How expiring 3D printing patents are going to usher the next generation of 3D printing? The year 2016 is quickly shaping up to be one of the hottest years on record for 3D printing innovations. Although there is still a lot of hype surrounding 3D printing and how it may or may not be the next industrial revolution, one thing is for certain: the cost of printing will continue to drop while the quality of 3D prints continues to rise.
This development can be traced to advanced 3D printing technologies becoming accessible due to the expiration of key 3D printing patents on pre-existing industrial printing processes.
These expiring 3D printing patents — many of which were issued just before the turn of the century and are reaching the end of their lifespan — are releasing the monopolistic control over processes that have long been held by the original pioneers of the 3D printing industry.
For example, when the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing process patent expired in 2009, prices for FDM printers dropped from over $10,000 to less than $1,000, and a new crop of consumer-friendly 3D printer manufacturers, like MakerBot and Ultimaker, paved the way for accessible 3D printing.
The next generation of additive manufacturing technologies are making their way down from the industrial market to desktops of consumers and retailers much like FDM did. Among these include 3D printing patents for three specific 3D printing technologies: liquid-based, powder-based and metal-based printing processes.
Considered to be the best existing desktop printing process when it comes to creating highly-detailed precision parts, the liquid-based stereolithography (SLA) printing process has been causing waves in the mainstream news recently with the announcement of the M1 3D printer from Carbon.
Although Carbon has pioneered their own take on the stereolithography process to make it faster — a process called Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) — it is derived from a process patented by Charles (Chuck) W. Hull in 1986 just before he set up 3D Systems Inc to commercialize it.
The stereolithography process works by successively “printing” thin layers of an object using an ultraviolet (UV) laser focused on a vat of liquid resin. Regardless of the exact method of production, almost all of the liquid-based technologies we’ve seen recently have been enabled by the expiration of Hull’s patent.
One of the most popular names in 3D printing – Formlabs – is a pioneer in bringing SLA 3D printing to the desktop at an accessible price point.
However, this new free market hasn’t been without its bumps in the road. 3D Systems sued Formlabs in 2012 for patent infringement after the company launched their wildly successful Kickstarter campaign and went on to raise nearly $3 million for their Form 1 3D printer. In December of 2014, Formlabs settled and now pays an 8% royalty to 3D Systemsfor every product sold.
Despite this setback, the company has gone on to become one of the most successful and well-regarded desktop 3D printer manufacturers in the business.
The Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) powder-based printing process was developed and subsequently patented by Dr. Carl Deckard and his academic adviser, Dr. Joe Beaman at the University of Texas at Austin in 1984. Similar to Chuck Hull, Deckard and Beaman went on to start a company with the goal of commercializing their new technology through building and selling SLS 3D printers.
Although similar to stereolithography in that they both use a laser to cure a material into a desirable object, the SLS process relies on a powder material to interact with the laser rather than liquid. As each pass is made with the laser, the powder is “sintered” or “fused” upon each subsequent layer to build up the final form.
3D Systems later acquired the technology from their competitors, but the patent expired in 2014. Similar to what happened soon after both FDM and SLA 3D printing patents dried up, this has resulted in a rise of new 3D printer manufacturers aimed at bringing this expensive industrial printing process onto the desktops of a wide amount of users. Progress so far has been slower than with SLA and a SLS counterpart of a Formlabs like printer is yet to be released.
Considered by many to be the “Holy Grail” of additive manufacturing processes, metal 3D printing technologies – or more specifically, Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) – are already being used to create custom metal parts for a wide variety of manufacturing applications ranging from custom race car parts to parts used by SpaceX for launching into the outer atmosphere.
While large automakers and Elon Musk are easily able to foot the bill for an industrial-grade machine to use at their free will, the cost of ownership and maintenance is out of scope for most everybody else.
Interestingly, a foundation patent for selective laser melting held by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, will be expiring in December of 2016.
Just as we’ve seen with liquid and powder-based technologies, the expiration is expected to bring with it a new group of manufacturers that will drive cost down dramatically.
While it’s still too early to tell how this will affect industries in the long run, the impact could be huge as no other 3D printing process has been able to consistently produce reliable parts that can be used functionally as metal 3D printing has.
With year over year growth in consumer 3D printer sales – nearly 200,000 units priced $5,000 or below were sold in 2015 alone – and the industry itself expecting to grow from generating approximately $4.1 billion in 2015 to as much as $16.2 billion within the next four years; it’s clear that with the crumbling of monopolies and price disruptions, desktop 3D printing is moving forward beyond the hype. Needless to say, the dream of industrial quality desktop printing is still very much alive.
Who do you call if you want to 3D print something? Step forward 3Dprintler, a startup that has made a search engine for locating 3D printing services in your area. The team was chosen as the wildcard company from Startup Alley to present onstage in the 2016 Battlefield here at TechCrunch Disrupt New York.
