Everyone knows that widespread 3D printing is supposed to enable hordes of designers, DIYers and manufacturers. But if IT research and advisory company Gartner, Inc. is correct, there's another batch of folks it will benefit: Lawyers.
By 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property globally.
Near Term Flag: At least one major western manufacturer will claim to have had intellectual property (IP) stolen for a mainstream product by thieves using 3D printers who will likely reside in those same western markets rather than in Asia by 2015.
The plummeting costs of 3D printers, scanners and 3D modeling technology, combined with improving capabilities, makes the technology for IP theft more accessible to would-be criminals. Importantly, 3D printers do not have to produce a finished good in order to enable IP theft. The ability to make a wax mold from a scanned object, for instance, can enable the thief to produce large quantities of items that exactly replicate the original.
In other words, get ready to lawyer up.
The entire report, available at the link above, is well worth a read. And it's not all about 3D printing: Another depressing prediction they're making concerns "the labor reduction effect of digitization" and how that will blow back on our lovely little society, perhaps as early as next year. "A larger scale version of an 'Occupy Wall Street'-type movement," the report states, "will begin by the end of 2014, indicating that social unrest will start to foster political debate." With any luck the demonstrations will remain peacefully absent of 3D-printed guns...
The 3D-printing community is abuzz with news of an interesting development for the 4D printing movement: The U.S. Army Research Office has taken a keen interest in the possibilities of 4D printing. How keen? US $855,000 worth. That's the size of the grant the USARO has awarded to researchers at three schools—Harvard's School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, the University of Illinois, and the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering—to further their research into 3D-printed objects that can transform themselves over time.
The selected grantee universities will not be working completely independently, but are instead expected to collaborate. And the research isn't pie-in-the-sky, but intended to produce fairly focused results:
"Rather than construct a static material or one that simply changes its shape, we're proposing the development of adaptive, biomimetic composites that reprogram their shape, properties or functionality on demand, based upon external stimuli," says Anna C. Balazs, a professor of Chemical Engineering at UPSSE. "By integrating our abilities to print precise, three-dimensional, hierarchically-structured materials, synthesize stimuli-responsive components, and predict the temporal behavior of the system, we expect to build the foundation for the new field of 4D printing."
Due to the source of the funding, initial applications will presumably be military in nature; a press release teases the notion of vehicle coatings that change structure in response to the immediate environment and soldiers' uniforms that visually adjust their camouflage or physically adjust their protective measures against projectiles.
You're undoubtedly wondering, as we were: Why was 4D printing pioneer Skylar Tibbits not among the grantees? We can only speculate that the USARO reckons Tibbits is already on track to make breakthroughs, with or without their money. Strange as it sounds, in the world of financed researched, perhaps it's a silent vote of confidence.
Architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits heads up MIT's Self-Assembly Lab, a sort of cross-disciplinary skunkworks that is completely re-thinking how objects are manufactured and assembled. By combining digital manufacturing techniques with the study of how particular materials react to particular types of energy, Tibbits' team seeks to create things that, well, put themselves together—whether large or small—when the appropriate energy is introduced as a catalyst.
Self-Assembly is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through local interaction. We have demonstrated that this phenomenon is scale-independent and can be utilized for self-constructing and manufacturing systems at nearly every scale. We have also identified the key ingredients for self-assembly as a simple set of responsive building blocks, energy and interactions that can be designed within nearly every material and machining process available. Self-assembly promises to enable breakthroughs across every applications of biology, material science, software, robotics, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, construction, the arts, and even space exploration. The Self-Assembly Lab is working with academic, commercial, nonprofit, and government partners, collaborators, and sponsors to make our self-assembling future a reality.
The concept sounds difficult to wrap your head around, until you see the video:
Here's a TED Talk Tibbits gave earlier this year going into more detail:
When you think about digitally fabricating metal, you probably picture steel powder or something unusual like Alumide, which is nylon laced with aluminum dust. But now Shapeways has added a simultaneously new and old-school flavor to their mix: Brass.
