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Printer Technology

3D Printing On Demand 106

Iddo Genuth writes "The Netherlands based company Shapeways is beta testing a new service allowing people to print three-dimensional models. Customers can upload designs or use a creation tool hosted at the Shapeways website, then order a printed model of their designs for less than $3 per square centimeter. The printed items are shipped to the customer in ten days or less, bringing 3D printing to consumers and not just companies large enough to afford their own printers."
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3D Printing On Demand

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  • Eh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:04AM (#25344369)

    Shouldn't that be cubic centimetres? Y'know... The third dimension.


    • That doesn't matter for printers, you only get 2D-images out of it, even when you print a 3D model.

      Oh, wait...
    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheEmptySet ( 1060334 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:43AM (#25344447)
      You can happily use a 2D (Hausdorf) measure on a 3D set. No problem. But the result would be infinite. I imagine they plan to be quite expensive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by deniable ( 76198 )

      They may be measuring the area printed in each layer. Find out the layer thickness and you can convert to volumes. I'd say it's still going to be expensive.

    • Shouldn't that be cubic centimetres? Y'know... The third dimension.

      I thought it was obvious! They have invented an origami machine crossed with a standard printer.

      Actually, that sounds quite interesting... Now off to RTFA.

    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ljw1004 ( 764174 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @11:12AM (#25345515)
      "Shapeways -- 2d pricing for 3d products"!!!

      As always, the summary website is wrong. If you go to shapeways.com they explain:

      How is your pricing calculated?

      Our pricing is based upon the actual amount of material used in your model. So the actual volume of your finished object not the volume of the bounding box. If you click on the order tab next to any model the system will calculate the price for you. All prices includes shipping and handling.

  • Waaaaaah? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:07AM (#25344371)
    So will they mind if some of the 'prototypes' have an eerie resemblance to 40k minitures?
    • by Gerafix ( 1028986 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:13AM (#25344389)
      Probably not, but I'm sure they will get tired of receiving over nine thousand penis designs though.
    • by deniable ( 76198 )

      Not sure where the first reply went, but wouldn't the GW originals be cheaper. Now, that's a scary thought.

      • At least for the plastic ones, since I estimate (by tossing a few Orks into a half-full measuring cup) that it would be about 35 bucks to make 10 Boyz, which you can get in a 10-pack for 22.50 from GW. That's not to mention that I'm sure the resolution on their 3-dollar-a-ml models aren't quite as good as a plastic model from a mold.

        Although it's certainly possible that I'd consider having some custom parts made this way, depending on what kind of plastic they're using.

        • http://www.shapeways.com/about/material-options [shapeways.com]

          Pricing and material info. The most expensive material is $2.89. But since you would have to paint it you could probably get away with the $2.77 one even the $1.89 which seems to still provide plenty of detail but is more springy. They provide sample pictures of the output of each material and asides from the first one the resolution seems to be quite good.

          It's also worth pointing out that you could probably save some money by hollowing out the thicker part

    • Wonder if they'd mind if they look like overpriced molded plastic car parts...
    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      That is interesting : would it be considered piracy ?
    • I was thinking of mini buildings too, but for Doctor Who Miniatures [drwhominiatures.co.uk] and Mythos Miniatures [yahoo.com], not 40k. :-)
  • Dupe. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:10AM (#25344383)


  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:27AM (#25344407) Journal
    Right now this process is quite expensive, so this isn't going to be a problem, but I can imagine this getting cheaper.

    Some people are going to be using this to make 3D copies of cheap plastic items they own. Another poster mentioned Warhammer miniatures, and I could imagine lots of other small but expensive items being copied.

    Once someone with money takes notice of this, I guarantee a legal battle tying to make it illegal.
    • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:42AM (#25344437)

      So... what? Now we are going to have 'Miniature cloning is stealing' blurbs on packaging for small-but-expensive items? 'When you cloning this miniature, you are cloning COMMUNISM'.

      Interesting times ahead...

    • I could imagine lots of other small but expensive items being copied.

      How? Please try to be precise in your doom-mongering.

    • by inviolet ( 797804 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMideasmatter.org> on Sunday October 12, 2008 @10:03AM (#25345243) Journal

      Some people are going to be using this to make 3D copies of cheap plastic items they own.

      I'd like to see the following system put in place:

      • Every manufacturer of anything that has plastic components, is required to upload the components' specs to an escrow agency. Things like plastic cases, battery door covers, hinges, knobs, you name it, all will be escrowed.
      • While the manufacturer is in existence and offering spares for sale, you buy your replacement parts from them in the u$ual way.
      • After n years, or if the manufacturer goes under, the escrow agency releases the specs to the public.
      • You can then download the specs and print out your own replacement parts.

