Posts Tagged ‘printer’
Even though California startup Kateeva demonstrated it could print OLED displays way back in 2010, the printer it used was a prototype meant strictly for show and tell. The age of printed OLED TVs might finally be upon us however, as the company recently unveiled the YIELDJet, a machine it’s calling the “world’s first inkjet printer engineered from the ground up for OLED mass production.” The machine is quite an impressive affair, comprising a shifting slab capable of handling glass or plastic sheets big enough for six 55-inch displays along with custom print heads designed to emit teeny tiny OLED pixels.
Why is this a big deal? Due to the oxygen and moisture-hating nature of OLED ingredients, current OLED televisions are built with tricky vacuum evaporation and shadow masking techniques that are too inefficient and wasteful to be inexpensive. The YIELDJet, on the other hand, prints the LEDs in a pure nitrogen chamber to avoid those problems, plus it promises better film coating uniformity as well. This, Kateeva said, will hopefully result in OLED TVs that won’t cost an arm and a leg yet still look stunning when hung on your living room wall. Combined with Sony and Panasonic’s separate efforts to mass-produce the stellar-looking sets, we certainly hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
Filed under: HD
Toward the end of the C Enterprise’s Kickstarter pitch, one employee explains the genesis of the product’s name, “it’s a robot in a box.” And thus the name Robox was born. The product’s probably more accurately described as a 3D printer trapped in what appears to be a toaster oven — though there are some caveats to that, too. See, the company’s jammed a lot of things into the device’s printer head, while also making the piece removable. That means there’s some interesting potential for future attachments that could make it possible to scan or mill with the thing. In the meantime, however, printing is the product’s primary focus, and the head features two nozzles: a thin one for the perimeter and a thick one for filling objects — a process it promises will speed things up considerably.
There’s also an auto-shutoff for the extruder, so you don’t get any dangling plastic pieces when the print is finished. At launch, Robox will support PLA and ABS, though the company’s also offering up a long list of potential compatible materials, including nylon, polycarbonate and PVA. Robox is set to retail for around $ 1,400, though early supporters will be able to snag one for $ 1,130.
Filed under: Peripherals
MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based company that makes a variety of desktop 3D printers, accessories and associated software, announced a new plan today designed to put one of its signature devices into every school in America. Called the “MakerBot Academy,” the new effort relies on DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding website designed specifically for budget-strapped teachers, which lets them post requests for specific supplies online and solicit donations to help pay for the costs.
3D-printer company Makerbot is leading a crowdfunding drive to buy 3D printers for every school in America. The push, called Makerbot Academy, will begin with CEO Bre Pettis personally pledging a Makerbot to every public high school in the company’s home town of Brooklyn.
“MakerBot Academy is a big thing. It is epic. There are around 100,000 schools in the USA and we want those students to be ready for the future,” Pettis wrote.
You can donate at the DonorsChoose.org page. “As a former teacher, I believe strongly in creating a new model for innovation. A MakerBot is a manufacturing education in a box,” wrote Pettis in a blog post. “We need to encourage our teachers and our youth to think differently about manufacturing and innovation.”
Makerbot is working with America Makes, part of the The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute that is “kickstarting” the 3D printing industry in the U.S.
In the kennel of 3D printers, I’d equate the oddly-shaped and homegrown RepRap printers to lovable mutts. The Makerbot is a golden retriever, ready to please. And the $ 1,599 Afinia H-Series is a solid, scrappy Jack Russell terrier, willing to get dirty and able to take on all comers.
The H-Series looks like it was built by the same industrial design team that built the original metal-clad Apple IIs. The device is almost entirely self-contained and there are none of the familiar cables running up and down the various arms and cams. The print head is connected via a large wire ribbon to the control board and shielded by a 3D-printed plastic screen that keeps the .15mm print head protected. The spool sits on a fairly solid hook on the side of the machine and the plastic runs through a guide into the extruder. In short, there are very few visible moving parts, which is a good thing and a bad thing.
