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Printer Technology

3D Printing For Everyone 183

Posted by kdawson
from the rapid-prototyping-as-a-service dept.
mmacx writes "Technology Review has up an article about Shapeways, a new online rapid-prototyping service that allows users to upload digital designs which are then printed on 3-D printers and shipped back. A spinoff from Philips Research, the service gives small businesses, designers, artists, and hobbyists access to prototyping tools that were once available only to the largest corporations. The fee for a typical printed object is $50-$150. Their video shows the steps behind the process." We've been talking about 3D printing for years.
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3D Printing For Everyone

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  • by nawcom (941663) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:18AM (#24433095) Homepage

    A life-size statue of CowboyNeal.

  • ...because someone used that service to copy a product.

    It will be from a dildo manufacturer, I promise you that much!

  • Exploit (Score:3, Funny)

    by noidentity (188756) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:25AM (#24433279)

    Haha, they don't realize that they will bring about their own downfall:

    1. Order prototype of prototype-making machine
    2. Make your own prototypes.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!!

  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:25AM (#24433281) Homepage Journal

    Every time 3-D printing comes up I like to consider what this will do to my favorite hobby, model-building...

    Styrene injection kits have been around for ages, and they're generally the cheapest way to get a kit made in large quantity - but because it costs so much to set up the molds, usually they're pretty hesitant to make a kit of anything that's not a pretty sure-fire seller... Additionally the hobby has been dying by inches for a long time.

    To fill all the niches of interesting subjects that nobody's bothered to make injection kits of (this would be, for instance, things like the Serenity cargo ship) there's resin kits - but because of the high degree of manual labor involved in casting the parts, as well as the material expenses and the initial sculpting work divided over a run of maybe a couple hundred kits, they're pretty expensive for the person buying the kit...

    But then you think about stuff going on these days, like papercraft - people making model designs, putting them online in a form that other people can print out and build dirt-cheap. The results aren't generally as good as injection or resin models but it's quite impressive, and inspiring what they've accomplished...

    So it's fun to think about what fabrication could mean for the hobby. On the one hand it may actually mean less people buying and building models, or scratch-building parts themselves. Rather, once the technology is cheap enough, more things will be simply fabricated. But on the other hand - to think of something that would today be a garage kit, only done up as a downloadable design for fabrication... that would be pretty damn cool.

    • One would hope it would have the same effect as in the printing industry. Two decades ago, getting custom color printed materials for businesses was a real hassle. Now we print color letterheads as a part of daily business. I just sent out a short order (20 pads) of sticky-notes with our custom mailing worksheet (who it's to, how many copies to make, how to mail it, and where to file it). Heck, I even printed out a pattern off the 'net for making a hemispherical model rocket parachute. Think of all the pho

    • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:44AM (#24433639) Journal

      I would love to be able to print my own replacement model parts. Next time I break a rotor blade on my heli, just print one out. Need a new control horn, print it out. Servo arms, wing assemblies...such a home capability might bring back a renaissance of RC building that is becoming a lost art due to RTF products.

      • by DrVomact (726065)

        I would love to be able to print my own replacement model parts.

        I missed the "model", and my mind spun off on a wild tangent...yes, I would like to have a new left arm, please—the one I've got is pretty messed up. Then if that works out OK, how about a new heart? Oh...

      • by dbc (135354)

        I'm a member at the TechShop, and they have a 3D printer from Stratasys. It prints in ABS, what Lego is made of, but it doesn't yield Lego-like parts. First, resolution is limited because it feeds small diameter ABS rod from spools and fuses it together -- imagine printing in 3D with weed-whacker cord and you have a good mental picture. Secondly, it is not as strong because it has lots of heat-fused joints and also not all ABS is created equal. You can dip your resulting part in acetone and get the whol

    • by hcdejong (561314)

      IMO, 3D printing solves one problem (generating copies of a design) but not the other (creating the design in the first place).

