3D Printing: The Stories We Didn't Cover This Week — January 24

This week’s news stories we didn’t have time to cover run the spectrum of 3D printing heavy-hitters, from top industry leaders to the desktop geniuses who populate the 3D printing space. While industry leaders seek to cut production time and improve performance using innovative approaches, exceptional designs and 3D prints also emerge from diverse places and aspire to make great contributions that can also change lives (and make a little cash on the side, too).

Laser printing DNA for cheap tops the list of more outlandish advances, while we also saw more practical printed brain replicas, robots, racetracks, metal detectors, and new PLA filament to remind us of the creative spirit that drives 3D printing. Two other developments this week recognize exactly this spirit: the beginning of Science Channel’s new “All-American Makers” show and Singapore’s Centre for 3D Printing’s 2015 Competition, which wants to give you cash awards for your innovations in “Vintage Toys” and “Center Logo Design” categories. While industry giants speed up, makers (and doctors) are digging in and coming up with some great new 3D printed creations.

Boston Children’s Hospital Uses 3D Printed Models

We begin with uplifting medical news, as Boston Children’s Hospital has entered the 3D printing medical scene, and recently used one of their own 3D printers to aid a brain surgeon in a complex surgery to remove more than one ounce of a 16-year-old teen’s brain tissue. Boston Children’s Hospital has printed more than 170 models of blood vessels, ribbrain cages, skulls, spines, and in this case, brains. (It has one Stratasys printer that runs there ’round the clock to aid medical teams.) The models help the surgeons practice surgeries before the real thing and can be used to explain the procedures to loved ones. Boston Children’s Hospital reportedly will spend over $1.2 million on 3D printing related activities by the end of the year, and it also plans to study the effects that 3D printing can have on the medical field.

Unilever Uses Stratasys 3D Printer and Cuts Production Time by 40%

Speaking of Stratasys 3D printers, Unilever has recently announced that by using Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing technology to manufacture its consumer goods, the company — which owns Dove, Lipton, Ben & Jerry’s, Axe, Vaseline, Surf, Domestos, Hellman’s, and Comfort brands to name a few — can cut by 40% its lead times for prototyping toiletparts. The company’s division in Italy uses Stratasys’ Objet500 Connex for household/laundry products. It prints injection molded tools for items such as toilet rim blocks, bottle caps, and closures.

Unilever uses strong Digital ABS material for 3D printing. It also uses an FDM-based Fortus 360mc 3D Production System, using ABS-M30 production-grade plastic, to print thermoforming, flexible mold prototypes that can endure product testing. So next time you buy a bottle of Surf detergent, a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, or one of those toilet cleaners you hang inside the toilet rim, just remember that 3D printing may have played a role in the making of that product!

3DSIM and Additive Industries Partner to Save Time and Money in 3D Printing

Like in any business, and as Unilever’s own experience has shown us, time is money in 3D printing/additive manufacturing. And money can be lost when prints go wrong. Louisville’s 3DSIM has developed software that Netherlands-based Additive Industries plans to use. This software optimizes metal 3D printing processing simulation tools based on the actual geometry, material properties, machine behaviors, and process parameters of additive manufacturing protocols. 3DSIM software claims the time required to simulate a 3D printing problem can be cut drastically. There’s no doubt that the 3D printing space can use an improved simulation model, and this symbiotic collaboration between software designers and manufacturing may provide great improvements that can benefit the entire industry eventually.

Cheap Printable DNA Gets Major Funding Boost

In other 3D printing business news, San Francisco-based start-up Cambrian Genomics has received $10 million in funding to realize their science fiction vision of making 3D printable DNA an affordable consumer item. Making DNA and selling it will be easier for the company now that they challenge the expenses involved. Ccgreating one set of human chromosomes by traditional printing methods can cost billions of dollars, but Cambrian Genomics uses laser printers to sort DNA strands (the costly time consuming requirement). Lasers aid the sorting process, significantly cutting down time, rendering the 3D printing of DNA more of a household activity where anyone can be a genetic designer. Forget mice with human ears attached, people. CEO Austen Heinz is talking 3D printing dinosaurs. Stay tuned.

Dad 3D Prints Hot Wheels Racetrack Parts for Son, and Himselfdad-designs-3d-prints-whole-hot-wheels-drag-race-track-1

While little children dream of dinosaurs, they also dream of traintracks and racetracks in almost equal measure. Far less ambitious than the 3D printing of dinosaurs, but nonetheless impressive, an electrician father has designed and 3D printed a Hot Wheels racetrack for his 3-year-old son. Using a desktop 3D printer, he printed almost all of the parts for this racetrack except the track itself (he used Blu Track for that).

