My apartment in Downtown Austin has officially become a manufacturing facility!!
I got my new MakerBot Replicator 3D printer and setup it up this week. Here it is sitting on my kitchen counter:
After setting it up and handling a few minor technical issues, I tried firing it up and printing something that was on the included SD card. First thing I printed was this stretchy bracelet. Here it is layer-by-layer being printed out in PLA plastic:
Finished product. Took a little less than 15 minutes to fully print:
Take it off the built plate and it’s ready to wear! That’s what I liked about the MakerBot Replicator2….it doesn’t have any messy cleanup process (a lot of 3D printers use powder or plastic-resin to make stuff which has to be cleaned off). It’s super sturdy and can be stretched:
Like I previously wrote, I wanted to print something that couldn’t be made through most manufacturing processes, so I printed a 3D shot glass! It’s got this internal structure that’s useless, but makes the shot glass look cool and “3D printed”.
Here it is halfway printed:
Ready to drink!
I was shocked by how sturdy the shot glass came out. The settings were on super high quality, so it took 1 1/2 hours to print, but the build was extraordinarily strong. I doubt you could even smash that thing with a hammer (I tried and failed). Very impressive strength.
Next thing I printed was this cool looking candle cover. Here it is fresh out of the printer:
Stick a tea-candle in the middle and it gives off this cool effect……and I manufactured this thing in my APARTMENT!!
The next step was to see how long some real “manufacturing” would take. So before running out of the house for a few hours, I quickly added some random items to a file and hit ‘print’.
I put 5 3D shot glasses, and 1 stretchy bracelet, hit ‘print’ and ran out of the house. Here was the very beginning phases of the print:
After a few hours (I left the settings on super-high…..so the print took longer than it should have):
8 hours after hitting ‘print’ these were waiting for me at home:
Overall I’m super impressed with this thing. I mean, the technology still sucks right now compared to what it’ll be in the future (being able to print circuits and whatnot), but this is an awesome learning experience.
I quickly learned to use the MakerWare software for loading objects to print…it’s super-simple.
Now I’m going to start learning some 3D modeling using Blender. That will be a tad bit harder, but more rewarding since I’ll be able to make my OWN things and print/share them.
So get this, a few weeks ago I took a 3D printing class!!
I haven’t learned any new skill in a while, so I thought this would be a fun nerd-activity.
I’ve been fascinated by 3D printing since around 2007, but only now are 3D printers become semi-reliable enough for home use.
Anywhoozle…..I Googled “3D Printing Class Austin” and found a place called TechShop that holds them:
This TechShop was connected to a Lowe’s hardware store, and you can pay a monthly membership to use all the high end machine and manufacturing tools there like this:
The class I enrolled in would teach you how to use a MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer. You can see the Replicator1 (left), and Replicator2 (right):
Our instructor mainly showed how to use the cool-looking Replicator2:
The first step was to learn the software, so we all downloaded pre-existing .stl files from the internet and loaded them into the 3D printing software. Here’s the little toy octopus gettin ready to print:
Once the file is sent to the printer, it starts printing out small layers of PLA plastic less than 1 millimeter thick. Once it’s done with that first layer, it moves up and prints another layer. It does this hundreds of times until a full object is printed out!
Here’s the printer in action using orange plastic:
After about 15 minutes of printing a REAL OBJECT WE DOWNLOADED FROM THE INTERNET CAME INTO EXISTENCE!!!
Now I’d been wanting a 3D printer for a long time, and after taking the class I was dead-set on getting one….so I made a quick internet order for a MakerBot Replicator2.
I ordered a couple of spools of plastic filament and the MakerCare Insurance (because there’s like a 99% chance something WILL go wrong with the machine in less than a year).
I’ve also started downloading the printing software and experimenting/downloading objects from the internet.