They're offering the stuff in three finishes: Gold-Plated, for when bling is the thing; Polished, which has a slightly more-subdued-than-gold yellowish tint; and Raw, for that classy, rustic look. While Shapeways will actually have your Gold-Plated and Polished finishes hand-rubbed for smoothness, the Raw will be left alone, providing a rough-surfaced matte finish for those looking to create antique effects.
Unsurprisingly, this stuff doesn't come out of the machine in one go:
[Our] Brass models are fabricated using a complex five-step process. First, the model is printed in wax using a specialized high-resolution 3D Printer. It is then put in a container where liquid plaster is poured in around it. Once the plaster sets, the wax is melted out in a furnace, and the remaining plaster becomes the mold. Molten brass is poured into this mold and set to harden. The plaster is broken away, revealing your new product. Raw Brass is briefly tumbled. Polished and Gold Plated Brass are carefully cleaned and hand polished. Gold Plated Brass goes through a final electroplating process for an outside coat of 22k gold. Please be aware that polishing and plating can wear down or fill in very fine details and edges.
Thanks to this tip from 3Ders.org, would-be brass orderers can enter the code "oc3mv" on Shapeways' site to get a 10% discount on the Polished and Raw stuff. But hurry—the offer expires at 9pm (EST) on October 2nd.
Over 100 designers from all over the world submitted cars. It was difficult to narrow it down, but Paul Hatch, founder of TEAMS Design and conference chair, and I narrowed it down to the ten cars we thought would be most likely to win in each of these three categories. The cars were then printed by Stratasys, Computer Aided Technologies, Kalidescope and The 3D Printer Experience. Finally, Models Plus built the track that the cars would race down to their destruction.
With the ten cars printed and on display before the 1,000 designers who attended the conference, the excitement for the race was building. For those of you who missed it or attendees who want to relive the experience, we had six cameras capturing the action, including a slow motion camera to grab the crashes. Check it out:
Core77 has had the pleasure of chronicling New Skins, a workshop led by designer Francis Bitonti, which took place from July 22 to August 8 at Pratt's Digital Arts and Humanities Research Center in Brooklyn, NY. As a pioneer in the digital fashion design space, Bitonti's practice is primarily concerned with the wearable applications of computationally-based design methodologies and cutting-edge manufacturing technologies. His efforts in the classroom are an extension of his work in the studio, a fast-paced, process-centric approach to new and emerging technologies and their potential to yield never-before-scene results.
We've previously published coverage of weeks one and two of the summer intensive, which was sponsored by the Pratt DAHRC, Makerbot and 3D NYC Lab. In addition to the report on the third week and final project, Bitonti has graciously allowed us to present the video documentation of the course as it unfolded this past summer.
The students created the geometry for the dress using 3D anatomical models of the human body, then abstracted hidden lines and vectors of the human body (muscles, veins and arteries) into curves that could be manipulated in a 3D modeling environment. The inspiration for turning the body inside out, projecting the interior to the exterior of the body, creating a second skin from what lies underneath led to the name Verlan dress; the French slang word refers to reversing the first and last syllables, turning the word inside out.
Throughout the design process, the students focused on developing a unique formal language that would conform to the body through a procedural algorithm; finding a voice through a new emerging manufacturing paradigm. "We do not want to be teaching technology for the sake of technology," explains Bitonti. "This isn't about training technicians or draftsmen. We are trying to teach students to think through the computer as a medium and develop sensibilities for these new virtual materials."
This little 85-cent white plastic thing you see below is called an Upper Sash Slide Latch, and it has caused me no end of trouble. It holds the top part of a tilt-for-cleaning window in place, and when this chintzy little part breaks, the window can swing down like a drawbridge—as an acquaintance of mine found out the hard way (he required stitches). After two of these latches failed in my studio and I looked to replace the part, I found it nearly impossible to search for online, as there were no manufacturer's marks anywhere on the part or the window.