The H-Series is a great beginners’ printer and the rugged case makes it an excellent contender for a true classroom 3D printer. It looks and feels as solid as, say, an industrial educational microscope or similar lab gear and, given a choice, I’d far prefer it over a similarly outfitted but more exposed system like the many RepRap hardware. That said, the home hobbyist may be put off by the lack of visible access to the extruder and motors, two points of failure that often require maintenance. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get into the extruder and pull out broken filament, for example, but it’s definitely a bit of a hindrance.
As for print quality, it was a mixed bag but erred on the side of excellent. On very simple prints everything worked swimmingly. The .15mm size produces a smooth, solid print in objects that fit within the fairly limited 5-inch square print envelope. However, bigger objects are problematic as you have to slice them a bit to get them to fit and, unlike the Makerbot, you don’t have much room to print multiple objects on one plate.
In terms of torture testing the printer I came away sufficiently impressed, but if you’re printing very complex objects this is probably not for you. This is my printer torture test object. It’s 100 layers tall and consists of a number of very fiddly little shapes that throw off most printers. The Makerbot can barely complete this without artifacts. How did the Afinia do? The results, while not perfect, were more than acceptable given the price and the materials available. No amount of fine-tuning could force the printer to create a better version of this print.
The Torture Test model, on the other hand, printed just fine. In general the printer can produce some very solid output but it is stymied by the limitations imposed by additive printing and the problems associated with ABS filament.
Given that the H-Series is facing a number of competitors in the 3D printing space, it’s important to understand how this model stacks up. It has a very small build envelope, which could be problematic, but because we’re not talking about an industrial printer here this can be forgiven. It’s half the price of similarly outfitted 3D printers but you are limited to ABS printing and it only includes one extruder. However, because it’s quite small it’s far easier to store than other models and can sit unobtrusively on a desk where others systems hulk menacingly.
I ran into a few problems with the software, however, which should give Mac users pause. The OS X versions of the software worked intermittently and the app didn’t work at all on Windows 8. It works best on Windows 7, which I ended up running in a virtual machine on my Mac just to get anything to print.
Compared to other software packages I’ve used the phrase “Better than nothing” comes to mind when I look at Afinia’s solution. There is no interactive scaling – to scale an object you select a size multiplier (.8, 1.2, etc) and press scale. The same unintuitive system is used to move and rotate objects on the bed. However, when all you want to do is print something small it works just fine. The 3D printer software is often an afterthought and, while I wasn’t impressed by its utility, I was able to use it and print with it without much trouble.
Is this the 3D printer for you? If you’re an educator or home hobbyist, I think this is $ 1,500 well spent. Serious hobbyists may want to consider a printer that does PLA and ABS, however, and the build envelope is very small on this machine, thereby limiting what you can print in one piece. However it is very quiet, sturdy, and usable and I was very impressed with the build quality and utility. It’s not the best 3D printer out there, but in many respects it comes very close.
Click to enlarge
Formlabs, an MIT Media Labs spin-out and maker of the high resolution Form 1 3D printer – which came up on Kickstarter (where it pulled in nearly $ 3 million in crowdfunding) – has closed a $ 19 million Series A, led by DFJ Growth. Pitango Venture Capital and Innovation Endeavors also participated in the round, along with “many returning angel investors”.
The funding round gives Formlabs considerable runway to keep building out a business, a few months after rival desktop 3D printer maker Makerbot was acquired by 3D industrial printing and manufacturing company Stratasys for $ 403 million. Makerbot now operates as a subsidiary of Stratasys.
Formlabs, which was founded in 2011, said it will be using the funding to expand its R&D, grow its global customer support and servicing, and develop new materials to print with. Software development is another focus: Formlabs said today it plans to launch version 1.0 of its PreForm 3D model-to-3D-print software soon.
