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    Barack Obama
    2013/06/30, USA

    Living Diary

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    Tag <3D Printer>

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    3D Printing - The Next Technical Revolution
    last edited 2012/07/25 15:03 (*)

    Forgive me calling it "next (technical) revolution", terms too often too hasty used, but sometimes a revolution comes and isn't so fast and only in retrospect the revolution is realized.

    Gutenberg in 1439 used "moveable type printing" - where each letter was composed on a grid and so the text was composed, page by page, and so was page for page printed and then the book was composed. It made information in printed form much easier to reproduce.

    Gutenberg Metal Moveable Type

    Printing in 1880's

    The invention of computer adapted Gutenberg's method, and this is why we read text on a screen, the letters are very moveable, even virtual. Printers on the other hand bridge the virtual world with the real world again, but it was like reversing an evolution - more paper was printed due to computers, no paperless office - also the question of authenticity hasn't been yet resolved: printed paper is hard to alter, whereas to alter a computer file is easy.

    3D Printed Form
    Anyway, the term "3D Printing" kind of is an understatement - it permits to manifest what is done virtual. 3D printers exist since decades, but they have been very costly and complicate to manufacture and use too. The last few years 3D printers have been developed which are able to print parts for themselves, replicate themselves partially - from there comes the term "Reprap " (replication rapid prototyper). Late 2011 and beginning of 2012 brought 3D printers as open hardware and open software at very low cost - plans and programs open and freely available, and the price range reached USD 300 with a printing volume of apprx. 20cm x 20cm x 20cm or 8" x 8" x 8", such as the Printrbot (a project which raised 830K USD):

    3D Printing Material: ABS (3mm Euro 25 / 1kg, different colors)
    What can you print depends on the material you can extrude and print out - for now: ABS (plastic, recycable), PLA (biodegredable), clay, plaster etc. essentially material which can be liquified and solidifies quickly at room temperature.

    Plastics such as ABS or PLA etc)


    Mixed colors

    With several extruders one is able to mixed colors or materials - yet not so much research in mixed material has been made yet (status 2012).


    Parts for another Reprap
    You can print some parts of a Reprap yourself, replicating the machine itself. Motors and electronics and some metal rods cannot be replicated with a Reprap yet, motors and rods could in the near future also replicated - perhaps even the microprocessors; the challenge are the mixed materials at tiny scale.

    Printrbot farm making parts for Printrbots

    A nice list of 3D printers gives you an up-to-date overview.

    Thingiverse provides an exchange node for models printable in 3D.

    A few interesting models:

    Micro Polyhedron Vertices

    Buckyballs - Molecular Models

    Standard Brio Tracks


    Minion (Tiny Robot)


    and a lot of toys, and small items (status July 2012), but I expect modular and sophisticated sets soon making 3D printing really useful.

    Designing Models


    Filabot focuses on recycle material and make it available as filament. It would imply we start to value material and abandon the idea of trash altogether by really re-using it again:
    • HDPE: (Milk Jugs, bottles, bottle caps, water pipes)
    • LDPE: (Trays, plastic wraps, slides)
    • PET: (Bottles)
    • ABS: (Luggage, water pipes, Lego's)
    • NYLON-101
    • PLA: (Packaging, organic-waste, bio-degradables)

    Building Larger Objects

    My personal interest are objects larger than the 20cm x 20cm x 20cm, which means, I focus on extendable designs - means, printing parts which can be assemblied into larger objects, ideally universially.

    Free Universal Construction Kit
    The Free Universal Construction Kit addresses this aspect and provides interoperability between 10+ popular construction toys, see the overview (PDF).

    Large Size Printing

    Large size printing is in its infancy (2012) but some experiments are underway, like this:

    Large scale printing

    To think out of the box, take a look this video, flight assemblied wall:

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