Category Archives: 3D Printing


Carbon3D Printer Analysis

This morning, a new 3D printing company (Carbon3D) won the marketing lottery, by appearing in a story in the Washington Post, and then being featured pretty much everywhere possible online. They were tweeted hundreds of times.

While I trust that they really are doing something different, the overall technology isn’t new…it is a variation on stereolithography,  which predates fused deposition modeling (what most library 3d printers are using) as a technology. It’s not even the first consumer level stereolithographic printer! The Form 1 ( has been out for a couple of years now, and at least one library (Darien) has one in operation.

In order to figure out what it was that they were doing differently, I had to read their paper that was published yesterday in Science. Unsurprisingly, WaPo got a lot of the tech wrong, or at the very least wrote it in such a way that it is very confused. Take this section:

“To create an object, CLIP projects specific bursts of light and oxygen. Light hardens the resin, and oxygen keeps it from hardening. By controlling light and oxygen exposure in tandem, intricate shapes and latices can be made in one piece instead of the many layers of material that usually make up a 3D printed object.”

“Bursts of oxygen”? You can’t “project” oxygen into a liquid like you can a laser. And “instead of the many layers” is also raising red flags. There may not be distinct layers in the same way as FDM printing, but there must be some form of progressive building.

What is actually going on is that they are, indeed, using a UV projector to selectively harden a photosensitive resin. What is different about their approach is that they are projecting through a membrane that is selectively oxygen permeable, which allows for a “dead zone” of resin that can’t harden (due to the oxygen level), above which the UV sensitivity kicks in and the resin hardens. They call this process “continuous liquid interface production technology” or CLIP.

The paper doesn’t say it outright, but knowing the technology, I’m guessing that their hardening process is a continuous build. Rather than a laser-based traditional resin printer, they are using a projector, which I can imagine is more like a video, continuously painting the surface to be hardened. It would be more like pulling sugar, where the liquid becomes solid as you lengthen it, and there would be no layers per se, but more of a crystalline lattice. This would account for the smoothness of the prints. It is also, to be fair, a complete guess on my part.

This change in the traditional stereolithography process apparently gives them a huge increase in speed, which is the key differentiator here. They appear to be able to print objects very, very fast. It also looks like they have the cash to research and develop it commercially, with both Silver Lake and Sequoia as backers.

So what does this mean for libraries? Honestly, not much for the moment. This particular technology could be very inexpensive to make…or, given the proprietary nature of the membrane and resin, it could be ridiculously expensive. The company hasn’t announced any pricing or even availability, so we really have no idea when it might be available. When it is, I’ll revisit and see what I think for libraries. For now, this is interesting, but just a news item.

CES 2015 MegaPost

One last CES 2015 post, collecting the video coverage I did in one place so that you can watch them all at once if you so please. I don’t recommend consumption of video in parallel, though…generally speaking, it’s best consumed serially.

Here’s all five of my CES2015 videos for your viewing pleasure:

CES2015 Preview

CES 2015 Unveiled

CES 2015 Press Day

CES 2015 3D Printers

CES 2015 Best & Worst Wrap Up

Thanks one last time to Springshare for sponsoring my CES2015 coverage. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform

CES 2015 – 3D printers

I spent the first day of the exhibit hall opening working to see all the 3D printers that I could, and that turned out to be basically an all-day affair. This year CES isolated all of the 3D printers together at the Sands convention center, which turned out to be great…they were all together, and it was easy to compare sizes and capabilities. Check the video for some visuals and commentary on the ones that I paid the most attention to, but here’s the basic rundown for libraries.

There is yet another questionable audio portion in this video where my evil microphone comes back into play. Please forgive me, and know that I will be burning said microphone on the alter of better audio quality as soon as I am able. 

My number one choice for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer is the Lulzbot Mini from Aleph Objects. Released officially here at CES2015, the Mini will be shipping this month for $1350, and comes preassembled and can be ready to print just minutes after taking it out of the box.

I have been continually impressed with the quality of work that Lulzbot is doing, and I personally have one of their larger Taz printers (the Taz 2) that I have been running for over a year now with almost zero problems. But most importantly for libraries, Lulzbot is a dedicated Open Hardware company, which means that you will never be locked into proprietary parts or software to run your printer. If you need to repair a part, everything is documented and can be sourced from non-Lulzbot sources if needed.

Perhaps obviously I am biased towards open hardware, but I think that it is keeping with the spirit of the Library to support open information in all its forms. My older recommendations for printers included Makerbot…until they started locking down their devices to the point where now they are having serious issues with their newest printers, and customers have no recourse.

I have two other recommendations for libraries that are looking at buying a 3D printer in the next year. The first I mentioned briefly on one of my earlier reports, Ultimaker and their new range of small, medium, and large printers. Also a champion of Open Hardware design, Ultimaker provides all of the files and schematics for their printers online for free. I don’t think any library would go wrong choosing one of these printers for their Maker Space.

