage and print head—generate pitched tone based on their speed, such that it is possible to predict discreet tones by varying their speed. "Microphones on the motors pick up the sound and amplify it." I imagine Dahlstrand determined the correlation between the output in space (XY coordinates) and as sound in order to transpose the tunes as CAD files; the current repertoire includes Beethoven, Rossini, Mozart, Strauss, Bizet and Williams (John, that is).
The hybrid fashion label/experimental design lab, Continuum Fashion, was first on our radar for their 3D printed bikini manufactured with Shapeways in 2011. Since the initial buzz, the design duo Jenna Fizel and Mary Huang have expanded into software, giving design power directly to the user to create their own garment.
With projects like the Diatom's SketchChair floating around, made-to-order furniture and fashion seem to be carving out their own unique—and maybe even affordable—place in the design world. Continuum's CONSTRVCT and D.dress software gives pretty much anyone a creative platform and foolproof software to act as their own fashion designer with no assembly (or drawing skills) required.
The fashion industry, like ID, is no stranger to digital fabrication—particularly with the rising fame of Iris van Herpen, the 3D printing hype is flowing directly onto the runway. With the D.Dress software, the guesswork is taken out of the avant-garde dress making completely. The CAD-savvy might recognize the D.dress's triangulated surface structure as a consideration more for ease of outputting quick .stl files than either aesthetics or sewing. To Continuum's credit,however, they make a good case that "the triangulation also ensures that almost any drawing will produce an interesting form, and in fact produces good meshes from mere scribbles."
The shape of a 3D printer is easy to envision: "Form follows function" dictates that they all have rigid parts aligned in the X-, Y- and Z-axes that the print head will travel along. But a fellow named Jon Wise is tinkering with an alternate design that uses radial arms rather than a grid-based Cartesian system of plotting, making his mock-up look less like a box and more like a drawing machine.
"Standard 3D printers require significant mechanical structure to provide movement on the three axes," writes Wise. "This alternative design uses radial arms with a minimum of mechanical engineering." If 3D printers were all designed this way, assuming the pieces had the appropriate rigidity, they could use less materials in their construction and, through clever design, be made more portable. Sure there'd be more calculations required for plotting, but Wise farms that out to the diminutive, inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer board:
This brains-over-brawn approach is intriguing. It would be neat if it not only folded up, but if there were little laser sensors hooked up to a processor that could constantly make microadjustments to the stepper motors to compensate for slop in the parts. If even a clumsy craftsperson could slap one of these together, and a computer brain did the heavy lifting in terms of calculations, it could open up a lot of possibilities for bringing precision production to areas where precision is in short supply.
The Photon 3D Scanner we mentioned last week has been overfunded by $140,000. The Photon, you'll recall, will allow you to inexpensively scan things on your desk.
A team of Heriot-Watt University researchers in Scotland, however, have developed a 3D scanner with a very different reach: It scans objects that are up to 325 meters away from it, and will reportedly be able to scan at a distance of 10 kilometers in the future. The researchers documented the results achieved with their functioning prototype in an optic science journal, and according to 3Ders,
The new system works by sweeping a low-power infrared laser beam rapidly over an object. It then records, pixel-by-pixel, the round-trip flight time of the photons in the beam as they bounce off the object and arrive back at the source. The system can resolve depth on the millimeter scale over long distances using a detector that can "count" individual photons.
However, you'll notice that while the mannequin scanned with something approaching fidelity, the face of the Asian gentleman (one of the co-authors of the research paper) is severely distorted:
This would seem to indicate that Asian people are immune to laser beams. For their part the researchers claim that human skin and perspiration muck with the scanning technology, but I think we can all agree that my explanation is more compelling.
As for applications, the team forecasts that their long-range 3D scanner could be used to scan large natural environments, like the side of a mountain, for example. They estimate that "a lightweight, fully portable scanning depth imager is possible and could be a product in less than five years."
"We've visited various makerspaces," write Adam Brandejs and Drew Cox, "and we were surprised to find a lot of people that had bought 3D printers didn't really know what to do with them." Jeez Louise, I can tell you what to do with them! Assuming affordability, I'd use a 3D printer to create precisely-sized tool cutouts as custom drawer inserts, to organize my hand tools; I'd make a nozzle adapter to turn a Shop Vac into a micro-vac for cleaning inside dusty machines; I'd make cases to carry irregularly-shaped objects.