3Dprintler’s search engine, which launched last year, lets users upload a 3D file for printing, select the materials they want their file to be printed in and get a list of quotes to compare. They can then order the print directly, with 3Dprintler monetizing by taking a cut of any sales its search engine generates.
But — and here’s the topical twist — the team has also created an integrated chatbot for accessing their platform that’s aimed at simplifying the process by providing a concierge service for ordering 3D prints. Their 3D print quote bot currently supports messaging platforms including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram, Kik and Skype.
While early messaging platform chatbots can seem spammy and/or time wasting, 3Dprintler chatbot feels like a far more practical application of this sort of tech, given that 3D printing can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. So a bot being there to walk you through the different steps seems like it’s going to provide some useful reassurance.
The bot, which launched about a month ago, has already generated an uptick in orders, according to 3Dprintler co-founder Michael Golubev.
“We’ve seen over one hundred order already just in that period of time, which is I think like 56 percent more conversion rate than we see from using the website. So we see that people actually enjoy using the bots way more, somehow it’s more natural than using the website,” he tells TechCrunch. “Almost it becomes outdated to use a website.”
3Dprintler team is running a pilot of their quote bot with a few companies, with the ultimate aim of creating what they dub a “factory as a service” platform — aka a software-as-a-service-style business model with the sales pitch to businesses being that a search and order bot for 3D printing simplifies the order process to the point where it’s easier for businesses to pay to use a bot, rather than own a 3D printer themselves (and need to train staff how to use it).
“We’re more focused on prosumer users, so somebody who wants a professional service done,” says Golubev. “The consumer market is just not there yet, once we’re able to scan things it will be but for now it’s the Fortune 500 companies that hold the biggest potential for the growth.
“From talking to those companies the biggest pain that they have, they all have the same thing: they get the expensive printers because they hear about the hype, they invest $300,000 in the machine and then it just sits there idling because there has to be a special person trained to use it.”
3Dprintler processes the 3D files uploaded by users to get them ready for printing and can also fix problems with files. It sees the latter as another potential revenue stream down the line — talking up the potential for a future market powered by consumers scanning objects with their smartphone cameras and then chatting via messaging app to 3Dprintler’s bot to order their 3D prints.
“Chatbots is the solution we were looking for because we get access to millions of people, and… we’re betting that eventually every phone will have a 3D scanner built in it. It will be super easy to use… and once we have all those millions of people using it, adoption rate is going to skyrocket and you’re going to have all those billions of files that people want to create — 3D selfie, for example, is going to be a new craze.”
3Dprintler has been working in the 3D print space since 2013, initially minting money by selling drone parts for DJI phantom drones before too many copycat sellers flooded the market. They also made a customizer tool for 3D print files, and also previously set up an open-source initiative for 3D printable hydroponics.
In 3Dprintler search for a sustainable business model in the space they’ve now settled on simplifying access to 3D printing services as the core problem to fix — having had to go through similar steps themselves, over the years.
“We realized not everyone has access to a 3D printer,” says Golubev. “That’s how the 3Dprintler search engine was born. How do we tap into all the 3D printing services out there and allow a person to find the best price, based by location, based by quality, based by material?”
As well as seeking to tap into large, engaged user bases on messaging platforms with a chatbot interface, Golubev says they are also talking to 3D marketplaces, such as Thingiverse, with the hope of integrating their search and order service into those larger platforms, too.
3Dprintler also have an API — launched back in January — to enable others, such as designers, to embed their search engine elsewhere.
Q: I have to ask the obvious question — why does it have to be a bot?
A: A bot is really easy to use interface that everybody is using these days, you see people on their phone, the young generation barely calls anyone any more. It’s a really easy platform, doesn’t require additional installations, you can just have this AI in your pocket the whole time.
In 3D printing industry we’re waiting for a killer app. We believe the killer app will be a 3D scanner built in every phone — so you can take a 3D selfie.
Q: B2B 3D printing does not feel like an impromptu action…
A: Imagine Slack — all the people are using Slack right now. Somebody throws in the file, it gets you the results, everyone’s working together, collaborating together.
Q: Do you also have an app?
A: Yes we have a mobile app and a web app, that’s how we started. For about a year we’ve been building things secretly. Bots became this meaningful way to access people.
Q: How have you been acquiring the long tail of people who have machines in their offices?
A: We built a bot that crawls the web for 3D printing service providers. We have about 20,000. We’ve been reaching out to them. People have been jumping on board joining our system.
Q: If I was to compare what you do to 3D hubs, how does that go?
A: We are working with 3D hubs to add them.
If I want to compare 3D printing prices I have to go to every website to spend time to compare quotes, 3Dprintler chatbot creates tremendous time savings.
Q: A lot of large companies have invested a lot of money in 3D printing… they do that because they want to use the machines whenever they want to. How do you navigate the organizational complexities here?
