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How 3D Printing Could Revolutionise Product Packaging

This is a guest post by Jonny Rowntree, whose bio is at the end of this article.

As one of the corporate and creative world’s most booming industries, product packaging and printing is constantly changing its nature, becoming more innovative and diverse with each advancement.

With printing processes such as offset, flexo, and digital printing, manufacturers and businesses are able to design a package print which is durable, protective, and visually appealing for a relatively substantial cost which sees positive results.

But what about experimenting with technologies like 3D printing?

3D Printed Product Packaging

Does this highly sophisticated and versatile development of the printing process have the potential to revolutionise the product packaging world, or at least one stage of the process? Critics may argue that until the technology becomes more mainstream, the method may be a little too mad – at least, cost-wise. But it’s also a technology which could be worth looking at for businesses.

The World of 3D

It’s not just riveting cinema action anymore – 3D has ventured into the homes and businesses of aspiring designers and developers, with some even patenting their own economical version of the printer, and leading national institutions holding their own exhibits on the technology. But how exactly does 3D printing work?

The technique itself is fairly straightforward, creating a solid image by process of accumulation or additive process, whereby differently shaped layers of material are laid down on top of one another. This varies from the subtractive processes of traditional printing methods which rely on cutting or drilling to reduce the material. The 3 main types are extrusion, granular, and light polymerised.

3D Printed Product Packaging

Beginning with virtual blueprints in STL, PLY, VRML or WRL file formats, which are created with software such as computer aided design (CAD) or animation modelling software, the images are divided into cross-sections and the machine binds these successive layers together on a build bed or platform. These are laid down using liquid, powder, paper or sheet material components which are then fused together to create the desired shape and size (determined by printer and X-Y resolution in dpi – dots per inch – or micrometers).

The time taken to print the model can range from hours to days, dependent on the project, with addictive systems resulting in greater versatility and quickest production time vs. injection moulding which provides a more economical method. During the final stages, sometimes additive processes are combined with subtractive processes which remove additional material creating a higher level of accuracy.

Due its incredibly adaptable nature and capability to print not only various shapes and sizes but print several colour combinations at once, 3D printing is quickly becoming the new alternative for businesses across the globe, commonly used for prototyping and distributed manufacturing in:

  • Architecture and construction (AEC)
  • Industrial design
  • Art and sculpture
  • Automotive and mechanics
  • Aerospace
  • Military
  • Engineering (most specifically civil)
  • Medical industries
  • Biotech
  • Education
  • Geographic information
  • Food industry
  • Fashion, footwear, and jewellery as well as several others.

With increasing accessibility to 3D printers and the freedom of open source 3D printing, more customers are able to effectively reduce costs in their business due to saving money on not using other printing techniques which may require several different machines and processes to produce one type of object, as well as the ability to print out solid objects which would otherwise be expensive to purchase.

Re-energizing the Art of Packaging

Inevitably, 3D printing provides the perfect venue for the creation of packaging, particularly flexible packaging. This field alone hails a large number of companies which specialise in developing software toolkits for businesses that use flexible packaging blueprints, modules and templates. A business can benefit from not having to combine traditional printing techniques, maintaining machines, or contracting printers, as well as saving on labour and resulting in a quicker turnaround time and more profit.

3D Printed Product Packaging

Businesses might question the quality of the product, asking whether the product will be safe and durable, as well as aesthetically appealing and marketable. These demands are met by customising 3D printers themselves as well as incorporating the concerns of a 3D printer into the initial design process.

There is a massive selection on the market which specialises in 3D printing machines, ranging from entry-level basic functionality to high-end, state of the art technology, catered to industry leaders and designers with new prototypes frequently developed. Though initially high in price, supply and demand is bringing it down gradually and as more packaging design is integrated into its function, more improvements will be made and will become accessible to businesses of varying sizes. In fact, this technology could eventually replace flexographic and offset printing in the future, if not make a considerable impact in the competition.

Eco-friendly? Getting there.

Like much of the new technology which is making waves across the packaging industry, 3D printing is becoming one of the more sustainable practices by reducing carbon footprint and using recycled materials and components which are treated carefully and meet regulation standard. By being able to produce an entire package, it saves the amount of resources which would typically go into the traditional printing techniques due to its ability to replicate other material, as well as eliminating the need to acquire and transfer materials between two different printing styles.

Most impressively, it also places considerably more capabilities into the hands of small businesses, who can produce their own packaging and in turn make a profit – a viable investment for years to come.


About the author: Jonny Rowntree is a freelance writer based in the North of England working with worldwide printing partner, Elanders UK.

