lunes, 6 de mayo de 2013

BotQueue lets you control multiple 3D printing jobs

BotQueue it´s a nice iniciative from MakerBot co-founder Zack "Hoeken" Smith that lets you control multiple 3D printers through the Internet and turn them into your own manufacturing center. It is designed for users who: 1) have more than one printer (they have to be supported); 2) print a lot of different things for different projects.

Let´s say you have 10 printers making parts for 3D printer kits... you then should have 10 windows open in your computer for each file in progress, what can be messy to handle! 

BotQueue claims to eliminate this problem by distributing printing jobs between several printers (bots) such that if one of the printers is busy/out of service, the next available printer automatically takes over the next job...  all  this in a remote way through internet.

For accesing the app dashboard, you will need to create an account in and configure your printers parameters...It´s quite easy...just push Add Bot and fill in the fields. The app incorporates Slic3r as default slicing software, so you can even upload your config file and use your profiles in a simple way. 

Once you got all settings done, you need to download the client software Bumblebee and install it. For now they only have a Mac/Linux version...but I think a Windows version should be expected as well. A simple validation process is required in order to activate your computer as a client and then...voila! You have access to a control panel where can monitoring the progress of each of your printing can even link web cams!

Now you can upload all your STL files, and Botqueue automatically will distribute and slice them according to each particular printer settings.

If you are a 3D printing heavy user, maybe this is for you. Anyway, I guess we'll see more of this kind of software in the near future, as a solution for new 3D printing business needs.

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

Gun control on 3D printing

A very discussed theme these days is the need for stronger gun controls. But a big debate about this topic that could lead to a serious review of legislation should consider all new ways of home manufacturing based on 3D printing.

A few months ago, somebody designed and built the first partly 3D printed weapon. It was a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle AR-15, with a 3D printed lower receiver. The part was 3D printed in an old fashion Stratasys printer, using normal plastic at a $30 total cost, and then uploaded to Thingiverse to be available to all the world.

But if one can do it, everybody could. And as a result, a community of hobbyists have created "Wiki Weapon", some kind of RepRap project for sharing, designing and creating the first fully 3D printed gun.

A broader discussion about banning or not objects with a potential to become parts of illegal weapons came first to 3D printing community with questions as: Is the same printing a gun that buying one? What regulations apply (if possible) to these 3D printed parts? Is there a way to do it? But as 3D printing is growing rapidly, society need to be informed about it order to take part of discussion.

Days when somebody can print a gun and kill somebody are around the corner and legality issues about it are not clear at all.

3D printing will be a new revolution and will put in people's hands the power of making...but with great power comes great responsability.

sábado, 27 de octubre de 2012

Do you know the two firms that rule 3D printing business?

The 80´s brought to us the war of PC´s....IBM, the giant corporation had developed the PC using low-cost parts, with conservative sales projections. Microsoft instead, had understood the great potential of personal computer, and decided bet all on that vision. The rest is history. They negociated with IBM the rights of distribution  that became Bill Gates and Paul Allen billionaires.

Today, thirty years later, we´re having a manufacturing revolution...a technological déjà vu  with personal fabricators (PF´s) in a star role:

Stratasys and 3D Systems. Remember these names. They both are american, have the monopoly of 3d printing, and are ready to hit the world.

Chuck Hull´s 3D Systems is a company headquartered in South Caroline since 1986. They are fathers of 3D printing for having patented stereolitography (first layer to layer manufacturing), but also for developing  SLS powder sintering and STL file extension for rapid manufacturing from CAD designs.

But besides that, 3D Systems have realized that this war will be fought in all flanks, and have bought Z Corporation in Q1 this year, a huge company that owns Zprinting technology, developed in MIT  for color 3Dprinting based on Inkjet.  But thats not all, early this month, they acquired Rapidform too, who owns a unique parametric software for reverse engineering.

