Saturday, January 25, 2014

Just Be Patient... 3D Printing Will Eventually Make it Possible

Apparently, I'm a hoarder when it comes to email messages because I continually run up against the size limits imposed on my account.  Hitting the upper limit once again, I decided to seriously downsize and get rid of some emails.  As I poured through the emails to see which ones I was willing to send off to oblivion, I ran across this one to Evan Malone, one of the pioneers of personal desktop 3D printing and a founder of the [email protected] project.

I actually  didn't realize just how early in the game that I became interested in personal 3D printing.  As it turns out, the first beta of the [email protected] design was released in December of 2006,  the same month as my first correspondence with Evan.

2006 - First Exploration of the Potential for Ceramic 3D Printing

Here is my email to him...

From: ****
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 3:16 PM
To: ***.****
Subject: Fascinated by the [email protected] project for artwork.

A friend referred me to your web site regarding the [email protected] project.  What is really exciting about this particular project is that you actively encourage experimenting with different materials.  I'm wondering if anyone has experimented with ceramic 'slip' or if it's even possible to use. 
I'm guessing that build time would require relatively long delays between layers to let the slip dry a bit; but, since Native American Pottery uses a coiled technique, the potential might be interesting.  Here are some samples of my daughter's artwork that spurred my interest in this regard.  They are handbuilt and then carved.
The concept of being able to more quickly build ceramic items with undercuts impossible for traditional molding techniques is very intriquing.  What do you think?
  Tom Meeks
 And, his reply...
From: "Evan Malone" <****>
To: <***>
Subject: RE: Fascinated by the [email protected] project for artwork.
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 04:46:01 +0000

Hi Tom,
Your daughter’s ceramics are beautiful – I throw a bit myself when I can find the time.  I think [email protected] would be able to make some great artwork with ceramics – you’d probably need to work with a thick slip, but certainly there is no reason you couldn’t use the machine for that.  I doubt you’d need to wait much between layers either, assuming you had your slip consistency just right.  Achieving horizontal cutouts as in your would probably require some support material – wax or something similar which would support the overhangs until they dry enough to support themselves/be fired.
I’d be thrilled to see what could be done!
Evan Malone
Computational Synthesis Laboratory
B60 Rhodes Hall (physical)
138 Upson Hall (mail/shipping)
Cornell University
Ithaca NY 14853 USA

Early Pioneers - Unfold

It's been seven years since that first interchange.  Along the way various pioneers have designed 3D printers that could print in clay.  Unfold used a RapMan printer from Bits from Bytes (Now part of 3D Systems) to create their syringe-based deposition system clay printer.  It did a very nice job.   But, it was a hobbyist machine that required users go through what was know as "the build experience" to own one.  Unfold appears to have been primarily interested in using their printer to realize their own designs rather than creating a clay printing 3D printer for the wider artisan market.

You can follow the evolution of the Unfold attempts to create an open-source clay printing machine on the Unfold Fab Blog.

While the "build experience" is not my favorite way to enjoy the benefits of 3D printing,  I certainly have a great deal of respect for the [email protected] and Unfold pioneers for their contributions to show that ceramic printing was posssible.

Early Pioneers - Figulo

Pioneer Figulo  has had even more influence and impact on where we are today in the state of ceramic 3D printing.  Like Unfold, they sought a way to print ceramic art; but, took a completely different route to do so.  Instead of using a syringe approach, they began their development with a powder based system.  While there is not a great deal of information on the process, we can see it in some stage of its development this image.

Figulo Ceramic Printing Process
This difference in technique has enormous implications for design freedom. With a syringe system support materials are solids that must be removed, limiting design options unless one wants the deal with the supports.  The technology that Figulo chose as the basis for their ceramic printing technique lays down a material and then "prints' a binder.  The powder material that is not solidified acts as the support and is simple shaken or blown off after the print is completed.  Figulo took an existing 3D Systems technology and created the materials and binder for creating ceramics designs.

While little is known about the actual specifications of the CeraJet printer or the materials, we do know that the technology that is used in the CeraJet is called "ColorJet printing (CJP)".  While this technique can be used to create full color objects, I do not know whether that is the case for the CeraJet, which may rely on the glazing step for final coloring.

