3D printing is hot

3D Printing Flies High now. Articles on three-dimensional printers are popping up everywhere these days. And nowadays there are many 3D printer products. Some are small enough to fit in a briefcase and others are large enough to print houses.

Everything you ever wanted to know about 3D printing article tells that 3D printing is having its “Macintosh moment,” declares Wired editor -in-chief Chris Anderson in cover story on the subject. 3D printers are now where the PC was 30 years ago. They are just becoming affordable and accessible to non-geeks, will be maybe able to democratize manufacturing the same way that PCs democratized publishing.

Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Identifies “Tipping Point” Technologies That Will Unlock Long-Awaited Technology Scenarios lists 3D Print It at Home as important topic. In this scenario, 3D printing allows consumers to print physical objects, such as toys or housewares, at home, just as they print digital photos today. Combined with 3D scanning, it may be possible to scan certain objects with a smartphone and print a near-duplicate. Analysts predict that 3D printing will take more than five years to mature beyond the niche market. Eventually, 3D printing will enable individuals to print just about anything from the comfort of their own homes.Slideshow: 3D Printers Make Prototypes Pop article tells that advances in performance, and the durability and range of materials used in additive manufacturing and stereolithography offerings, are enabling companies to produce highly durable prototypes and parts, while also cost-effectively churning out manufactured products in limited production runs.

3D printing can have implications to manufacturers of some expensive products. The Pirate Bay declares 3D printed “physibles” as the next frontier of piracy. Pirate Bay Launches 3D-Printed ‘Physibles’ Downloads. The idea is to have freely available designs for different products that you can print at home with your 3D printer. Here a video demonstrating 3D home printing in operation.

Shapeways is a marketplace and community that encourages the making and sharing of 3D-printed designs. 3D Printing Shapes Factory of the Future article tells that recently New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the Shapeways‘ Factory (filled with industrial-sized 3D printers) ribbon using a pair of 3D-printed scissors.

The Next Battle for Internet Freedom Could Be Over 3D Printing article tells up to date, 3D printing has primarily been used for rapid commercial prototyping largely because of its associated high costs. Now, companies such as MakerBot are selling 3D printers for under $2,000. Slideshow: 3D Printers Make Prototypes Pop article gives view a wide range of 3D printers, from half-million-dollar rapid prototyping systems to $1,000 home units. Cheapest 3D printers (with quite limited performance) now start from 500-1000 US dollars. It is rather expensive or inexpensive is how you view that.

RepRap Project is a cheap 3D printer that started huge 3D printing buzz. RepRap Project is an initiative to develop an open design 3D printer that can print most of its own components. RepRap (short for replicating rapid prototyper) uses a variant of fused deposition modeling, an additive manufacturing technique (The project calls it Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to avoid trademark issues around the “fused deposition modeling” term). It is almost like a small hot glue gun that melts special plastic is moved around to make the printout. I saw RepRap (Mendel) and Cupcake CNC 3D printers in operation at at Assembly Summer 2010.

There has been some time been trials to make 3D-Printed Circuit Boards. 3D Printers Will Build Circuit Boards ‘In Two Years’ article tells that printing actual electronics circuit boards is very close. Most of the assembly tools are already completely automated anyway.

3D printing can be used to prototype things like entire cars or planes. The makers of James Bond’s latest outing, Skyfall, cut a couple corners in production and used modern 3D printing techniques to fake the decimation of a classic 1960s Aston Martin DB5 (made1:3 scale replicas of the car for use in explosive scenes). The world’s first 3D printed racing car can pace at 140 km/h article tells that a group of 16 engineers named “Group T” has unveiled a racing car “Areion” that is competing in Formula Student 2012 challenge. It is described as the world’s first 3D printed race car. The Areion is not fully 3D printed but most of it is.

Student Engineers Design, Build, Fly ‘Printed’ Airplane article tells that when University of Virginia engineering students posted a YouTube video last spring of a plastic turbofan engine they had designed and built using 3-D printing technology, they didn’t expect it to lead to anything except some page views. But it lead to something bigger. 3-D Printing Enables UVA Student-Built Unmanned Plane article tells that in an effort that took four months and $2000, instead of the quarter million dollars and two years they estimate it would have using conventional design methods, a group of University of Virginia engineering students has built and flown an airplane of parts created on a 3-D printer. The plane is 6.5 feet in wingspan, and cruises at 45 mph.

3D printers can also print guns and synthetic chemical compounds (aka drugs). The potential policy implications are obvious. US Army Deploys 3D Printing Labs to Battlefield to print different things army needs. ‘Wiki Weapon Project’ Aims To Create A Gun Anyone Can 3D-Print At Home. If high-quality weapons can be printed by anyone with a 3D printer, and 3D printers are widely available, then law enforcement agencies will be forced to monitor what you’re printing in order to maintain current gun control laws.

