FoldaRap: portable 3D printer

A 3D printer suitable for secret agents?

This is the first 3D printer I’d consider worthy of Ian Fleming’s Q character in the world of 007. The FoldaRap is a derivative of the RepRap project, the first to be a truely portable 3D printer. It is designed to fit within a tough travelling case. (more…)

Annual international fab lab conference coming to New Zealand in August

FAB8 NZ | August 22-28, 2012 | Massey University in Wellington, NZ

The 8th annual international fab lab conference — FAB8NZ — is coming to Wellington, New Zealand this year!

The seven-day event (August 22-28) will be hosted by The College of Creative Arts at Massey University and The Affect Research Centre with support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A highlight of the event will be the one day Public Academic Symposium on Digital Fabrication held on August 27. The speaker list is still growing but the current agenda confirms Alica Jackson of DARPA, Vik Oliver of RepRap, and Wellington’s own David ten Have of Ponoko.

Conference tracks are divided into four categories: Practices/Operations, Processes/Tutorials, Projects/Research, and Energy/Environment. Expect to learn things like:
• how to start your own fab lab
• how to make a circuit board
• the environmental and social impact of local manufacture & DIY
• introducing Maker skills to grade school students
• how to build your own 3D printer
• a lot more stuff!

Early Bird registration prices range from NZ$50 for students to attend the Symposium on Digital Fabrication to an all-events 7 day pass for NZ$450. (That’s kiwi money folks.)

Register now at the lowest rates, and start planning your New Zealand vacation.

More ceramic printing from Unfold

New developments from 3D printed porcelain pioneers

One year has gone by since we last checked in to see what Belgian design studio Unfold are up to, and it appears they have been busy indeed. Building on their expertise in 3d printed porcelain, the process continues to be refined, producing stunning results.

These intricate forms are printed on an open source RepRap that has been fitted out with a custom “Claystruder” printhead. This enables earthenware and porcelain ceramic objects to be printed instead of the usual ABS or PLA polymers.

“Instead of a mechanical plunger, you use timed pulses of air pressure to drive material out of the syringe.”

Going further than mere hardware modifications, Unfold have also been working on custom software called Gcode Stacker that converts their design files for printing. The end result? Finer control and results that would otherwise be difficult to achieve, even in the world of 3D printing.   (more…)

Sculpture Exhibition in 3D Printed “Replicas”

Copying for art’s sake to encourage debate over copyrightWhisper Down the Lane concluded with a wrap up lecture just before the weekend, two days before its source exhibition – The Obstinate Object: Contemporary New Zealand Sculpture was due to finish, and while the last 3D printed piece was with the courier, hurriedly making its way down the country from the contributing RepRap machine.

Whisper Down The Lane is a referential art project by Bronwyn Holloway-Smith. It explores the ideas of digital fabrication with regard to copyright and reproduction issues in the world of art – a discussion that is very very slowly starting to creep out of the small tech-meets-art niche into the mainstream awareness.

Bronwyn’s project infiltrated Wellington City Gallery’s exhibition The Obstinate Object and sneakily positioned itself in a space of its own within the gallery rooms. The work is a series of 3D printed miniatures of The Obstinate Object exhibits, created with the agreement from the artists. While the 3D prints are clearly copied from specific art works, they are not intended to be exact replicas, nor are they all printed to the same scale. The miniatures are as much about communicating the digital fabrication process as they are about mimicking the general forms of the originals. The RepRap prints are constrained by the practicalities of the production method: size, material, colour and level of detail – elements that would be thoroughly considered in the original, full size works.The open source nature of the project is integral to the questions it raises – questions that we’ll be coming across more and more as digital fabrication becomes more commonplace.

3D printed circuit board

Another approach to 3D printed circuit building from Thingiverse

Thingiverse user CarryTheWhat has taken a novel approach to building simple electronic circuits with his solder-free 3D-printed circuit board library. The library includes battery holders and pegs for other components, a few different printed switches, and uses conductive thread to make the connections.

Being able to create simple circuits on a desktop 3D printer would be a great boon to hobbyists. (more…)

Introducing the ShapeOko 3D printer/CNC kit!

The $300 open hardware CNC machine is here. And it’s also a 3D printer!