A: As an engineer you wouldn’t even feel there was a change — you would use the bot and get the results. And we can get you the results as soon as the same day or the next day turnaround time so as an engineer you wouldn’t even feel the difference. You would feel it is advantageous to use the bots instead of going downstairs to John and asking him to print something on the machine and John is sick and the machine doesn’t work.
Every company shares the same pain point and in a way this is the simple solution. The future of conversational commerce means 3D printing.
Q: Is there a risk in terms of quality?
A: We’re working on ways to protect the users… so we hold the money in an escrow account until the order comes through. So as a user you will receive the file and you will verify it is great, there will be a review and then the money is released to the 3D printing provider so they are encouraged to produce good results.
In the end everybody is using pretty much the same equipment so it’s a matter of printing, pressing a button and being trained how to do that. As long as you can do this and you do the right thing I think there should be no problems.
Of course we verify the providers, we allow them to send a first print and check out how it is done.
Q: If there were other applications for this would you be open to them?
A: I think we invented this niche, 3D printing chatbots, and we just want to dominate it and we want to continue moving this forward — adding IBM Watson for intelligence, pairing up with Viv for AI, connecting different APIs, the sky’s the limit.
What are you planning on doing this summer? Probably not designing a revolutionary new bioreactor with which a thousand “mini-brains” can undergo testing. You’re probably not designing a bioreactor at all! But New York high schooler Christopher Hadiono did just that, and his powerful and efficient 3D-printed machine is now beginning to make waves.
Hadiono put the machine together during a summer internship in the lab of Johns Hopkins neurology professor Hongjun Song. The SpinΩ, as it’s called, is cheap and versatile, as Song and others demonstrate in a recent paper.
Mini-brains themselves aren’t a new idea: they’re basically tiny collections of stem-cell-derived neurons that can be experimented on as if they were developing brains. They’re not perfect, but they’re useful, and the more you have, the better.
Most of Hadiono’s bioreactor can be created in an ordinary 3D printer, though of course it must be augmented with the precision parts needed to perform experiments. Not only is it cheaper to make ($400 versus about $2,000 for a commercial platform), but it’s more compact, and only a tiny amount of nutritive fluid needs to be used for each one. The result is that for a fraction of the cost, you can fit 10 times the number of mini-brains inside a standard incubator.
“I was shocked,” Song told Spectrum News, which reports on autism-related developments. “We did not think that even a biotechnology graduate student could make this into a reality.”
Song didn’t wait long to put the device into action: He and others recentlypublished a paper in the journal Cellthat not only details the engineering of the SpinΩ itself (including printing files), but also an experiment that appears to strengthen the link between Zika infection and microcephaly.
Other labs are also getting in on the SpinΩ fun and building their own, Song confirmed to TechCrunch in an email. There has also been interest from equipment makers in licensing or otherwise employing the system. Don’t worry — Hadiono is still involved, and his name is on the patent application.
If you still haven’t pulled the trigger on 3D Printing, check out this excellent introductory course about 3D Printing. If you have a friend or spouse that might be interested, go ahead and forward this to them. It’s perfectly normal to spend a couple of years “observing” 3D Printing from afar before actually buying a 3D Printer — this course will certainly accelerate that process. Also, if you have any questions, hit reply and send me your questions. Like I’ve mentioned before, all I do is 3D Print (I traded in my Wife for a 3D Printer, the economics are much better).
This course will demonstrate how 3D printers work, show what people make with them, and examine the 3D printing ecosystem. It will also explore the future of 3D printing and discuss how this technology will revolutionize our world. The course materials include informative video lectures, on-location interviews with a variety of 3D printing experts, and engaging hands-on exercises. Learners who complete this introductory course will have a solid understanding of 3D printing and its revolutionary potential, and will be able to print and customize 3D designs. In addition, learners will obtain a preview of the other courses in the 3D Printing Specialization and gain an appreciation for how these courses will help them develop the knowledge and skills to turn their ideas into objects.
This Specialization will introduce you to the magic of 3D printing. Through a series of four cohesive courses and a hands-on capstone experience, you will acquire the knowledge, skills, and tools to turn your ideas into objects! This specialization has been developed by faculty experts from the Illinois MakerLab (the world’s first 3D printing lab in a Business School) along with industry experts from both Autodesk (a leading 3D software firm) and Ultimaker (a leading 3D hardware firm). You will obtain a rich understanding of what 3D printing is, how 3D printers work, and how this new technology is being used by both individuals and firms to revolutionize our world. In addition, you will acquire a set of tangible skills that will enable you to create digital designs that you can transform into physical objects. These skills can be used to help you launch a career in the growing field of 3D printing, be the 3D printing expert in your current firm, or make the things you need. Learners who sign up for the Specialization Certificate will also obtain significant discounts on 3D printing hardware (via Ultimaker), software (via Autodesk), and services (via 3DHubs & Shapeways). Combined, these savings represent a value of over $700, which more than pays for the cost of the specialization.
