3D Printing from your smartphone
Gerhard de Clercq and Pieter Sholtz, two South African teens, talk about their innovation that allows 3D printing directly from their phone and their mission to make 3D printing more accessible in Africa through mobile.
One of the factors I’m convinced stops mainstream adoption of 3D printing is the fact that printers almost exclusively require a computer, whether that is to model, download, slice, or print most, even if it is over WiFi, require some form of Personal Computer.
PC sales peaked last year and the rise in smartphones and tablets is causing an almost catastrophic tail off in PC use in the home. So for 3D Printing, a technology that is apparently burgeoning, to be so attached to a technology that is rapidly dwindling seems particularly odd.
Nobody understands the need for 3D printing to go app-based more than the youth of today and these young, fine gentlemen from South Africa have got it nailed.
Gerhard de Clercq and Pieter Sholtz are fifteen years of age, they built a 3D printer for a school project – an improved Arduino powered RepRap machine – they then decided that the printer needed to be controlled by a smartphone so they wrote an app to do so. When I was 15 I attempted to change the fascia on my dad’s Nokia 8210, this resulted in a broken mobile phone and docked pocket money.
The app they’ve written is for a Window’s phone but works as simply as one could imagine; upload an STL, press a button to slice the file into G-Code and then Bluetooth it to the printer. In the demonstration the boys printed a case for a Nokia 820 from a Nokia 920 and showed how one could control the temperature, z-axis and other printer functions all from the comfort of your smartphone.
Rightfully, both gentlemen would a Gold Award at the Northern Gauteng Region’s Eskom Expo for Young Scientists 2013 for their app and printer project called "Printing in the next dimension". Pieter and Gerhard say that the aim was to make 3D printing more accessible in Africa and seeing as an awful lot of people in Africa don’t own PCs but do own smartphones they had to develop the app. We get the feeling these boys might be very sort after in the coming years!