All of those things require CAD files of the objects they'll carry and fit into, and that's where Brandejs and Cox come in. They're the multitalented desigers/programmers behind Matterform, a Toronto-based startup trying to get an affordable 3D scanner on the market. By making it easier to get input data, they're thinking, a barrier to 3D printing will be lowered.
Matterform has spent a year working on the prototype for their Photo 3D Scanner, and it looks pretty sweet:
Next step? Getting the thing funded so it can go into production. The Photon is currently up on Indiegogo, and while the $349 Early Backers price is sold out, there's still plenty of slots left to claim a first-batch unit at $399.
At press time the Photon was up to $61,541 of an $81,000 target, and with 30 days left to pledge, it looks like this thing will happen.
Electrical discharge machining, or EDM, is a wicked (and expensive) way of cutting metal to extremely fine tolerances. It's a CNC process whereby two electrodes are precisely placed at opposite ends of the workpiece; a powerful spark is then generated between them, essentially vaporizing the material in the path of the spark. The dross is then flushed away by a constant stream of de-ionized water running across the workpiece. Check it out:
Up above is The Art of Japanese Joinery, a book I jealously guarded for years because it could only be found at Kinokuniya; nowadays you can get it on Amazon. Inside are photos of the fiendishly complicated joints that traditional Japanese carpenters used to cut using pull saws (like this one on Hand-Eye Supply) and the like, constructing both houses and enormous temples completely free of metal fasteners. And the joints were strong enough to withstand earthquakes.
It's hard to believe the book is from 1977, as everything in it looks like it was cut by a CNC machine rather than guys named Yoshi and Taka who drink Ki-Rin on the weekends. Nowadays, of course, the Japanese traditional carpenter is being supplanted by CNC machinery, but at least they're still used during the assembly and final finishing phases of house construction. Doobybrain dug up this video from '11 showing a Japanese CNC shop preparing lumber for house construction, followed by footage of the builders putting it up:
A buddy of mine who works in construction has disabused me of my builder envy; there is nothing fun, he has pointed out, about straddling a header and trying to wrestle a Glulam beam into place with guys named Bobby and Tommy who drink Miller on the weekends. But seeing the guys in this video snap each precisely-cut piece into place looks... satisfying, no?
You've heard of MakerBot, Cubify and Solidoodle. And if someone finds out you're into ID and asks "Hey, what do one of those 3D printers go for?" you can spit out a ballpark figure, and maybe some basic stats.
But there are tons of other 3D printers available on the consumer market, and plenty of questions you might not have the answers handy to: Which can I most easily buy if I'm in India, the Netherlands, or Taiwan? What are the build envelopes and prices? Which use fused filament fabrication, which go with fused deposition modeling? Are there affordable ones that do stereolithography?
To answer these questions and more, the good folks over at 3Ders.org have put together a handy database listing over 100 different types of 3D printers with their relevant stats, countries of origin, current stock availability, and prices (the lowest-priced DIY machine starts at US $189, while the high end of the consumer market goes into five figures). Anyone across the globe who's looking to get into 3D printing will find it a handy place to start narrowing options.
Here's something we're curious about—in a year's time, do you reckon this list will be longer, or shorter?
Well folks, it looks like 3D printing is about to get a lot bigger, literally, for consumers. In January a company called re:3D debuted their Gigabot, a large-scale 3D printer with an enormous 24" x 24" x 24" build area. The larger capacity was designed to print out the things re:3D wanted to make, namely, rainwater collecting devices and composting toilets for the developing world.
After the Gigabot was unveiled at Houston's Mini Maker Faire, interest was so high that re:3D subseqently launched a Kickstarter campaign for mass producing them. With prices starting at $2,500 for a kit and up to $4,950 for a flatpack requiring some assembly, buy-in was not cheap; despite that, the interest was real, as they've topped their $40,000 target with $105,000 at press time.
While there's nearly 48 days left to pledge, those looking to get in on this had better hurry—there are just a handful of machines available starting at the $3,250 price bracket.