This Specialization will introduce you to the magic of 3D printing. Through a series of four cohesive courses and a hands-on capstone experience, you will acquire the knowledge, skills, and tools to turn your ideas into objects! This specialization has been developed by faculty experts from the Illinois MakerLab (the world’s first 3D printing lab in a Business School) along with industry experts from both Autodesk (a leading 3D software firm) and Ultimaker (a leading 3D hardware firm).
You will obtain a rich understanding of what 3D printing is, how 3D printers work, and how this new technology is being used by both individuals and firms to revolutionize our world. In addition, you will acquire a set of tangible skills that will enable you to create digital designs that you can transform into physical objects. These skills can be used to help you launch a career in the growing field of 3D printing, be the 3D printing expert in your current firm, or make the things you need.
Learners who sign up for the Specialization Certificate will also obtain significant discounts on 3D printing hardware (via Ultimaker), software (via Autodesk), and services (via 3DHubs & Shapeways). Combined, these savings represent a value of over $700, which more than pays for the cost of the specialization.
Excitement about 3D printing has steadily accelerated over the past decade — but this excitement has largely outpaced innovation and development in the field. As a researcher in the 3D printing ecosystem, I’ve built 3D printers using all of the major technologies, as well as more experimental ones.
What I’ve learned is that many of these technologies are composed of very well-understood materials, software problems and mechanical systems — things that engineers have been doing for decades. This, then, begs the question: Why isn’t 3D printing better? Why are failure rates so high and why is reproducibility so difficult? It’s clear that it’s not due to working with exotic materials or advanced motion control. What’s actually holding back innovation is how we think about those technologies: as separate pieces, rather than as elements of a system.
By shifting our perspective when regarding 3D printing, and viewing it as a system of constituent parts, we can change our understanding of its capabilities. Typically, we break the system into the following components:
The most problematic and often forgotten element within the ecosystem can be found in the broken pathways meant to connect each domain to the other. Old-fashioned ways of thought have prevented us from truly realizing the potential of 3D printing. By changing how we think about the 3D printing ecosystem to embrace the systems nature of the family of technologies, we can begin to actually leverage it against real problems.
We’re Still Designing For Old Technologies. Almost everything that is printed today has been designed (either consciously or not) for another fabrication process. Just like designing for computer-numeric-controlled machining or injection molding, additive processes excel when they are leveraged on geometry designed for the specific process. There are many efforts to develop new design tools to allow us to design better for additive processes, but progress starts with recognizing additive manufacturing as just another fabrication process with strengths and weaknesses that must be considered during design.
We’re Still Building Prototyping Machines. Current machines are generalists, rather than specialists. As prototyping machines, they are designed for the lowest common denominator of performance. This results in machines that can do many things, but that can do very few things well. We need to change the way we think about the very purpose of these machines and ask what problem do they solve. Instead of building a machine and then looking for a problem that fits inside it, we need to build machines around real problems that need solving.
Hardware Is Actually About Software. In addition to focusing on real-world manufacturing applications, we need to architect the machines to leverage software. This means building “smart” machines that are heavily instrumented with sensors and that are web-connected to allow for monitoring and real-time analytics. One example is the Autodesk Ember, which has sensors that allow it to gracefully recover from unexpected errors, improve print reliability, report to its user when it has completed a job and allow other users to check its state remotely.
Materials: Multimaterial Versus Mesostructure. Perhaps one of the greatest capabilities of 3D printing technology is its ability to cheaply implement complexity in materials. As designers, we’re used to certain properties being tied to types of matter, and we call this a “material.” For example, a wooden beam and a piece of paper have dramatically different properties and serve different purposes, but are both ultimately cellulose fibers (wood pulp). What actually sets them apart is how this cellulose is organized and structured. We call structure that is larger than microcrystalline (tens of microns and below) and smaller than human scale (centimeters to meters) mesostructure.
Old-fashioned ways of thought have prevented us from truly realizing the potential of the 3D printing ecosystem.
A common goal of the 3D printing ecosystem is to be able to print multiple materials from one machine to attain multiple properties for one object or design. However, mesostructure allows designs to get more value out of a single material. Instead of relying on different materials for different performance-specific properties, a designer can use multiple mesostructures to create an object with the necessary performance characteristics (soft, firm, elastic, breathable, etc.) using just one machine and one material.
With the mesostructure principle, designers no longer need to compromise and can, in fact, design with far more flexibility and capability than before. This unlocks a huge untapped capability of 3D printers and opens new frontiers in design.
Once we can actually design these elements to interface with each other and their corresponding technologies, and build true manufacturing solutions with the resulting systems, we can integrate everything that the 3D printing industry has learned over the past 25 years and start applying it:
The core technologies are not holding back the 3D printing industry, it’s the system in which they reside that is.
