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3D printable objects modeled on expired 19th century patents


Martin Galese's Thingiverse account is full of amazing 3D objects modeled on 19th-century patent drawings. Galese, a patent attorney, has launched his project -- and an accompanying Tumblr of lovely patent drawings -- to help people understand the value he perceives in the patent system.

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Kickstarting a Coney Island 3D scanning studio and 3D printed miniature model of Luna Park

Fred Kahl, a Coney Island performer and magician, is kickstarting a project to put a 3D scanning/printing studio and a 3D printed miniature Coney Island at Coney Island's Luna Park. He's developed a cheap 3D scanner based on a Kinekt, and will release the full plans to Thingiverse once he's fully funded. He's looking for $15K (he's already crested $10K), and $25 gets you scanned in his NY studio ($60 gets you scanned and printed).

A 3D Scanning Portrait Studio based in America's Playground- Coney Island, NY (Thanks, Fred!)

Sub-$1000 3D scanner on Kickstarter

A team from Oxford University has launched a $75,000 Kickstarter to go into production on a point-and-shoot 3D scanner called Fuel3D that will retail for about $1000 (though there are a limited number of $750 beta-run devices). The scanner uses a calibrated pair of cameras and some on-board software to produce 3D images suitable for post-processing, animation and 3D printing. The team started off developing this for medical imaging, and has some experience in this sort of manufacturing, but as with all Kickstarters, there are no guarantees that you'll ever get anything if you stump up for a pre-order -- caveat emptor.

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Household 3D printers pay for themselves in short order


Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers (paywall link), a new paper published in Mechatronics, examines the cost of common household objects and calculates the projected return-on-investment for a household that buys a 3D printer and makes their own everyday objects, using open design files from sites like Thingiverse, rather than buying them in shops. The researchers concluded that a family could quickly -- in less than "a few years" -- recoup the cost of the printer if they printed their everyday objects. I suspect that the real value of 3D printers isn't simply replacing household objects, but rather, in ushering in new ways of relating to objects -- the same way that email and VoIP don't simple substitute for phone calls, but rather enable entirely different kinds of communications.

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PIN-punching $200 robot can brute force every Android numeric screen-password in 19 hours

Justin Engler and Paul Vines will demo a robot called the Robotic Reconfigurable Button Basher (R2B2) at Defcon; it can work its way through every numeric screen-lock Android password in 19 hours. They built for for less than $200, including the 3D printed parts. It doesn't work on screen-patterns (they're working on that) nor on Ios devices (which exponentially increase the lockout times between unsuccessful password attempts). They're also whomping up new versions that can simulate screen-taps with electrodes, which will run much faster. They're also working on versions that can work against hotel-room safes, ATMs, and other PIN-pad devices. It's a good argument for a longer PIN (six-digit PINs take 80 days to crack), and for using robust and random PINs (26% of users use one of 20 PINs).

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Limited-edition Makie toys come to Selfridges


Londoners: Some amazing news from Makies, the east London 3D printed custom toy company ("Toys from the future!"). They've just announced a deal with Selfridges to sell a limited-edition run called "Makies Fashion Mavens" with four characters called Tesla, Curie, Ada and Hopper. The toys are hand-finished and come with hand-tailored clothes and go on sale on August 5 and will only be sold until Christmas.

Makies in Selfridges from 5th August!

(Disclosure: I am married to Alice Taylor, who founded MakieLab and is its CEO)

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3-Bee printing: tricking bees into making wax sculptures


The 3-Bee printing project was a collaboration between a bee-keeper and an artist who created sculptural hives designed to encourage bees to deposit their wax in a specific way, producing a gorgeous "print." It was sponsored by a booze company, and the video makes you wait until the very end to see the cool thing, but that's what the little timeline slider on the bottom is for. Skip to 2:55 for the awesome.

Film: A 3D sculpture built by 80,000 bees? Bee-have yourself! (via Make)

Prizewinning 3D printed birdhouses


Thingiverse has announced the winners in its Birdhouse Challenge, which asked makers to come up with designs for 3D printable birdhouses. First place went to ErikJDurwoodII's American Craftsman Bungalow, which is so cool it made my eyes water. The other two runners-up are definitely worth a look in as well (see after the jump for a preview).

Thingiverse | Birdhouse Challenge Winners (via Engadget)

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Autodesk makes huge trove of docs, training materials and 3D asset files available under Creative Commons

Rama from Autodesk sez, "Autodesk, the design software company you probably know from AutoCAD also makes entertainment software used to make movies, TV shows and video games -- stuff like the Iron Man movies, Man of Steel, Game of Thrones and The Last of Us made a big announcement this morning. The group adopted the Creative Commons licensing which means 20,000 pages of documentation, 70 videos and 140 downloadable 3D asset files are now ready to be modified, remixed and shared globally. On the YouTube learning channels for their Maya and 3ds Max software, their iTunes podcasts, and their help pages, you’ll see the Creative Commons tag for easy identification. And it’s just the beginning, Autodesk said soon all Autodesk online help, learning channel movies, podcasts, support articles and downloadable materials will be placed under the Creative Commons model -- even their Autodesk University training content past and future. It's a bold move to open up their intellectual property for digital artists everywhere"

Autodesk takes great pride in offering high-quality resources that support the pursuit of lifelong learning, supplement classroom materials, and contribute to digital community development. Many of these great resources are now licensed to you under Creative Commons because we believe that learning should be free, open, and shared widely around the world! Look for the Creative Commons tags in our online help, learning channel movies, podcasts, support articles and downloadable materials. More content to come soon…

Reuse, Remix, Translate and Share. (Thanks, Rama!)