Last summer, Edward Ford announced a Kickstarter campaign to support a project he had been coming back to for years: the most affordable desktop CNC machine ever, completely open hardware.

Edward’s project was over 700% funded, and he immediately set out improving his initial design. He also set up, and blogged about his progress along the way.

It’s been 8 months of late-nights in the garage, community feedback, sourcing woes, and huge support. And a few weeks ago the first batch of ShapeOko kits shipped out to his Kickstarter supporters.

ShapeOko looks a lot different these days than the previous laser-cut MDF machine holding a ballpoint pen. : )

It now features extruded aluminum rails from MakerSlide, custom laser-cut steel plates, and an 8″x8″ cutting area with a Z axis height of 3.5″


DIY 3D printer for lost-wax casting

RepRap offshoot uses SLS to make wax positives for metal casting

Andreas Bastian has been making some fantastic progress on his DIY SLS printer.

The goal of this project is to provide a method for rapidly manufacturing complex pieces in metal by manufacturing a wax “positive” of the object, which is then used to make a mold for the lost wax casting process. Current metal rapid manufacturing techniques rely on high-power lasers, plasma jets, or electric arcs to sinter metal powder. This approach sidesteps the higher costs and dangers of these high-power systems in favor of a relatively low power laser-sintering technique.

Using a home-built laser sintering wax printer to cast complex metal pieces at home: the DIY-force is strong in this one! Now all he needs is a DIY microwave smelter.

Portable 3D printing with the Tantillus

Cute, portable, printable

Tantillus with can for scale, photo by John Biehler

RepRap aficionado Brad has designed a portable, mini-3D printer called the Tantillus. Not only is it pretty cute, it’s also capable of running on batteries!

The inspiration for the printer came when Brad found that his Prusa was too large to bring with him on holidays, and that full-size 3D printing capability was unnecessary during travel.

As expected, the build area is small (100mm x 100mm x 110mm), but actually isn’t too far off of the original MakerBot Cupcake‘s intended usable build area. Also, printable extension panels are planned in case a larger print is required.

The most intriguing planned feature to me is the daisy chain option. Two printers sharing a single set of electronics could be used to mass-produce duplicate sets of prints at a reduced cost. (Like fleet of Tantillus devices printing copies of themselves, for example.)

There’s no video of printing in action yet, but Brad uploaded a quick video of how movement looks by hand to YouTube the other day: (more…)

Ten sinteringly great 3D print articles of 2011

Best of the Blog 2011 – 3D Printing

To celebrate the new year, we’re running a best of the blog 2011 for each category 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC routing, art, hardwear, materials etc. 2011 was an impressive year for 3D printing. It was a real challenge selecting only 10 from all the amazing articles. I think you’ll agree this snapshot of ten (in no particular order) showcase the exciting possibilities with the technology…

1. Solar Laser Sintering in the Sahara

This generated an enormous amount of buzz on the interwebs and is probably my favourite 3D printer so far. If the future is destined for a Mad Max-esque distopia this is what I’ll be taking to my desert island!


Chocolate 3D printed advent calendar!

Who needs Santa when you can print infinite chocolate anythings?

Moving Brands' chocolate RepRap, by Ben Lambert

Moving Brands got themselves set up with a RepRap 3D printer and came up with the only correct answer to “how shall we use this for the holidays?” – delicious high resolution chocolates! The studio set about making models of things with personal meanings, then filled a company advent calendar with the results.

The project includes a gallery of models/chocolates, and details about each item:

Advent project website

And a video of the process:

According to Ben Lambert, the parts beyond the standard RepRap stuff are:

  • Frostruder components minus wood w/solenoids mounted on top of the A frame
  • – A “big-ass” tank of compressed nitrogen
  • – A custom, 3D printed clamp for the syringe
  • – A pipe heater
  • – Chef’s cooling spray
  • – Lots and lots of milk chocolate!

I’m definitely going to look into doing something like this for the holidays next year… It would make for a great collaborative project with any group. Here’s where you can see more:

Moving Brands
Advent calendar project
Vimeo page

Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing evangelist who posts weekly on the Ponoko blog. Follow him on Twitter @techknight.