Software Advances Do Their Part to Spur 3D Print Revolution article tells that much of the recent hype around 3D printing has been focused on the bevy of new, lower-cost printer models. Yet, significant improvements to content creation software on both the low and high end of the spectrum are also helping to advance the cause, making the technology more accessible and appealing to a broader audience. Slideshow: Content Creation Tools Push 3D Printing Mainstream article tells that there is still a sizeable bottleneck standing in the way of mainstream adoption of 3D printing: the easy to use software used to create the 3D content. Enter a new genre of low-cost (many even free like Tikercad) and easy-to-use 3D content creation tools. By putting the tools in reach, anyone with a compelling idea will be able to easily translate that concept into a physical working prototype without the baggage of full-blown CAD and without having to make the huge capital investments required for traditional manufacturing.

Finally when you have reached the end of the article there is time for some fun. Check out this 3D printing on Dilbert strip so see a creative use of 3D printing.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed PCB mill

    3D Printed components and other hardware to make a PCB routing machine, which inherently can do other things.

    PCB routing machine, with a software suite to create designs and control the steppers to make that design a real life thing. For funsies.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Prusa Introduces A Resin Printer at Maker Faire NY

    For one reason or another, the World Maker Faire in New York has become the preeminent place to launch 3D printers. MakerBot did it with the Thing-O-Matic way back when, and over the years we’ve seen some interesting new advances come out of Queens during one special weekend in September.

    Today Prusa Research announced their latest creation. It’s the resin printer you’ve all been waiting for. The Prusa SL1 is aiming to become the Prusa Mk 3 of the resin printer world: it’s a solid printer, it’s relatively cheap (kit price starts at $1299/€1299), and it produces prints that are at least as good as resin printers that cost three times as much.

    The tech inside the SL1 is about what you’d expect if you’ve been following resin printers for a while. The resin is activated by a bank of LEDs shining through a photomask, in this case a 5.5 inch, 1440p display. Everything is printed on a removable bed that can be transferred over to a separate ‘curing chamber’ after the print is done.

    Common problems with a masked SLA printer that uses LEDs and an LCD are the interface between the LCD and the resin, and the temperature of the display itself. Resin is not kind to LCD displays, and to remedy this problem, Prusa has included an FEP film on the bottom of the removable tank

    Introducing Original Prusa SL1 – Open Source SLA 3D Printer by Josef Prusa

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Prusa Unveils their own Line of PLA Filament

    There’s little debate that the Original Prusa i3 MK3 by Prusa Research is just about the best desktop 3D printer you can buy, at least in its price bracket. It consistently rates among the highest machines in terms of print quality and consistency, and offers cutting edge features thanks to its open source iterative development. Unless you’re trying to come in under a specific budget, you really can’t go wrong with a Prusa machine.

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D-Printing Interconnected Graphene Layers

    A new way to fabricate graphene at a higher resolution than before paves the way for a number of novel applications for the versatile material.

    Engineers from Virginia Tech and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a novel way to 3D print graphene at a resolution far greater than ever before. This achievement paves the way for graphene’s use in smaller objects and in more varied shapes than what was previously possible.

    For some time, researchers have been searching for efficient and inexpensive ways to fabricate graphene—a carbon-based material valued for its strength, light weight, and electrical conductivity. However, to date, they haven’t been able to develop the material at a size large enough to support some of the objects they seek to build with it, said Ryan Hensleigh, a macromolecular science and engineering Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. Hensleigh worked on the research as a student of Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Assemble Antennas with 3D Printing

    Three-dimensional printers working with plastic materials can create the foundations that are then spray-painted with metallic coatings to form high-frequency RF/microwave antennas.

    Certainly, design engineers have considered the possibility of printing different types of miniature RF/microwave antennas. However, they may have wondered about how the performance of these printed antennas might compare to traditionally manufactured antennas.

    Some trial-and-error is involved in the process of producing and characterizing these antennas, especially over such a wide frequency range, but the benefits of 3D printing can be dramatic.

    For example, commercially available standard gain horns are typically quite expensive, with price tags ranging from $500 to $1500 depending on frequency range. Once the expense of learning how to print RF/microwave antennas has passed, compare those prices to the cost of producing a 3D standard gain horn at microwave frequencies for about $1.

    The 2- to 40-GHz frequency range was chosen for antenna testing

    For metallization, shielding spray paints from MG Chemicals were selected for their ease of use and ready availability (even online from Amazon). The first test antenna was an X-band horn (8 to 12 GHz) with an easy-to-print 4-in. aperture. Two copies of the antenna were printed to evaluate two common shielding spray paints: “841 Super Shield Nickel” and “843AR Super Shield Silver Coated Copper.” Each copy of the antenna was given two coats of the shielding spray paint, with suitable drying time between coats.