Man 3D Prints Functional Robotic Arm

Robots also top the list of the stuff that younger children’s (and older kids-at-hearts’) dreams are made of. Andreas Hölldorfer wanted to 3D print his dream of a functional robot arm and this is exactly what he did. On his blog and in various YouTube clips, he shows how he made the arm, which consists of several joints and a gripper. He 3D printed all of this on his Delta 3D printer in about a week using more than 1.2 kg of ABS. He designed and printed using the slic3r honeycomb infill at about 12%. The design of the robot arm can probably be accommodated by most 3D printers, but be warned: the printing and assembly process is quite complicated, so you may want to read all of his directions carefully before you try this at home.

Hölldorfer is also working on an ongoing project to develop a 3D printed, multi-limbed gripping robot arm on a rotary plate. This robot can move in all directions and is user-controlled. It’s a plastic industrial robot capable of holding a cup of coffee — and of course, much more in due time.

Beach Metal Detector is 3D Printed

Another functional device that has been 3D printed is your handy beach metal detector. Paulo Bubolz has 3D printed the entire body, handle, pole, and coil enclosure of a detector that has been assembled and tested as a working prototype. It took him three prototype attempts to get the now ergonomically correct handle right, and Bubolz states that the metal_detector_3dphardest part of the project was the design’s electronics and battery pack. After trying out various options, he 3D printed the enclosure in two parts that are screwed together; this makes the box easier to print and makes the electronics more accessible. He also 3D printed an arm brace, three knobs used to control the device, and made sure to model openings for a battery charger and even a headphone jack! The detector’s rod portion is made from four smaller pieces that are easily assembled with screws. This easy assembly makes the device easy to transport, and it appears from the little treasures Bubolz found in his test run of the detector — it works!

Singapore International 3D Printing Competitions’ Categories Announced

Nanyang Technology University announces two categories in its annual Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) Competitions. This year features Vintage Toys and Logo Design competitions. The Vintage Toys singapore-international-printing-competitions-have-been-%20launched-2competition encourages makers to get inspired by toy designs of bygone eras. Here they are looking for the “unique cultural and historic significance of the toys” while also injecting them with cutting edge engineering elements. For the Logo Design competition, participants are invited to submit “innovative and futuristic functional logo designs” that capture the spirit of this $113 million research center’s mission to be the “world’s leading 3D printing research institute.”

The top prize is $10,000 in the open division competition. There’s also a $5,000 prize in the elementary-high school student division, and a $5,000 prize in the polytechnics and university student division. Your last day to submit entries is April 24, 2015, so get started on your vintage toy and logo design ideas today!

Science Channel’s “All-American Makers” Premiered This Week

Makers! Your Science Channel“American Idol” has arrived. If cash prizes haven’t inspired the maker in you yet through the SC3DP competition, perhaps you can get your creative juices flowing again by taking in Discovery Science Channel’s latest series, “All-American Maker.” Every week makers compete for the attention of the judges — Printbot’s Brook Drumm, mechanical whiz Brian Roe, and venture funder Marc Portney– in order to get the funding needed to realize their inventions. The six episodes that have been filmed so far leave no stone unturned, covering: robots, hybrid vehicles, thermal radar, dog toys, and stain repellant. The show airs Wednesday nights on the Science Channel.

German RepRap Announces New Performance PLA Filament

For some reason, I am always compelled to end our weekly reviews by covering filament. I think it is because it’s such a behind-the-scenes but elemental aspect of 3D printing. It’s the substance of the printing: and it’s what is usually thdeveloping without great fanfare. Well, this week German RepRap introduced its optically smooth PLA filament designed specifically for 3D printing. The Performance PLA is available in 2.1 kg (3 mm) and 750 g (1.75 mm) spools from German RepRap international sales partners. The filament requires a lower heating temperature that guarantees less warping and better adhesion, and it has a smoother surface.

That’s this week’s stories we didn’t cover: the entrepreneurial spirit lives on in 3D printing, and it looks like more makers have opportunities to get rewarded for their hard work and inventive worldviews. Let us know what you think about these developments in the Stories We Missed forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

3D Printing: The Stories We Didn't Cover This Week — January 10

This week it was especially difficult to keep up with all the news since we participated in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Given that the CES event only added to the usual stream of 3D printing news we encounter each week, we feel we did a pretty good job covering the stories relevant to our growing 3D printing audience.  For the stories we missed, here’s our weekly review.

Stratasys Launches Direct Manufacturing

Stratasys, which acquired Harvest Technologies and Solid Concepts last year to add to its RedEye On Demand services, has launched Stratasys Direct Manufacturing–officially marking its 3D ssprinting shift from prototyping to end-product manufacturing technology. Stratasys’ 3D printing services will still offer prototyping, but this announcement indicates the increasing ability to focus on production. For manufacturing purposes,  Stratasys’ turn to Direct Manufacturing means the company no longer wishes to be seen just as simply a 3D print leader, but it also plans to expand its capabilities to the global manufacturing process. With 700 employees and 9 manufacturing services throughout the US, it is definitely in the position to make major contributions to the manufacturing side of the 3D printing industry.

