Archive | November 2012

3D Device Prints In and On Paper

3D Printed Paper

We recently shared our take on why 2D is like 3D printingWhile we conceded that the devices themselves are different, we made the argument that the process of printing in two or three dimensions is essentially the same:

File is created >> File is sent to print device >>

File is printed >> Item is finished (bindery/decoration)

We also made the point that like 2D printing, the 3D printing market will eventually service customers at home (via desktop printers), online (via web-to-print) and at retail (via 3D print shops.) The retail channel has yet to be developed and we think this represents a huge opportunity for traditional printers, print franchises, big box office supply stores, and shipping companies like FedEx and UPS.

One of the objections raised by some in these markets is that the substrates and consumables used in 3D are too dissimilar from those used in traditional printing.

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3D Systems Sues Formlabs and Kickstarter

Everybody remember the Formlabs Form 1? It’s the desktop 3D printer that  raised nearly $3 million a couple of months ago on Kickstarter. Part of its allure was the quality of output it could produce, rivaling the output of printers costing $30,000 to a million or more. According to the team’s project page on Kickstarter:

“Our reason for starting this project is simple: there are no low-cost 3D printers that meet the quality standards of the professional designer. As researchers at the MIT Media Lab, we were lucky to experience the best and most expensive fabrication equipment in the world. But, we became frustrated by the fact that all the professional-quality 3D printers were ridiculously expensive (read: tens of thousands of dollars) and were so complex to use. In 2011, we decided to build a solution to this problem ourselves, and we are now ready to share it with the world.”

Now it turns out that Formlabs may have violated a patent belonging to 3D Systems, one of the companies that makes those expensive, professional-quality 3D printers. Clearly 3D Systems was not happy and yesterday announced that they’ve filed a patent infringement suit against Formlabs and Kickstarter.

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Why 2D is Like 3D Printing – a Counter-Rant

[ALSO APPEARING ON TECHCRUNCH]

I recently read an article on TechCrunch by Jon Evans entitled, “3D Printers Are Not Like 2D Printers.” While I would agree with the title (obviously the two devices don’t serve the same purpose), I don’t agree with argument Jon makes for why 3D printing is not like 2D printing.

His primary argument is that 3D printers make “stuff,” while 2D printers disseminate information. I’d counter that argument by pointing out that packaging, boxes and other forms of dimensional print not only provide information, but serve as containers – stuff that holds other stuff. Jon’s point is that “our relationship to stuff is thoroughly, extremely, fundamentally different from our relationship to information.” I would agree noting that with some amusement that kids sometimes play with the box more than the toy because they perceive the box as more interesting stuff.

More importantly to me however is the implied assertion that 3d printed “stuff” doesn’t or can’t disseminate information. Consider for example, the 3D printed, customizable Android figurines currently for sale on Cubify.com. Other than to promote the brand, what purpose do they serve, and with the obvious exception of an extra dimension, how are they really any different than a poster or wall graphic of a customized Android figure?

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Powering the Next Industrial Revolution

Funny story. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat via LinkedIn with a man in the UK who was entertaining the idea of opening a 3D print shop. Last week I posted his story and shared it on Twitter. He was going to the 3D Printing Show and I mentioned it in my post. A little later I received a tweet that said, “We’ll be there too, but we have an actual print shop you can visit.”  Clearly people I had to meet.

This week I had an opportunity to meet on Skype with Christiane Fimpel and Philipp Binkert, the co-founders of 3D-Model.ch. 3D-Model.ch is located in Zurich, Switzerland and is something of a one-stop shop for all things 3D. While I didn’t get to visit in person, I did get to talk shop with two innovative entrepreneurs who are powering the next industrial revolution.

More than just a 3D print shop, 3D-Model.ch has four pillars in its business strategy. The company does provide 3D printing and other services including design, file management, laser cutting, and finishing, but also an authorized reseller for 3D Systems and Bits From Bytes, two formidable names in 3D printing equipment. Beyond products, the other two pillars in 3D-Model.ch’s strategy are services, including education for consumers, and consulting services for business clients.

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