Here's a closer look at the machine, its capabilities, and re:3D's original mission for it:
Illinois-based Superior Joining Technologies is "a Woman-Owned Business," as they proudly point out; for several years they've also been the owners of an incredibly bad-ass machine called the Trulaser Cell 7040, a 5000-watt beast manufactured by Germany's Trumpf.
The Trulaser 7000 series are multi-axis laser cutting and laser welding machines that run off of CAD file input. What can these machines do with metal? A better question is what can't they do. Observe their sheer majesty:
By the bye, while I rate this video highly for the machine's kick-assery, I still think the cat guy would've made this video awesome.
Well, it's hard not to be flattered by this one: at the end of a post about Samuel Bernier's recent 3D-printed IKEA hack, I idly mused that he should join forces with fellow DIYer Andreas Bhend of Frosta remix fame. It so happens that Andreas did read it, and the two actually acted on my suggestion to get together and "collaborate on a series of IKEA hacks with bespoke 3D printed parts and instructions..."
It so happened that Andreas, a student from Switzerland, was only a short train ride from Paris, where Samuel works at le FabShop, a 3D printing startup. Even though they didn't know each other (nor do I know either of them, for disclosure's sake), they accepted the challenge and came up with a couple projects during a two and a half day charrette: a child's sled and a balance bicycle. Samuel shared the whole story:
This project has a lot of improvisation into it. When they decided to work together, Samuel and Andreas still didn't know what they would do. Andreas had made his marks with the IKEA's Frosta, a 10€ stool that was inspired by Alvar Aalto's classic. Samuel, on his side, was famous for his use of affordable 3D printing. The idea for a Draisienne came from thin air. Or maybe the wheelless bicycles that young children ride on Paris's sidewalks inspired Samuel. Few details were decided when Bhend brought the stools to Paris. The assembly, the wheels axis and the final proportions were all left for the imagination.
All these choices were made while manipulating the industrialized parts. The only tools they had were a drill, pliers, a metal saw (not appropriate) and... a Makerbot Replicator 2 (from le FabShop). There was a debate about what colour to choose for the printed parts. Since yellow didn't have enough contrast and blue was a little bit boring, they chose orange, a reference to Bernier's Project RE_.
Remember Iris van Herpen's digitally-fabricated clothes from Paris Fashion Week? While we didn't realize it at the time, the laser-sintered dress was made from a special material sexily named TPU 92A-1, specifically engineered to provide "durable elasticity." Translation: It's bendy as all get-out, but highly abrasive- and tear-resistant, and appears to have pretty excellent shape memory.
Take a look:
Materialise, who laser-sintered the van Herpen dress, has announced they're making the material available to its professional RP services customers. It seems it hasn't yet trickled down to their consumer-level i.materialise site, keeping it out of reach for most of us, but hopefully it's just a matter of time.
Andras Forgacs is the CEO of Modern Meadow, a company that's seeking to mass produce bioengineered meat that comes out of a bioprinter. Why? Because commercial meat production is a highly resource-intensive process, and Modern Meadow argues that their product is a more sustainable way to provide protein.
While Forgacs and co. have been at this for some time—below is a video of him eating Modern Meadow's early product in front of a TED audience in 2011—last week he submitted himself to a Reddit AMA ("ask me anything") session, clearing up some things I'd been confused about. Here are some excerpts:
Q:What is the input, what is the output ? Explain like I am five, for 1 kg of meat , what is needed?
The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types - taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and cell culture media (a soup in which the cells grow made of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, salts, sugars) and then energy to run the process. Output is muscle tissue that is then matured/conditioned until it is processed into meat products.
Q: Are the input animal cells consistent with the output? Or will there be a blending of pig/cow/horse etc to create "beef"?
A: No blending of different species. Pig stays pig. Cow stays cow. Etc. We are using multiple cell types from each animal but staying with the same animal. In fact, an advantage of this approach is that it can ensure purity. Because we control the inputs and have such a tight process, we know the exact ingredients of every batch. No mystery meat surprises like the recent one from the UK.
