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Printer Hardware Technology

MIT Students Reveal PopFab, a 3D Printer That Fits Inside a Briefcase 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-slices-it-dices-it-makes-julienne-fries dept.
cylonlover writes "There are plenty of different 3D printers to choose from these days, from the popular Makerbot Thing-O-Matic to the budget-priced Solidoodle. These all have one drawback, however, in that they aren't exactly portable. Most need to be disassembled to be moved, and even the fully-assembled Cubify printer isn't really built for travel. But now, two MIT students have developed the PopFab, a machine that does 3D printing and more, all while fitting inside a small suitcase. With different heads, the machine could also be used for milling, vinyl cutting, drawing, and much more, to create a wide variety of objects. The creators have also tested its portability by traveling with it as a carry-on suitcase to Saudi Arabia, Germany, and within the U.S."
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MIT Students Reveal PopFab, a 3D Printer That Fits Inside a Briefcase

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  • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday August 03, 2012 @05:31PM (#40873151) Journal

    After all, they could use it to make a box cutter and then hijack the plane.

    Yes, this is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.

    • by Tr3vin (1220548) on Friday August 03, 2012 @05:36PM (#40873189)

      Yes, this is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.

      You could always print a new one.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        Yes, this is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.

        You could always print a new one.

        A sarcasm detector? Now that's a _really_ useful invention.

        • Yes, this is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.

          You could always print a new one.

          A sarcasm detector? Now that's a _really_ useful invention.
           

              No it isn't.

    • After all, they could use it to make a box cutter and then hijack the plane.

      Maybe not a box cutter -- it has a spring in it -- but you could make a knife; Plastic is incredibly hard, and skin is incredibly soft. It only takes a few pounds of pressure to cut skin. Hell, I can snap a credit card in two and that makes a crude, but effective, slashing weapon. The idea that only metal is dangerous is pretty stupid. But then, this is the TSA we're talking about.

      • I wonder...can they detect glass blades? Especially if the blade is inserted in a matching counterpart so that the overall shape on an X-ray resembles an innocuous solid cuboid or something like that?
        • by jamesh (87723) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:23PM (#40873595)

          I wonder...can they detect glass blades? Especially if the blade is inserted in a matching counterpart so that the overall shape on an X-ray resembles an innocuous solid cuboid or something like that?

          If not exactly that, there are many other ways you could get a weapon on board that makes X-ray detectors only useful for catching people who accidentally left something dangerous in their carry-on luggage, like a bottle of water.

          • No. You'd be able to see the shear plane, at least, you would if you're a competent x-ray operator and look at it from more than one angle. (-_-) Okay, you're right, the TSA would probably miss it.
            • You'd only be able to tell if it was a knife if you have it a point. But glass is sharp - you could make a knife with a squared blade and no tip that would still easily cut someone's throat with the edge. You could scribe it so you could snap it into the right shape.

              There's any number of things an intelligent person can do, but to some degree the sad part about airport security is we only need to be able to catch the people who'd actually try something, and fortunately they're not very bright normally.

          • by Sigg3.net (886486)

            I was almost MURDERED by a gas attack from a passenger sitting next to me once. Was some bad chili, he claimed.

            • by jamesh (87723)

              I was almost MURDERED by a gas attack from a passenger sitting next to me once. Was some bad chili, he claimed.

              So in order to ensure safety, we now need to an x-ray, a pat-down, and a big squeeze to determine if the passenger is holding any weapons?

        • by Ambvai (1106941)

          No. I forgot I had ceramic knives in a bag of cookies in my laptop bag when brought it on an international flight to Taiwan a few months back.

      • After all, they could use it to make a box cutter and then hijack the plane.

        Maybe not a box cutter -- it has a spring in it -- but you could make a knife; Plastic is incredibly hard, and skin is incredibly soft. It only takes a few pounds of pressure to cut skin. Hell, I can snap a credit card in two and that makes a crude, but effective, slashing weapon. The idea that only metal is dangerous is pretty stupid. But then, this is the TSA we're talking about.

        Actually, just purchase any random item packaged in a plastic anti-theft "laceration package" and use it. Those things shed more blood than a planeload of terrorists.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I was thinking along the same lines, it could print a replica of a pistol.

      When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have briefcase printers.
    • by Jaqenn (996058)
      I don't think it matters any more. Pre-9/11 thinking was that if the plane gets hijacked, let them fly us to Egypt where we'll be hostage for a few days until the US caves to their demands or Rainbow Six (or whoever) shoots them.