Leapfrog Partners with Ingram Micro11

Netherlands based Leapfrog has announced a partnership with Ingram Micro technology solutions Europe after closing several deals in the U.S. Ingram Micro is a Fortune 500 Company serving customers in over 170 countries and it provides tech and supply chain optimization solutions. Ingram Micro adds Leapfrog’s new Creatr HS 3D printer for consumers and educators, and the Xeed which has a temperature controlled environment and larger build volume.

NOMOON Speaker

Rich Olsen has posted OpenSCAD files for a 3D printed, customizable, parametric speaker that can be adjusted using the Thingiverse Customizer. What is a parametric speaker? It uses specificnomoon_bench geometric shapes to focus sound in one specific direction, rather than blasting sound waves out as widely as possible, like most speakers. Parametric speakers work great at desks, in office spaces, and home theater systems. You can adjust the speaker’s wall thickness, speaker opening, bass port, internal diameter, and wire openings, and the sphere size can be altered as well.

Matter and Form Scanner Arrives

In other scanner news, after debuting at London’s 3D print show, the user-friendly and affordable Matter and Form scanner has been sent to its Indiegogo supporters.  The Indiegogo campaign raised $500,000 after setting an early modest goal of $81,000–revealing the high demand that an affordable 3D scanner has.  So far, the review are overwhelmingly positive at only $579, and it is lightweight, portable and can export files for print on any 3D printer.

Sculpteo Announces FinalProof Service for Printing Preview

sculThe 3D printing company based in San Francisco and Paris, Sculpteo, has launched their most advanced 3D printing preview feature–FinalProof. Sculpteo provides easy-to-use online 3D printing services and cloud-based solutions, encouraging users to take control of their 3D print creations. Sculpteo’s website has optimization tools and a platform that offers the ability for users to upload and print 3D designs, and share models and information. Just announced at this year’s CES, FinalProof is an innovative online service that predicts potential losses during a 3D printing project and gives a realistic preview of the layering effects on a project. This product simulates a full 3D print, and provides a highly detailed rendering of the physical object. The real selling point is the FinalProof process happens in seconds instead of the hours it takes to physically print something.

FinalProof is available for all Sculpteo users at no cost. From the website’s print page, users can get a full breakdown of every characteristic of the 3D print. This includes scale blueprints, a solidity check, and even a delivery quote. This information can be sent to the user as an email or a PDF.

 3D Printed Model of the Eta Carinae Shines Light for NASA

The Eta Carinae is an astronomical phenomenon that is relatively close to Earth and highly luminous–a sort of binary star system mystery that has been baffling scientists since the 1840’s.  Recently, a new 3D printed simulation of a computer model based on the system’s spiraling pattern has been used by NASA Ames Research Center to help illuminate this system on the brink of exploding as a supernova. This is caused by two massive stars circling around each other that are slowly blowing themselves apart.  One star is approximately 30 times our Sun’s mass and the other bigger star is around 90 times the Sun’s mass. The two stars orbit around each other every 5.5 years, producing winds that create high energy x-rays that heat up gas surrounding the stars.  Colored bright orange, the 3D printout shows “spine-shaped lumps protruding from the spiral that resulted from the stars’ close approach to one another” and these results were presented at the recent winter meeting of the American Astronomical Association.


Digitrax MH5 — Digitrax 3D Unveils Their 5-Extruder 3D Printer

d3Some time in the not too distant future, 3D printing will be utilized within mass manufacturing processes. In fact, 3D Systems has been working towards this goal by utilizing a racetrack-like architecture which we have discussed in the past, but others too are looking at ways to do the same.

Currently the majority of printing, from a manufacturing point of view, is used for prototyping. There are some manufacturers utilizing direct metal laser sintering to build complex end-use parts. However, when it comes to FDM/FFF printing, such uses are almost non existent. Why? Because injection molding is still much cheaper and faster at this point in time.


With that said, one company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, called Digitrax 3D, is trying to change all of this. Utilizing a 5-extruder system, they are aiming to take mass manufacturing via 3D printing to the next level. A few weeks ago, the company revealed their prototype 3D printer on their Facebook Page. In doing so, they peaked my interest and certainly many other’s.

The Digitrax MH5 multi-head 3D printer is able to increase production capacities by five times over the average machine on the market. Usually when an additional extruder is added to any 3D printer, this addition will be countered by a decrease in the print volume when all extruders are being utilized. This is also the case with the MH5, but what makes a bit of a difference with this machine is the fact that the printer is a decent size, sporting a build envelope of 28 x 28 x 20cm. Needless to say, you aren’t going to be mass producing basketball sized objects with this printer, but if smaller objects are on your menu then it may be just the right tool for you.