In the aforementioned video, Forgacs spends roughly the first half explaining why bioprinted meat is a good idea, and roughly the second half whipping up a snack in a raclette, then tosses it down the hatch:
Now whether you're grossed out by this or not, you've gotta be wondering: How does it taste? Writes Forgacs,
I've tasted it as have my colleagues. We've only been able to have small bites since we're still working on getting the process right.
I cooked some pieces in olive oil and ate some with and without salt and pepper. Not bad. The taste is good but not yet fully like meat. We have yet to get the fat content right and other elements that influence taste. This process will be iterative and involve us working closely with our consulting chefs.
While I fully understand Modern Meadow's sustainability rationale for pursuing their goal, I'm a little squeamish about eating the stuff. But I can definitely get behind the company's other goal: They hope to successfully print leather, which would be pretty awesome.
The most awesome thing I've seen all week: Portland-based physicist David Neevel has combined CNC and robotics with a dose of Rube Goldberg to perform a task of vital importance. Along the way he's had to make some stiff sacrifices. I know you think this video's going to suck, but trust me, it does not:
Thingiverse denizen Kaipa has created a partially wooden filament for 3D printers. Called LAYWOO-D3, the stuff is 40% recycled wood with the rest of it being a binding polymer. It's flexible but prints without warping and the stuff even smells like wood. It comes out light-colored at 180 Celsius and darker at 245, so you can vary the tone. And after being printed, the resultant object can reportedly be worked with woodworking tools.
MakerBot users, don't get too excited; for now the stuff is only compatible with RepRaps.
LAYWOO-D3 is for sale here, by a company called FormFutura. Despite the exciting nature of this development, they've managed to create the world's dullest video:
Just goes to show the future never turns out like you'd think it would. Imagine someone coming up to you ten years ago and saying "Someday, you'll be able to 3D print a wood-like material. And it will be more boring than watching paint dry."
In broad strokes, mankind's woodworking abilities have gone from 1) hand tools, to 2) power tools to 3) CNC machinery. And although the power tools step was a quantum leap from hand tools, it still requires you physically touch the material quite a bit, guiding and steadying it while performing your operations; with CNC, you only contact it when you're loading and unloading it into the machine. There is a materials disconnect with CNC, as you're not physically guiding the cuts, and you don't even have to be in the room when it's happening.
Which is why I found this human-computer-interaction concept from Germany's Hasso Plattner Institut so interesting. Called "Interactive Lasercutting," the researchers use a self-rigged lasercutter called the Constructable, and require the user to be present during the cutting. Rather than drawing up a CAD file, converting it into a tool path, loading the machine and taking lunch, the user is meant to stand over the machine and instigate each cut, or series of cuts, by "drawing" on the wood with a laser pointer. The machine then translates your sloppy strokes into precise cuts, something like handwriting recognition turning your chicken scratch into typography. Observe:
Hopefully you're able to disregard the clunky interface—all those styluses represent different types of cuts—and weird editing, and just focus on the concept: Do you think this has merit? For single-object production, could this actually be more efficient than doing the CAD/toolpath dance? I suspect not, but there's something I like about being able to stand over the material and manipulate it in real time.
So you've got a 3D printer. What do you do with all of your 1-, 2- and 3.0's that you had to print out before perfecting your desired gewgaw? Those rolls of ABS filament you used to make them are affordable, but not cheap.
Thanks to German programmer and inventor Marcus Thymark, you may soon be able to grind your old projects up and re-extrude them into fresh filament, ready for another go-round.
Thymark's invention is called the FilaMaker, which is topped with a hand-driven mini-grinder that crunches your plastic into bits, which are then melted and extruded by the rest of the machine. Unless more design progress is made, the grinding looks to be a bit of a messy process. (You needn't watch this whole video—it's painfully shaky and nearly ten minutes long—so just scan to get the idea.)
The bad news is the FilaMaker's not ready yet; Thymark's still working on the melter and extruder. But the good news is, he's opted to go open-source on it. You can stay abreast of developments here.
Well, we butchered the locution, but only because the product at hand is kind of confounding in and of itself: business mavericks and mavens alike can now introduce themselves and distribute their deets in 3D. At one-inch in each of three dimensions, the CallingCube is billed as "the premium business card they won't throw away": "Unlike flimsy paper business cards, the CallingCube is hollow with solid walls, and features standard indented text and logos for a premium weight and feel."
