Last week I visited the iheartengineering headquarters in Brooklyn and was surprised to find that they have managed to build a rapidly expanding business around the print-on-demand model and unique product designs. Besides their abundant creativity, the heart of their business is a first generation MakerBot 3D printer that manufactures parts as orders come in the door (or over the internet).
It's not unusual for them to keep the printer running for hours, and sometimes days, at a time when orders peak. They've developed some special techniques for producing large parts with some unique fill patterns that I will post more about later.
Most important, the work, and the business model, that iheartengineering is pioneering convinced me that all the buzz about 3D printing generating a rebirth of manufacturing and creativity in the U.S. is much more than just hype. It is a practical and achievable goal, one that may soon be a reality for a growing number of start-ups.
’Affordable 3d Printers Hit The Market…? (Video)’ continues
OK- all the buzz and furor about small 3D printing technology, like the Makerbot, is great, and it will be wonderful when all of us have the ability to create any necessary, or unnecessary, object at home, at will. But, what's at the other end of the scale - bigger, better, and even more ecological? How about a 3D printer robot that recycles waste of all types and uses it to print big stuff, like furniture? Wouldn't that be cool?
Michael Overstreet has been a good and respected friend since the first time we hooked up several years ago at RoboGames in California. So, I hope he doesn't mind if I make some frank, and well deserved, comments.
When we first met Michael seemed like a typical robot geek, very talented with lots of expertise, but a bit shy and withdrawn. You really had to push him to get him to tell you what he thought. I'm sure he had lots of valuable and useful things to share, but they didn't flow easily.
Over the years, with experience, learning, and success, Michael has really blossomed and come out of his shell. He's become a key member of the Cowtown Computer Congress - Kansas City's leading hackerspace, a frequent exhibitor and participant in Maker Faire events all over the US, and a strong proponent of the DARwin-OP humanoid robot platform.
Michael Overstreet, one of our regular readers, RoboGames champion, and hacker extraordinare, alerted us that AutoDesk is currently offering the 123D Sculpt iPad app for FREE. It's likely to be a limited time promotional offer, though we can't be sure. Even if they do eventually charge for it, the feature set looks very impressive.
- Multi-Touch tools let you sculpt and experiment with the details of your creation, just like real clay
- Pull – add bumps and create raised areas to exaggerate details like noses, claws, and fins
- Smooth – soften out rough areas or blend details into one another
- Push – create grooves and valleys by pushing into the shape
- Pinch – create hard edges and ridges to add sharp details
- Grab – grab hold of the shape and stretch it out
- Flatten – make curvy or lumpy surfaces flat
- Bulge – create large or small bulging effects
- Personalize and detail your sculpture using built-in brushes and textures, or use your own images to create exactly the look you want
- Paint – use a bold color palette to add shades, tints, and hues
- Image rub – use your finger to rub areas of a photo directly onto your creation to add realistic details
- Import your own images from your Photo Library or take photos using your iPad 2 camera to use as custom textures
- Create and Share your creations as images or movies on Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox or YouTube
- Email your images directly from the app or save to your Photo Library
- Save transparent PNG images for incorporating into other digital art compositions, or for further processing in apps like SketchBook Pro
- Create 720p HD QuickTime turntables of your sculptures for sharing on YouTube or for import into iMovie projects.
I just downloaded the app and will be exploring it later in the day.
I can't be exactly sure what Michael Overstreet and his gang of fellow makers are up to in Kansas City, but whatever it is, it sure looks like fun. They have turtle shell racers that appear to be remote controlled from the operators smartphones, that look just as if they jumped right off the screen out of a Mario Bros video game adventure.