If I had a MakerBot, I would've broken out the calipers, created a CAD file of an unbroken example of the latch taken from another window, 3D-printed the thing and been done with it. But if the part was exceedingly complicated or organically shaped, I'd have been SOL. So MakerBot's newly-announced Digitizer, a desktop 3D scanner, is sounding pretty cool.
The sleek-looking device has a small turntable on which you place your object, which then gets hit by a laser. Provided your object isn't shiny, reflective or fuzzy, the software then spits out a "clean, watertight 3D model" ready for printing or tweaking. Here's company founder Bre Pettis pitching the thing:
The jury's still out on the growth of 3D printing this year, but recent reporting suggests that the industry will extruding, fusing and sintering way towards the proverbial tipping point yet. A new "Low-Cost Desktop Personal Fabrication Device" (LCDPFD, anyone?) strikes a nice balance between price, practicality, and sheer versatility for the maker on a budget.
It's not quite as slick as the previously-seen PopFab, but if its success thus far on Indiegogo is any indication, the FABtotum is a few steps closer to becoming a reality. Competitively priced at $1099 for the fully assembled machine, the personal fabricator was nearing its $50K funding goal as of press time, with nearly six weeks to go in its 50-day campaign (a build-it-yourself kit comes in at just under a G; a $699 conversion kit allows a savvy DIYer to convert their old 3D printer into a FABtotum).
Where the likes of FormLabs and Mike Joyce offer higher-end stereolithography machines at prosumer prices, we're also seeing several interesting new developments in low-cost 3D printers (i.e. the $300 Printrbots used in the SAIC summer intensive) to multi-functional solutions such as the FABtotum:
Finding the right conditions where you can have both decent subtractive and additive manufacturing in one small envelope is no easy task. we think we reached a good compromise between speed precision and strength thanks to unconventional movement transmission methods and structural solutions.
In order to ensure that all incoming students are comfortable (at comparable levels of proficiency) with the skills, processes, and facilities they'll be engaging from day one of their first semester, the Designed Objects program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) recently created the first classroom in the world equipped with a class-count of individual 3D printers with support from Printrbot, Taulman 3D and Simplify 3D. The 11 students were encouraged to 3D print output by proposing textiles, printing intelligence and a future that celebrates the immediate, provisional, and transient. The course is action-oriented and exhibition-driven, and is more about experiencing fast and complete cycles of realization (with idea development de-emphasized in favor of range of exposure).
Although the incoming class participates in the summer intensive every year, this was the first year that 3D printing was part of the curriculum. Instructor Brian Anderson was in conversation with Printrbot for a personal project early in the summer and our exchanges expanded into the possibility of pulling together the first classroom with so many accessible printers, and the desktop 3D printing component ended up taking the final quarter of the six-week course. Here he shares the story behind "Immediate Objects: Explorations in 3D printing."
Text & Images courtesy of Brian Anderson
Each year, SAIC's incoming Master of Design students spends six weeks in a pre-term boot camp exploring the how and when of rough and refined design visualization and prototyping. Through daily and weekly projects the class advances digital design skills and gains comprehensive exposure to the fabrication and production capabilities across the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Using these capabilities and tools, students in the course explore approaches to visualization and construction ranging from simple to sophisticated and exhibit drawings and objects developed through integrated approaches. This summer, the Designed Objects boot camp culminated in a week-long 3D printing intensive, a low- to medium-fidelity laboratory that explored the idea of ubiquitous 3D printing.
Because of the relatively high price of equipping classrooms with ten or more semi-pro 3D printers, courses focusing on digital output often can only afford to provide students access to one or two machines. Responding to this impasse, I conceived of a collaboration intended to marry accessible, low-cost 3D printing (the Printrbot Simple is the world's least expensive 3D printer) with a print material that is readily optimized in terms of print volume and strength (it takes less nylon to achieve high structural integrity and Taulman 3D is actively involved in developing this and other aspects of print output) and lastly a simplified and robust software interface and workflow (Simplify 3D's Creator software).
