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3D Printed Lightclip Turns Your iPhone into a Batman Signal, or a Ninja Ghost, and More
This is a review of Lightclip, one of the coolest and most elegantly-designed 3D printed products we’ve come across. We also interview the designer.
(For full disclosure, the designers behind Lightclip sent us a complimentary product to try out.)
The Lightclip is a 3D printed accessory for the iPhone that becomes illuminated when you turn on a flashlight app. A variety of designs were created by Lab02 and are available for sale at Shapeways for $12 to $17 each.
Our Impression of Lightclip
The design is quite a step up from what you would normally expect from 3D printing. Instead of rigid ABS plastic, the Lightclips are 3D printed in White Strong and Flexible (Nylon). As Shapeways said in their own review:
This material is very strong (obviously), affordable and an excellent light diffuser. The Lightclip emits a beautiful ambient light, which is evenly distributed and very easy on the eyes. Use it as a nightlight, at a camping trip or when in need of a superhero!
We loved the different types of Lightclips. Included in the Shapeways store are a traditional light bulb, a ghost, a ninja ghost, and a Batman spotlight. Each one fit perfectly to capture all of the light from the iPhone flash; no leakage. See the gallery below for examples.
Fun for kids. Though not a toy, kids were very attracted to the Lightclip, turning the flashlight on and off repeatedly to see the Lightclip glow.
In summary, the Lightclip is really more about fun and fashion than function, but it’s worth the $15 price point as a conversation piece and perhaps a night light on occasion.
Interview with the Designer of Lightclip
We interviewed Dinos Costanti, the designer of Lightclip. The transcript of our interview is below.
On 3D Printing: Tell us about your organization and your history in 3D printing.
Costanti: My name is Dinos Costanti and i’m a software developer and 3D modeler. Vangelis Hadjiloizou is a painter and the ex Creative Director of the largest advertising agency in Cyprus. We started working together as freelance industrial designers in 2011. Right from the beginning we wanted a way to prototype our designs. We had access to a nice CNC machine locally, but we needed something better. That’s how we started using Shapeways and i.materialise.
We were very impressed with the capabilities of the modern 3D printers, especially with the EOS SLS machines. We even used them for a small production run of 110 small mushrooms that we designed as a giveaway for one of our customers. That was the final proof for us that 3D printers can be used for small scale manufacturing.
So we launched Lab02.org as a place to show and promote our personal designs. That is probably the dream of every designer; A way to make and sell the products that no one is willing to fund and manufacture! And as 3D printing becomes more popular, we’d love to feature the designs of other Cypriot designers.
Over the past 3 years we’ve gained a lot from the 3D printing community. And it is thanks to it that we can now afford our own 3D printer. As our way of giving something back we’ve made the Lightclip available under a Creative Commons license. This way anyone can download, modify, and print his or her own for free!
On 3D Printing: The designs you have made are very intricate and probably more elegant than what most people would expect when they think of 3D printing. Was it difficult to design?
Costanti: Not at all! The Lightclip went from initial idea to sketching, modeling and prototyping in about 10 working days. That included 5 days for Shapeways to print and ship the prototype.
I think that the 3D design software companies are starting to realize the need to address the amateur or rather the non-engineering crowd. We mainly use Moi3D, a NURBS modeler created by Michael Gibson, the original developer of Rhino. This is probably the easiest and friendliest NURBS modeler on the market and a perfect fit for designing for 3D printing.
On 3D Printing: How do you see these types of 3D printed goods growing in adoption?
Costanti: The production of 3D printed goods is going to explode. As more 3D printers are becoming available, prices are being pushed down. And as 3D printing materials become cheaper we are coming to a point, maybe in a year or so, where 3D printing will be a viable and cost effective solution for small scale manufacturing. Especially so for the 100 – 3000 units production runs which, using traditional injection molding, are currently in kind of a “no man’s land”. That is mainly due to high molding costs which demand a major investment with traditional methods, but are not required at all with 3D printing.
That is going to have a profound impact on the variety and complexity of available products as more and more designers can simply self-publish their products using their own 3D printer or a 3D printing service.
On 3D Printing: How has your experience with Shapeways been?
Costanti: Our experience with Shapeways has been amazing right from the beginning. Their engineers are very knowledgeable and they were instrumental in our quest to master the basics of designing for 3D printing. Also, their printing times are constantly improving. They will usually ship a lot sooner than the date they quote!
There is little doubt in my mind that these 3D printing services are the prototypes for the factories of the future.
On 3D Printing: Any other creative ideas your working on at the moment?
Costanti: We’ve had another very successful product with i.materialise, the Dragonbite grip which was designed for printing in stainless steel. It is currently the feature of a design competition at i.materialise.
We are also working on the initial sketches of our new project, a water pipe, designed to be printed in ceramic. This is the one material we haven’t used so far and we are very excited about it. I’m sure that it will present its own challenges but it is something we wanted to try for a long time. We hope it will be available in a month or so.