      Post-9/11 thinking is that if the plane gets hijacked, the pilot is still not going to open his vault doors, and enough of the passengers are willing to risk a real or imagined knife to beat the stuffing out of you.

      Even though I don't think it matters any more, doesn't mean t
    • This is standard MIT behavior. Whenever their student body does something, it must be the first time that was ever done. This is not only true for 3D printing, but also weather balloon flights, and other assorted student engineering tasks.

      I don't think it's the student's fault. I blame MIT public relations for always giving this impression to the press.

  • Airplane + PopFab = Gun/boxcutter/weapon = Potential Hijacking

  • 3D Printers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @05:52PM (#40873323)

    Look. I get it. 3D printing is cool as heck. But, let's be honest.

    All of the 3D printed products that I have seen so far are bumpy, flimsy plastic bits with little real world day-to-day usability. Even the very best ones would require machining to just make them look good, let alone strong enough for real use.

    I'd love for some Slashdotter to prove me wrong and to point me to an amazingly strong and useful 3D printed product. But, really; 3D printing is failing to live up to the hype, even if it does fit in a suit case.

    • Re:3D Printers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tebee (1280900) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:42PM (#40873741)

      Excuse the blatant advertising, but I for one am actually making a living from making and selling 3-d printed things.

      What you may ask? Would you belive model train parts?

        http://www.shapeways.com/shops/tebee?sort=newest [shapeways.com]

      and selling them on the dreaded Ebay too http://stores.ebay.com/tbmod [ebay.com]

      • by couchslug (175151)

        That's a brilliant choice of application!

        For those not aware, it gets around having to make complex metal molds for plastic parts, and it ALSO can be used to produce lost wax castings if you want the same part out of brass! (The change of some dimensions and the addition of sprues would be required for that, but it's easy enough and being done elsewhere.)

        http://www.protocam.com/html/investment-castings.html [protocam.com]

    • Re:3D Printers (Score:5, Informative)

      by LuxuryYacht (229372) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:47PM (#40873775) Homepage

      Maybe you haven't seen the SLA printer projects that use lasers or DLP such as LemonCurry [google.com] for curing photopolymers [bucktownpolymers.com]? Feature sizes are often down to 1 micron per layer and only a few microns for X and Y.

      Photopolymers are available in a wide range of properties that are tough enough for use as end products and not just product concept look-a-likes. Photopolymers for inkjet have also come a long way and are also used to create rigid and durable end products with features down to 25-50 microns. What you might be used to seeing are the FDM or FFF (fused filament fabrication) RepRap type printers that print with molten plastics with much lower resolution in the order of 0.3mm.

    • by Maltheus (248271)

      Well this doesn't seem too flimsy:

      First working 3D-printed firearm built [gizmag.com]

    • by CyberKnet (184349)
      This being slashdot, I feel obliged / compelled to point you towards this [thingiverse.com] instead. :)
  • by aaronb1138 (2035478) on Friday August 03, 2012 @07:02PM (#40873901)

    Sorry, but we're about 6 months from near-UV / visible light curable resin destroying the FMD models. If you use an iPad Retina display as the light source, you only have mechanical jitter in the Z-axis (the boom / base you are raising) and a resolution of .078 mm (the best enthusiast FDM stuff is around .5 mm). You only need one stepper motor and mechanical assembly. You also reduce the amount of custom electronics to drive the head assembly and x & y axis stepper motors.

    Currently, Junior Veloso [blogspot.com] is using DLP projectors to get the light intensity needed (and .05 mm resolution), but an LCD panel with closer to UV LEDs under it would be an even cheaper route. With filters removed on an LCD you have (arbitrarily assigned axes) X-axis at the dot pitch, Y-axis at 1/3 dot pitch, and Z-axis at your stepper motor / mechanical limit.

    Lithographic techniques with light curable resins are vastly more scalable as well. Within the work area, there is no increase in time except for the Z-axis height. This means making dozens of duplicates in one pass for small objects or one large piece in the same time span. Further, the software process to turn the 3D model into 2D slices is exceptionally trivial compared with CAM type instructions to move 3 axes and run a pump head. Technically you could farm the object render with a LCD panel, laptop LCD, or tablet out to an auto-refresh webpage with black and white image slices with the stepper motor running on a timer synced with the page refresh...

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