What IS important about that technology is that it allows radically new designs to be created by ceramics artists.

The Benefit of Figulo's Experience

By the time that 3D Systems acquired Figulo, the company had been delivering ceramic prints for long enough to have some serious experience in creating materials and techniques.  A year ago, they released a video showing some samples of what they printed on their pre-CeraJet printer.  Now, remember, these are NOT CeraJet samples.  They simply reflect the experience of the new 3D Systems' ceramic print team.

Seven Years Was Worth the Wait!

Who would have dreamed, just seven years ago, that one of the largest manufacturers of high end 3D printers would be today's biggest champion of consumer 3D printing?  The day that 3D Systems bought Desktop Factory, I truly thought that was the end of a dream.

I knew that there would be 3D printers in the hands of a few hobbyists; but, I thought the dream of seeing a true consumer "ready-to-print" device was a long, long way off.

The dream was revived with that first announcement by 3D Systems of the Cube 3D printer.  It was too good to be true, so I immediately set up a meeting to check it out for myself.  When they set it down in front of me, I immediately knew this was what I had waited for all that time.  While it may sound overly dramatic now, all I could do was look over every inch of the machine while repeating "This is it.  This is it.  It's exactly what I had been dreaming about."

Little did I know that day, that less than two years would pass before my REAL dream would see reality!

With this year's CES, the dream that sparked that letter to Evan Malone came to fruition.  At last, with the CeraJet, ceramic artisans have a way to create entirely new designs without having to build their own printing platform or tinker with messy syringes.

I am very, very happy with 3D Systems' decision to purchase Figulo and develop a ceramics printer that promises to do so much at such an obtainable cost. 

Sometimes, the answers to dreams, long set aside, come not only unexpectedly; but, with dazzling new dreams!

What is YOUR dream?

What is your dream?  Is it the ability to print a flying drone with both structural and electrical parts all in one printing?   Is it the ability to print objects with both soft and rigid parts all in one printing?  Whatever it is, just be patient.  3D Printing... and most likely 3D Systems... will eventually make it possible.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

CeraJet: Taking a "Disruptive Technology" Seriously

A "Distruptive Technology" Up Close and Personal

A little over a year ago, I was part of a team that organized a meeting for government and military logisticians to talk about additive manufacturing (3D printing) as a "Disruptive Technology" that could have huge implications on tomorrow's supply chain.

Today, I want to talk about that same subject in a context that has personal implications for thousands of small artisans that work in the field of ceramics.  They could be part time potters taking in a few dollars at local art shows or full-time sculptors whose work sells for thousands of dollars.  They could be selling their wares in well-known art centers, like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria.  or, they could be laboring in the poorest of countries making simple utilitarian cups, bowls and pots.  They could be working with clay for a thousand different purposes.  What ever they are doing, clay crafts persons have a place of respect in our family.

The Importance of "Hand Crafted" to the Clay Community

It is amazing how many people find themselves, at one time or another, working in clay in one form or another.  For the most part, the way they work is not much different than the way potters have worked for a thousand years... forming the clay by hand.

This is true even for those that use molds as the starting point for their clay creations.  While this could be considered a bit more "mechanized", there is still a good bit of hand work that is required to complete their pieces.

The importance that clay artisans place on creating "Hand Crafted" work cannot be dismissed lightly. And, yet, we have to remember that ALL ships were once "Handcrafted" as were just about every item used in the daily life of people.

What a Craftsperson Has to Sell

An artist, or serious craftsperson, at the most basic level, has only two things to sell... a unique vision and a unique skill.  Working in clay combines these two elements in an almost primal way where skilled hands, directed by the unique vision manually shape something of compelling beauty and value.  I suspect that  this Head/Hand relationship is exactly why so many people enjoy working in clay.  And, for many, it will be unthinkable that it would be any other way.

But, that is no longer true.  There is a new "Disruptive Technology" in town.  And, every ceramic craftsperson... whether they embrace it or not... owes it to themselves to understand the implications for their own creative future.