      Traditionally, creating the design has been done in hardware (a master, which is used to produce moulds etc.).
      With a 3D printer, you can either build a master, scan it and clean up the data, or you can build the model in CAD. CAD is less messy, but I'm not convinced it's faster than building a master.
      Using CAD will result in more accurate models, though. A handmade master is hard to

      • Using CAD will result in more accurate models, though. A handmade master is hard to make completely symmetrical, for instance.

        I believe Games-Workshop uses some CAD now for there models, though I gather this uses some sort of milling machine to make a mold or similar, rather than 3D printing.

      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        IMO, 3D printing solves one problem (generating copies of a design) but not the other (creating the design in the first place).

        I've done a little bit of computer modeling and a fair bit of scratch-building - certainly there are things that are perfectly simple to do by hand, not worth complicating the process by introducing a computer-design phase... And there's inherent limitations in current display and input technologies that make it difficult to model on the computer, even with the right tools...

        But on the other hand, I've basically finished my computer-modeled Zaku, but the process of making the corresponding physical parts h

    • by Tabernaque86 (1046808) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:56AM (#24433857)

      Additionally the hobby has been dying by inches for a long time.

      At what scale though?

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      Can I order print of the machine that prints?

    • by IronChef (164482)

      But on the other hand - to think of something that would today be a garage kit, only done up as a downloadable design for fabrication... that would be pretty damn cool.

      Agreed. But look at the dark side... IP laws are going to apply to this new medium too. Fox or whoever owns the copyrights isn't going to let you sell that Serenity kit even if you created the CAD files as a labor of love.

      Looking ahead to the "diamond age" when we have matter compilers, we'll have DRM that makes today's padlocks on music look

      • by Tetsujin (103070)

        But on the other hand - to think of something that would today be a garage kit, only done up as a downloadable design for fabrication... that would be pretty damn cool.

        Agreed. But look at the dark side... IP laws are going to apply to this new medium too. Fox or whoever owns the copyrights isn't going to let you sell that Serenity kit even if you created the CAD files as a labor of love.

        This is exactly the situation we have today. People who want to sell garage kits of their favorite copyrighted subjects have two options, basically - the first option is to get the kit properly licensed - which actually is practical in some cases. (For instance, an event-only license to sell a kit at Wonder Fest in Japan is pretty reasonable, I hear... There's also the resin Falke that was released a year or two ago, that kit was produced as a garage kit and then officially licensed...)

        The second option

  • Bah... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Muad'Dave (255648) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:28AM (#24433321) Homepage
    Holler when they can selectively print with highly conductive and non-conductive inks. I can then design 3D, flexible, massively interconnected PC boards.
  • by techess (1322623) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:30AM (#24433369)

    Great there goes my plans of printing tesseracts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not so fast:

      http://www.infostuka.org/2007/9/1/tesseract-3d-prints

    • The tesseract is 3d
      They hypercube (of which the tesseract is a "shadow") is 4D.
      Print away.

  • direct link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:33AM (#24433439) Homepage Journal

    I would have complained about a direct link (http://www.shapeways.com/ [shapeways.com] in the summary, but the site is a bit rude to looky-loos like us who just want to see what's going on. Almost all their front page links are blocked until you log in, even the "getting started" page! The "about" page is about all you can see, and it's got no real details. What is the printing resolution? What material choices? Can you print two-material designs? Come on, Shapeways, if you want to generate buzz, put out a bit more welcome mat.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rdschouw (139250)

      Actually we are private beta now. But you are right. We could show a bit more information without requiring a beta login.

      Let's see what I can do!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by coolhelperguy (698466)
      Printing resolution seems to be 0.5mm to 2mm minimum detail, depending on material. Colors are cream, white, transparent (translucent yellowish, from the looks of it), and bright white. They all have various properties (one bends well, some are weaker, etc).