      This wouldn't affect anyone's bottom line, and it wouldn't let you rip off their electronic components (which is where the real investment is at)... it would simply let you get replacement parts during those times when, traditionally, you couldn't.

      Some companies might even choose to release their plans early, on their website or whatever, in order to get goodwill.

      • That kinda sounds like the US Patent system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        You're kidding yourself if you think this wouldn't impact their bottom line.

        For instance: mechanically/electronically, my IBM Thinkpad X30 is identical to how it was when I got it. It works great (though software has gotten more bloated in the meantime, and its argueable whether the Intel graphic chip in it is worth half a damn - point being, it works as designed.)

        However, the plastic case has cracked, broken, and otherwise been deformed over the past 5 years I've had it. The hard drive cover - held in by a

        • So the big question, then, is: which path has a greater profit margin?
          Company A doesn't provide replacement parts or any way of getting them: when your stuff breaks you have to buy brand new stuff.
          Company B provides replacement parts.
          Company C provides the manufacturing specifications for people to build their own replacement parts.

          If you did some combination of B & C -- you sell parts or just give away the instructions for making your own parts -- suddenly you're looking a lot like a Free/Open Source S

      • Too difficult to get the vendors to agree. Corporations can not be given choice in this matter; they have to be dragged into this way of life against their will, kicking and screaming. More likely way to success is to add 3D scanners to the mix and set up some public community where for free, barter, or a micropayment people can ask other people for a scan of the needed part. (Could also apply to black market for service manuals, schematics, firmwares, etc.) Also, scans of broken parts can be digitally ed
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dbc ( 135354 )

      The surface finish and material properties of 3D printer output is nothing like injection molded or machined plastics. If you want a weak, brittle copy in the wrong color with a rough surface, sure. But ain't nobody gonna be printing missing Lego parts with these.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by 91degrees ( 207121 )
        But will this always be the case? Is it impossible that improvements in the system and in the plastics will result in something of better quality?
  • Reprap (Score:5, Informative)

    by gringer ( 252588 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:33AM (#25344415)

    The article says that "the cheapest three dimensional printers cost $20,000", so I might as well mention the hacker's alternative:

    http://blog.reprap.org/ [reprap.org]
    http://www.reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome [reprap.org]

    • that is totally cool, have never heard of this project before. very neat.

    • Re:Reprap (Score:5, Informative)

      by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @06:37AM (#25344613) Homepage
      I've looked at a number of the "cheap" and homebrew 3D printers and honestly, I've been roundly unimpressed by all of them. The engineering effort is always great and their goals are surely worth persuing, but thus far the results of these printers leave much to be desired: at best looking like an *okay* hand-made model and more often looking more like an artistically shaped pile of poop. I don't mean to knock these projects, but the technology isn't really there yet. I mean, even some of the expensive commercial 3D printers don't produce spectacular results.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        • As somebody seems to have posted a link to my blog I have knocked up a Google site to show the things I have made so far with my homebrew 3D printer based on RepRap: http://sites.google.com/site/nophead/Home/hydraraptor/ThingsMade [google.com] The quality is not quite as good as commercial printers but we have come a long way in the 18 months I have known about the project. I can certainly make useful functional parts, including a complete second machine, a RepRap Darwin. The cost is only about $20 per kg and most par
      • Re:Reprap (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 12, 2008 @07:33AM (#25344735)

        > I don't mean to knock these projects, but the technology isn't really there yet.

        I think you will find that is exactly why these projects exist. They are developing the technology.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fermion ( 181285 )
        I don't know where you have seen these, but the results are far from crap. The ABS machines produce very solid and accurate representations of the 3-D model. The celluoid based machines produce accuracte mockup in colors and is faster than the ABS solutions. I have created some detailed and durable objects with the ABS technology.

        Both are hugely expensive methods, and are probably one economical form prototypes. I estimated that the cost is a few dollars per cc. It is, however, likely cheaper than cr

    • Reprap seems relatively low-quality... it would be interesting to see if people start making reprap parts using this service, though, since most people don't have access to someone who already has a printer that could extrude the parts for them.

      Irony at its finest.
    • http://candyfab.org/

      "The Revolution will be Caramelized."