Are you ready for the next industrial revolution based on 3D printing? It was in 1909 when Henry Ford, master of efficiency and standardization, famously said that a “customer can have a car painted any color…so long as it is black.” While the First Industrial Revolution introduced machines to replace hand labor, Ford helped usher in what was ultimately the principle of mass production; using those machines to produce large quantities of standardized products — an era that came to be known as the Second Industrial Revolution.
Today, more than one hundred years since Ford made his industry-defining statement, 3Dprinting is making its way forward in the mainstream and is allowing anyone to create customized products on demand at affordable prices. No longer do products need to be the same; we can now tailor products to meet our individual needs at little or no extra cost.
Are today’s digital manufacturing capabilities making standardization obsolete? Could we possibly be on the verge of replacing mass production altogether? Are we sitting on the edge of the Third Industrial Revolution?
To better understand how 3D printing could disrupt mass production as we know it, it’s helpful to look at the fundamental differences between conventional production technologies.
At its core, mass production is about scale — where the cost of manufacturing per unit decreases as production quantity increases. The principle behind this mechanism is that an investment is made toward manufacturing facilities that can typically produce multiples of the same thing efficiently.
An estimated 30 percent of all manufactured goods end up as waste within months of rolling off the production line.
Producing (and ultimately selling) a lot of those “things” decreases the relative cost of the initial investment, which, in turn, allows the product to be sold at a lower price point to further increase demand. As demand continues to grow for a particular product, the costs of production can continue to go down, while relative profit margins per unit increase — a concept referred to as economies of scale.
So while economic growth can be achieved when economies of scale are realized, this brings us to a fundamental flaw of mass production: Products cannot be sold until they’re produced.
Although market forecasting and million-dollar sales teams can help guide manufacturing order decisions, an estimated 30 percent of all manufactured goods end up as waste within months of rolling off the production line. Meaning, the contents in three out of every 10 shipping containers will be thrown away before ever reaching the consumer.
At the same time that these products are on their way to the landfill, production facilities in low-wage countries (including China, Brazil or Indonesia) are already working on their next manufacturing order — thus beginning again the cycle of wasted energy consumption, packaging, labor and raw materials.
3D printing — or additive manufacturing — on the other hand, is fundamentally different from the bottom up.
From a cost perspective, it doesn’t really matter whether each 3D printed product is the same or different; additive manufacturing has no need for standardized molds. This allows for fully customized or even personalized products to be produced at the same cost.
Mass production is a remarkably efficient system.
Of course, the flip side of this is that 3Dprinting doesn’t have as steep of a price drop when bringing up economies of scale — at least when compared to mass production as it exists today. Therefore, a 3D-printed product may bring more value to an individual user, but is generally more expensive than a mass-produced product.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the question has been raised repeatedly about whether the “3D Industrial Revolution” can replace mass manufacturing; creating personalized objects on demand sounds almost too good to be true. Well, in part, it is. It turns out that mass production is a remarkably efficient system that is notoriously hard to beat on standardization and price.
Without question, mass manufacturing is ideal for creating large quantities of products where standardization is beneficial. While current 3D printing technologies cannot compete with existing prices (or even quality), the core benefits of 3D printing — on demand, personalization and design complexity — add little or no value to many product categories that exist in the mass manufacturing space. Hence, mass manufacturing systems can be expected to remain the dominant form of production in many industries.
That said, there are plenty of product categories where the benefits of 3D printing are already beginning to make a significant difference. Specifically, these include products that are made in relatively low quantities (limited scale), have a need for personalization or are simply impossible to make with conventional manufacturing technologies.
3D printing has the potential to create a whole new powerful product category.
Industries such as fashion, aerospace, medicine and food have already been showing signs of disruption with the introduction of additive manufacturing technologies. The most significant benefit of 3D printing isn’t that it could replace mass manufacturing in its current form, but, rather, it will introduce an entirely new category of products.
For example, take an everyday thing like Nike running shoes. All models are mass manufactured as the same product — standardized size differences notwithstanding. But with the introduction of NikeiD, the Portland, Oregon-based sportswear giant opened the door to let users customize the product specific to their needs — aesthetic or otherwise.
Now imagine the near future. You’re shopping online for a pair of new shoes and the NikeiD server now contains a complete 3D scan of your foot included in your user account. It is now possible to customize your shoes not only by color but by form, based on the exact shape of your foot.
By producing the shoes using 3D printing, retailers like Nike can custom-tailor shoes specific to a user’s needs — not unlike how men have had their suits custom-tailored by hand for centuries. Because modern 3D printers can be stored within an average retail environment, or even at home, this allows for the custom shoes to be printed almost exactly at the point of purchase.
All of a sudden, we’re going from a manufacturing model that produces a lot of the same product and ships it to a location in hopes of a sale, to a manufacturing model that makes the sale, produces only what is needed and delivers items within 24 hours. Of course, this may double the price of an existing pair of $150 shoes, but it’s not hard to imagine how a new breed of shoe produced as such could make standardization look like a relic from the past — regardless of the price.
