Last year at MakerFaire, 3D printing was seemingly the eighth wonder of the world. There were bunches of these miraculous devices scattered about, and folks clustered around them with heads tilted sideways to watch a bust of Yoda or an iPhone case appear seemingly out of nothing.
This year the printers were still much in evidence, but they had evolved and brought some friends along.
Last year’s printers that came to the Faire pretty much had the option to choose between two kinds of plastic, ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or PLA (Polylactic Acid), to print with, and even then it was really uncommon to run across something in more than one color.
This year brought with it the rainbow. And PolyWood. And shoes.
The folks at Feetz (http://www.feetz.co/), like many of us, were tired of not being able to find shoes that fit, so they developed a way to print some that did. They seem to be using one of the new, more rubbery feeling materials for this. The result looks a bit like a cross between Crocs and sandals. But hey! 3D printed shoes!
One of the hallmarks of the 3D printed items I’d seen up to this point was a sort of faint striation or ridging all along the outside of the object. It has to do with the way the printer works. This time around there were places offering ways to make the outside of objects smoother after printing, and also printers that just plain printed smoother outsides. So, now that you can print with more than one color on some printers, those colorful items can look that much more polished.
3D Printers weren’t the only show on the scene this year. I heard rumors of 3D Routers, but I did see ShopBot’s CNC Router, which does 3D carving. There were a couple of 3D Scanners about, and AIO Robotics was showing their 3D Printer/Scanner/Copier/Faxer.
Faxer. That’s right, you can scan an item at one end, and print out a copy at the other. Pretty Star Trek-y if you ask me. (video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddvng2s-cy0)
So, basically, this year at Maker Faire, 3D Printing technology had taken an evolutionary step forward. There are new printing materials (did I mention PolyWood?) You can now scan something instead of creating an item in a program and then printing it. There are new horizons of color and finer end product capabilities. And heck, you can just fax an item to someone if you need to.
Mind you, that’s just stuff that I saw while I was at Maker Faire. In the wide world out there, there are people working on printing makeup in whatever color you want. I’ve heard about someplace working on printing with chocolate. And don’t even get me started on bio-printing. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing%233D_bio-printing) I mean, they 3D printed a piece of a skull for a transplant just a few months ago. As if we needed more proof that we actually live in the future.
In the end, I guess that the only question is: what will you print?
I’ll be over here with a PancakeBot if you need me. – http://www.pancakebot.com/