Maybe I'm just bitter that my hopes for immediate 3D-sculpting artistic genius were dashed (see above), but there is something really strange about sculpting through a computer, even more so than just about any other method of 3D modeling. In an attempt not to delve too far into the pencil-vs-mouse debate (although really how can we avoid it?), the new 3D-sculpting web apps SculptGL and counterpart Sculptfab (essentially updated with a nicer UI) have the faint scent of nostalgia for a generations of hand crafters given the ol' middle finger by technology.
The SculptGL app was developed by French student Stephane Ginier, drawing inspiration from the research on self-adaptive topologies done by Lician Stanculescu. With no word on the availability of Stanculescu's 3D sculpting app 'Freestyle' for general consumption, we've been playing around with Grinier's version. The application—while super fun—is perhaps more interesting in concept than in actual use.
User Interface of SculptGL (top) and Sculptfab (bottom)
Fight commentator, podcaster and comedian Joe Rogan has referred to the Ultimate Fighting Championship as two guys climbing into the octagon "and essentially throwing their bones at each other." One could argue that the damage each fighter tries to inflict on the other is much more incisive than it is in American football, and one needn't go further than YouTube to see examples of those bones being broken in the ring; what's miraculous, given the forces every fighter's bones are subjected to, is how often they don't break.
Why don't they break more often, given the impacts they're sustaining? And what could an industrial designer learn from this? Dr. Markus Buehler, a civil engineer and materials scientist at MIT, may have the answer. Buehler's research specialty is as odd and focused as a Chuck Liddell overhand right:
...Our goal is to understand the mechanics of deformation and failure of biology's construction materials at a fundamental level. The deformation and failure of engineering materials has been studied extensively, and the results have impacted our world by enabling the design of advanced materials, structures and devices. However, the mechanisms of materials failure in biological systems are not well understood and thus present an opportunity to institute a new paradigm of materials science at the interface of engineering and biology.
In weight and external texture, a human bone might seem very similar to ceramics. But as Buehler noted in a 2010 research paper [PDF], "Catastrophic breakage of brittle materials such as ceramics is usually triggered by the rapid spreading of cracks." Bones don't shatter this way, at least not commonly. And this year, Buehler began to understand why. After exhaustive laboratory experimentation and analysis via supercomputer, Buehler "finally unraveled the structure of bone... with almost atom-by-atom precision."
Collagen party up top, hydroxyapatite business on the bottom
Buehler and his team have been investigating how two key constituents of bone—soft, flexible collagen and hard, rigid hydroxyapatite—work together, on a molecular level, to make bones extraordinarily resilient. Because of the specific way that the latter material is embedded within the former, "Hydroxyapatite takes most of the forces in the material, whereas collagen takes most of the stretching."
This was printed with the Mcor Iris; video after the jump...
Findings from a paper by a handful of intrepid engineers at Michigan Technical University have been making headlines this week, concluding that "the typical family can already save a great deal of money by making things with a 3D printer instead of buying them off the shelf." Per Michigan Tech News:
In the study, [Associate Professor Joshua] Pearce and his team chose 20 common household items listed on Thingiverse. Then they used Google Shopping to determine the maximum and minimum cost of buying those 20 items online, shipping charges not included.
Next, they calculated the cost of making them with 3D printers. The conclusion: it would cost the typical consumer from $312 to $1,944 to buy those 20 things compared to $18 to make them in a weekend.
Open-source 3D printers for home use have price tags ranging from about $350 to $2,000. Making the very conservative assumption a family would only make 20 items a year, Pearce's group calculated that the printers would pay for themselves quickly, in a few months to a few years.
Cory Doctorow notes (H/T to BoingBoing) that "I suspect that the real value of 3D printers isn't simply replacing household objects, but rather, in ushering in new ways of relating to objects—the same way that email and VoIP don't simple substitute for phone calls, but rather enable entirely different kinds of communications." Similarly, commenters also note that the value of 3D printing is in creating custom sculptures, toys and other things that cannot be found on Amazon and the like. (Other critics cite the fact that most household items have rubber or metal components that remain unprintable, at least for your average DIYer.)