Empathy for Resistance to Change

I have to tell you, I have a great deal of empathy for ceramics artists that can't even begin to understand why anyone would not want to get their hands dirty creating ceramic objects and art the way it has been done for thousands of years.  I understand where they are coming from and agree with the reasons they feel so strongly.  You will never hear me ridiculing anyone that dismisses Ceramic 3D printing for their own work.  But, at the same time, I want these artists to understand that Ceramic 3D printing IS going to be disruptive to the field and that disruption, while troubling to some, will bring a whole new vision to the world of ceramic arts.

What a 3D Craftsperson Has to Sell

Those ceramic artisans that embrace ceramic 3D printing still have, when all is said and done, only two things to sell... their unique vision delivered via unique skills.  But, the vision can be unshackled from the limitations of the clay working processes and the skills are applied in different areas and different orders.  

Potential Distruptions

If I were an artist today that created intricate sculptures  in clay, I would be very concerned by the reality that one of the first impacts on my field might be on how the public is going to be able to differentiate my "handcrafted" art from 3D printed production art.  It is very likely to appear very much the same.

Clay and Ceramic magazines and journals understand the community they serve.  But, what happens if the ceramic community begins to diverge into different segments with people having surprisingly different skill sets.  Is it possible for traditional clay artists and ceramic 3D artists to embrace each other as members of the same artistic community bound by their love of ceramics?

I certainly hope so.  We need both.  The future needs both.

The CeraJet Will be Covered Here

 Whether or not I own or have access to a CeraJet, I will find a way to cover it.  My interest in 3D printing began with an interest in ceramic sculpting in support of my daughter's art.  While we have loaned some budding potters our Brent "C" wheel, the studio in which my Cube 3D printers do their magic is the very same studio where clay was thrown and hand built and where our Skutt KM 818 kiln still occupies an important place of its own..  It's not going anywhere.  We need it.

Just as in the past I helped serious craft persons and artists to learn how to photograph their own work with the new digital camera technology, I want to make myself ready to help clay artisans to not only understand the disruptive technology of 3D printing; but, to be able to successfully ride that disruption to even greater success.  It's going to be an interesting ride.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hershey and 3D Printing... A Bit of Heaven on Earth

It's been many, many years ago.  But, I still cannot forget my first trip to the Hershey factory.  Back then (in the old days) visitors could actually take a tour through the original factory.  The tour came with a cup of hot chocolate and some candy samples.  It was heavenly!

Hershey's Factory Tour

All the generations of my family since then... children and grandchildren... have enjoyed visiting Hershey.  These days we are a bit removed from the manufacturing; but, the fun of taking the Hersey's Chocolate World tour remains a favorite.

Hershey's Chocolate, and its founder, Milton Hershey, have always held my respect and affection.  Now, I have one more reason for elevating the level of that respect since it is now obvious that Hershey's, in spite of its age and history, enthusiastically embraces the future.

Hershey's and 3D Systems has signed a multi-year agreement to explore and deliver innovative sweets via 3D printing!  It was announced in the following press release:

3D Systems and Hershey Team Up To Deliver 3D Printed Edibles

I don't know about you.  But, I DO know that this is terrific news to me.  I can't wait to see the variety of flavors and textures that come out of just this one single agreement.  And, there is at least one other person that I KNOW is going to find this to be OUTSTANDING news.

Granddaughter's Reaction to the ChefJet News

My oldest granddaughter happened to stumble on to the original CES announcement for the ChefJet and instantly sent me a wildly enthusiastic email practically demanding that I get one.  There is nothing like the idea of custom made confections to really get creative minds going!  You can bet that we will be following the Hershey developments VERY closely.

Saluting a Pioneer in 3D Chocolate Printing

I love creative people.  But, I REALLY love pioneers.  Noy Schaal was a high school student in 2006 when she modified a [email protected] RepRap machine and created, as far as I know, the very first 3D printed chocolate candies which she presented at the Kentucky state science fair.  While it all sounds so simple.  It wasn't.  It was a remarkable achievement by any measure. She later went on to write a paper that examined 3D printing of a variety of foods

I'm not sure what she's doing these days.  But, her achievement has been documented in several books, well documenting her place in 3D history.
Chocolate and 3D Printing!!!   YA GOTTA LOVE IT!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Take Advantage of an Opportunity to be a Paid Part of the 3D Explosion in 2014

There is no doubt in my mind that the recent CES announcements brought us to the tipping point when it comes to 3D printing becoming a part of the consumer consciousness.  But, it's also going to take a concerted effort to not only inform the public; but, those who are charged with selling 3D tools to the public.