Finally, the third in my recommendations for libraries looking for something more interesting, even at the entry level, for 3D printing is any of the products from SeeMeCNC and their line of Delta printers. A departure from the cartesian printers that nearly everyone else makes, Delta-style printers are really eye catching and would be a great addition to a library Maker Space. And with their newest mini-delta, the Eris, SeeMeCNC has hit a very attractive price point for libraries, only $599.

Lots more type of stereolithographic printers as well…these are the 3D printers that use resin-based printing rather than the typical melted plastic that you find in the printers mentioned above. Take a look at the video for shots of the Form1, the Old World Labs printers, and more.

By far the most interesting new type of printer that I got to see was the Voxel8, a printer that’s designed to print in both plastic and conductive ink simultaneously, enabling the 3D routing of conductive structures and circuitry inside the plastic being printed around it. Watch the video to see more about them.

CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform

CES 2015 Press Day

The day before the actual conference exhibits and such open at CES is Press Day. Effectively, it’s a day full of large press conferences that require standing in line to hear the big announcements from all the major players at CES: Samsung, HTC, Panasonic, and such. The evening of Press Day, however, has one of the better press events that happens at the same time as CES every year, Pepcom’s Digital Experience. This report is a wrap up of what I saw at press day, which includes new 3D printers from Ultimaker (one of my favorite 3D printer manufacturers, along with Lulzbot and SeeMeCNC, both of whom I’ll report on as part of tomorrow’s coverage), a handful of drones, and an interesting robotics platform that I think could be useful for library programming with kids and young adults.

I apologize for the audio quality, especially during the first part of the video. I’m not sure exactly what happened other than my microphone really didn’t like some of the ambient sounds in the room. I promise, it gets better.

CES 2015 coverage sponsored by Springshare. If your library needs a solution for desk scheduling, research guides, or room booking, check out their LibApp platform

Creative Commons NC clause and 3D printing

I was browsing through some 3D printing files today, STLs that both I produced and were produced by others. For example, I designed and uploaded a 3D case for a LibraryBox that others have downloaded and printed. It is CC licensed, specifically CC BY-NC. I was looking at other STL files that had a CC NC license applied to them, and it made me think what that NC is really protecting.

Obviously, at the very least, the license prevents others from selling the STL files. Does it, however, prevent someone from using the files to create the physical object (that is, using a 3D printer to print the box itself out) and then selling the object? My instinct says yes, as the physical object is an instantiation of the digital file. But let’s scale the example up…what if someone built a house based on CC NC licensed plans? Could they ever legally sell the house?

This is purely theoretical. To my knowledge, no one is selling my designs, and I’m not planning to sell anyone else’s. But I am curious where the line between licensing a digital file and the resultant legal implications of the physical instantiation of that file might be.

The only case and real discussion I can find online is this case that was written up by Make, US Legal Lessons from Canada’s First STL IP Infringement Case. The discussion there indicates that Make’s author, Michael Weinberg, doesn’t believe that, once printed, there is any protection for a utilitarian object under copyright law (and since that’s what underpins Creative Commons, nothing there either).

Anyone want to weigh in on this?

3D Printers for Libraries

I spent yesterday hanging out at the GigTank Demo Day, listening to 3D printing startups pitch their ideas and companies at investors. It was a fantastic event, as is normal for things that the Company Lab is running, and I had a good time listening to the excitement around 3D printing as a technology.

It made me want to look back and see how long I’ve been following this technology, and I was dumbfounded to discover that the first mention of 3D printing on this very blog was in 2006. In October of 2006 I posted about a company called Fabjectory that was way ahead of the curve in providing 3D printing as a service for people. Then, not quite a year later I held the first 3D printed object that I’d ever touched, and it happened to be a print of myself as a Nintendo Mii. That was in August of 2007!

In 2011 I was asked to record a video by the LITA Top Tech Trends committee as an experiment for doing some information updates on technology between ALA Annual and Midwinter, and the trend I pointed to was 3D printing.

There’s a lot more that I’ve written over the years, ranging from my interviews with Bre Pettis (CEO of Makerbot Industries) about libraries and 3D printing to reporting last year for American Libraries on the 3D printing news from CES 2014.

3D Printers for Libraries

All this time and interest in the technology is coming to head in the publication of a new Library Technology Report that I have written on 3D printing, called 3D Printers for Libraries. In it I explain all of the varieties of 3D printing and 3D printers, from the inexpensive fused-deposition printers that most libraries are installing to the highest end Electron Beam Melting printers that are used to produce medical-grade implants. I go through the pros and cons of a variety of manufacturers, and make suggestions for libraries who are just getting started in offering 3D printing as a service.

If your library is looking at starting to offer 3D printing, this is a good reference work to help you make some decisions about types of printers and pitfalls and problems you may see with them. If your library would like some help in making decisions like this, or in figuring out how  to offer 3D printing to your patrons, feel free to contact me (griffey at or @griffey on Twitter). I’d love to help you get to a place where your staff is confident in offering 3D printing as a new technology offering from your library.

