Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A truly Innovative 3D Pen Uses No HEAT!

I've been a fan of the CONCEPT of 3D pens for some time.  In fact, I own one.  But, my excitement was shortlived when it became hopelessly clogged.  I thought the solution would be a better extruder; but, I think I was wrong.

It turns out that the real solution may be to drop the heated plastic altogether in favor of using  photopolymer "ink" that is solidified using UV light!  It's safer for young children, the very population for which I envisioned using a 3D pen.  And, I THINK that clogging will be a thing of the past.

Right now the best information about the CreoPop can be found on their Indiegogo site.

What I will do here is to post some very cool videos showing the CreoPop in action.  First, we have the obligatory sales pitch found on their indiegogo page.

Now, you HAVE to admit these guys are ingenious. While no 3D pen is going to make any of us world renown sculptors, they do have a place in teaching 3D printing concepts.

Here's a quick review that is excellent at demonstrating the challenges as well as the unique aspects of the cool ink process.

The materials themselves are interesting.  Changing colors seems to be simple and specialty inks are promised.  Here is a sample that creates a deer using two ink colors.


Whether or not you see a 3D pen in your future, I think it's worth while to check out their Indiegogo page as an example that demonstrates that there is still a LOT room for innovation in the 3D realization space.  

Will we see this technique used in future very low cost 3D printers for children?  Could be!

Link to CreoPop Indiegogo Page

Enjoy.  :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Patience Will Be Your Own Reward

I received an email from someone that had placed an order for a Cube 3 and their invoice had projected the shipping date as July 7.  When he called support, he was notified that the shipping date had slipped to near the end of July.

They weren't complaining.  Just reporting.  Like me they are huge Cube fans and have multiple Cubes in a educational setting.  But, since they are hearing this, I know that others must be also.  Therefore, I feel the need to at least provide my perspective on the issue. 

No one is more anxious to have a Cube 3 in their hot little hands than me.  And, I am waiting just like everyone else.  But, I am urging patience to myself and everyone else that is on the waiting list to receive a Cube 3. 

The reason?  I've seen one in action... in person.  And, it's awesome!

A little review and comparison might help put this small delay in proportion.

My first 3D printer was a RepRap style RapMan 3.  The first Cube (version 1) was a radical departure from all previous 3D printers based on the RepRap concept.  It required a whole new approach to manufacturing for both the printer and the cartridge system.  Even the packaging required a radical new design.

The Cube 2 was a significant; but, incremental improvement over the Cube 1.  The manufacturing process was essentially the same and the only difference in the cartridge was the introduction of PLA as well as ABS.  The ABS cartridge was interchangeable in the Cube 1 and the Cube 2.  So, moving from the Cube 1 to the Cube 2 probably didn't involve many new manufacturing process changes.  In fact, I'm guessing that the biggest jolt to the assembly line was the deal with Staples which most likely significantly ramped up the numbers!

Having seen the Cube 3 at shows, I am ready to say that the Cube 3 is as radically different from the Cube 2 as the Cube 1 was to the RepRap.  Frankly, I find it hard to conceive of many Cube 2 parts that might be reused without modification in the Cube 3 design.  Virtually everything about the Cube 3 is revolutionary in such fundamental ways as to require whole new parts and manufacturing processes for both printer and cartridges. These differences have to affect suppliers as well.

Obviously, 3D Systems knows how to design smooth manufacturing processes for radically new products as proven by the success of the Cube 1's assembly line.  But, we shouldn't be surprised that initial delivery estimates might slip a bit with so many big changes to the manufacturing process.  And, then there is the issue of building up an adequate inventory of completely new cartridges while still manufacturing the older style cartridges.

Every single one of the new design changes for the Cube 3 are an improvement over the Cube 2.  Think of how many there are.  Here a just a few that come to mind:
  • Two print heads
  • Print Jets integrated into the cartridge assembly
  • A completely different mechanism for moving the filament into the print jet
  • Self leveling print table
  • Self gapping print table
  • Bigger print surface
  • Finer layer resolution 
  • Faster printing (2x)

I have seen the Cube 3; but, I've not used one.  But I, for one, am willing to wait a bit longer to take that next step if that is what it takes to guarantee that it's the best, most reliable Cube ever... which I am convinced that it will be... by multiple orders of magnitude!

When they finally start showing up on our doorsteps and we all get to actually see that smooth 70 micron print in action, then I'm sure all of us will agree that it was well worth the wait.

Microsoft has a habit of telling it's beta testers who feel a product is not ready for prime time that "Shipping is a feature".   That may be true.  But, it's also the philosophy that gave us the disastrous Windows ME, Vista and Windows 8!   Fortunately, 3D Systems thinks better of us than that and is willing to ship only when the product and processes are ready.  For that, I am thankful.

If you can be patient and let the Cube 3 arrive when the time is perfect, your patience will reward you with one terrific 3D Printer that you are going to love!