From a financial view, DDD (as known in markets) stock price has grown a 177,8% in the last year, what is a feat considering the shy move of markets in crisis.

In the other hand we have Scott Crump´s Stratasys. A company founded in 1989, and settled in Minessota. They own Fused Deposition Modeling(FDM) , the best-selling technology for prototyping, and actually the most extended in personal fabrication field because of its low cost and zero emissions. But besides that, Stratasys have concreted a lot of acquisitions and joint ventures for ensure a wider presence: Fortus, Dimension, HP, Solidscape (owner of Drop on Demand (DoD) technology), and icing the cake: they merged last april with the israeli company Objet (owner of Polyjet technology), one of the bigger manufacturers of 3D printers.

Stratasys stocks (listed in Nasdaq as SSYS) have grown a 119,75% in last year, and all indicates it will go on like that. I´m not an expert in stock markets, but it is a fact that average growth of both companies overcomes major indexes growth.

That is the actual panorama. And even when open manufacturing promises putting in people hands a big slice of business share of these new Goliats, there's a long way to walk before it happens.

martes, 16 de octubre de 2012

New business structures for 3D printing

Personal fabrication is a new business model that requires new structures, and new conceptions of the market. Chris Anderson´s theory, "the long tail" adequately explains the phenomenon that has been going on for some years with manufacturing: We´re moving from traditional model consisting of some few companies fabricating lots of a few products demanded by average market, to a new concept focused in making a few products for a lot of niche markets, with a potential bigger market that extends to infinity asymptotically (the long tail).

This potential business sector is as substantial as traditional market, and is growing on recent years thanks to democratization of technology.

Differences between traditional manufacturing model and this emerging model oriented to personal fabrication are showed in next figures:
 Above figure summarizes traditional production scheme: A few companies conceptualize products based on market researches (reflecting wishes of average user) and manufacture them according their know-how (different for each company) using mass production techniques, and 24/7 working industrial machines. The result is measured in money units, and depends on market degree of acceptance.

The other figure presents a new business model: Upstream of the process, a user/manufacturer duality define product requirements, based on their own experiences, emotions and sensations. The know-how then moves from businesses to users, who are increasingly able to set up devices and  productive aspects in their living rooms, in order to materialize a product that meets a one person market: themselves.

Outcomes of this model can not be measured with money since there is no financial transaction between manufacturer and end user. Instead there is certain degree of emotional component because of customizable products touching users at a personal level (objects for celebrations, commemorative rituals, jewerly, etc.) ... features not offered in traditional manufacturing.

jueves, 4 de octubre de 2012

Review: Top 5 low cost 3D Printer of 2012

Open source hardware is a reality that offers 3D printer users a possibility for self-building, modifying or adapting efficient devices at a fraction of the cost of commercial options.

This review will consider price of devices, but also cost of material, precision and speed of manufacture, in order to propose balanced options.
Although kits based on  thermoplastic filaments extrusion have monopolized low cost options for 2012, this review is quite heterogeneous, with very different devices and features.

Top 5 3D printers of 2012 regarding valued price, accuracy, speed, maximum size and cost of consumables are presented below:

This device is a project funded through Kickstarter site and presented last September at  2012 NYC Makers Faire. It is a 3D printer kit build in anodized aluminum and stainless steel. It is the only member of this group that uses an alternative technology to FDM... instead it uses DLP (Digital Light Processing), based on hardening a photocurable polymer by the action of a projector. Thus, it is able to generate more complex and detailed models than other low cost 3D printers, with accuracy up to 0.004 ". Maximun build volume is 4"x3"x8"...Bottom line is cost, at $ 2,495,oo and consumables around $ 45 / lb.

It's a kit from MaukCC costing $ 1,830,oo. What is interesting about this device is the optional tool changer supporting a wide range of tools: engraving heads, plotting heads, laser cutters and extrusion heads for 3D printing ... Cartesio may be considered a desktop CNC machine. Besides a pretty good resolution (0.008"), it develops X-Y feed rates up to 12"/sec.  Consumables are about $ 17/lb, but generic filament can be used.  The small build volume of 8"x8"x8" is a weakness.

3. RepRap Mendel
Mendel is second generation of open hardware RepRap Project, a pioneer of DIY 3D printers.  Launched in 2004 at University of Bath, UK. this initiative looks for building a self-replication machine under open sorce environments. Main advantage is flexibility design because of  open source hardware, which means device is continuously modified and improved. Estimated construction cost  is around $ 500. It uses generic PLA or ABS consumables at $ 7 - $ 14/lb. Maximum part size is 8"x8"x5,5 ". Main disadvantages are difficulty of construction and low print resolutions. Prusa Mendel is the most known Mendel-based model.

2. Creatr
Leap Frog's Creatr is a fully assembled 3D printer at a cost of $ 1,588.88, based on FDM extrusion technology, achieving up to 0.008" accuracy. Main advantage is plug and play installation, which eliminates the need for complex configurations. Maximum building size is quite attractive with 11.8"x9,8"x10,2", and estimated ABS consumable cost at $ 14/lb.

Ultimaking Ltd sells this 3D printer kit based on PLA/ABS filament extrusion at € 1194 (about $ 1550 plus shipping).  One of differences from other projects, is the fact of moving head rather than deposition platform, allowing a significantly increase of extrusion rate, which can exceed 12 "/sec! Consumables are about $ 14/lb (PLA) but you can use cheaper generic filament....device has also been tested with HDPE, PP and PMMA.
Building volume is a quite acceptable 8.2 "x 8.2" x 8.6 ", and precision a 0.004 " on all axes.

martes, 25 de septiembre de 2012

3DPrint an IPhone at home!

Personal Fabrication is a two decades old utopia that today is very close to be achieved thanks to technological and social changes occurred in recent years that have broken all paradigms.

The birth of "the cloud" on the internet, which completely change the way we access software and information, the boom of social networks that has defined a new way to relate to people, the rise of open software as a new standard of publication, or most new "open hardware", with open R&D schemes, are driving manufacturing to new PF scenarios.

Social aspects are driven the change too: online communities are the new technical assistance and help to reduce technology maturity times; the increasingly need to stand out the rest is traduced in a demand for highly personalized products and spreading of DIY culture, determinant for commercialize low-cost device kits, to be mounted at home.

The point is, PF is an emerging field, growing exponentially. Moreover, PF has been named as future  industrial revolution because of its importance and potential impact in society. But this is just the beginning... we have a long way to go before you can print the new IPhone at home. 

Meanwhile, changes are happening...and they are triggers for many others yet to come, that can already be, it's to us riding the wave.

lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012

The Age of Making

Cube 3D printer.

In recent years, some manufacturing technologies have become affordable to general public, to the point that today people can buy devices that allow them to make simple products at home in an economical and highly personalized way. Great technological changes as the massification of communications, the exponential increase of PC's power, the birth of "the cloud" on Internet, the proliferation of "open" hardware and software, among others,  have contributed to lead manufacturing into new user-centered a personal fabrication scenario.

Personal Fabricator (PF) is a concept that encompasses the evolution of manufacturing technologies to the point where a computer-guided machine is able to fabricate complex three-dimensional products from digital files, in an easy and economical way. 

Today, 3D printing seems to meet the requirements to become standard technology for home manufacturing: compact devices, good accuracy, low cost and low emission materials are some of the features of this group of technologies, based on the stacking of layers of material.

But, are people ready for this? How much money are people willing to pay for a 3D printer? Are they technically prepared? What about industrial property issues? Is the end of massive manufacturing? These are some of the questions I research about.

A new age...the Age of Making is almost here...and we all are going to live revolutionary changes in manufacturing. PC's brought the explosion of bytes .... PF's will bring the boom of atoms.