      I've seen this unit in action. 10 dpi resoution, but it smells like baking sugar cookies :)

  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:38AM (#25344427) Homepage Journal

    This isn't even vaguely news. There's been 3d printing services like this for years. Just google [google.com] for them...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      but none of them offer such services at a price range accessible to the average person.

      if you actually click on the links in the Google search results you'll see they're nothing like the service discussed in the article. they don't allow customers to upload designs and instantly order a print. they require you to contact the printer by e-mail or phone for a quote, and unless you're ordering bulk prints it's going to be financially impractical. that's because these existing services are aimed at businesses n

      • by argent ( 18001 )

        if you actually click on the links in the Google search results you'll see they're nothing like the service discussed in the article. they don't allow customers to upload designs and instantly order a print.

        You sure about that? There's been companies doing 3d prints of Second Life builds for a couple of years now.

        it's like saying consumer CD burners weren't news when they first came out because people could already call up a CD-pressing factory and have a single CD made for them for $100.

        This isn't like "co

    • by jklmuk ( 1383691 )
      Yeah you can get a cubic inch for $9.99 on ebay already. So not only is this not news its a complete ripoff as well
  • by Libertarian001 ( 453712 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:43AM (#25344449)
    But it's a duplicate add from a few months back for the same company pimping their crappy service. Why do I say crappy? I've done a few prints (30+, actually) on the Objet Eden, the same manufacturer this SERVICE BUREAU is using. My bureau uses a high end machine set to high resolution. These guys use the low end machine set to high speed. And they've decided to write some proprietary translator to take my perfectly functional files and mangle them so they can't be used (and these guys have major self-induced scaling issues). In short, they're a bureau, nothing more.
    • by pilz ( 1228384 )
      Dear Libertarian, We use a Connex x500 at the moment, the highest end machine that Objet has. As well as high end EOS and Stratasys machines and the Eden 500. We do not 'translate' files we simply check them automatically so we can see if it can be 3D printed. We save all files in an open source format(x3D) and STL. We are not a bureau, we are an online co-creation community. Do you need a hug? You seem to be having a bad day? hugs, Joris
  • by swatje ( 814860 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @05:45AM (#25344453)
    There is really nothing new about this kind of service... Materialise is offering this service for already 10 years... http://www.materialise.com/materialise/view/en/91955-Online+service.html [materialise.com]
    • I don't think that they are so great. I mean, I clicked on their "onsite" product to figure out pricing, and I got an error saying it only works with something called "Internet Explorer", and then a blank page.

      I looked all over my Mac and I couldn't find this "Internet Explorer" anywhere. I even looked online. I did find a lot of references to an "Internet Exploder" that was made by Microsoft. However, Microsoft apparently must be a very small company, because they don't even make this product for commo

  • Cheap!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @09:08AM (#25345039)

    http://www.shapeways.com/model/6280/limbtaker_trophy.html [shapeways.com]

    This bookend (21x22x23cm) is $7800. How is that anything close to cheap?

    Wireframe objects without much mass are considerably cheaper, but any statues with heft are insanely expensive.

    http://www.shapeways.com/model/6277/queen.html [shapeways.com]

    A chess queen... $319. Seriously!

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, wireframe models would still require tons of support structure during the printing process. Most recently this is a solid gelatin that you wash off manually with a high pressure hose (kind of fun). The gelatin gets printed as little mountains/pyramids underneath the parts that would otherwise be pretty much floating on air. The gelatin is only a little cheaper than the hard plastic material per square (sp?) centimeter.

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Be creative, make it hollow so that its cheap to print and leave a hole so you can fill it with something cheap to give it weight later on.

    • While it is expensive, it's not your normal-sized chess piece. It's at least three or four times larger than the queens on my chess board.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 ) *

      To be fair, I'm an idiot. I have actually paid a little bit more than that for a queen. It took years to order the entire chess set but it was worth it. If anyone's interested I can root around and *maybe* find the company that I ordered from though this was a number of years back and I've recently moved. And, again, to be fair - I'm an idiot. I've played maybe a dozen games on that board and it sits in storage for fear or having it broken.

      • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

        I think we all have things that we valued enough to pay 'too much' for, and then overprotect it afterwards. I tend to do it with tech things, but everyone has their own.

        I would actually love to have a chess set that really feels like mine... I've just never seen one that speaks to me that strongly. I do have a $40 one that I got in the Bahamas (and looks more like $300-500, if purchased here in the US) that is hidden in a box somewhere because I don't want it broken, though.

        • I would actually love to have a chess set that really feels like mine...

          Hmm... A chess set with my (your) face on every piece... now that could be worth the money!

    • by Zerth ( 26112 )

      That queen is over 2.5 inches in diameter and nearly 6 inches tall.