Having conducted my own cost-benefit analysis that I could probably glean the takeaway messages of the primary source through a bit of Internet research, I opted not to put up the $31.50 for the full text of "Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers."
In other news, the UPS Store is launching a pilot program for on-demand 3D printing at six of their U.S. locations, starting with San Diego. It's the first major news item for Stratasys following its blockbuster acquisition of Makerbot earlier this summer, though it's worth mentioning that the merger has no bearing on the UPS partnership—in keeping with their strategy to keep Stratasys and Makerbot relatively independent. Customers will have access to $15,900 Stratasys uPrint SE Plus machines for their rapid prototyping needs.
Ford research engineer Zach Nelson hacked up an Xbox 360 controller, and used an out-of-date MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, to make a rather interesting mod to a Shelby GT500: A haptic shift knob. When the RPMs hit a mere 3,000—god that car must have some awesome low-end torque—Nelson's 3D-printed custom knob vibrates, telling you it's time to shift (rather than informing you that you just ate a grenade in Call of Duty).
It might sound gimmicky, but Nelson's experiment provides a glimpse of the future. OpenXC is Ford's program to make vehicle data available to the user in realtime, with the diagnostic system beaming it to a tablet or smartphone over Bluetooth. By tapping that info, installing an Arduino controller, and programming in some simple values, Nelson was able to go from concept to execution in a matter of weeks.
While some tech blogs have breathlessly been reporting that Nelson's device "will teach people how to drive a stick," that's obviously incorrect, and not the real point of the experiment; nor is the LED indicator going to be a gamechanger, as few of us who drive stick have ever been driving around going "Gee, what gear am I in?" Rather, Nelson is demonstrating that by simply opening the floodgates of a vehicle's information, Ford is enabling you customize your driving experience in a manner of your choosing. And it points towards the future: Open-source vehicle telematics, combined with digital manufacturing devices and Arduino, should open up a world of interesting possibilities.
Nelson has posted the technical details of how he did it here.
"I want to give the fashion industry the opportunity to see how computation can be more than a means of execution," says Bitonti. "It's a medium for design, a fresh way to think and as much about aesthetics and culture as it is about production and performance."
During week one, the students created a 3D scan of a human body from a model. This scan data will be used to design a garment entirely in a digital environment. The researchers will use this scan data to "grow" garments in the computer using advanced computer algorithms. In coming weeks the digital immersion learning and implementing both advanced 3D modeling and computer programming. "Computer programming is going to be an essential skill for the next generation of designers," Bitonti asserts. "It's how we talk to machines, it's like learning how to sew for previous generations."
The 12 students themselves come from a variety of disciplines ranging from Architecture, Fashion, industrial Design and Fine Art, and hail from all over the world, from as far afield as Israel and Norway.
A research paper from the Illinois Institute of Technology looks at a little-examined side of 3D printing: Whether or not it's dangerous to human health. Assistant professor Brent Stephens, who heads up the Built Environment Research Group in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, and a team of grad students took a hard look at the ultrafine particles (UFPs) given off as plastic is melted and extruded through "commercially available desktop 3D printers" (no brand names provided). Media outlets have been feverishly picking up the story, with some even comparing 3D printing to cigarette smoking in terms of health effects.
But hang on a second, let's take a closer look.
What the researchers found was that 3D printing gives off UFPs, in significant-enough amounts that these printers can be characterized as "high emitters" of the offending particles. They then point out that:
UFPs are particularly relevant from a health perspective because they deposit efficiently in both the pulmonary and alveolar regions of the lung, as well as in head airways. Deposition in head airways can also lead to translocation to the brain via the olfactory nerve. The high surface areas associated with UFPs also lead to high concentrations of other adsorbed or condensed compounds. Several recent epidemiological studies have shown that elevated UFP number concentrations are associated with adverse health effects, including total and cardio-respiratory mortality, hospital admissions for stroke, and asthma symptoms.