The CallingCube originated at Ohio-based digital fabrication outfit 3D Bakery, who set out to reinvent the traditional business card. The result is a 3D-printed cube allows professionals to "differentiate yourself in today's overcrowded marketplace [and] stand out from the crowd" with the patent-pending product: "Don't end up in their desk drawer. End up on their desk!"
Wheras even the most memorable wooden and QR-printed cards abide by the standard wallet-friendly format, the CallingCube defies convention—and arguably convenience—as a plastic tchotchke. Nevertheless, the company notes that "the CallingCube isn't a replacement for normal business cards. It's designed to be given to your most promising sales leads and contacts (trade-shows, networking events, one-on-one sales meetings, dream-job interviews, etc.)."
The CallingCube is available now at $299 for 80 of 'em... as the saying goes, yea or nay?
You could spend three or four figures buying a 3D printer of your own—or you could design one, have a machine given to you for free, and take home $2,500 for your trouble.
A company called Layered Labs has apparently designed a prototype 3D printer, or at least the bare machinery, but apparently the thing is so ugly they won't even post a photo of it. Instead what they're doing is a sort of cheapo way of hiring industrial design talent: They're holding a competition to design the rest of their printer, and first prize means you get a free one plus the $2,500 prize.
As mentioned above they're not posting images of what they've got so far, but entrants in the contest will receive a 3D file revealing the guts you're meant to work with. "[The] file shows a prototype version of the machine with mounted panels that are bolted onto aluminum extrusions," they write. "The ENTIRE design needs to be CHANGED from a bolt-together chassis to an elegant stamped and folded SHEET METAL design with good structural characteristics and manufacturability kept in mind."
We HOPE that's ENOUGH information for YOU to GO on.
Bruce Nussbaum is a luminary in the business and design fields, as well as a professor at Parsons the New School for Design and an occasional contributor here at Core77. A year-and-a-half ago, Bruce famously declared that design thinking was dead. We had the chance to sit down with Bruce and see how his thoughts on design have evolved since then.
Core77: How has your thinking about design thinking changed in the last year-and-a-half? Now you're hearing business professors talk about design thinking as the new thing and a year and half ago you said it was dead!
Bruce Nussbaum: Well, that's what happens when you're there at the beginning of a concept and you live through it, you see it mature, and you believe that it is now a wonderful foundation for something else. Then you come to a place like Harvard where they're sort of discovering design and embracing design thinking. My reaction to that is that it's wonderful because for this situation, for this time, for them it's great that they're understanding the power of design and what design can do, not just in terms of objects, but in terms of relationships, experiences and education. For here, it's great. For those of us who've been inside, we're trying to push the envelope and move forward and Harvard will embrace that too as time goes on.
Does this mean that design thinking is enduring? Or that there's kind of a lag time between these concepts emerging and their adoption down the road?
Yes, well, government is just beginning to adopt design, much less design thinking. But there are institutional lags, cultural lags, there are all kinds of forces at work. There's the force of fad. I remember when design was hot and then not and then innovation was hot and it's kind of peaking now. You can see more and more creativity is moving up that S curve. And creativity is getting hotter and hotter. My book is coming out on "creative intelligence," which will have its moment. To me, they all become scaffolding for other ideas. You're moving down and evolving one's thinking about all of this, whether you call it design, innovation, or creativity. We're all in that same space and trying to do a better job of understanding the phenomenon and the process and most importantly the practice.
When I moved from Business Week to the New School at Parsons, that really changed things for me in terms of my frame and I wanted to be more inclusive. Design is very powerful, it's very particular, and it involves a small number of people. Everyone feels that they're creative and everyone probably can be creative. I just found over the years that when you talk about design, people lean back a little bit and will be a little wary and they'll hear you out. But talk about creativity and they'll start telling you about their kids and they'll talk about how when they were in school they did that. Or they'll talk about their job and you'll tell them, oh, that was very creative. They'll say, Really? And the fact is what they were doing is really creative. So it just brings everybody into the conversation, that's why I went there.
