3D Print Show 2013 London – Part 2

New technologies

In the first part about the 3D Print Show 2013 held in London, we have described what the market is offering to consumers in terms of 3D printers and materials to be used with those. Today we explore the new technologies and services that are looking to the same target. It is always important to remember the difference between professional application of 3D printing and consumerist one. Professional application of 3D printing exists since 1980’s, when it was simply called Additive Manufacturing, and is currently used in several industrial and research sectors. The latter, the one which the fair has targeted, is taking advantage of the experience gained, making the process affordable, easier to setup and has brought the dimensions to office and home environment. It has often forgotten to say that the quality of printing it must not be compared and it can be easy to understand knowing the difference of prices: a professional machine is at least fifty times more expensive than a desktop 3D printer. However, new technologies implemented and services developed by professional users for consumers, are making this gap every year tinier.

Form 1 on Desk

1. Form 1 by FormLabs

Resin by FormLabs

2. Clear Resin to be used with the Form1

The best example comes from the Form1 made by FormLabs that is the first desktop 3D printer that works using Stereolitography (SLA) and not Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The material is a photopolymer resin that is specially formulated for the machine and it is available in translucent white and grey. The consumer 3D printers that works by FDM usually print thermoplastics, PLA (aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources) and ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) that requires machines with an heated build platform (HBP)that improves printing quality by helping to prevent warping. However, as we have seen in the previous article, other materials such as nylon, wood and flexible materials can be available for specific printers. Moreover, there are printers assembled with a double extruder (MakerBot Replicator 2X and it is possible to DIY on the Ultimaker Original) and a triple extruder on the CubeX. This means that they can print using two materials or the same material but in two or three colours. Printing in two materials can be useful for building object with one material, that in this case usually it is ABS and the support in another, that is PLA, in this way it is easier to isolate the object and it results of a better quality. The double and triple extruder allow, also, to print an object in two or three colours and with the availability of colours becoming huge and attractive is another improvement.

MakerBot Replicator2X

3. MakerBot Replicator 2X
4. CubeX by 3D Systems with Triple Extruder

Here is where 3D printing is different from 2D printing: if we have a black and white 2D printer we can obtain different scales of grey that is a mix of the two colours, in 3D printing it is not possible obtaining shades between colours. For having this, Mcor technologies has presented the paper 3D printing that allows to obtain full colour objects. The 3D printers are based on Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL) technology that uses ordinary A4 paper as the build material, creating photorealistic models. This means that the prototype is not only entirely built but also finishing off, cutting costs and time.

Mcor Technologies

5. Object printed by Mcor Technologies

Alongside improvement to 3D printers, other tools have been developed for facilitating the creation of objects by non professional users, in specific, the novelty of the year are 3D scanners. Despite, the industry is pushing the device as the creator of 3D (self) portrait, that will be replaced photography as ornaments on desks and shelves, there is a more pragmatic use: replicating common objects without the need to model them in 3D modelling softwares. MakerBot, again, caught the moment and has showcased his Digitizer. The scanning process has been simplified such as for a photocopy machine and the object can be seen in the his own software where it is also possible to edit the design.

All pictures and video are the property and copyright of their respective owners.

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