Your Opportunity

As most readers probably know, 3D Systems has reached agreements to make the Cube products available through Staples, Office Depot and storefront retailers. This is great news for those of us that believe that 3D printing has inherent creative and educational benefits to people of all ages.

However, 3D Systems recognizes that just having 3D printing tools on the shelves in retail stores is not enough to make sure those tools get into the hands of those that can use them effectively.  So, they have stepped up to the plate and hired Headway Workforce Solutions, a company that specializes, among other things, in hiring and training demonstrators and trainers.

The goal is to create a network of 3D printing "evangelists" to go into retail locations to acquaint the retailer's sales force and customers with the benefits and mechanics of 3D Systems 3D  products.   I believe that, for now, it is a part-time opportunity.   To get the most accurate information, please contact Chris Mangan, the person heading up the recruitment and training effort.

Contact Information

Here is the contact information...
Chris Mangan
Operations Manager - 3D Systems
Headway Workforce Solutions 

[P] 919-376-1409   (Direct Dial)
[P] 919-376-4929   (Main Office)
[F] 919-882-8061
[E] [email protected]

I Encourage You to Explore this Opportunity

This is more than an opportunity to help sell some products.  It is an opportunity, perhaps, to be a part of the awakening of the creative spirit in children, adults and seniors in ways that they never thought possible.  As I have mentioned over and over.  3D Printing is NOT about kicking out novel plastic parts.  It is about being able to unleash the power of innovative ideas and creativity in us in ways no other new technology can do.  The people you will meet and the stories of those you will impact is a strong incentive to make a call to or send an email to Chris Mangan.  There is nothing like making money doing what you love.  :)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chris Crowley's CES 2014 Report

Editor's Note:  Chris is a 1st Gen Cube owner and excellent CubifyFans contributor.  When I heard that he had traveled to CES, I knew that we HAD to have an eye-witness report from him.  He did NOT disappoint.  :)

Hello Everyone -
This is Chris Crowley, your guest reporter in the field for the CubifyFans blog.

I attended CES this year, and was in phone contact with Tom Meeks every day as 3D Systems made their announcements….

My summary:  WOW!!!!

Cube 3 & Cube pro

First - This is my first CES visit… it's touted as the largest trade show in the world. Boy is it ever huge! Tens of thousands of people in the hallways.  We walked for three full days, and barely covered two-thirds of the show. I'm not sure you could actually see the entire show one week.  Reportedly, Las Vegas is the only city in the world with enough hotel rooms to house the attendees.

Second - the 3D printing TechZone was jammed with people and exhibitors! There were many vendors, showing many low- and high-end printers and associated services. There were cloud printing services, filament manufacturers, photo "sculpting" systems, scanner manufacturers, etc.   The visitor "density" was very high in the 3D printing zone.  See Tom's post about a "tipping point"… I think we are very close.  We even heard talk about 3D printing at a blackjack table from non-technical people one evening.

And a description of the "TechZone":

Third - the 3D systems booth was by far the most crowded booth that we saw in the entire show.  

3D Systems Booth (Note: can see in CubePro from this angle)

We pushed, we jostled, and we elbowed our way through people ten deep to see the new products.  I know several people at 3D systems, and Tom had given me another list of good contacts... But we couldn't meet with any of them, because they were all too busy with the press! Our main contacts were busy on Thursday from noon until 6 PM straight with press interviews.

As a sidenote, I am a member of the National Speleological Society (i.e. "Caving"). I've been 100 feet underground in the pitch dark, covered with mud, crawling through a slot too small for a bicycle helmet to fit through. That slot pressed solid granite against my spine and my sternum such that I had to exhale in order to squeeze my way through. In short, I am NOT claustrophobic! However, I got the heebie-jeebies in the 3D systems booth, because it was so full of people!

This portends good news for the company, the stockholders, and the phenomenon that is 3D printing.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to handle or use any of the machines!  It was just too crowded. I wasn't able to hold any meaningful discussion with booth attendants, and was not able to handle output parts from any of the new devices. This was disappointing especially for the Cube 3, because that's next on my shopping list.

Cube3 Printing in Dual Color

We did see the new fully enclosed CubePro (both the Duo and Trio versions.)  These machines are nice, but the tinted front glass prevents getting a good look inside the CubePro given the lighting in the booth.   The inside was only observable from an extreme angle as in the images above.

CubePro Side-by-side with Cube3

We did see the Sense scanner. I won't cover the scanner, because Tom has done such a good job in his previous posts.  See my attached pictures of the face scanning demos.

Sense Scanning Display

The ChefJet Sugar Printer was pretty cool!   Do you remember WIlly Wonka's Everlasting Gobstopper?  

Well - you can have one now!!!!

ChefJet Prints

This device prints in sugar, with a dizzying array of food coloring and flavors.  

ChefJet Candy with Large Confection Print

You can see some of the "candies" in my photos, but be sure to check out the AMAZING printed edible sculptures - about the size of a wedding cake - maybe they are wedding cake stands or decorations?

ChefJet Cake Tiers

This company was an acquisition of 3D systems last year, and boy does it work well.    I won't be needing one of these, but certainly there is a market in the cake making / food service industry.
Here is a nice article on the ChefJet with close-up images and video.

The TOUCH Haptic mouse (see Tom's previous post) was not on display (I asked).  Also, the CeraJet ceramic printer was not on display… It is possible that they were being shown in the special press event, but we didn't have press credentials.

You may remember that I am a mechanical engineer and project manager, mostly in the medical equipment industry.   The Cube1 has changed my entire workflow, and has gained me many new clients because I can actually offer 3D printing for free with my designs!   However, I'm bumping up against resolution and accuracy issues that the Cube3 should be able to solve.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  Signing out….

Chris Crowley, reporting from Las Vegas
Table Mountain Innovation, Inc.
Engineering Design and Project Management

Editor's Remarks & Observations

I want to thank Chris for taking us into the 3D Systems booth and giving us a preview of what we can expect over the next few months.   There is one image that I think deserves a special comment.

Cube3 Printing in Two Colors
I see a few things in this picture that are especially interesting to me.  First, the print table material seems to have been changed and I see no sign of glue having been used.  Secondly, one of the issues we've had with the Cube2 is that the very first portion of the print can sometimes be blank because the filament came out during heating.  It appears that the Cube3 automatically goes to the side of the table to take care of this phenomenon by laying down some material before starting the new layer.  And, it appears that it does this each time the color is changed.  We'll have to wait to see if this is the case.


Intel's "Real Sense" - The Tipping Point for 3D Printing?

In the flurry of new announcements of new consumer 3D printers from 3D Systems, perhaps one of the most significant new developments for the growth of 3D printing escaped my immediate attention.  But, when I went back to review the announcement, the real import struck me hard.

Tipping Points

I didn't start out trying to be an "early adopter" back in the 1960's when video recording caught my attention.  I was simply fascinated by the possibilities.  Nor was I looking to be an "early adopter" when personal computing caught my attention in the 1970s.  Maybe I became known as an "early adopter" because I'm easily amused by new things.  :)

Whatever the reason, being an early adopter of many technologies has allowed me to view and experience the processes by which a new and unknown technology seems suddenly to become a mass market phenomenon.  For video recording the explosion came when the tape was put into a cartridge.  Institutions embraced the 3/4" U-Matic format and the consumer explosion was the result of the 1/2" VHS was introduced.

Personal computing stalled and languished until VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet application, was released.

These breakthrough events are called "Tipping Points" which launch a slowly emerging product or service, known only to the "early adopters", into an explosive growth of mainstream consumer acceptance.

I believe that the announcement that I almost overlooked might just signal the tipping point for 3D printing.   The 3D Systems announcement was released almost in parallel with an announcement by Intel.  Interestingly, they each introduced a different new buzz word as their focal point in talking about a new 3D Scanning breakthrough.  Each are important to understanding the progression of the tipping point I see coming.