The company provided an example of just how much faster a group of objects can be printed compared to a single extruder machine. A single PLA flower pot, measuring 8cm in height would take a single extruder printer 1h 4min to print. Using the MH5 3D printer, and printing 15 flower pots (3 per extruder) at one time, the entire fabrication would take approximately 3h 20min. This equates to just about 13.4 minutes per flower pot.

With the MH5, users will have the ability to control the extrusion temperature via an LCD interface for each of the five extruders. This means that if you need a higher temperature to print one item with ABS and a lower temperature to print another item at the same time with PLA, there isn’t a problem. Additionally, each extruder can easily be removed and spaced out however the user chooses, providing the ability to customize the machine for each project. Below you will find the full specifications of the Digitrax MH5:

  • Print Resolution: 100μ
  • Filament Size: 1.75
  • Filament Material Compatibility: PLA for MH5, PLA, ABS for HD Version 5.1
  • Machine size: 77 x 57 x 55 cm
  • Build Envelope: 28 x 28 x 20 volume printing (Coming soon: 60×30 cm)
  • Printer Weight: 40 kg
  • Connection: USB or micro SD card
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4

The company also plans to release a much larger machine in the near future, but hasn’t stated when. The price and exact date in which the MH5 will be available is forthcoming, as it’s currently only a prototype. Is this a machine that you are interested in? Let’s hear your thoughts. Discuss in the Digitrax MH5 forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the short clip below showing the printer in action.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fozBCIllOFs]

Fully 3D Printed Working Engine Runs Completely on Hot and Cold Water — and You Can Print …

stirling13D printing is fascinating, especially to those individuals who have not ever seen the technology in action previously. However, like with all new technology, this fascination subsides as time goes on and the technology becomes more commonplace. Perhaps we aren’t quite at this point yet with 3D printing, but the intrigue generated through the seeing, touching, and feeling of 3D printed objects will surely wither with time. One man in New Zealand, named Don Clucas, realizes this, and with the help of the University of Canterbury, he has come up with a way to fascinate even those already acclimated to 3D printing technology.

In a project that could be considered “breathtaking,” “innovative,” and “potentially revolutionary,” Clucas has created what he believes is the first ever fully 3D printed working engine.  Better yet, it runs on thermodynamics, meaning all it requires for fuel is simple tap water.

“What I’m doing is creating projects for people to print, rather than objects,” explained Clucas to 3DPrint.com. “A few years ago, 3D printing was new [and] people were wowed by items that could be made. Now with wide distribution of low cost machines it has become less spectacular. I have observed the attention span of visitors to our 3D lab, looking at printed parts. [Viewing of] static objects are generally several to tens of seconds. Watching the printer running can be up to a minute, but watching and explaining these engines can be minutes. People like seeing dynamic things.”


These Stirling cycle engines are certainly dynamic, and without a doubt have the ability to keep anyone’s attention for more than a few seconds. For those unfamiliar with how Stirling cycle engines operate, they run off of heated and cooled air or other gases. The heated and then cooled gases cause a pressure change, which in turn push and pull on the engine’s piston. To run these engines, all it takes is a bowl of hot water underneath, some ice water on top, and a small flick of the flywheel to get it started. Once complete, the engine will begin running using the hot and cold water as a way to control the air pressure.

stirling3Clucas has created all of the design files and has made them available on his website, along with instructions on assembling these engines.

“There are many things that you can do with these engines,” explained Clucas. “You can use them for yourself, or they can be used as educational instruments. For example, at a high school you could make the machines, and demonstrate them to the students to show them basic thermodynamics. If you got them in universities, you can have labs set up so that the students can actually run them, do tests on them, do examinations, and do development and optimization of the machines.”

The way in which these engines are designed means that the variables in how the engine operates can be modified. Many different setups can be created, as well as different methods of operation. The stroke of the engines may be changed, as can the phase angle of the pistons, allowing for complete customization.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efaWO01U0es?rel=0]

Some of the great benefits of these 3D printed thermodynamic engines are that they run clean, are completely environmentally friendly, run on hot and cold water, and run almost completely silent. Best of all, the files are completely free to download, and just about anyone with access to a 3D printer can create one.

As for Clucas, he isn’t stopping here. He is constantly working to bring new 3D printable projects to those interested in this technology. “I want to develop projects for people with a printer and little or no access to a tool shop or special technical abilities,” he tells us. “There are many published projects that are great but require special extra bits, machined parts or electronics. These projects are particularly suited to education.”

Could this lead to innovation among engine design? If just about anyone can now 3D print their own working engines, this means greater access and ability to experiment with the engineering and mechanics of this technology. What do you think? Have you printed your own Stirling cycle engine? Discuss in the 3D Printed Stirling Engine forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below, showing Clucas explaining these engines more in depth.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDueyCH1T7M?rel=0]