The way that 3D printing technology is ramping up so quickly, instead of asking "What can you print?" we should be asking "What can't you print?". There's no better example than the jet engine turbine shown at the World Maker Faire last week by Kraftwurx.
Kraftwurx is essentially an online fulfilment company that enables designers to upload their creations, setup a storefront, and take orders, while Kraftwurx does all the 'behind the scenes' grunt work by processing the orders, printing and shipping the items, processing the credit card payments, and delivering a check to the designer. It's not a new or unique business model, and has been successfully applied to other markets, like photography and t-shirts, in the past. Kraftwurx's spin is to apply the business model to 3D printing coupled with a lot of applications and design know-how.
The jet engine turbine they had on display at Maker Faire was a good example. It's still in the prototype phase, and is intended for use in a model aircraft rather than anything life sized. Still, it was quite impressive to see first hand.
One of the most interesting, and cutting edge, users of 3D printing technology I met at the World Maker Faire 2013 last week was Aaron Trocola. Aaron, one of the founders of 40WestID and ThreeForm, is pushing the boundaries of currently available 3D printing technology and has achieved really remarkable results, as you can see from these photos. If you really want to be blown away by Aaron's work and creativity in custom designs that fit and enhance your body, jump over to ThreeForm.
Most of his creations were printed using Shapeways equipment, but he also works with other printer manufacturers and has given lectures/tutorials on the application of Sketchup and 123D Design to 3D printing.
It's SXSW time again already, so it should come as no surprise that companies involved in the interactive space are rolling out press releases and product announcements designed to leverage the excitement of the moment.
The most exciting, and interesting announcement that we've seen so far came from Makerbot on Friday. The company's CEO, and one of the founders, Bre Pettis stepped into the limelight to let the world know that they are developing a new 3-D scanner. Actual details are kind of sparse at the moment, because the company is still in the prototyping phase. No doubt will be extensive testing, learning, and redesign over the next few months as the product develops. There is currently no indication of the price or release timing, though the company did state that they will start accepting orders this fall.
The scanner consists of a turntable on which you mount objects you wish to scan. Lasers and cameras translate that object into a digital files. Bre said the scanner will be ideal for archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, jewelry, and other objects.
Assuming that the pricing is reasonable, and by that I mean in line with the pricing for the company's 3-D printers, then the new scanner will be a huge success. There are free solutions out there that usually involve taking a series of photos, then having the photos analysed to re-create the dimensions for the 3-D object. However the free software available online is either difficult to use, or requires significant attention to detail.
The new scanner, on the other hand seems to be much more straightforward and has some nice features that we help make it into the final product design. For example, the turntable, which we assume will be able to rotate the subject smoothly and repeatably. it appears that the company would like to expand its offerings to include products targeted at all the key steps in the design and manufacturing/printing process.
Related links: Makerbot Announces New Scanner
Technically, logically, and emotionally I have always found Professor Sankai's arguments to be right on target. His vision of a future where human capability is augmented and extended through pragmatic application of robotic technology has tremendous appeal. And his view on how this could (should) be naturally developed in Japan, leveraged by obvious needs in health care and nursing, along with other areas where Japan excels, seems perfectly reasonable. Especially since it allows Japanese robot developers to approach the challenge from a position of strength and know-how.
"In America, a lot of high-tech research originates from the defense and aerospace industries. But in Japan, we'd like to make high-tech advances in the health and welfare field, which is very difficult because technology has to be applied to individuals. And in this way, we think technology from industry could be used to enhance everyday life. We feel this might be one way for Japan to show the world some unique achievements."
However, the one thing that I can't figure out is how it will actually come to fruition. Cyberdyne's technology is certainly world-class, but I have to wonder about the company's business model and long term strategy. Investors and backers have obviously pumped millions of dollars into the project, year after year. Yet no one even begins to hint that it is profitable, even on a run rate basis.
How deep is the rabbit hole? How much longer will the company's backers continue to support the cash flow required to keep it alive and striving to catch the attention of the world? The jury is still out. Given the state of the Japanese economy over the past few years, Cyberdyne's backers run some risk of not being able to fund the company, even if they want to, since things are getting tighter and tighter here.
The other, possibly significant, risk is a competitive challenger suddenly appearing on the scene - perhaps from Korea or China. While Cyberdyne's robot suits are extremely impressive, even if they don't come in my size, very little of the technology is unique and un-reproduceable. Assuming that a viable market for the robot suits actually exists, which still needs to be proven, Cyberdyne doesn't appear to have created a strong barrier to entry against competitors.
Robert Roschler, a good friend, fellow robot designer, and AI researcher, put together this impressive remix of "Tears of Steel". Just to be clear, the video footage and impressive animation was done by the Blender Foundation and Robert is using it in accordance with the appropriate derivative license terms and conditions. At the same time, he is the creator, author, and performer of the song "Evolution".
Robert is one of those rare individuals that that is been able to bridge the gap between left brain right brain individuals merging his grasp of both the technical realm and the artistic. He loves creating a fusion of robotics and automation with the performing arts. In fact, that unique talent inspired him many years ago to create the RoboDance project.
That project, which was primarily self-funded by Robert himself, enabled people to create complex dance and performance sequences with computer assistance utilising low-cost robots like the Robosapien. He doesn't let artificial constraints stand in the way of creativity. In fact he sees it as a challenge to apply technology in new ways to create his visions.
Here are the reference links provided by Robert:
Remix of the amazing Tears of Steel animation video by the Blender Foundation. Video footage and some sound effects are used in accordance with the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license the video was released. This license allows content usage in both commercial and non-commercial derivative works as long as proper attribution is given. My personal thanks to the creative geniuses at the Blender Foundation for this latest open source project in a series of true gems that they have released over the years. To see the original film in its entirety please visit:
The song "Evolution" is an original work and not part of the Tears of Steel project, (c) Android Technologies, Inc. For more information visit:
Design World has an online webinar scheduled for next Tuesday, December 4th, featuring Chong Pak of Olloclip explaining how they used 3D printing technology to design and manufacture their 3-in-one lens system for the iPhone camera. According to the webinar registration webpage:
"Olloclip has created the ultimate 3-in-one lens system for your iPhone that fits in your pocket and takes your picture taking ability to the next level. Product design in the most recent years has been impacted tremendously by 3D printing and Olloclip’s camera lenses are no different. Whether it’s wide angle, fish eye or a macro picture view, this development in camera phone technology has been made possible by Objet 3D Printing. Please join Chong Pak of Olloclip and Objet Geometries as they discuss product design within the iPhone era and how 3D printing can help engineers design, create and ultimately bring products to life faster.
Attend this webinar to learn about:
-Olloclip and their fast hitting iPhone accessory
-3D printing and the design process
-Objet’s multi-platform capabilities"