Expansion is also on the cards for its own production facility, with the 3D printer maker in the midst of moving into an 11,000 squarefoot facility in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Formlabs previously raised $ 1.8 million in seed funding, before taking its prototype to Kickstarter and pulling in enough cash to go into production. One year after its Kickstarter campaign, it said it has shipped more than 900 of its 3D printers to backers around the world, and is approaching fulfillment of all the original Kickstarter campaign rewards.
As interest in additive manufacturing builds, more startups are pushing in to attack the 3D printer space from various different angles and price-points. Many of these newcomers taking their printer prototypes to crowdfunding sites are looking to offer a cheaper desktop 3D printer, and/or simplify the 3D print experience, to make it more consumer friendly.
At present Formlabs is unashamedly high end with its pricing – costing more than Makerbot’s Replicator ($ 2,199) for instance. The $ 3,299 Form 1′s relatively high price-tag (for a desktop 3D printer) is justified by Formlabs’ focus on high resolution printing.
The Form 1 works by shining a laser onto a metal surface through a layer of resin, using a process called photopolymerization. This results in higher print precision, meaning 3D printed objects can have finer detail.
While Formlabs’ resin-based approach is not cheap, it is serving what is likely to be a growing demand for high quality 3D prints as more lower cost machines enter the market, littering it with lower resolution and therefore poorer quality 3D prints.
Asked if it plans to expand into cheaper tiered segments of the desktop 3D printer market in future, the company told TechCrunch: “We’re focusing on making the Form 1 the best possible desktop printer out there, right now. We’ll definitely be exploring more of the market as we grow, but we’re keeping our focus on what we do best right now. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Regular 3D printers (from pens to desktop models) debut quite frequently these days, but a new machine named Freeformer was created with industrial-grade manufacturing in mind. The device was designed by German company ARBURG and employs a proprietary process called ARBURG Plastic Freeforming or — …
We know you’ve got questions, and if you’re brave enough to ask the world for answers, then here’s the outlet to do so. This week’s Ask Engadget inquiry is from Andrew, who wants to print all the things, you know what we mean? If you’re looking to ask one of your own, drop us a line at ask [at] …
The 3D printer market looks set to swell in size over the coming years, as the appeal of 3D printing builds — shifting from being the preserve of makers and hobbyists (and TC’s own John Biggs), to something that more mainstream consumers and business users feel comfortable dabbling with. But in order to get there 3D printers need to get easier to use. They need to feel more approachable to Average Joe.
One example of the consumer-focused makeovers going on in this space is the touchscreen-packing Zeus all-in-one copy machine, currently calling for funds on Kickstarter. And here’s another, in its words, “consumer-oriented” 3D printer, also seeking crowdbacking to ship a printer that doesn’t look like it wants to extrude plastic all over your settee. Zim is not as elaborate as Zeus; it’s merely a 3D printer, not a scanner and copy shop all-in-one. But less may well be more when it comes to convincing a mainstream user to try a newfangled technology.
“The use and maintenance of many 3D personal printers available on the market today requires extensive technical knowledge, as well as hours of assembly, before you can start to print your first 3D object,” argue Zim’s Stamford-based makers, Zeepro, on their Kickstarter page. “We wanted to create a 3D personal printer which was ready to use, straight out of the box.”
Zim’s consumer concessions include what its makers describes as “fully plug & play” operation (with the printing process being condensed to: connect the printer to the Internet, download a model, open the Zim app, print); a sleek-looking aluminium frame; the ability to control and view progress on the current print via a smartphone app thanks to the printer’s onboard camera (so rather than having to stand by the printer waiting to see if it’s finished making your replica plastic sphinx yet, you can check in on how it’s looking via an app); a cartridge system for easily loading different filament colours into the printer (and also refillable cartridges if you want to add your own filament).
The printer packs Ethernet and Wi-Fi — allowing it to also be remotely controlled from a computer web browser, as well as via the Zim app. Other neat tricks up Zim’s sleeve are dual extruders in its print head so multiple colours can be printed at once. Or you can use one extruder to print a water-soluble PVA plastic support material to simplify the process of printing more complex objects, as demonstrated in the video below.