Self-assembling, multi-rotor drones

The Distributed Flight Array is an experimental project from ETH Zurich; it's a set of 3D-printed hexagonal rotors with magnets on their edges; they automatically join up with one another, sense and compute the aerodynamic properties of their current configuration, and cooperate to fly together.


The system is designed around a central propeller which provides thrust for the structure. Surrounding it are three omni-directional wheels that let the bots get into position with each other on the ground while magnets embedded in the frame provide a connection. A gyroscope provides positional information to an on-board microprocessor while an infrared sensor feeds information about altitude to the system. Pins allow the collected bots to communicate this real-time data between each other and adjust their individual thrusts to keep the combined unit stable. Despite the sensitive nature of the electronics, when a flight is over, the bots disengage midair and fall safely to the ground where the process can begin anew.

Individual units can only propel themselves spastically around a room, but when joined the DFA modules can create traditional quadcopters, more advanced decacopters, and their most impressive applications are atypical and asymmetrical arrays that defy traditional aeronautic aesthetics. These odd combos often produce interesting flight patterns — in one configuration where the bots are aligned linearly, the construct appears to flap as the opposite ends try to reach equilibrium.

...Next steps for the project will be removing the last vestiges of human control—currently a motion-capture system or an operator using a joystick has to provide a small amount of feedback to keep the system from drifting away. The hope is that the DFA becomes completely autonomous and increasingly versatile. “What I would love to see is in-flight reconfiguration,” says Oung. “Which I think is certainly possible with the current system.”

Watch: Autonomous Robots Self-Assemble and Take Flight as One [Joseph Flaherty/Wired]

(via /.)

Get ready for the big bang as 3D printing patents expire


The key patents covering a 3D printing technique called "laser sintering" are set to expire in the next year or two -- there are a bunch of them, so they'll trickle out -- and this will radically reduce the price of printing and printers. Laser sintering involves melting a fine powder (usually plastic) in order to fuse it with the powder below and around it, and it's a technique that produces a very smooth, even finish. The big 3D printer manufacturers, who control the laser sintering patents, have used patent law to lock up the market for devices, and to prevent device-owners from sourcing their powder from third parties. As a result, simple, cheap plastic powder can cost more than filet mignon by weight, which means that the cost of 3D printed objects is very high -- especially when you factor in the extremely high cost (and high profit margins!) on the printers themselves.

As these patents expire, it will mean that mass-manufactured printers from China and elsewhere will be able to integrate laser-sintering, setting aside the extruded plastic wire technique that is presently standard. With wire-extrusion, a wire filament is melted inside a print-head, and then forced out of a fine nozzle, like icing coming out of an icing bag. This produces a rougher finish and is prone to delamination during the print-process.

Patent expiry will also open new horizons to the world of hacker/maker printers, like the RepRap and its derivatives. These open-source hardware printers will likewise be able to integrate laser sintering, and to take advantage of a coming explosion in plastic powder suppliers.

All told, it's an exciting moment to be in. 3D printing is a minefield of stupid patents -- there's a patent on putting see-through plastic windows on the sides of a 3D printer! -- but thankfully, they're mostly old and starting to expire. Give it a couple of years and there will be a very robust, open marketplace of cheap, innovative, and open printers flooding the market.

Within just a few years of the patents on FDM expiring, the price of the cheapest FDM printers fell from many thousands of dollars to as little as $300. This led to a massive democratization of hobbyist-level 3D printers and injected a huge amount of excitement into the nascent movement of “Makers,” who manufacture at home on the scale of one object at a time.

A similar sequence involving the lifting of intellectual property barriers, a rise in competition, and a huge drop in price is likely to play out again in laser deposition 3D printers, says Shapeways’ Scott. “This is what happened with FDM,” he says. “As soon as the patents expired, everything exploded and went open-source, and now there are hundreds of FDM machines on the market. An FDM machine was $14,000 five years ago and now it’s $300.”

3D printing will explode in 2014, thanks to the expiration of key patents [Christopher Mims/Quartz]

(Image: tvrrug reprap "3d printer", a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from osde-info's photostream)

3D printed Jackhammer Jill


Eric Robbins has been down to his local library to play with their Replicator 2 3D printer; he whipped up this gorgeous 3D model of our mascot, the magnificent Jackhammer Jill. He's provided a link to the STL file, and says, "Anyone is free to use or modify it." Bravo, Eric!

Help wanted: Two coder jobs for Happy Mutants in London

Hey, codemonkeys! MakieLab, the venture-backed 3D printed toy company my wife founded in London, is hiring! They've got two jobs open, one for a senior dev, the other for a front-end dev. Good pay, good people, good products -- happy mutant nirvana, ahoy! Cory 1

Turn your sketches into 3D-printed cookie-cutters


Thingiverse's Cookie Cutter Customizer is a tool for taking doodles and sketches and turning them into 3D-printable cookie-cutters.

Thingiverse | Draw and Print Custom Cookie Cutters

3D printing with Sugru

The Hy-Rel 3D is a 3D printer with four extruder heads that prints with play-doh, Sugru, plasticine, and other pasty substances. Here's a demo of the printer running four different colors of Sugru -- a great, fast-drying, dishwasher safe fix-everything putty -- to print out a (fairly low-rez) semi-sphere. The Hy-Rel was funded through a successful Kickstarter, and now sports "emulsifying extruders" that are the basis for this demo.

3D printing sugru for the first time!