Similar examples could be used regarding our approach to food and medicine. Despite nearly every person having vastly different dietary and health needs, dietary and health advice has been standardized for millions in the United States alone. In the age of the wearable and the health-monitoring smartphone, there’s a future that puts this data to good use — such as through prescription meds or vitamin supplements customized for each and every individual.
Ultimately, when we look at the potential of 3D printing, it’s clear that mass manufacturing will not be completely eradicated. Its efficiency and scale has clear benefits for specific product categories. Nonetheless, 3D printing has the potential to create a whole new powerful product category, to eliminate the need for complex supply chains and excessive waste while decentralizing production, wealth and knowledge.
In the long run, 3D printing can help create a “decentralized, rural-based, self-reliant economy,” where production and consumption are once again reunited.
The first tattoo 3D printer is here! The principle is simple: give a design to this 3D printer, and let it tattoo it on the skin of the customer. Anecdotal or future reality? We have exclusively catched up with the inventors, a team of former French students.
Indeed, improvements have been made to the invention. «We have transformed the head of the machine by adding it a Z axle and a system of haptic sensor we have imagined, to give the best answer possible to the body’s different reliefs». Haptic technology is a tactile feedback technology often used in video games to give almost real sensations to players, but also used in industry as the possibility to give “senses” to machines and help them comprehend our 3D world.
These modifications of the original machines were a huge step forward for the young inventors of this amazing tattoo 3D printer. «We quickly become aware that the outlooks of the machines were leading to other application fields than tattoo, so we conducted experiences in the design, fashion, electronic and even biologic areas».
Watch the following tattoo 3d printer video in action (courtesy of Appropriate Audiences) and prepare to be blown out!
The public’s feelings to the first video and concept of the tattoo 3D printer has been really mixed. Some were attracted by innovation, others answered that nothing could replace the human link between the customer and the tattoo artist. «We are very happy of all the different feedback we had. This allow us to affirm our will to give a new tool to tattooists, without replacing the existing trade but by increasing the possibilities. We are convinced by the interest of the digital : it’s not here to copy what the hand is making already very well, but to open other outlooks. With our tool, we are developing software allowing to perform a multitude of data translating into patterns».
Could this awesome tattoo 3d printer be the future of geometric tattoos? Geometric artists are already using computer to create their designs. Could they program tattoo 3d printers to ink their clients in the future?
«Being very sensible to the different evolutions of tattoo, the reflection behind the machine is forcing us to question the existing reality. There were prejudices at the release of the electric tattoo machine, and decades later, we can see the artistic wealth it brought. It is what encourages us to break the walls between the different world, designers, tattooists, tattooed, artists and scientifics…»
So, could you imagine a future with tattoos done by 3D printers? Perhaps, one day, you will go to the tattoo shop to be inked by your robot-tattoo artist. Scary or exciting? Time (and people) will tell.
When he famously said “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home” in 1977, Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, certainly wasn’t expecting a reality like the one we live in today.
In less than half a century, computers don’t just exist in multiple rooms of our homes, they’ve taken over our pockets, our wrists and are embedded in a multitude of products around us, including light bulbs and basketballs. Needless to say, there are now plenty of reasons why anybody would want a computer in their home.
Although Olson’s might have been one of the worst tech predictions of all time, variations of the same question continue to be asked with seemingly every new major technological advancement — particularly, is there a need for a 3D printer in every home?
The ability to design and manufacture a physical object at home within hours, while bypassing traditional manufacturing supply chains, is certainly a powerful notion. After all, what if replacing a $125 dishwasher part took literally minutes and $5 of 3D printing material, rather than a few weeks and a lengthy phone call with a customer service representative? But then again, how many dishwasher parts does one have that need replacing on a regular basis?
Despite all of its possibilities, hitting “print” on a 3D printer is a lot more involved than just loading the paper tray and hitting a green button. Preparing and finishing a 3D printed object can be an arduous process.
For those who regularly use a 3D printer and take the process in stride, these are usually small issues. But for those who aren’t ready to take on the challenge, it can make an otherwise pleasurable experience turn sour, fast. In short, “ease of use” is still a thing.
In addition to the operational difficulties involved with owning and maintaining a 3D printer, there are still too few 3D printing applications for the average person to justify the cost of purchasing a $1,000-$4,000 machine. Unless you’re already using a 3D printer in your line of work or hobby, or regularly spend thousands of dollars a year on small plastic parts, the time and costs involved with 3D printer ownership are just not worth it.
It’s the range of applications that’s really the only fundamental limit to the current adoption rate for 3D printing.
Having access to a 3D printer is certainly ideal for those in creative and engineering fields who wish to envision their ideas, thoughts and “prototypes” physically.
