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The Cube 3's new nozzle system
It is like a headphone jack into the top of a printer
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Cube 3's new filament
The user never has to see the filament, never has to feed it or worry about nozzle blockage.
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A Print from DWS's new XFab printer
The Iron Man print has such a great quality finish I wouldn't have that it was 3D Printed at first.
“Free subscription to a 3D printing magazine sir?”
“There’s one of those already?!”
“We’ve been writing about the technology for 22 years”
This isn’t just one instance, this happened on numerous occasions to the TCT + Personalize team whilst m̶a̶n̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ staffing (a change for RB and Little Egypt) our stand in the 3D Printing TechZone at International CES 2014. I’ve only worked here for one year and the impression that we are bandwagon jumpers really grinds my Nautilus gears.
Another conversation I had on the stand began with “I know the guy on the front cover of your magazine…” – the esteemed Scott Crump, “…he’s my husband.” Lisa Crump who formed Stratasys with her husband in 1989 knows better than most that this is not a new technology, “We are an overnight success, 25 years in the making,” as she so eloquently put it.
But there was a new phrase being bandied around the show floor, coined by the inventors of it all 3D Systems ‘3D Printing 2.0’. Though this terminology may annoy some and be cast off as marketing speak it has some validity in terms of the advancements made from the first batch of consumer 3D printers that have been on the market for the last three to five years.
We were lucky enough to have a preview of 3D Systems’ (3DS) latest consumer product range from CEO Avi Reichental himself before the show even opened. Amongst the impressive new line of Jets; CeraJet, ChefJet and CubeJet, the one thing that really hit home with me was the new system for loading filament on the Cube 3.
We can argue until we’re blue in the face as to whether the everyday consumer will have a 3D printer in their home but one thing is for sure there’s no way the last batch of platform levelling, filament feeding, nozzle clogging, gap setting printers would have survived the patience of an average consumer, heck I’ve even been tempted to throw my Epson paper printer out of the window from time to time. All of those annoyances needed to be taken away in the next generations of printers for it to stand any chance of getting in to the home.
The new system 3DS have developed means you never have to see the filament, you never have to level the bed, set the gap or… you get the picture. Though there will be those for whom being tied into 3D Systems’ cartridges may be annoying, with all due respect, those aren’t the target market for the Cube 3.
The target is one that perhaps, does not even exist yet. Not the Innovators or the Early Adopters perhaps not even the Early Majority but the Late Majority and Laggards who haven’t got the foggiest about technology and don’t care how a part is printed, they just need to print because their kids’ latest computer game or school project requires them to. All this lot have to do when the printer runs out of material is plug in what looks like a headphone jack into the top of the machine and hit print.
Other advancements in the consumer 3D printing market came with the catching up to all other tech and the use of smartphone/tablet apps to control and print. We’ve lamented before on how the use of PCs has substantially held the tech back in the consumer sphere. Nobody wants to put down their shiny new iPad, dig out that dusty old laptop that takes three hours to load, download some software, which says you need to update before installing and then hook it up using an old printer wire, which is somewhere in that box of cumulating wires in the garage. It felt like the equivalent of recording BBC HD on VHS.
Both MakerBot and 3D Systems announced new machines with the capability of sending prints to it direct from their respective digital file libraries. MakerBot even went as far as adding smartphone control of 3D printing, each of their three new Replicators has a camera and the bigger two in the line, allow for control of a print with your smartphone. This comes in handy for bigger prints that you would like to keep an eye whilst out and about.
Away from the big two (bearing in mind MakerBot are now owned by Stratasys) other developments saw injection moulded like prints coming off the DWS stand. The Italian company have previously been known for quality wax casting systems used in the dentistry and jewellery industries. At Euromold they announced new materials for those industrial machines but here at CES they launched a new consumer machine, the XFab, which will come in sub $5,000.
Take a look at the Iron Man picture up top to get a feel for their prints, you can’t really see layering in their ABS like material and as for the rubber-like material demonstrated with a watch strap, it feels and looks like the Casio resin watch strap that is wrapped around my wrist right now.
We saw plenty of new machines, plenty of new innovations and plenty of interest to suggest that consumer 3D printing is improving. It may not be there yet and there will always be those who say it will never be there, but CES 2014 felt like the beginning of the Internet boom as opposed to the beginning of the Virtual Reality craze.