The first thing I want to print are these 3D shot glasses which would be impossible to create with a lathe or laser cutter:
I also just for fun wanna print a gun….now keep in mind it’s just a mold of a gun made out of shitty plastic with no moving parts….but the CRAZY thing is the file I’m printing from actually includes all the parts to make a gun (assuming you had a high-precision metal-printing 3D printer you could possibly make one):
I also downloaded a bunch of other random cool stuff from Thingiverse for free.
I dunno exactly where 3D printing will go…..but the ability to create and print out highly complex objects from your home is going open up a WHOLE new plane of creativity like Apps did to smartphones.
It’s so cool to imagine that from my apartment I can manufacture things. I mean….crappy things for now, but the technology will soon get better-and-better to the point where we’ll all be able to print out highly complex objects, machines, and circuitry. SOOOO FREAKIN COOL!
Since I left college I’d always been trying to learn something new at all times….and lately I haven’t, so getting this excited about something new is very refreshing :)
Trying to predict the future is fun, because it can be really profitable. One of the things I think has the potential to be the next technological revolution like electricity or the internet is 3-D printing (also called rapid prototyping).
In the early years computers were only used by large corporations or the government. Same with 3-D printers. They are still large, very expensive, difficult to use, and not useful to individual consumers yet.
When the large computers of yesteryear existed, people didn’t think individual consumers had any real use for that technology. Obviously as they got smaller, more powerful and cheaper there were thousands of uses created.
The cool thing about this emerging technology is it’s following the same pattern as the personal computer. In this sense you can almost predict the future by looking at history.
If you don’t know what 3-D printing is, checkout some videos on the subject. This video is a promo video for a Zcorp 3D printer. If you already know what 3D printing is, you can skip the video.
This following video shows the possible use of 3-D printing for building homes and other structures. Instead of taking months to build a home, tracts of affordable homes can be constructed in hours or days.
You can find more info and amazing videos about this at http://www.contourcrafting.org/ The cool part is they already have this technology making small-scale buildings out of concrete and other construction materials.
Want to print out some condominiums?
Or maybe put up some warehouses in 1/10th the time of traditional construction?
The prices of 3-D printers are dropping, but they’re still well out of reach for individual consumers. One of the things that are allowing these printers to be built for (relatively) cheap is the Fab@Home open source 3-D printing project. They’ve basically given a whole FREE set of plans, instructions and software to allow you to build a working 3-D printer at home.
The printer can print small objects out of silicon, chocolate or other heat-malleable materials. This sounds trivial, but remember that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (founders of Apple) both got their start by making do-it-yourself computers and selling them completely assembled. This whole 3-D printing thing means that now you can share not just information, but THINGS over the internet. Right now you can send a news article to a friend across the planet by sending it to them and they print it out. Similarly, soon you will be able to “send” actual THINGS like jewelry, toys, medical instruments etc.. That’s an ENORMOUS advancement in technology which will end up having countless useful and entertaining applications across almost every industry.
Telephone: Allows for transmission of voice over long distances.
Internet: Allows for transmission of information over long distances.
3-D Printing: Allows for transmission of THINGS over long distances.
As a small example, let’s say I need some scissors for a project, but oops, I don’t have any!
As you can see I just hopped online, printed some scissors out on my 3-D printer and was on my way. As time goes on, these printers will be able to print out increasingly complicated devices, complete with computer circuitry and complex moving parts. Instead of having to buy a new starter for your car, in time you may be able to simply “print” one out at home!
HOW TO PROFIT: This technology is still far from individual consumer hands and will take a few years to get there, so there’s no hurry to do anything now, however here’s some ways I’ve thought of that could make money from this new technology.
Make a website that people can upload and share their 3-D print creations in the form of files.
Buy stocks of companies that create 3-D printers or 3-D printing related products or software.
Build Fab@Home 3-D printers and sell them fully assembled.
Buy an industrial 3-D printer and allow other people to send you their CAD files to be printed into models.
Make your own 3D print art.
Make your own 3D print jewelry.
Get the CAD drawings from buildings under construction and print models of the building.
Use your imagination!
I for one am very excited about this technology. Perhaps I might buy one of these printers just to start tinkering around with it….who knows what could come of it!