Zim can print up to 50 microns per layer. The print volume area is 205 cubic inches (5.9”x5.9”x5.9”). And at its fastest, it can print 3D objects at 110 mm/s.
What about price? The high price-tag of many 3D printers remains a huge barrier to mainstream adoption — albeit, analyst Gartner expects prices to be squeezed over the next few years as more large multinational retailers start stocking devices, helping to drive demand and trim price-tags.
Zim is being offered to early Kickstarter backers for a ‘special price’ of $ 599, and a ship date of March 2014. Expect the retail price to be higher — likely around the $ 899 mark. Zeepro’s Kickstarter campaign has raised around two-thirds of the $ 300,000 target so far, with 20 days left to run.
3D printing remains a nascent market, despite high levels of hype around the technology’s potential — such as, most recently, news that astronauts will be using a 3D printer in space next year. The hype may be a little overblown but there’s no doubting the technology’s trajectory. Enter analyst Gartner with a new report, which predicts worldwide shipments of sub-$ 100,000 3D printers will grow 49% this year, to reach a total of 56,507 units.
That rate of growth is forecast to rise to 75% in 2014, fuelling shipments of 98,065 units. It’s the first time Gartner has put together a forecast for the sub-$ 100,000 3D printer market so that’s something of a rite of passage for the technology too.
“The 3D printer market has reached its inflection point,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, in a statement. “While still a nascent market, with hype outpacing the technical realities, the speed of development and rise in buyer interest are pressing hardware, software and service providers to offer easier-to-use tools and materials that produce consistently high-quality results.”
“As the products rapidly mature, organisations will increasingly exploit 3D printing’s potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations,” he added. “In the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive.”
The analyst expects the price of 3D printers to be driven down by competitive pressures and higher shipment volumes over the next several years, helped by increasing numbers of large multinational retailers selling 3D printers through their physical and online stores. By 2015 it’s predicting seven of the 50 largest multinational retailers will do so.
“Office superstore Staples is already in the market, and other superstores and consumer goods retailers, such as Yamada Denki, are prime candidates to sell printers and finished 3D printed items. Their presence in the market will have an impact on average selling prices, forcing providers into low-margin sales of consumer 3DP by 2017,” Basiliere added.
Combined end-user spending on 3D printers is predicted to hit $ 412 million this year, up 43% from spending of $ 288 million in 2012. While the analyst expects spending to increase 62% next year, reaching $ 669 million. Gartner’s forecast shows enterprises continuing to dominate 3D printer purchases over the next few years, with enterprises spending more than $ 325 million in 2013 vs $ 87 million in the consumer segment; and $ 536 million in 2014 vs consumer spending of $ 133 million.
Gartner noted that current enterprise uses of 3D technology focus on “one-off or small-run models for product design and industrial prototyping, jigs and fixtures used in manufacturing processes and mass customisation of finished goods”. But as advances in 3D printers, scanners, design tools and materials reduce the cost and complexity of creating 3D printed items, it said applications of 3D printing technology will expand further — drawing in other areas such as “architecture, defence, medical products and jewellery design”.
The analyst expects 3D printers to have the biggest impact on industries, including consumer products, industrial and manufacturing, and a “medium impact” on construction, education, energy, government, medical products, military, retail, telecommunications, transportation and utilities. Low impact industries include banking and financial services and insurance.
“Most businesses are only now beginning to fully comprehend all of the ways in which a 3DP can be cost-effectively used in their organisations, from prototyping and product development to fixtures and moulds that are used to manufacture or assemble an item to drive finished goods,” said Basiliere.
And while earlier buyers of 3D printers will continue to be makers and hobbyists, rather than average consumers, Gartner reckons the former group will contribute to the development of a 3D printing ‘killer app’ — some form of “plug and play” tool — that will be key to driving consumer sales in future. ”We expect that a compelling consumer application — something that can only be created at home on a 3D printer — will hit the scene by 2016,” Basiliere added.