"Perceptual Computing"

Called "Real Sense", Intel announced the development of a new, compact and thin 3D scanning camera/sensor that major  manufacturers of Intel based systems will be building into tablets, etc.

Using the term "Perceptual Computing", Intel described ways to incorporate gestures, voice and facial recognition as user interface enhancements.  While not specifically designed for 3D printing, it brings capture capability to every new device having Real Sense.  This is where 3D Systems comes into the picture with its announcement.

"Physical Photography"

In a parallel announcement, 3D Systems announced that they have teamed up with Intel to add the Sense scanning, editing and 3D printing software for devices equipped with Intel's Real Sense 3D camera. 

Linking up with Intel and introducing the term, "Physical Photography" to describe the result of this merger of technologies was a brilliant move!  It is, in fact, THE likely event that we will look back on as the "Tipping Point" for consumers to actively consider a 3D printer purchase.  If, as I suspect, people will want to try out their new tablet with 3D scanning capability, then it follows that a good many of them will want a way to print their  "physical photographs".

Physical Computing + Physical Photography + Diversity = Creativity Explosion

A Tipping Point is only important if it has some benefit to society.  When I first picked up a black & white video camera there was no way to know that once the "tipping point" for consumer adoption would end up with video being so important to us socially and historically.  When I saw my first "personal computer" it was inconceivable that it would so deeply impact society.

When I ponder the 3D Systems and Intel announcements in light of the greatly broadened consumer applications of 3D printing technology as evidenced by the ChefJet (food) and the CaraJet (Ceramics), I have to believe that the 3D Printing Tipping Point is here.  And, that is a wonderful realization.

My interest in 3D printing is NOT simply because 3D printing is fun or cool.  It is because I see that having the capability to bring ideas to life with a 3D printer is life altering because it unleashes the creativity that I believe is our most uniquely human trait.  I want every child and adult to be able to experience the liberation of creativity that I've found by having the benefit of a 3D printer.  It is just that powerful.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

CubeJet full color under $5,000!

ok.  They warned me to be ready for a wild ride in 2014.  But, NOBODY told me my head would explode!

How is anybody suppose to take all this in?

Do 3D Systems engineers EVER sleep?  LOL!

Apparently not.  Because, this year CES attendees were already reeling from a dizzying release of an array of new breakthrough 3D scanners, haptic devices and 3D printers when 3D Systems pulled one more surprise from their bag of goodies.

The CubeJet full color printer for under $5,000!

CubeJet Color Samples

CubeJet Full Color 3D Printer 

I was there in 1968 or 1969 when black and white video was only owned by a small handful of people.  And, I was there in 1973 when Akai introduced the first color camera that was even remotely affordable by the handful of people shooting small format video.

Then I watched video explode into the consumer marketplace.

So, I KNOW the value of color when it comes to capturing the eye of the consumer and prosumer marketplace.  Even if many of us, at this stage, cannot see spending $5,000 on a 3D printer, it provides us with a goal or target for the future.  And, that is important.

I actually selected my first SLR camera because Nikon, at the time was not planning on creating a digital full-frame camera.  Canon already had the 5D full-frame camera that was well outside of my budget.  But, knowing that camera body prices come down, I decided to buy the least expensve Canon consumer SLR and lenses that would fit a full frame Canon when I could finally afford one.  That turned out to be a wonderful strategy and I now own a 5D MK II and great "L" lenses that I acquired over time.

While they didn't give us much in the form of specs, the mere fact that they have announced full-color 3D printer that is in reach of consumers is an important step forward for expanding 3D printing into homes, schools and small businesses.  Combined with all the other new announcements, we end up with a broad entry-level playing field where we can get our feet wet and strive to grow.

I'm loving it!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First the Sense and Now the iSense for the iPad!!


iSense Scanner for the iPad

The Sense 3D Scanner for PC platforms is barely a few months old and now 3D Systems has turned their attention to Apple fans with the iSense, a 3D scanner that attaches to the iPad.

The fact that this $500 scanner actually attaches to the iPad will make it even easier to use than the original PC based Sense because the scanner and viewing surface will be well integrated.

There is a video on YouTube.  But, at the point of this writing, due to the closeness to the announcement was still listed as UNLIST.  But, I'm certain that 3D Systems will welcome sharing it here.