      I imagine a more normal 2 inch tall piece would cost substantially less, especially if hollow.

  • 3D printing services have been around forever. I work for a huge company, and we generally use a service since it is cheaper than owning and operating your own machine. solidconcepts is a good example. Web based 3D printing services have been around for like 5-7 years. The good companies can have the part in your hand next day.
  • This place will be making a killing, if anyone uses it. The cost of consumables for 3D printing tends to not actually be all that bad. I routinely use a Stratasys machine that does FDM (fused deposition modeling - extruding hot plastic layer by layer), and the consumable cost is something like $5/in^3. Compare that to the quoted price of these guys: $3/cm^3. Do a units conversion (16.4 cm^3 = 1 in^3), and you'll find these guys are charging about 10x the consumable cost. This, of course, assumes that t

    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      Well, I disagree with your numbers. For the 3D printers I have seen the cost of consumables plus maintenance contract plus cost of capital to have the machine on site (own or lease) brings the total costs to around $15/in^3. They have a margin, sure. The also have some operator time.

      But yeah, $50/in^3 is no bargain.

    • This reminds me of collage in the late nineties, they had a new shiny stereolithography machine, I remember we would nerviously submit a model to the queue at the end of the day a hope and pray that it would come out ok the following morning.
      Due to the cost of running the machine they didn't exactly like us printing stuff for fun.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @12:35PM (#25345935) Homepage

    For those of you who have no idea how real, physical stuff is made, there's an entire industry of small "job shops" that will take your design and make a part for you. If you're anywhere near a industrial city, there's probably one in your neighborhood. Most will use machine tools, but ones with stereolithography machines [emachineshop.com] aren't that rare.

    If you're in Silicon Valley and want to use a stereolithography machine, check out TechShop [techshop.ws], which has one of the better ones. It won't be busy when you visit.

  • by DieByWire ( 744043 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @12:42PM (#25345983)
    Three dimensions for the price of two!
  • When I was at Uni doing product design, this type of output from a CNC lathe costs about $100 000 per product, now it's available for cents which is amazing
  • When these 3D printers come down in price I predict the following events will happen:
    • More and more people will use 3D printers to make backup copies of their disk drives because it is cheaper and faster than backing up to tape.
    • Occasionally, somebody will post to slashdot asking for advice: "Should I backup by disk drive to DVDs or via a 3D printer. I heard DVDs can degrade after just a few years. How long does it take a 3D printed model to degrade? I'd like to know if my data will last longer in a 3D mode
    • What are you smoking? How would you possibly store data in these things that is readable by a computer?

      • What are you smoking? How would you possibly store data in these things that is readable by a computer?

        Apparently you are not familiar with the stories of ignorant/stupid users who contact technical support. Back in the days when 5.25 inch floppies were commonly used, one story was about a user who contacted technical support to complain that his computer couldn't read important data on a floppy disk. The person in technical support asked if the user had made any copies of the disk. He user said yes, so he was told to post the copy of the disk to technical support. A few days later the person in technical su

  • "Print your own Tux figure!" :D

  • How bout metal? A nice service is eMachineShop [emachineshop.com], which lets you download their CAD software and design and order your own stuff in a number of alloys of metal, plus wood and plastics. But there is a setup overhead. So you can't just order one little $5 dohicky for a project you're doing -- it's not going to make financial sense unless you're going to need a bunch of the dohickys to cover the initial setup cost (or unless it's an inherently expensive part you want, like a replacement engine part for a cust

  • A twist on the same idea: Fabjectory [fabjectory.com] makes RL 3D models of objects and avatars from Second Life, Google Sketch Up and Nintendo Mii.

    It's a much cooler system that ends up as a plaster, colored model [fabjectory.com].

    They don't mention how much it costs though, so I'm thinking it's expensive.

  • Greate!

    they should put one in every where.

    The communities will be very happy!

  • A 3 dimentional square centimeter. Now that's kinda interesting.

  • A blatant copy of Bathsheba Grossman's Quintrino http://www.bathsheba.com/sculpt/quintrino/ - Bathsheba's math sculptures are, to me, the pinnacle of 3D printed art on this planet... who can resist the klein bottle beer bottle opener?

  • Wasn't this done... by that company that makes printed models of your WOW characters using ink printed onto thin layers of plaster? And wasn't that in color instead of white?

  • Finally we can look forward to accurate Escher reproductions!

    http://www.mcescher.com/Gallery/back-bmp/LW389.jpg [mcescher.com]

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta