3D Printing is already here
Comparing the London 3D Print Show 2012 to the one held at the Design Business Center from 7th to 9th of this month, it can help to understand how consumer 3D printing is getting serious and it is already a real business. The amount of stands have more than doubled and most of those have been “brandized” with logos and colours of 3D printers manufacturers that from DIY workshops have become growing faster companies. The workshops & seminars program has been so fulfilled that have been run in five rooms with breaks of just 15 minutes from one to another. The visitors shifts from hackers and makers in funny t-shirts to newcomers and tie & suits business guys. Despite the sector are attracting entrepreneurs, talking to the exhibitors, the development of consumer 3D Printing is happening, and it will continue to do it, thanks to engaged communities born around most of the famous 3D printers where people share their knowledge and experience gained using and hacking the machines.
Indeed, is not only the different appearance of the fair that demonstrates the huge improvement, but are the exhibitors themselves that showed products that, probably, few has been thought to become available in just one year. The show presented all the latest innovations in all aspects of 3D Printing: manufacturers of desktop 3D printers, sellers of materials, new technologies available, services to the consumers, softwares built specifically for 3D printing, a showcases of artist productions and a catwalk for fashion designers that have been used 3D printing in their collections.
In this first blog post we cover the showcase of desktop 3D printers and materials.
Preamble: last month, here at Goosebumps Lab, we bought a desktop 3D printer, then we already analysed what the market is offering and it has been a delight confirm that the one we chose it was candidate to the Best Consumer Printer Award (we don’t want to unveil which one it is now, we’ll write soon about our process of choice and our first experiments!).
So, yes, the three Best Consumer Printer candidates were the Form1 by Formlabs that is the first one consumer 3d printer to use stereolitography, the MakerBot Replicator 2 that has been the winner and the Ultimaker Original. These three stand out from the others competitors each one in different specifics: the Form1 is introducing a technology that doesn’t show the typical building lines of layers on layers, the Replicator 2 is probably the most “ready to print” machine using addictive manufacturing with default setup having high quality and speed time. The Ultimaker Original can be bought as a kit or come already built and this means that some adjustament are required, however the possibility of using different softwares and customization of the extruder with the ability of the user can bring the quality of printing to the highest level of this kind of product. They presented also the Ultimaker 2 that it looks like more a consumer product and has a bigger build volume. Other manufacturers and resellers showcased their printers at the show and I noticed in specific two. One of the team Bee Very Creative, the Bee First that has the average specifics of printers but the shape remembers me a normal printer and despite the cost is still too high, that is probably the iconic object we will see on a desk along a laptop one day. Another nice product is the PowerWASP EVO built by the W.A.S.P. team. It is literally a “desktop workshop”: the 3D print extruder can be changed to a mill and carve wood, plexyglass aluminium and PCB. Not only they are experimenting a syringe extruder that will work with clay, silicone, adhesives, food gelatines and…chocolate.
Another market that is quickly developing is the one of material filaments. ColorFabb is selling filaments compatible with almost every consumer 3D printers and they tested everything with Ultimaker. They add PHA to PLA for better yield at break, also they have ColorFabb_XT is a special amorphous copolyester that results to be softer than PLA. In addition they are launching a wood fill that it is definitely another options to be tested for homeware objects. Luckily, they gave me samples of all of their materials and I am going to test them soon. D3D Innovation Ltd has developed, thanks to a Kickstarter project, Filalab, a machine that allows to produce filaments from raw pellets or, more interesting, recycling old objects made by PLA. Their promise is to save 80% of the cost of buying ready made filament.
Some pictures of printers and materials below.
Form1 by FormLabs
Objects printed by FormLabs
PowerWASP EVO with Syringe Extruder
Wood Fill by Colour Fabb
Ultimaker printing with Wood Fill by Colour Fabb