      Maximum size varies from 20x25x33cm to 35x40x40cm, depending on the material as well. Prices range from $1.87 to $2.89 per cubic centimeter.

      I'm not affiliated, just a beta user. I got my invite the same day(?) I signed up for one, so if you're intere
      • So... for those of you that are trying to make a "cylindrical object" that's about 3cm in diameter and 20cm long you're going to end up paying (pi)9*20*$1.87 = $1057. That seems a little spendy... maybe you guys are better off taking a wood working class.
    • The most interesting part of the site, accessible without logging in, is their blog [shapeways.com].

      I found the three posts about the used printers rather informative, with discussions about possible materials, level of detail,...

    • by _ph1ux_ (216706)

      there is this company in the bay area that I have used, while their prices are currently slightly higher than whats quoted in the article - its still a good service:

      http://www.protopulsion.com/ [protopulsion.com]

  • It seems most of the content on the ShapeWays site is unavailable to folks not in their closed beta program (even the FAQ's). So, there's no much to go on other than the video?

    So, staying mildly on-topic, what else do hobbyists use in this arena? Say I want to prototype a new computer case:

    • What's good opensource software for doing millimeter-accurate modeling?
    • Where else could you send your 3D file to have it 'printed'?
    • What would that cost?
    • by ironwill96 (736883) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:44AM (#24433663) Homepage Journal

      Not sure on the open source software front but i've always been fond of Rhinoceros 3D for doing modeling since it is relatively in-expensive to buy a commercial copy ($900).

      You can send your 3-D file to lots of companies, i'm not sure why ShapeWays is getting all the press when there are thousands of RP companies called "service bureaus" that will take 3-D models you upload and print them using some RP machine then ship them to you, usually with a 1-2 day turn-around time.

      I used to get some parts done with http://www.rjmrp.com/ [rjmrp.com] but they focus mainly on high-resolution small parts (such as jewelry pieces). So, if you're designing jewelry i'd recommend them otherwise look for some other companies using Stratasys type machines (there are lots). The costs they quote sound about normal, typical jewelry prototypes were around $100 or so for a ring in .001" resolution.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Mithrandir (3459)

        Most of our users are using Blender to create their own model. In fact, one of the principles of the project is the former head of the Blender Foundation.

        The difference here and the other companies is that this one is going for the mass market. The others are looking at niche areas. They are also looking at doing Cafe-Press-style stores and so on.

    • The Techshop (Score:5, Insightful)

      by btarval (874919) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:56AM (#24433855)
      While this is a really cool service, nothing can beat hands on. My preference is The Techshop [techshop.ws].

      The site seems slashdotted already. Google's cache should have a copy of their 3D printer, laser etcher, and other services for building (nearly) anything that you can imagine.

      This is the most innovative thing to hit Silicon Valley in years. It really should've been covered by Slashdot long ago.

      The advantage the Techshop has over mail-in is that you can get advice on how to create your prototype. The costs for a 3D print job can vary greatly depending on how you do it. Just the orientation alone can either save you or cost you quite a bit. So that's why I prefer "hands on". Now, if I really knew what I was doing, or I didn't have a TechShop nearby, then I'd probably do a mail-order service.

      As far as apps goes, you can pull down one of the Google apps (whose name I've forgotten at the moment) and use that.

      Oh - and the guy who founded the TechShop used to work with Mythbusters in creating their gadgets. I hear they even showed up on opening day.

      I have no connecting with the Techshop other than has a happy and frequent customer.

  • SLA? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We've had 3D printing for over 15 years to my knowledge. Probably more like 20 years. My high school got one way back when, it was called a "Stereo Lithography Apparatus" or SLA for short. You inserted a disk containing an acceptable 3D wire mesh file format, put in a bucket of "printing goop" and pressed a button. An ultraviolet laser then solidified the goop in the shape of the 3D object you gave it and drained the rest of the goop back into the drainage pan. We used it for rapid prototyping in our C

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:39AM (#24433555)

    Hello, gentlemen. I am interested in your offering. I am linking to my specification here: http://babes.com/monica_bellucci [babes.com]. How long should I expect to wait for delivery?

