Disney Research has been on a serious roll with its 3D printing innovations and 3D printing patents. From high-res 3D printing processes, to replicating reflective properties onto 3D printed surfaces, to 3D printed wall-climbing robots, it seems as though Disney is looking to redefine how movie merchandise is made using 3D printing technology. But their latest study shows that they are also keen to bring 3D printing principles to other industries, for they have developed a new compiler that lets knitting machines behave like 3D printers and easily produce customized objects.
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 (http://formlabs.com/products/
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.
Here’s the best explanation of how Copyright and 3D printing overlap that I have seen online. Protip: the answer is, less than you thought.
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:
CES 2015 Unveiled
CES 2015 Press Day
CES 2015 3D Printers
CES 2015 Best & Worst Wrap Up
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 gmail.com 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.
Rabbit Proto makes plugins that easily integrate into your 3D printer, enabling it to print complex conductive traces within 3D designs. Your 3D printer can now print interactive prototypes with capacitive and conductive features.
via Rabbit Proto.