Thanks for sharing the Lightclip with us!
How big is 3D printing going to be? Huge, according to Global Industry Analysts (GIA). $3 billion by 2018 to be precise. This is lower than the figure reported by Forbes in March: $3.1 billion by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020. But nevertheless, this shows incredible growth for a revolutionary industry.
GIA, a leading publisher of off-the-shelf market research, has published a comprehensive global report on the 3D printing market.
The global market for 3D Printing is projected to reach US$2.99 billion by the year 2018, driven by the advent of newer technologies, approaches, and applications. Expanding use of the technology in manufacturing final products, declining cost of printers, and increasing use of 3D printing technology in newer areas bodes well for market growth.
Hailed as a transformative manufacturing technology, 3D printing involves fabrication of physical objects by depositing a material using a nozzle, print head, or any another printer technology. Though initially used for prototyping of products, 3D printing has evolved and is currently capable of customized short-run manufacturing of industrial products, dental implants, and medical devices. 3D printing is finding use in a diverse range of applications across varied markets. Though used initially for rapid prototyping purposes, technological advancements are increasingly facilitating the use of 3D printers for manufacturing final products. The technology has now reached a stage where digital models can be replicated to produce physical components or prototypes, which would be similar to those of mass produced products. The declining cost of printers has led a wide range of industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to footwear and jewelry to adopt 3D printing technology for manufacturing desired objects. 3D printing technology is thus offering individuals as well as companies with the ability to design as well as manufacture objects at relatively lower costs.
In the coming years, 3D printing technology would evolve to enable printing of metals including precious metals such as silver and gold. Further, low cost techniques are expected to be developed for enabling 3D printing of widely available materials such as paper and plastic. Another area of growth is the medical sector wherein 3D printing technology could be used for developing replacement parts. Potential also exists for companies to penetrate into educational and medical device sectors.
As stated by the new market research report on 3D Printing, the United States represents the single largest market for 3D Printing. Several companies in developed nations do not actually manufacture products in entirety in their home ground anymore, and have moved manufacturing activity to low-cost destinations, primarily in developing economies. However, the potential for local manufacturing on demand end-products with the aid of 3D printing is significantly enhanced, as it eliminates the need for physical shipping from far-off regions. As 3D technology matures, mass production within developed nations could be cheaper than manufacturing and shipping products from overseas markets. In certain specialized areas where speed and time to market are critical, technologies such as 3D printing will cause manufacturing activity to move back to developed nations from the developing world.
The market for 3D Printing Products is projected to grow manifold in the near future with 3D printer systems becoming more affordable and easy to use. In the short run, the demand for simple and low cost desktop 3D printers with the ability to rapidly produce concept models for prototypes is expected to witness strong growth. Technological advancements would facilitate development of 3D Printers that are less bulky, easy to fabricate and capable of serving almost unlimited number of purposes. An increasing number of freelance professional designers and hobbyists are using 3D printers for creating new designs and producing physical models, which is partly attributed to the high cost of alternate technologies.
3D Printing is a nascent industry well poised for robust growth driven by rising user adoption. The industry is highly competitive, with competition primarily stemming from new product development, process know-how, pricing, and the ability to provide comprehensive solutions to meet customers’ needs. Major players profiled in the report include 3D Systems Corporation, Bits from Bytes, envisionTEC GmbH, EOS GmbH, Hewlett-Packard Development Company L.P, MakerBot® Industries LLC, Objet Ltd., Stratasys Inc., among others.
3 billion photo by nagillum used under Creative Commons license
The Financial Times published a feature profiling the five industry heavyweights in 3D printing.
Abe Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems
Mr Reichental regards 3D printing as a “disruptive technology” with the power to revitalise the global manufacturing industry. In the past three years he has spent about $230m on acquisitions to make 3D Systems the fastest expanding large 3D printing equipment producer.
Hans Langer, CEO of EOS
The sparkling-eyed German physicist has turned EOS into one of Europe’s most promising high-tech mid-sized businesses and one of the world’s biggest makers of 3D printing hardware.
Wilfried Vancraen, Managing Director of Materialise
He has expanded his Leuven, Belgium-based company’s range of services to make parts using 3D printing for a large group of customers in fields from interior design to the medical equipment industry. Materialise also makes its own range of personalised jewellery using the technology.
Scott Crump, CEO of Stratasys
He has built up Stratasys into one of the world’s biggest makers of 3D printing systems and is keen to stress the links between 3D printing and other forms of “digital manufacturing” in which computer codes are used to instruct factory machinery to make objects, often on a customised basis, relatively cheaply and to high precision.
Sir David McMurty, Chairman and CEO of Renishaw
Sir David regards 3D printing as a “unique business opportunity” with “plenty of scope for development” and became interested in the technology prior to Renishaw’s acquisition last year of MTT Technologies, a small Staffordshire-maker of 3D printing machines.
Read the full executive bios in the feature at FT.com.