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:47AM (#24433709) Journal

      Typical Slashdotter, going for a cheap knockoff rather than enjoy the real thing. But then again, I shouldn't expect any different. ;-)

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:03AM (#24433985)

        Typical Slashdotter, going for a cheap knockoff rather than enjoy the real thing. But then again, I shouldn't expect any different. ;-)

        If I went and got the real thing, that would be kidnapping. This does not deprive her husband of use of the original Monica Bellucci, I'm just committing a copyright violation. That's far more socially acceptable.

        • by orasio (188021)

          Typical Slashdotter, going for a cheap knockoff rather than enjoy the real thing. But then again, I shouldn't expect any different. ;-)

          If I went and got the real thing, that would be kidnapping. This does not deprive her husband of use of the original Monica Bellucci, I'm just committing a copyright violation. That's far more socially acceptable.

          And not a criminal offense.

  • by LetterRip (30937) on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:45AM (#24433667)

    It isn't mentioned in the article, but it is clear from the images that they used Blender for the demo items and screenshots, indeed the two images from the article are rather well known among Blender users, one is from 'man in man' a short by Sacha, and the other is Petunia by macuonu which was used for a collaborative animation for the Blender art festival. Also some of individuals involved in Shapeways are major Blenderheads.

    I thought Shapeways was being supported by Phillips but was under the impression that it started externally and hence would not be a spinoff.

    LetterRip

  • Very nice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:46AM (#24433683) Journal

    But it still suffers from the age old problem of control by those who own the press. Let's get the printers in the hands of everyone to insure that control goes where it belongs. Then we can make our own DRM free hardware for instance.

  • Everyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Friday August 01, 2008 @10:57AM (#24433875)

    I can see one stumbling block for 3D printing becoming more popular: the software you need to create a 3D model is generally expensive and difficult to use.
    Google Sketchup is a potential answer here, but the last time I checked, the 3D printing house I wanted to use didn't accept Sketchup files (and/or the free version of Sketchup doesn't allow export to any generic 3D format).

    • by Yetihehe (971185)
      Microsoft made caligari truespace available for free.
    • Sketchup Pro is $495 and allows CAD export.

      Yea thats expensive but if you Really need this for your work, its cheap.

    • The Second Life building tools are actually pretty good, for putting together objects that are going to be reproduced at 3d printing resolution.

      And you can extract a mesh from Second Life (and other games, but don't let Blizzard catch you :-> ) using GPU hooks and programs like OGLE.

    • The video shows the 3D artist using Blender [blender.org], a free and open source 3D modeling and animation program.

  • These services have been offered for at least a decade. I bought parts this way a couple months ago and paid like $20 or $30 a part. I can give the specific place, but try just googling for 3d printing service, rapid prototyping service and so on. The first search only brings up 2.7 million hits. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=3d+printing+services&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]
    • Yeah, i thought that too. WTF is wrong with people posting articles to "new" services that aren't new at all!? :-/
      -Taylor

  • Interesting issue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:18AM (#24434235) Homepage Journal

    When everyone can accurately 3d-print objects, does getting the design for, say, a type of chair then 3d-printing it without paying, count as theft? After all, you're not depriving anyone else of the model chair the 3d specifications were based on.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      When everyone can accurately 3d-print objects, does getting the design for, say, a type of chair then 3d-printing it without paying, count as theft? After all, you're not depriving anyone else of the model chair the 3d specifications were based on.

      Compared to churning them out on an assembly line in China that produces 10,000 a day, it's very unlikely such printing will be cheaper. So the likes of Ikea probably don't have to worry yet.