They're still talking about design, design thinking, focusing on user needs or the experience. That's just the tiniest, tiniest bit of what we know in anthropology and sociology about what I consider the most important thing, which is engagement. That's what it's about. How we engage with products, how we engage with services, how we engage in a social way and it's the design of that engagement which is so powerful. And that's what Apple used to do so well. It was that engagement that we had, the meaning we found in that engagement, which they seem to be losing.
Why do you say that Apple is losing that engagement? What was that shift?
Well, the map thing was a disaster. The latest iteration of iTunes is pretty problematic. Perhaps the most important thing is the promise of things to come. In the book, I talk about aura. I want to bring back aura. And the reason I want to bring back the concept of aura is that it is quintessentially about engagement. Aura is this thing that beckons you, that pulls you in, that you have an engagement with, and that very often is an emotional engagement. I would argue that there is such a thing as simulated aura, that you can in fact create aura, that you can create an engagement with people. I have a friend who just bought an Apple Mini. She loves it! And she looks at the Mini the way prisoners will eat their food, she circles it. If I were to get between her and her Mini, she'd kill me! That's aura, that's passion, that's emotion. That's the power of engagement.
Stratasys, whose Objet printers we checked out here, and fellow digital manufacturing company Materialise have teamed up with fashion designer Iris van Herpen to create some unusual clothes for Paris Fashion Week. Van Herpen's "Voltage" show featured two rapid-prototyped dresses: The first was a cape and skirt created with the help of MIT Media Lab's Neri Oxman and 3D printed by Stratasys. The second, created with the help of Austrian architect Julia Koerner, was laser sintered by Materialise.
The 3D printed skirt and cape were produced using Stratasys' unique Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology, which allows a variety of material properties to be printed in a single build. This allowed both hard and soft materials to be incorporated within the design, crucial to the movement and texture of the piece.
"The ability to vary softness and elasticity inspired us to design a "second skin" for the body acting as armor-in-motion; in this way we were able to design not only the garment's form but also its motion," explains Oxman. "The incredible possibilities afforded by these new technologies allowed us to reinterpret the tradition of couture as "tech-couture" where delicate hand-made embroidery and needlework is replaced by code."
Politically speaking, the war in Afghanistan may be winding down; but technologically speaking, things are ramping up. Earlier this month a shipping container was quietly deployed to a remote outpost in Afghanistan. Kitted out by the U.S. Army's Rapid Equipping Force, this particular shipping container is essentially a digital manufacturing lab in a box.
Known as the ELM or Expeditionary Lab - Mobile, the unit contains a 3D printer and a CNC mill (as well as more conventional tools like a plasma cutter, welding gear, a circular saw, a router, a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw). Unsurprisingly, troops on the ground are not using the ELMs to print out heart-shaped gears; rather, the point of the ELMs is to allow last-minute rapid prototyping upgrades to crucial pieces of equipment.
As one example, soldiers discovered that the on-button for one standard-issue tactical flashlight had a raised button that could accidentally be pressed, unintentionally turning the flashlight on while the soldier was moving around. Best case scenario, the thing's in a pocket, you don't realize it's on and the batteries drain down. Worst case scenario, the sudden illumination advertises your position to the enemy while you're sneaking around in the dark.
Under normal Army procurement procedures, designing, commissioning, manufacturing and distributing an updated design would take months or years. But with the ELMs, which come with two digital manufacturing technicians, a solution like this clip-on guard to shield the button can be quickly designed and printed.
The ELM shipped earlier this month was actually the second; the first was sent to Afghanistan last summer. Following the concept's success, a third ELM is in the works and will reportedly be deployed later this year.
The following video on the ELMs isn't terribly detailed, and features CG footage that doesn't quite track with the narrative, but it's all we've got:
While the rest of us were enjoying the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby, Amanda Ghassaei of Instructables was as busy as ever over the holiday: she posted a 'compilation' video of her experiments in 3D printing 12” records, for which she has unsurprisingly published the plans on Instructables, on the day after Christmas. "In order to explore the current limits of 3D printing technology, I've created a technique for converting digital audio files into 3D-printable, 33RPM records and printed a few prototypes that play on ordinary turntables." Suffice it to say that it's a significant improvement upon Fred Murphy's diverting Fisher Price records:
This project was my first experiment extending this idea beyond electronics. I printed these records on a UV-cured resin printer called the Objet Connex500. Like most 3D printers, the Objet creates an object by depositing material layer by layer until the final form is achieved. This printer has incredibly high resolution: 600dpi in the x and y axes and 16 microns in the z axis, some of the highest resolution possible with 3D printing at the moment. Despite all its precision, the Objet is still at least an order of magnitude or two away from the resolution of a real vinyl record. When I first started this project, I wasn't sure that the resolution of the Objet would be enough to reproduce audio, but I hoped that I might produce something recognizable by approximating the groove shape as accurately as possible with the tools I had.
