Each year at Shapeways, we like to do a roundup of amazing accomplishments in the rapidly evolving 3D Printing world, often powered by your innovations and creativity. We’ve been digging in and must admit, 2013 was quite the year!
To date, we’ve 3D Printed 2.2 million products — that’s 61,000 boxes worth of Tic Tacs! We are so proud to have 13,500 Shapeways shops...and counting (a growth of 75% from 2012). And the number of people creating products on Shapeways has doubled in the past year.
The 3D printing industry as a whole has also experienced incredible growth. We’re seeing more retailers, like our friends at UPS, offer in-store 3D printing. The price of 3D printers for the home and office continues to drop. And 3D printing is constantly making stock market headlines.
We couldn’t make such strides without wildly imaginative, creative, thoughtful, and fearless people like you, our community, who continue to upload nearly 100,000 new products per month. You help us push the limits of what’s possible to 3D Print, creating products from gorgeous to quirky to functional, and continue to wow us with how you use new materials.
It’s a beautiful world when anyone can create and get what they want, not just what’s available in stores.
Check out our Slideshare for 3D printing trends, stats & more of our exciting year in review.
In a recent interview for Dezeen, architect, industrial designer and artist, Ron Arad stated that 3D Printing is abused by designers, in much the same way as musicians used synthesizers in the past.
"Synthesisers were abused completely and so is this technology we're talking about" Ron Arad
Now while this statement may have have an element of truth, it is worth exploring the comparison in the context of Ron's position in the design world, and what this concept opens up.
First, let's compare the 3D printer and the synthesizer.
The first analogue synthesizers made it possible for one instrument to make a massive range of sounds. Professional musicians used these expensive synthesizers to emulate existing instruments in a recording studio and on stage, to broaden their palette of available sounds, whilst only needing to know how to play the keyboard, not strings, woodwind, brass, etc. At the same time some more experimental musicians started to experiment with the synthesizers to make sounds that were otherwise impossible, tweaking resonant filters and using effects to make sounds that were unique to the synthesizer.
The first 3D Printers (or rapid prototyping machines) made it possible to make a massive range of shapes. Engineers and designers used these expensive 3D printers to emulate products quickly in their studios and workshops, to test parts before manufacturing. For many years this remained the case, the 3D prints were expensive and only used to emulate other materials and processes.
The manufacturing landscape has changed massively in the past sixty years, evolving from hand crafted products to becoming one of the heavyweights of mass manufacturing nations churning out a large percentage of the products in the world today, from children's toys to high tech devices. Many of those high tech devices are manufactured by Foxconn using advanced technologies but according to Foxconn chief 3D printing is just a gimmick.
“3D printing is a gimmick,” Gou said. “If it really is that good, then I’ll write my surname ‘Gou’ backwards [from now on].”
Gou (or Oug as he will soon be known) goes on to state that the inability to 3D print multi materials and leather(?) is what he sees as a barrier to the mass adoption of 3D printing for manufacturing. While that may be the case for industrial 3D printers now, research is currently being undertaken to make both multi material, (and leather) 3D printing a reality in the near future. Foxconn have been using 3D printing for the past 30 years though it was not stated in what capacity.
At the same time The Asian Manufacturing Association in mainland China announced its plans in May to invest 200 million yuan in building 3D printing manufacturing centres across the country and the Dalian University has built the world's largest laser 3D printer while Panasonic are already using 3D printing as part of the process to manufacture consumer items such as their 3D TV (I know) and also plan to continue to use 3D printing in consumer products to shorten the manufacturing lead time while reducing the need stock of semi-finished products.
This on demand manufacturing, reducing the need for inventory and giving the ability to quickly iterate and improve a product is a massive advantage that Mr. Gou/Oug will soon adopt, or see his competitors in China and the rest of the world pass him by. Multi-material 3D printing is a technical barrier that will be overcome, and perhaps surpassed with processes far more advanced such as self assembling materials that will make current mass manufacturing techniques look like Neolithic masonry.
Mataerial by Petr Novikov, Saša Joki?, Joris Laarman Studio and IAAC is a 3D printing robot that instead of building an object layer by layer, draws forms from any surface out into thin air.