It's not clear, at this point, how the scanner will be integrated with Sculpt.  But, it definitely will be optimized for 3D printing and sharing 3D scans.  So, I'm confident that getting the scans into Cubify Sculpt will be trivial.

ChefJet Series Kitchen Ready 3D Printers

Starting under $5,000, the Chefjet series of printers capable of creating edible offerings looks like something I would love to have.   

Chefjet Confection Printer

At the $10,000 level (Chefjet Pro) you can print those calories in full color!! :)

I just wish I were at CES to sample the prints!

CaraJet Ceramic 3D Printer

Also announced was the CaraJet 3D printer that prints ceramic materials.  The materials print ready for coloring, glazing and firing in traditional clay fashion.  

Colored, Glazed & Fired CaraJet Clay Prints

At just under $10,000, it's definitely for those making a living selling ceramic designs.  But, it's a major breakthrough and I expect it to find a LOT of loving homes.  It is expected to become available in the second half of 2014.

Now... if I could only come up with $10,000!!!!  :)

Just before CES, I was warned by a 3D Systems official to be prepared for a wild and wonderful ride in 2014.  Now I know exactly what they meant.  I certainly can't afford all of the new offerings.  But, what a CES it has been!   


3D Systems Announces the FIRST Consumer Art Focused Haptic-based Mouse!

3D Systems is serious about consumer 3D printing.  Product categories that once were the sole arena for high priced tools have seen major disruptions in the last few months.  First the Sense was released and now 3D Systems has announced the TOUCH, the first ever consumer haptic-based mouse for better and easier virtual sculpting.  It will come bundled with Cubify Sculpt for just $499.

3D Systems TOUCH Haptic Mouse

Why the TOUCH Haptic Mouse is Important

Reviewing some of the published accounts of the announcement of the TOUCH it became clear that reviewers with a computer-centered technical background just don't get why this device is so important to the democratization of 3D design and printing.

But, on a personal level, I CANNOT OVERSTATE the importance of this breakthrough!

In fact, the job for which the TOUCH is designed to facilitate is the very reason for which I became interested in 3D printing in the first place... alternatives to traditional clay sculpture. 
At the risk of repeating myself, my daughter is a very talented sculptor.  But,  working with porcelain and other clays has risks... especially in her chosen style of work, which was to build a vessel and carve it in intricate patterns.  Silica dust and toxins in some of the glazes are just a few of these hazards.  Then there is the all to frequent instances where a piece will crack in the kiln after hours and hours of design work.  Casting and wheel working just could not be used for the intricate patterns that she envisioned.  So I began looking for alternatives and found 3D printing.

But, an artist that is used to working with her hands may or may not be all that comfortable with using a standard mouse with a 3D design program to produce sculpture.  My daughter certainly has NOT been.  The sense of touch is critically important for a sculptor.

I knew that the answer was a haptic mouse that provided the force feedback that mirrored the feel that she was used to experiencing when sculpturing clay.  But, cost was always the big hurdle prior to now haptic devices meant for artistic applications cost a small fortune for an artist. 

A 3D Mouse is Useful; but, it NOT a Haptic-based Mouse

I regularly use the 3DConexxion 3D SpaceNavigator.  It's wonderful and I love using it.  It makes rotating objects in Sculpt very, very easy and quick.  But, it is NOT a haptic-based system.  It doesn't help me at all with the actual sculpting process other than simple angle rotation.  It doesn't help me with controlling the height or depth when pulling and pushing the virtual clay in Sculpt.

My Expectations for the TOUCH Haptic-based 3D Mouse in Cubify Sculpt

Obviously,. I don't have a TOUCH.  In fact, I only learned about it today when 3D Systems announced it.  But, I have drooled over various haptic devices beyond my budget for years.  So, I have a pretty good idea what I expect it to do for me... and, hopefully, my daughter.

Plus, I've used a WACOM pad with pressure sensitive pen that crudely allows for some of the functionality of a haptic device without the force feedback.

I'm expecting to be able to FEEL the clay and be able to experience different pressures as I change the hardness of the clay in Sculpt.  I expect to be able to have more control over the depth and height of cuts and pulls.  What I do NOT expect is the precision of a device costing thousands of dollars. It will be enough for me if the TOUCH finally allows my daughter to finally feel comfortable with a software sculpting application. 