This is why most 3D printed objects exist today; as a tool for design thinking and iteration. As we continue to move toward a future that’s becoming increasingly dependent on STEM skill sets, access to a 3D printer has also become an invaluable tool for students learning the foundations of science, technology, engineering and math.
Still, even some of the most frequent users of 3D printing have turned to 3D printing services that are increasingly making ownership unattractive. After all, why commit to a large purchase and add clutter when you can have the final product delivered to you without the hassle of ownership and maintenance?
To be fair, though, although price and ease of use are indeed things to consider, 3D printers will become more easy to use and cheaper every year. It’s the range of applications that’s really the only fundamental limit to the current adoption rate for 3D printing.
Unlike personal computers, which can take on a countless number of tasks within the home,3D printers are limited to one thing: creating physical objects from digital files. When looking back at Olson’s 1977 prediction and comparing it to the role of 3D printing in the home today, it becomes clearer why he might have thought the way he did — there just were not enough applications to justify owning a personal computer.
If 3D printers are to be taken more seriously as a universal home appliance, they need to provide more solutions that are valuable for every home. Personal computers have evolved to have this level of value, but a machine that can produce the occasional spare part or small product from plastic does not.
When thinking about the amount of home applications potentially possible for home 3Dprinting, it’s not hard to see an exciting future ahead. Among other developments, the addition of more advanced materials will enable users to produce a variety of functional objects on demand — such as the ability to print electronics and sensors directly within a 3Dprint, like the Voxel8 printer, for example, hitting the market this year.
Similarly, developments in 3D printing glass, ceramics and even metals will greatly expand upon the potential for applications in the home.
A clear example of how the role of 3D printers in the home could affect our day-to-day lives is the ability to print everyday objects on demand. Take a commonly used home object that is owned purely for its functional benefits, like a kitchen knife. We own this knife to access its functional benefits at any given time, for example, when we have dinner. We don’t necessarily want to own the knife, we want access to the ability to cut something.
Using a, currently imaginary, 3D printer that could print (and dispose) a functional knife on demand, we would never need to own such a knife again. We simply print it when needed and dispose of it when done. Ultimately, this is where the true digitalization of products comes into view, a powerful notion that has the potential to redefine materialism altogether. We may not be there yet, but seeing its potential, it becomes easier to imagine the role of a 3Dprinter in every home.
Similar reasoning holds true for 3D printed edibles. We’re already living a future consisting of smartwatches that can track our vitals. Sending that data to a food-based 3D printer would allow the machine to prepare the optimal meal or nutritional supplements for each individual throughout the day. Who wouldn’t want to replace the microwave in their kitchen with a new appliance that was capable of producing meals near-instantly, personally compiled from fresh ingredients?
Looking forward, the potential of home 3D printing is tremendous, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s to come. With this in mind, the methods for moving forward — like the evolution of computers — are still fuzzy and unclear. Looking at the current state of technology, I do not foresee the need for a 3D printer in every home at this time, or even in the near future. The big question is, will I be as wrong as Mr. Olson was?
What will be the best 3D Printers in 2016? We have lined up 3D printing industry experts to come up with the top 5 3D printers that will beat the competition! Check out our full guide and get a head start today!
What makes it special?
Besides the Tiko 3D, BigBox will be the consumer 3D printer to watch in 2016. That’s mainly because of E3D team that helped developing it. E3D is the hotend producer for consumer printers, which is why most of the manufacturers will stop developing their own hotends over time and use theirs.
What will it cost?
Around $740 for the single extruder version, $890 for the pro version and $1050 for the dual extrusion version. Maybe in 2016 we will see a new pricing as rumors suggest, but we will need to wait and see.
When will it be available?
According th the E3D team, shipping will start in December 2015 and will stretch into January 2016. They are already accepting pre-orders for the BigBox from people who missed the Kickstarter campaing.
Looks like they are beating the TIKO3D team that just announced that their Tiko 3D printer will probably not be shipped before Christmas 2015 (but E3D only has to build about 450 devices, while TIKO3D will be manufacturing 16,000 Tikos).
The BigBox is a 3D Printer that can combine a huge build volume, the best hotend available with a huge community of capable 3D printing experts. Plus it’s open source so you will find mods, fixes and updates for it as soon as it’s on the market.
What makes it special?
The Ember is a high resolution SLA 3D Printer with a mission to rule 2016. Autodesks goal is to create a whole 3D printing platform called “Autodesk Spark 3D” around it. With an open design, open materials, and open software, Ember is designed to advance the 3D printing industry.
What will it cost?
In the Ember webshop the printer costs $5,995. So it’s definitely aiming at professionals.
When will it be available?
It’s available; you can purchase it directly from Autodesk. Shipping time is around 4 to 6 weeks (this has not changed since August).
All3DP reviewed the Ember a while ago. With the open source Ecosystem, it has the potential to alter the SLA 3D printing world. Especially, if someone takes the recipe of the resin and produces cheaper resin. The high quality of the printer and Autodesk’s huge collection of compatible software makes it a very attractive machine for pros.