That certainly sounds disturbing. However, here's the part of the research paper that isn't making it into a lot of articles:
Several recent studies have also reported size-resolved and/or total UFP emission rates from a variety of other consumer devices, appliances, and activities such as laser printers, candles, cigarettes, irons, radiators, and cooking on gas and electric stoves...
[A previous study] reported total UFP emission rates over the same size range as ours measured during various cooking activities. For comparison, our estimate of the total UFP emission rate for a single PLA-based 3D printer...was similar to that reported during cooking with an electric frying pan.... The same 3D printer utilizing a higher temperature ABS feedstock had an emission rate estimate similar to that reported during grilling food on gas or electric stoves at low power, but approximately an order of magnitude lower than gas or electric stoves operating at high power. Regardless, the desktop 3D printers measured herein can all be classified as "high emitters"....
Furthermore, the study revealed that "Emission rates of total UFPs were approximately an order of magnitude higher for 3D printers utilizing an ABS thermoplastic feedstock relative to a PLA feedstock." Whether it is the higher temperatures required to extrude ABS or the chemical composition of the material itself that makes it worse than PLA is not clear, but it does seem that given a choice between the two materials, you probably want to go PLA.
A paper airplane flying contest might have cut it at some engineering conference in the 1950s, but the upcoming 2013 IDSA conference will be holding something considerably more exciting. Come August 24th in Chicago, ten 3D-printed cars will be launched down a model of a ski jump, and the car's resultant flight (and the spectacle-worthiness of its crash) will be judged for excellence.
Whose ten 3D-printed cars, you ask? Maybe yours. The Launch Day 2013 competition is open to all comers, provided you get your 3D-printed design in by August 12th. That initial batch will be judged for both aesthetics and for "using unique attributes of 3D printing," winnowing the field down to ten. The final ten will then be printed, then launched on the final day of the conference, and whomever's design is judged the winner will take home a brand-new 3D printer. (Runners-up will get $100 gift cards from competition sponsor Inventables.)
There's no cost to enter, and each entrant can submit up to five designs. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Which means yep, there's a catch: You've gotta be in it to win it. Specifically, inside the conference center in Chicago, as only registered attendees are eligible to win.
Click here to get details on the build envelope and printer selection for entries.
Our favorite Japanese purveyor of no-brand quality goods is pleased to partner with All Nippon Airways a new sweepstakes to promote MUJI to GO, "a category of MUJI products curated based on the concept of 'Good Travels with Good Products.'" The global campaign "Mini to GO" will launch at the Times Square location on July 12, and run for just over a month. From this Friday until August 15, customers who shop at the MUJI stores can bring their receipt to the store at the New York Times Building to get a 3D photograph taken. Participants can enter for a chance to win one of ten free 3D-printed figurines (from the scans) and the grand prize, a vacation courtesy of ANA.
The MUJI Times Square store is located at 620 8th Ave (at 40th St), New York, NY 10018. See more details here.
In the (soon-to-be) grand tradition of digi-fab sculptor Joshua Harker, namisu's Octavio Asensio has turned to Kickstarter to produce a new 3D-printed work of art. Where Harker's skulls harken (sorry, couldn't resist) back to the dead as a totemic memento mori, the 3D-REX brings natural history from the museum to your living room. (Two, it seems, is a trend, as Philippe Pasqua's chrome T-Rex skeleton has also been making blog rounds this week.)
We came up with the concept of a wireframe fossil, a complex geometric mesh representing one of the most ancient and iconic creatures: the Tyrannosaurus Rex! The concept really appealed to us because it represents a contrast between old and new, mixing nature's own amazing creations with technological advances of today. Though it looked good as a CAD model, the 3D-Printed result blew us away; the way the organic wireframe flows and plays off the light is really quite a sight.