Working in the same manner as the "3D printing pen" except instead of your shaky hand trying to make a recognizable shape from an ooze of hot plastic cooled by a fan, this process uses two thermosetting polymers which set when combined by a precision robot actually 3D Printing in space. The team also state that CMYK colors can/could be combined in the same manner to create full color 3D printing using the same method. The same process could of course be used at a much smaller scale and theoretically multiple robots could 3D print different materials simultaneously onto any surface such as a conductive material and a non conductive material to create electrical pathways. This is definitely a technology to watch and hopefully their patent application is not so restrictive as to restrict its potential.
Mataerial is the result of the collaborative research between Petr Novikov, Saša Joki? from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and Joris Laarman Studio. IAAC tutors representing Open Thesis Fabrication Program provided their advice and professional expertise. During the course of the research we developed a brand new digital fabrication method and a working prototype that can open a door to a number of practical applications. The method that we call Anti-gravity Object Modeling has a patent-pending status.
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.
I haven't been able
to find any in stores, and it seems mind-numbingly obvious that this is
what people really want on their tree. A limited time offer, this model
is available THIS YEAR ONLY. A perfect, unique gift for zombie and tech
Digitally sculpted from scratch, this is not a modification of any
We share loads of images of 3D prints and our 3D printers, but here is a peak at some of the machines behind the scenes at our production facility in NYC.
We are continuously installing new machines both our production facilities in New York City and Eindhoven. We are hiring super talented people to run the 3D printers, sort and ship your 3D prints around the world. Take a look at our jobs page if you want to smell the magic of sintered Nylon and get to see some of the amazing prints that come through our production line every day.
Check out some other Shapeways blog posts about our manufacturing facilities.
Why spend hours in painstaking, meticulous labor when you can simply 3D print a ship in a bottle? using Objet Connex 3D printer's ability to print two separate material types in one pass makes it possible to print an opaque object within a clear object...
What would YOU do if you could 3D print in a clear material such as this?
People often describe the FDM (fused deposition modeling) process used by most desktop 3D printers as 'like a hot glue gun extruding plastic'. Well, check out this video of a DIY hot glue gun 3D printer.
Who wants glue to be the next 3D printed material on Shapeways?
Mobile printing at its most accessible...on the street corner between the hot dog guy & the mime. Unfold Design Studio (also known for their 3d printed ceramics) follows up their orignal Kiosk project with a new & improved verison...Kiosk 2.0. They state "Kiosk is a project that explores a near future scenario in which digital fabricators are so ubiquitous, that we see them on street corners, just like fast food today sold in NY style mobile food stalls." The mobile printing station features a Bits to Bytes FDM printer, multiple filament spools, & an onboard scanner all mounted to a sweet ride with an umbrella.
They ask "How does this scenario challenge our perception of authorship, originality, design, what the role of the designer when goods are moved around in the form of digital blueprints and appropriated in ways beyond our control?" These are good questions to be asking as we move forward at the quickening pace of the 3d printed future.
Many of the levels of backing are already sold out but there are a few machines left starting at $2,699 or for $10,000 you can get a 3D Printer, attend a private dinner and get an invitation to the launch party.
You may have seen from yesterday's blogposts that we were honored to have Mayor Bloomberg cut the ribbon at the groundbreaking of the Shapeways Factory of the Future, with 3D Printed Scissors, of course.
We modified the design ever so slightly, introducing a slight curve in the blade to compensate for the 0.6mm gap that ensured the moving parts did not sinter together but there was still an easy shearing motion between the two blades. Then without further testing (yikes) we put the design on top of the build so that Mayor Bloomberg could take the scissors from the powder, clean them off and cut the ribbon.
Here you can see the progress with Mayor Bloomberg looking a little surprised that they worked perfectly straight out of the 3D Printer while Peter and Marleen look on relieved/joyous. It was a fantastic event and a massive thanks go out to Mayor Bloomberg and all elected official and press (including Betabeat and Gizmodo who gave the scissors some love) who attended along with the entire Shapeways team for making it happen, especially Carine and Elisa who spent HOURS in preparation....