What makes it special?
Its size. The build volume of BigRep is roughly a cubic meter (1,100 x 980 x 1,050 mm) which makes it the biggest 3D printer in 2016 so far. You can print a whole chair with that (which is exactly what BigRep did).
What will it cost?
Around $39.000 which is crazy expensive. With this price tag, it won’t make it to your home. We can’t see a lot of people throwing that much money on a 3D printer just for hobby, but it will probably lure some industrial / professional use in 2016.
When will it be available?
BigRep released version 3 in summer 2016. The printer is available. But is produced on demand – you will get a price quote and delivery date when you contact them through their website. If you want to get one of the top 3D printers in 2016, we suggest you don’t wait too long!
There are countless FDM 3D Printers with a relatively small printbed. BigRep is here to fix that. It’s sheer build volume will (hopefully) spark the imagination of makers, designers, and people that have hesitated to buy a 3D printer in 2016 because “these are only useful for toys”. This printer is capable of creating huge objects in just one go.
Definitely one of the 3D Printers to watch in 2016.
What makes it special?
Price, size, customizability. The size of the reservoir. Plus you can exchange the print tank to whatever container you want. The printer itself is super silent.
What will it cost?
Just $100. Yes, that’s right, one of the best 3D printers in 2016 will cost you only 100 bucks. I know, it’s crazy and you will probably think, wait a minute, this is too good to be true. But that’s exactly the case with Peachy Printer, a test will prove it to you.
When will it be available?
In summer, they announced they would ship in October 2015. By the end of October, they said “we won’t be able to start shipping sometime in December, provided no other issues arise”. We hope that we can set our hands in this fine 3D printer in early 2016 and start playing around. Can’t wait!
The Peachy is like the Ember’s cute, affordable brother. But don’t let the price tag fool you, the Peachy includes a lot of smart engineering. It’s not only one of the cheapest 3D printers produced so far, it’s also the best 3D printer in 2016 in terms of flexibility, durability and imagination.
What makes it special?
Besides being a very reliable and fast Delta 3D Printer, manufacturer PowerWASP also offers a fluid-dense Extrusion system for clay (or likewise materials).
What will it cost?
About $2,500. Not exactly a steal, but if you want to print ceramics, that’s what you have to pay.
When will it be available?
It’s available at the PowerWASP Store now and has a four week delivery time. So you can order it in time for Christmas and make a great start in 2016 using one of the best 3D printers in the market.
The DeltaWASP is not the most affordable 3D Printer. But WASP has a good track record of delivering high-quality products. Also, it has a widespread distribution network including good support. The fluid-dense extruder is a promising alternative for those who want to experiment without too much of a hassle. We’re really looking forward to what WASP will come up with the next versions.
What’s your take on the best 3D printer in 2016? Are you planning to get into 3D printing for the first time in 2016? Let us hear your thoughts, we love to receive feedback!
When 3D printing is put in good use, we see some awesome tech that can really make a difference. Enter 3D-Printed Pawsthetics for Pets. Some of us, four-legged friends included, hit some bad luck once in a while. Some have it harder than others. A good friend of mine, TurboRoo, has an interesting story to share and a new campaign to help others in his situation.
Turbo was brought into a vet in 2014 to give up for adoption. He was 4 weeks old and was born without his front legs. Luckily, he was adopted by the awesome Ashley and Ray. Watching Turbo try to get around without his front legs troubled them so they built him a little cart out of toy parts. Turbo got lots of press and then an aerospace engineer in San Diego tried to help out with his magical 3D printer. He made him a little cart, turning Turbo into TurboRoo, the first-ever puppy to get 3D-printed wheels.
The couple that adopted TurboRoo has continued to tinker around with 3D printing, along with the 3D printing store in Denver, and announced a project called “Pawsthetics” and they want to help all different kinds of animals who could benefit from 3D-printed parts.
Since this is a somewhat expensive space to jump into, they’re trying to get $50,000 with their Indiegogo campaign, and you can give any amount you want.
Here’s how they plan to spend the money for their already-booming business:
We are asking for $50,000. This cost would cover projects, designing, and the end result the prosthetics themselves. We will also take a portion of this to set-up an ongoing fund to help pet owners receive these prosthetics in the future. We have several projects ready to be designed.
-3 Legged Dog cart.
-Small animal versions. (Genie pig, bunny, lizard etc.)
-Leg braces. (ACL & front leg stability)
-Wound covers. (Preventing the animal from worsening a wound by chewing, scratching or disrupting the wound, while also allowing air to reach the wound.)
The possibilities are endless. We receive 1-2 new requests a week, where owners would love to create something to help their animal but do not have the resources.
The little friends in our lives need your help, too! It’s great to see technology used for something awesome like this. Happy Thanksgiving.