Just about everyone has that really gruesome childhood story of the first time you broke a bone and went through the lengthy process of getting a cast. If you happen to grow up to be in the best professional field ever (i.e. design), you likely also have stories of fantastical apparatuses with which to get at that itch underneath the layers of plaster or ingenious ways to keep the cast dry at a pool party.
It's really no secret that designing for medical products is one of the fastest moving and innovative subsets of the product design game. Designing objects for better administering or healthcare, implementing new technology and identifying opportunities for innovation is serious business. So how did it take this long to merge with out favorite manufacturing technique of the latter, 3D printing? Whatever the reason, the recent work of Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill is certainly notable for merging digital fabrication and one of the most uncomfortable medical devices.
Achieving what will be the epitome of a Nervous System-meets-Spiderman aesthetic, the Cortex 3D-printed concept cast boasts some really nice features that put its traditional (and itchy) plaster counterpart to shame. The lightweight polyamide cast both allowing you to shower and recycle the parts when healing is complete. Paired with 3D scanning technology, the design and support structure could easily be tweaked to provide extra support to fractured areas of the arm.
CNC mills live in shops, and power tools are things you can carry around. That's been the paradigm. But building on their successful 17 years of producing and refining CNC mills, ShopBot Tools has now combined the two worlds with their new, portable, crowdfunded Handibot. (The Kickstarter campaign went live about fifteen minutes ago.)
The Handibot is what they're calling a "smart tool," and it's essentially a 3-axis CNC mill that you can carry (and run via PC, tablet or even smartphone). But don't let the small size fool you: By "tiling" your digital files and registering the Handibot from one location to the next, you can work on surfaces of unlimited size with total CNC precision—it's even "capable of high precision such as on PC boards."
The benefits to builders seem obvious: Haul a Handibot to the jobsite and this thing will cut rafter tails and stair stringers all day long. Templates and pattern bits will stay in the truck. In one demo I saw, a ShopBotter hacked up Handibot wall rig, where he programmed it to precisely cut outlet holes into vertical sheetrock. For one outlet hole, sure, that's overkill; but in a commercial building where you're cutting hundreds of outlet holes, the Handibot would be your new best friend.
The benefits that aren't yet obvious, however, is what company founder Ted Hall is curious about: The uses that you would put the Handibot to. ShopBot is looking to expand the user base by reaching out to consumers, building their already-formidable user community out into an ecosystem of shared designs that all users can easily access; something akin to MakerBot's Thingiverse, and with the added value of smartphone- or tablet-run apps that spur the Handibot into specific actions.
That is what makes creating digital fabrication tools so fascinating. If I design a tennis racket, I know what you're going to use it for: You and the missus will play doubles with the Browns, and maybe you'll swing it around your living room when a fruit bat gets in through the window. But when companies like MakerBot and ShopBot release their offerings, they know that the collective cleverness of the user base is going to surprise them with unexpected and unforeseen applications.
"We're enthusiastic about exploring the 'open innovation' concepts behind the tool," says Hall. "And we're excited about the Handibot tool itself - it is just enough of a new twist to offer a utility that really goes beyond both what power tools traditionally do and what people usually think of for CNC. I love that one can just whack away at real construction lumber with it."
Not that lumber is the limit. The Handibot will cut through wood, metal, plastic, paper & cardboard (with a drag knife attachment) and can even be used to etch glass.
As we announced earlier, Stratasys, like the objects coming out of their print nozzles, has acquired their own third dimension. Last year, the manufacturer of industrial 3D printers married up, merging with Objet and their super-high-end machines (we looked at a 16-micron-capable unit here); it's just been announced that they've married down as well, scooping up MakerBot and their entry-level machines for a reported $400 million. Stratasys has tried to go low-end before through a short-lived partnership with HP; this time is different, largely because HP doesn't know what the hell they're doing and MakerBot does.
So what does this all mean? Several things:
At first blush, this might seem like Makita acquiring Festool, then picking up Skil; the one company will have access to three different strata, if you'll pardon the pun, of users. In most industries, that spells dominance. But unlike with power tools, with 3D printing there will always be a dedicated DIY-hacker base happy to keep tinkering with their RepRaps in the garage, meaning that that unexpected (and perhaps unreliable) source of individual innovation will not be snuffed out. This is good for everyone.
