If you are like me, you have been watching the 3D printer space with much enthusiasm in anticipation of the moment when consumer-friendly 3D printers make their way to market at a price Joe Public can truly afford.
There has definitely been some traction in achieving that goal. Makerbot, the best-known maker of 3D printers for enthusiasts, has been steadily releasing models that raise the functionality and appeal more to the mainstream. And we recently reported on 3D Systems putting its stake in the ground with the Cube, its $1,299 consumer 3D printer offering.
Now there's a new kid on the consumer 3D printer block: Solidoodle, founded by Sam Cervantes, a former aerospace engineer who served a stint at MakerBot. His startup has just released its self-named printer, with a base price of $499.
The $499 Solidoodle is fully assembled and supports a slightly bigger build area (six inches cubed) than its predecessor. (Source: Solidoodle)
The second version of the pre-assembled printer has been refined to offer a bigger build area (six inches cubed, where the original model sported four inches cubed), and it weighs just 17 pounds. The technology, according to specs on the Website, is Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) -- another way of saying Thermoplastic Extrusion -- and it uses a 1.75mm plastic filament (ABS recommended), which costs $45 for a two-pound spool.
Solidoodle is based on the RepRap Sanguinololu v1.3a Electronics open-source 3D printer project. Accuracy, according to the documentation, is about 0.3mm (layer height) or 84dpi, but officials say it's possible to achieve 0.1mm in some cases. Cervantes says the printer software can accept models from any design tool that produces an STL file, meaning that it could be used with most popular CAD programs.
In a video explaining the product (shown below), Cervantes said his company's goal is to make 3D printers more affordable and easier to use than before. So far, the unit's been put to work to output everything from children's toys, popular household items, and architectural models to what Cervantes said is the favorite print: the bottle opener.
With entries like Solidoodle, the Cube, and even the still-to-be released Origo (a sub-$1,000 3D printer for kids we covered previously) pushing down the price point, it's only a matter of time before the decision to buy a 3D printer is no different than the decision to buy an office printer. And that's when the creative games will begin.
Beth, great article. I also have been following "additative manufacturing" for some time with my very first indoctrination being from Machine Design, years ago, on SLA (stereolithography).This is a fascinating technology and one that has saved my company "tons" of money and time with the production of samples.In our case, we used full-scale or half-scale models for proof of concept and limited testing.Form, fit and function fit in there also as being one reason to have models in which we can "kick the tires".Other companies actually use the products for limited production, if the proper materials can be obtained.The capabilities improve each year but I certainly did not know the cost is as low as your article states.Right now, we outsource our needs but with prices being this low, we can certainly afford to "take the plunge".Again, many thanks.
Yes, Beth, I agree about the generational change in the use of technology tools. Those graduating from college now will be very adept at these tools and will expect them to be available in the workplace.
I think we have to get past the thinking that engineers are going to incorporate something like a Facebook into their work processes. The point I'm trying to make is that the up and coming generation is used to communicating in social venues like FaceBook and making use of mobile apps. Because that paradigm is engrained in the way they do everything, they are going to want their serious business tools, i.e., CAD, concept design tools, collaboration, etc., to work in much the same fashion.
They're going want to provide feedback or get feedback on designs, but they'll expect the commentary and collaboration to mimic what they're used to on FaceBook. Being able to search for stuff, like stuff, easily find experts/peer designers, upload models or images for review. It's really about the user interface paradigm, not the specific social network platform and certainly not a public social network platform. For now any way.
I agree, Beth. This whole generation thing is critical for those in technology now. Apple seems to be able to stay ahead of the changes. As for Microsoft, I agree with Larry Ellison's assessment that MS missed the Internet and still hasn't caught up. And speaking of Oracle, I'm not surprised to hear they're embracing cloud-based delivery after putting it down for years.
As for Facebook, there has been tons of negative chatter. GM pulling out just before the IPO was huge. So we see the statistic that only 17 percent of Facebook users click on ads. Well, 17 percent of 900 million is a lot of people clicking on ads. But they're buying games, not Cadillacs.
That's a very good point, Rob. With technology a core competency of this current generation, the idea of being mentored by someone who might not possibility understand the appeal of community on Facebook or isn't wowed by any of the new cloud-based and mobile-based design tools is sure to appear outdated to the new generation and therefore, written off as a non-resource. That view is certainly shortsighted because we all know just because you don't cling to devices 24/7 doesn't mean there isn't a wealth of engineering experience to be mined.
Nice ideas, Ockham. I think sometimes, there are breaks between generations due to advances in technology. I see a break between the millennials and the boomers on technology. So, what might have been a mentor / protege relationship is broken because the two generations do not speak the same technology language.
Yes - shocking to hear these kinds of loss of institutional knowledge. As engineers, we have a profound responsibility to those who follow us, elsewise we may well end up as creatures enslaved to a system beyond our understanding (much like H.G. Wells' Eloi and Morelock in the Time Traveller)
I firmly believe that every engineer needs to see that they live into three professional relational realities. I call it the"Mentor - Peer - Protege" model.
In brief, my thesis is this;
We each need a patriarch who is investing down in us (especially as that patriarch approaches their "own end of service" :-)We should pursue those relationships, and invite by our trustworthy behavior and humility that kind of handoff from such a patriarch.
At the same time, we need a body of peers around us, a group with whom we can share ideas, entrust our own knowledge and sharpen our skills...build a tribe, so to speak.Again, trust - respect - honorable methods to share, agree and especially disagree in a civil fashion.
Finally, we ourselves must be building down into the next generation of engineers, deliberately pursuing relationship with those who will one day take our place. We must stop viewing the protege as a competitor, an enemy, ignorant, untrainable or unworthy of our investment.
Of course, this is such a minority view tha no one will ever publish my book, much less purchase it.
I completely agree – I've been involved with SLA's since their earliest days circa 1988.Once several internet-based services popped up, where .STLs could be instantly quoted and parts delivered via FedEx within 2 days, I thought that was a breakthrough (Which it WAS.)But now, even quicker, to see a rough model being generated in-house (in MY House) – this is easily within reach of my small consulting operation – Yes, I will be taking a closer look at getting one.
MIT students modified a 3D printer to enable it to print more than one object and print on top of existing printed objects. All of this was made possible by modifying a Solidoodle with a height measuring laser.
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