    Datasheets for both shielding spray paints indicated impressive values for surface conductivities, and the resulting metallized horns provided attractive surface appearances

    Still, measurements showed that both antennas provided respectable directivity of about 15 dB with the expected beam widths of 30 deg.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Fully 3D Printed And Metalized Horn Antennas Are Shiny and Chrome

    We’ve seen our share of 3D printed antennas before, but none as well documented and professionally tested as [Glenn]’s 3D printed and metalized horn antennas. It certainly helps that [Glenn] is the principal engineer at an antenna testing company, with access to an RF anechoic chamber and other test equipment.


  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    An SLA-Printed Pogo Pin Programming Jig

    [Conor Patrick] is working on an upgrade to the U2F Zero 2-factor authentication token, and he faces exactly this problem of needing to program a lot of boards. His pogo pin jig is very nicely executed, and he’s taken us through his design and manufacture process for it.

    Starting with his PCB design in Eagle, he exported it to Fusion 360 in which he was able to create a jig to fit it. Into the jig model he placed the holes for his chosen pogo pins in the appropriate places, before printing it with an SLA 3D printer.

    3D printing a programming jig and embedding pogo pins

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    4D-Printed Ceramics: Adding a Time Dimension to Additive Manufacturing

    Ceramics are moving into the 4D printing realm for the first time with inks made from a special mixture of ceramics and polymers.

    Lu and his team envision a number of applications for their research. One is for electronic devices, as ceramic materials have better electromagnetic-signal transmission capabilities than metallic ones. Researchers believe that ceramic products will play a key role in the future manufacturing of electronic products—especially with the advent of 5G networks.

    The aerospace industry is another area in which 4D-printed ceramic materials can potentially be used, Lu said. “Since ceramic is a mechanically robust material that can tolerate high temperatures, the 4D-printed ceramic has high potential to be used as a propulsion component in the aerospace field,” he said.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Free E-Book: 3D Printing with Metals for Design Engineers, Explained

    Metal 3D printing is getting real. In this free e-book, we’ve gathered some guidelines for engineers on designing for 3D metals printing and how it differs both from traditional metals techniques like casting, as well as 3D printing with polymers.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Using 3D Printing to Blend Biology and Electronics

    Michael McAlpine is leading researchers at the University of Minnesota in the creation of 3D printing technology that can enmesh electronics into biological materials.

    Interfacing active devices with biology in 3D printing could impact a variety of fields, from regenerative bioelectronics and smart prosthetics to biomedical devices and human-machine interfaces. Researchers at the University of Minnesota are exploring 3D printing with biology from the molecular scale of DNA and proteins to the macroscopic scale of tissues and organs. The goal is to print three-dimensional biological material that is soft and stretchable as well as temperature sensitive.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    4D-Printed Ceramics: Adding a Time Dimension to Additive Manufacturing

    Ceramics are moving into the 4D printing realm for the first time with inks made from a special mixture of ceramics and polymers.

    For some materials, researchers have already moved beyond 3D printing to what’s being called 4D printing. In this process, time becomes the fourth dimension and objects can transform themselves over time when influenced by elements such as heat, mechanical force, or a magnetic field.

    Now, scientists in China have developed a novel ink that takes ceramics into this 4D printing realm for the first time, paving the way for new structural applications of the material—including for electronic devices and aerospace. Specifically, a team at City University of Hong Kong created a ceramic ink using a mixture of polymers and ceramic nanoparticles that can print ceramic precursors that are soft and can be stretched three times beyond their initial length.

    This malleability allows the material to be turned into complex shapes that weren’t previously possible with ceramics, such as origami folding, said Professor Lu Jian, chair professor of mechanical engineering at the university. “With the versatile shape-morphing capability of the printed ceramic precursors, its application can be huge,” he said in a news release by City University.

    Typically, ceramics are complex to cast and shape because of the material’s extremely high melting temperature, and existing 3D-printed ceramic precursors are typically difficult to deform, which has limited the production of ceramics with complex shapes. Through the work of Lu and his team, ceramic precursors could self-reshape using elastic energy stored inside the material that, when released, caused the transformation. After treating the precursors with heat, they turned into ceramics, he said. Researchers published a paper on their work in the journal Science Advances.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This Software Automates the Design of 3D-Printed Electronics Enclosures

    While consumer 3D printing has reached a level of user-friendliness sufficient for most tech-savvy people, 3D modeling the designs is still a difficult task.

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Researchers discover a new way to identify 3D printed guns

    Researchers at the University at Buffalo have found that 3D printers have fingerprints, essentially slight differences in design that can be used to identify prints. This means investigators can examine the layers of a 3D printed object and pinpoint exactly which machine produced the parts.