The project isn't a major breakthrough in 3D printing (per our Year-in-Review prognostication), but it's certainly an inventive bit of lateral thinking. Ghassaei notes that even the top-of-the-line Object Connex500 cannot emulate the traditional process of stamping vinyl (video after the jump), citing digital equivalencies to denote the low fidelity of the 3D printed records, which sound something like listening to a radio broadcast through a thin wall.
Though the audio quality is low—the records have a sampling rate of 11kHz (a quarter of typical mp3 audio) and 5-6 bit resolution (less than one thousandth of typical 16 bit resolution)—the audio output is still easily recognizable... The 3D modeling in this project was far too complex for traditional drafting-style CAD techniques, so I wrote an program to do this conversion automatically. It works by importing raw audio data, performing some calculations to generate the geometry of a 12" record, and eventually exporting this geometry straight to a 3D printable file format.
The effect is most felicitous for Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place," where the lo-fi crackle and narrow frequency range somehow underscore the warm solace of the opening track from Kid A. Daft Punk, on the other hand, sounds better with more bass as a rule of thumb, while Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker" needs more treble; the alt-rock cuts need a more volume all around. (The song selection is something like the weeknight playlist at any given bar in the Mission or Williamsburg... not that there's anything wrong with that: it's easier to judge the quality of familiar tunes than obscure ones.)
Besides anagrams and pizza, I also have a keen interest in digital fabrication and maps. "Below the Boat" is a new company that combines the latter two: besides lakes, the site also offers laser-cut visualizations of bodies of water from archipelagos and bays to shorelines and sounds.
Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it's easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, the whole thing's framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.
The result is stunning. It lifts the surface of the water back like a veil, exposing the often-overlooked, under-explored, awe-inspiring world that lies below. To those familiar with the floor of the ocean or the bed of a lake, it's a beautiful reminder of the deep channels, sharp drop-offs, and mountainous landscapes that are hidden from normal view. To the uninitiated, it's wonderfully eye-opening; as though the world suddenly took on a fourth dimension.
Below the Boat is the brainchild of Robbie and Kara Johnson, a husband-wife duo from Bellingham, WA, who came across one of the charts while traveling in Michigan and set out to bring the digitally-fabricated artwork to the masses via webshop.
As you can see, the results are absolutely amazing—etched in memory, as it were—and I daresay that even the most hydrophobic landlubber can appreciate the beauty of bathymetry in burned in baltic birch by laserbeam.
But while we ourselves wander around a three dimensional wonderland, our avatars remain stuck in the second dimension. Even if, like Miis, they seem to be free, they can never quite leap from the screen and into our hands, at least not without considerable effort.
For all those avatars itching for entree into the real world, we now have MixeeMe, a new startup that allows you to create a cute, custom avatar of yourself, your friends, your nemeses or anyone else you know and get a real live 3D printed version in the mail a few days later. It's the brainchild of designers Nancy Liang and Aaron Barnet, two Yale grads who wanted to make a dream into reality.
"When I was little had this idea that if you could become an action figure you're successful, you made it in the world," explained Liang in a Skype interview with Core77. "I sat down at Google Sketchup, figured out how to make circles and cubes and put them together. After 5 hours, I uploaded my character model to Shapeways, and found that it would be too expensive to print. The modeling process was a shit show, basically."
Frustrated with the options for designing simple 3D objects, Liang took to the web and worked with Barnet to research and develop simple 3D tools. "I decided that only do I want to make action figures, I want to make it easy for others to make action figures of themselves or their friends," she noted. After exploring the different options, they decided on a simple interface that let customers focus on creating, rather than the technical specifics.