When a small part for Shapeways community member Mitagaki's Panasonic Bread maker broke he looked everywhere for a replacement part. The manufacturer no longer supported the model so what was a $5 replacement part became unobtainable and the $200 appliance was rendered worthless.
Rather than throwing the entire appliance away, Mitagaki 3D modeled a copy of the broken ceramic part and then 3D printed it in ceramics with Shapeways.
The Desktop Factory Competition launched in June 2012 challenged makers to design a cheap, open source method to turn plastic pellets (which sell for $10 kg) into filament suitable for a desktop 3D printer (that currently sells for $50 per kg). 83 Year old inventor Hugh Lyman developed the Lyman Filament Extruder II which for under $250 in parts can take standard plastic ABS pellets and squeeze them into filament.
The fact that this device is released as open source hardware means that others can modify and improve the mechanism to lower the cost and increase the efficiency, just as we have seen with the open source desktop 3D printers based on the RepRap.
Not only will this result in a massive reduction in the cost of raw 3D printing media, but it is also a very small step away from being able to grind and reuse failed 3D prints to feed into fresh new filament, or perhaps adding conductive media into the hopper to create filament suitable for making basic elctronic circuitry, or any type of tweak to customize the base material.
The speed of innovation in the open source 3D printing world is making many of the large industrial 3D printer manufacturers appear to be moving in slow motion. We are not seeing the same rate of innovation in machines nor materials and we at Shapeways would LOVE to have new materials to share, or have a way to drop the material cost by a factor of five or ten as we see made possible by innovations like the The Lyman Filament Extruder.
Congratulations to Hugh Lyman who scored a giant $40,000 cheque for his invention and the respect of thousands of makers around the world.
Anyone who owns a desktop 3D printer knows that sometimes you need to replace some of the components to optimize performance. In many cases you can simply 3D print a replacement part with your 3D printer which is an incredibly rewarding process of self sufficiency but when it is a critical component that stops the 3D printer from functioning properly it can quickly become frustrating dead end.
Shapeways community member Schlem discovered the extruder gears that came with his Printbot Kit were warped and his 3D printer was not functioning properly. Of course a non functioning 3D printer can not 3D print repair parts so he used Shapeways to 3D print his replacement parts in laser sintered Nylon. By using Shapeways to 3D print the parts for his 3D printer he now has a more durable, higher resolution part that will make his desktop 3D printer more accurate and reliable.
He also made it possible to make the 3D printer even more awesome by designing the Skulltruder, adding a little gothic bling to what is essentially an engineering project.
If you have any 3D parts to share on Shapeways, be sure to tag them '3D Printer' and the type of 3D printer they are for so others can easily find them and repair their 3D printer too.
We have just raised the bar for Silver 3D printing at Shapeways with the introduction of Premium Silver.
Premium Silver is our 3D printed Sterling Silver taken to the next level with an incredibly smooth, glossy surface to give your designs a truly professional finish. We will be offering Premium Silver for a six week trial until Tuesday May the 14th, during which we will assess the pricing and design rules. If you love this new finish as much as we already do, we will keep it as a permanent material option on Shapeways.