If it does, it may be the first step to migrating to 3D Systems' professional level sculpting applications and haptic devices.   At the very least I expect it will improve my abilities to sculpt... and that is a HUGE thing!  :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cube Game Changers Announced at CES

CES is here again!

If any of you ever entertained the idea that I work for 3D Systems, the fact that I seem always to be the last to know about new products should put that thought to rest!!!  LOL!

While I assumed that 3D Systems would be making some big announcements at CES, I was floored by what I have read in the press releases!!!

I am not going to insult your intelligence by simply copying and pasting the 3D Systems press release.  Instead, I will refer you to the newly designed Cubify web site.

There you will find the announcement of two new Cube printers.  Both of them look awesome to me!

Official Cube3 Press Release
Reported expected price around $1,000.  I've NO confirmation on that price.

Cube 3 3D Printer

At the consumer end of the spectrum, the Cube3 adds the ability to print 2 different colors or materials at the same time.  While I didn't know for sure, in the back of my mind I expected this one as it is the next logical step for the Cube series printers.

I also expected the resolution to be improved.  One of the reasons for this was that one of the update releases of the Cubify client displayed .20mm layers before it was pulled and replaced with a version reporting the standard .25mm layers.  But, that did not prepare me for the HUGE leap from the current Cube2's 250 micron resolution to a phenomenal 75 micron resolution!  WOW!!!!

It appears to accomplish this at TWICE the speed of the Cube2.  What is not clear is if the 2X speed is at the 75 micron resolution or the new 200 micron resolution. In either case.... DOUBLE WOW!!!!

The Cube3 also sports an automatic leveling print table.  I have spent the better part of the last few months successfully designing a print leveling tool for the Cube2.  But, I am MORE than happy with the fact that the newest member of the Cube family makes that issue disappear.

It also appears that loading and unloading filament has gotten a bit more automated.  It has been my experience from contact with many users that most clogging issues can be traced back to user loading and unloading issues.  Automating the process should go a long way to minimizing clogs.

While the design of the Cube3 is still relatively open... meaning no closed print environment... it appears to me that designing an attachable enclosure as an after-market product might be a lot easier for this version than it is for the Cube1 and Cube2.  This, combined with the dual print jets, may make printing with ABS a viable option again.  Up to now, I have reserved trying to print ABS to the 1st Generation Cube with the heated bed.  The Cube3 could be a game changer in this regard.


Official CubePro release
Officially expected price under $5000. 

CubePro 3D Printer

Last year, the CubeX 3D printer won the Best of CES Award for 2013.  It sported some impressive specs.  But, it just didn't hit me as something I'd follow on this blog.

I do, however, plan to follow the CubePro.

There is one overriding reason for doing so.... the CONTROLLED print environment.

I love printing in ABS.  That is one reason why I would never get rid of my 1st Gen Cube, with its heated bed.  A controlled environment means minimal or no warping.  Yes, I know that the CubeX had an enclosed environment and that the CubePro may cost considerably MORE than the CubeX.  But, with that CONTROLLED print environment, I'm drooling already!  Enclosed is definitely  different than CONTROLLED!

I'm not going to even attempt to make any kind of comparison between the CubeX and the CubePro until I have a chance to see and work with one in person or talk with users that have experience with both.  While there seem to be some similarities, I see enough subtle differences in the CubePro video to feel that this is a very different animal where it counts the most... performance and reliability.

In any event, I will keep you updated as I learn more.

My Thoughts

I had no idea where I would be taken when I made the decision to follow the Cube 3D printer about two years ago.  But, I have not only enjoyed each of the Cube printers I use on almost a daily basis; but, love seeing the fact that 3D Systems continues to be enthusiastic about the consumer 3D market.  These latest additions to the Cube family are a remarkable testament to that commitment and enthusiasm.

I've been holding on for the ride since 2012 and what a ride it has been!!!  I see nothing but good things for 3D printing fans in 2014.  It's already started out as a great year for us!

Congratulations to the Cubify team at 3D Systems!  Well done.  :)