      Be interesting if you were copying the chair of some fancy designer company that does fantastically expensive chairs though. I suspect what will happen is something similar to what a lot of photo labs do today - unless you're already known to them as a designer (photographer), they won't print out anything that they t

    • I think you're overestimating the abilities of 3d printing. You're not going to be able to print a working pillow, but a solid plastic version of a pillow. You could print as many chairs as you want, but with each part being hard plastic, you're not gonna get much use out of them. It will also take a substantially greater amount of money to print a life-size chair then it would to buy a working chair at Staples.

      If you change "chair" to "toy," then you might be on to something. If I get the design of the lat

    • by gregorio (520049)

      When everyone can accurately 3d-print objects, does getting the design for, say, a type of chair then 3d-printing it without paying, count as theft?

      I'm not sure about the copyright part, but if you try to actually USE the chair, you'll end up right down at the floor.

      Most people who comment about 3D printers don't understand product manufacturing at all. These printers will never be useful for anything except dimensional prototypes. Unless the printers can (and for a good price they won't - not in a milli

  • by Anonymous Coward

    this has been done before quite a bit, there are plenty of places online that let you upload a model to their website and purchase the fabbed plastic result.

    however, more competition will probably bring the prices down. also, more attention to this sort of capability will make it more popular, and bring the prices down/advance the technology.

    i worked at a place where they blew tens of thousands of dollars on a 3D printer, printed one prototype out and then let it sit there. big companies can't think outside

  • can you fax me some?

    • Why should I pay for your paper?
    • no, No, NO! I'm not falling for that one again. Last time, my friend asked me to send him some money so I faxed it to him. All of sudden I've got the FBI breathing down my neck. Something about making counterfeit bills.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:19AM (#24434265) Homepage Journal

    This Shapeways 3D printing service requires models in Collada (or X3D) format. Other than running Windows SketchUp under Wine, which is so buggy that it crashes when you try to save a file, what's a really good, basic Linux 3D studio, suitable for learning in about 10-15 minutes how to sketch out accurate scale models of houses and basic landscape, that imports and exports Collada format?

    Then I can 3D print the models, and I can export them to Google Earth. I could even download and import my neighborhood, tweak it, and 3D print it for my trainset.

    • From the video it looks like you can work in Blender. Take a look at the link below for the import/export Blender plugins. http://www.blender.org/download/python-scripts/import-export/ [blender.org]
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        suitable for learning in about 10-15 minutes how to sketch out accurate scale models of houses and basic landscape, that imports and exports Collada format?

        Blender is great, but if he needs to learn it in 10-15 minutes it won't work. Sure, once he did learn it he would be done with his model in 10-15...

  • I'm a garage-kit maker -- 1/285 Macross and 1/2500 Star Trek, available at http://scifiskunkwerks.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]. All of my models are done in CAD first, then rapid prototyped. I spent several months looking for an affordable way to get my parts printed out in the quality that I needed and I'm always on the lookout for being able to just buy my own machine. So when this PAID ADVERTISEMENT masquerading as an article came along I was pretty interested. RTFA and you'll see: "The 3-D printers that Shapeways
  • For making "real" parts. Check out www.emachineshop.com. They provide a free downloadable program for designing parts. You can get help optimizing cost and even order right from the software. OTOH, a one-off is probably still more expensive and I don't think they have SLA.
    • Is actually pretty pricey. Pricey enough that for prototyping more than a few parts it would be cheaper and easier to just buy a small CNC mill and lathe. Then you can make pieces parts to your heart's content really cheaply.

      Ebay some used gear, or roll your own from the cheap manual mills and lathes out on the market. It's not trivial, but not as difficult as building, say, a decent real database app either.

  • ... the guy you see in the end is Bart Veldhuizen of Blender and Blendernation.com fame. So *that* was the company he was founding a few months ago. I wish him Good Luck!

  • why do they insist that you log-in before seeing anything on their site? I was interested until i had to register.
  • ...2D-printing's enough of a nightmare.

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