  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Researchers Develop 3D Part Inspection Method Using Gold Nanoparticles

    Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a non-destructive testing method for 3D printed parts that uses gold nanoparticles to visually identify defects, such as missing print layers that occur during the manufacturing process.

  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printed Bridge Goes Dutch

    If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you know there are plenty of canals and, therefore, plenty of bridges. Next year, a unique pedestrian bridge in the old city center will go into service. The stainless steel bridge will be 3D printed and also embed a number of sensors that will collect data that the printer — MX3D — and their partners Autodesk, the Alan Turing Institute, and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Studies, hope will help produce better 3D printed structures in the future. The bridge will cross the Oudezijds Achterburgwal which is near the city’s infamous red light district.


  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    New Part Day: ST’s New 3D Printer Motor Driver

    ST has released a new evaluation board for a stepper motor driver. It’ll plug right into your 3D printer, and if you’re looking for a chip to build a cheap 3D printer controller board around, this might be the one.

    The first popular driver for RepRap electronics was ‘the Pololu’, a stepper motor carrier board using Allegro’s A4988 driver. If you had a big heat sink, this driver could deliver 2 A per coil, operated between 8 and 35 V, and had microstep resolution down to 1/16th. Was it the best stepper driver around? No, but it was cheap

    The DRV8825 motor driver from TI followed next, with microstepping down to 1/32nd

    Then the wave of Trinamic drivers happened. The Trinamic TMC2100 was a silent stepper motor driver when running a motor at medium or low speeds.
    now in every Prusa i3, you’ll find a bunch of Trinamic drivers.

    ST’s new offering, the STSPIN820
    you should probably look at this new chip as an upgrade to the A4988, with much higher microstepping and slightly higher current handling.

    Compact evaluation board for STSPIN820 stepper motor driver

  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This 3D printer squirts out wet paper pulp

    Like a kid shooting spitballs, designer Beer Holthuis has figured out that sopping wet paper is the best material for making mischief. His 3D printer, a primitive RepRap clone that literally squirts out huge lines of paper pulp, is designed to allow artists and designers to create more sustainable 3D objects.

    According to 3DPrint.com, Holthuis was searching for material that wouldn’t create waste or increase plastic pollution. He settled on ground-up paper.

  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A 3D Printed Kinematic Camera Mount

    [Enginoor] is on a quest. He wants to get into the world of 3D printing, but isn’t content to run off little toys and trinkets. If he’s going to print something, he wants it to be something practical and ideally be something he couldn’t have made quickly and easily with more traditional methods. Accordingly, he’s come out the gate with a fairly strong showing: a magnetic Maxwell kinematic coupling camera mount.

    Magnetic Camera Mount

  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3D Printer Warning: Heating Plastic To High Temps is Not Healthy

    Other tools that heat up plastic also have this problem, as Gizmodo reported recently, and it turns out that the plastic particles aren’t just smelly, they’re toxic.

    The report released recently focuses on 3D printers which heat plastic of some form or other in order to make it malleable and form to the specifications of the print.

    The study found 200 different compounds that were emitted by the printers, some of which are known to be harmful, including several carcinogens. The worst of the emissions seem to be released when the prints are first initiated, but they are continuously released throuhgout the print session as well.

    New Study Details Toxic Particles Spewed by 3D Printers

    Researchers have that found that 3D printers spew tiny particles into the air as they operate, though the quantity and nature of these potentially toxic aerosols are poorly understood. A new study identifies a startling variety of these emissions, and the conditions under which they’re produced.

  20. Tomi Engdahl says:


    Autonvalmistaja Mercedes-Benz laajentaa 3D-tulostettavien varaosien saatavuutta. Hyötyajoneuvoihin eräitä osia on voinut tulostaa vuodesta 2016, ja nyt ovat vuorossa ovat ensimmäiset osat saksalaisvalmistajan klassikkomalleihin kuten 300 SL Coupé (W 198) -sporttiin.

  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Soft Silicone Pneumatics Are 3D-printed In A Tub Of Gel

    We’ve seen our fair share of soft silicone robots around here. Typically they are produced through a casting process, where molds are printed and then filled with liquid silicone to form the robot parts. These parts are subsequently removed from the molds and made to wiggle, grip, and swim through the use of pneumatic or hydraulic pumps and valves. MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab has found a way to print the parts directly instead, by extruding silicone, layer by layer, into a gel-filled tank.


  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Easily Deboss Notebooks with a 3D Printed Stamp

    While it’s arguably a bit closer to the “Arts & Crafts” region of the making spectrum upon which we don’t usually tread on account our l33t sense of superiority, we’ve got to admit that the quick and easy notebook customization demonstrated by [Sean Hodgins] is very compelling.

    Custom Embossed Notebooks using 3D Prints

  23. Bonnie says:

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