CES 2014 and American Libraries

Once again I will be venturing forth in the first week of the new year in order to try and wrap my head around the largest consumer electronics convention in the world: CES 2104. Last year I tried a sort of crowd-funded coverage model, but this year I was approached by American Libraries to cover it for them! That means this year you’ll be getting my take on the newest tech over at the American Libraries Scoop blog, as well as here on Pattern Recognition. For anything that I think is of interest to libraries, I’ll be doing some video, photos, and write ups over on The Scoop, and then general tech stuff will be folded in here at PatRec. I’ll do some cross-linking so that people don’t miss anything, though. If you’d like to see the sort of coverage I’ve done in the past, you can take a look at the archives.

Here’s the bit where you can help! If you have any particular tech you’d like me to take a special look at, or company that you’d like some more info about…really, anything you’d like to know more about, let me know! You can leave a comment here on the post, or follow me on Twitter (@griffey) and let me know there. I’ll be tweeting pretty aggressively from CES, so it’ll be easy to follow along with what I’m seeing.

Let me know what you’d like to hear about, and I’ll do my best to find some information and share it.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013This past Saturday, I and Bo Baker represented the UTC Library by taking part in the 2013 Chattanooga Maker Day. Held on the 4th Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, this event was the first in what I hope to be many examples of the awesome tech potential and talent found in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013The theme of the day was a “3D Throwdown”, with Makers bringing their 3D printers and printed objects, setting up demos of 3D design, local businesses that were related to 3D technology doing demos and answering questions…it was like a mini-Maker Faire just for 3D printing. And the turnout of people was incredible. From 11am until 4pm when we closed up, it was a non-stop parade of people, kids and parents and grandparents, all who came out to ask questions and see how this tech works.

I will say, from my perspective, the most amazing moments at the event were the kids who were just wide-eyed at the objects these printers could create. The printers themselves whirring and beeping and generally sounding like droids from Star Wars made the kids aware of a part of their future they didn’t know existed, and it was incredible to see their mind light up with the possibilities.

As far as MPOW, we had dozens of UTC students come through, all of them with the same two exclamations on their lips. First was “You guys are from _the Library_?” and second “The Library is gonna have _this_ for us to use? NO WAY!”. It was a great way to show off the direction that the library is taking, moving into the creative spaces that are so ripe and ready to bloom. We’re still 9 months from opening the new building, but I’m so excited about what that space is going to enable us to do with and for our patrons.

Chattanooga Maker Day 2013But Maker Day was about more than just our patrons. It was about showing people the potential of Chattanooga in this new manufacturing space. It was about showing them the building blocks for the future of the community. Chattanooga has The Gig, it has incredibly talented people, and it has a chance to be one of the great technology hubs of the United States. We just have to put all the pieces together the right way, and the groups that put on Maker Day (the Public Library, Co.Lab, and many others) are printing those pieces of our future.

Makerbot CES 2013 Announcements

Bre Pettis with Makerbot Replicator 2XSome great news from Makerbot Industries today at CES 2013. Everyone’s favorite 3D printing company had three big announcements earlier today,and I was lucky enough to get to speak with Bre Pettis again (video on the way).

First up was the new hardware, the Makerbot Replicator 2X. An updated version of the Makerbot Replicator 2 that was announced late in 2012, now optimized for ABS plastic printing with an enclosed build area, heated build plate, dual extrusion, and a newly-redesigned build plate that Makerbot promises is thicker, flatter, and easier to maintain than ever. The original Replicator 2 was optimized for PLA plastic, a much more forgiving and easier to work with material. But serious hobbyists were really disappointed in the lack of ABS support, and it looks like the 2X is Makerbot’s answer. It’s coming out of the gate at $2799, available to order now.

The second announcement was an update to their new printing software, Makerware. The update will include support for dual extrusion in the layout process, enabling users to place multiple objects on the virtual build plate and choose the color for each on the fly.

The third announcement is one of the most interesting for libraries, I think. Makerbot’s online resource for printable objects, Thingiverse, has been updated to include an API. The Thingiverse API comes complete with a demo app, the Makerbot Customizer, a webapp that allows for easy, on the fly, in the browser altering of existing 3D objects. Very exciting stuff can be done with this moving forward, and I’m really interested to see how it might be used.

Making things

It has been far too long since I posted here, but it’s been a very busy month. I’ve been busy working on an update of LibraryBox, making it fast, more stable, and most importantly, far easier to install. The code for LibraryBox v1.5 is on Github, and the installation instructions are forthcoming. One of the reasons that I’ve not published the current set of installation instructions is that I am working on a feature for Make Magazine on LibraryBox, and I want to ensure that they are as thorough as possible before they go to them, and up on the LibraryBox site.

I’ve also been playing around a bit with a MakerBot Replicator that we purchased at MPOW, figuring out its idiosyncrasies. Part of that process has been finding the easiest way to do simple object creation, so in that attempt, I designed a box to hold your LibraryBox:

You can edit one for yourself, or download and print. It’s also in place over at Thingiverse, if you want to download or comment on it there.

So the silence here isn’t to be taken for inactivity. :-) A new version of LibraryBox, an article for Make, and my first object on Thingiverse counts as a pretty good month.