It does mean, however, that Stratasys will dominate the plug-and-play market. Between them and Objet they've got the industrial market well-covered, and with MakerBot's relative ease-of-use appeal—as proven with their Replicator 2's 11,000 units sold since launch, accounting for half of the company's sales since their birth—they will be the go-to for consumers who "don't want a toaster and just want toast."
Here's one sound that librarians won't be "shushing" in Chicago: The distinctive whining-and-grinding of a CNC mill. The Chicago Public Library has announced that their centrally-located Harold Washington branch, inside the Loop, will be getting the Windy City's first free maker space.
The pop-up fabrication lab will offer the public access to 3D printers, laser cutters, a milling machine and a vinyl cutter as well as a variety of supporting design software.
How rad is that? The CPL's Innovation Lab is a new initiative to give Chicagoans no-cost access to digital manufacturing, and it's the first that we know of located smack-dab in the middle of a large American city. The six-month run of the Harold Washington maker space, which starts on July 8th, is intended to be a trial run; should it prove successful, the CPL will consider expanding it to other branches around the city.
"The maker lab is the first of several ideas we plan to test over the next few years in the Innovation Lab," said CPL Commissioner Brian Bannon, "as we focus on expanding access to 21st century ideas and information to our communities." We're pretty psyched that they're starting off with digital manufacturing, and we hope the pilot program causes other big cities to take note. American libraries have been dying on the vine for years, and we can't think of a better use for the typically cavernous and underused spaces.
As the origin of an increasing proportion of cultural touchstones, so too has the Internet spawned its own genre of memorabilia. Inspired by "the way designers showcased their work by holding it in front of them," Nadia Ahmad's "Handvas" is among the more successful examples we've seen—a clever way to display a poster or print, modeled after a popular trope of product photography.
In fact, Ahmad isn't a product designer by training or trade: the Sydney-based art director works in advertising by day and simply wanted to make her idea a reality. "I didn't have the skills or knowledge to produce it," she noted by e-mail. "So I went in search of a company that could help [me] bring my idea to life."
It seems like nearly every video from the MIT MediaLab is bound to be come a "holy-crap-technology-is-awesome" viral hit, and the latest one from the Mediated Matter group is no exception. Unveiled last week, the Silk Pavilion "explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication on product and architectural scales."
Inspired by the silkworm's ability to generate a 3D cocoon out of a single multi-property silk thread (1km in length), the overall geometry of the pavilion was created using an algorithm that assigns a single continuous thread across patches providing various degrees of density. Overall density variation was informed by the silkworm itself deployed as a biological "printer" in the creation of a secondary structure. A swarm of 6,500 silkworms was positioned at the bottom rim of the scaffold spinning flat non-woven silk patches as they locally reinforced the gaps across CNC-deposited silk fibers.
Earlier this year, we came across the 3Doodler, a pen that allows the user to sketch far beyond the bounds a material substrate, namely paper. (Boston's WobbleWorks had more than quadrupled their $30,000 funding goal when we posted about the product at launch; by the time the campaign wrapped up a month later, they'd raised a whopping $2.3m)
Led by Petr Novikov and Saša Jokić, a team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and Joris Laarman Studio in Amsterdam have developed a new, patent-pending additive manufacturing technology, known as MATAERIAL. (Pun lover though I may be, it took me a moment to get the name.) The machine is essentially an articulating arm that can create three-dimensional objects on any surface, independently of a build platform.
By using innovative extrusion technology we are now able to neutralize the effect of gravity during the course of the printing process. This method gives us a flexibility to create truly natural objects by making 3D curves instead of 2D layers. Unlike 2D layers that are ignorant to the structure of the object, the 3D curves can follow exact stress lines of a custom shape. Finally, our new out of the box printing method can help manufacture structures of almost any size and shape.