Hero Forge Custom 3D Printed Fantasy Miniatures a Hit on Kickstarter

This is a guest post by Abdul Rehman, whose bio is at the end of the article.

Have you ever looked at some fantasy character and said to yourself “Wow! I wish I could have a miniature version of that on my table here”? Hero Forge, a newly founded project, allows you to do just that.

Hero Forge Custom Miniatures

Hero Forge – A Combination of Fantasy, Art and Science

While companies like ASDA have used the miniature 3D printing concept to create realistic models of real-life humans, Joshua Bennett and Teagan Morrison, founders of Hero Forge, have taken this concept to the realms of fantasy and imagination.

Started as a kickstarter project, Hero Forge promises to give you control of a simple web interface enabling you to create a unique 3D character which will then be brought to life using the power of 3D printing and sent to you by mail. Furthermore, you also have the option of selecting the material that you wish to print your character in, as well as the kind of paint you want on it. 

The Team – Artists and Programmers

The founders of this project are Joshua Bennett and Teagan Morrison.

Joshua Bennett calls himself a jack-of-all-trades. He is a freelance artist and has been working with the table top community for 3 years. His work has appeared in Wayfinder Magazine, on Paizo.com, and in dozens of online shops and indie RPG releases.

Teagan Morrison is the technical art director at the game studio “Naughty Dog” and has diverse experience in 3D modeling and managing teams of artists.

Other members of the team are Nicole Cardiff, a freelance artist whose work has appeared in Dungeons and Dragons, War Hammer and Game of Thrones flash cards; Molly Maloney, a concept artist for Telltale Games; Margaret Dost, an expert 3D modeler; Beverly Sage, a freelance rigger and technical artist in the video game industry and David Lenna, whose background is in programming and pipeline.

Hero Forge has well-known artists and a computer programmer in its team, making it perfect for the project. Joshua Bennett writes, “We have an amazing team with passion, big ideas, and the technical chops and experience to back it up. We can’t wait to make Hero Forge a reality!”

3D Printed Miniature Characters

The 3D printed miniature characters belong to one of five races: Humans, Half Orcs, Halflings, Dwarfs and Elves. Additional races will be added subsequently such as Sci Fi, Half Demons and Half Dragons. Hero Forge uses two materials for printing most of the miniatures.

  1. Ultra Detail Plastic: This is high quality plastic offering a high level of detail and is also suitable for painting. It is more expensive as well.
  2. Strong Plastic: This plastic offers lower details and is harder to paint on. However, it has the advantage of being cheaper.

An array of weapons is also available which includes swords, hammers, saws, chains and scythes. You can select any of these in either or both hands of the character. The miniatures are available in three sizes: 28 mm, 3 inches and 6 inches. Faces, facial hair, clothes, armors and even poses of the characters are all customizable. This customization is done on an Open GL based web program through which you can customize your character by simple clicks. These miniature characters are detailed on Hero Forge’s youtube channel.

A New Era of 3D Printed Entertainment

Hero Forge Custom Miniatures

3D printing is revolutionizing all fields of life. It has opened up new possibilities. Being able to create a character on the web and receive it within days was unimaginable a few years back. However, Hero Forge has made it a reality. The interest in this project can be gauged by the fact that Hero Forge’s initial funding goal of $95,000 was reached within 72 hoursThis project definitely heralds a new era in entertainment: The era of 3D printed entertainment.

If you’re interested in Hero Forge’s project, you can support them on their Kickstarter page and follow them on Facebook or on their blog.


About the author: Abdul Rehman is a medical student with a keen interest in all things technology. Computers, graphic cards, mobiles, tablets, 3d printing and tissue engineering are just a few of the things he’s been following for years. A regular author at 3dprinthq.com for about an year, he’s written on dozens of 3D printing topics from aviation to fashion.

Will 3D Scanners Usher in a New Era of Copyright Infringement?

Legal Expert Michael Weinberg Explores the Implications of More Accessible and Inexpensive 3D Scanners

This is a guest post by Michael Weinberg, whose bio is at the end of the article.

Q: Will 3D Scanners Usher in a New Era of Copyright Infringement?

A: No.

Tied into our current 3D printing boom is a second, equally interesting one: an explosion of accessible 3D scanners.  As you may be able to guess from the name, 3D scanners can take physical objects and turn them into digital files.  Once you have digitized an object you can modify it, share it over the internet, and/or print it out with a 3D printer.

Like 3D printers, 3D scanners are not new technology.  Companies have been making expensive, high quality scanners for years.  These scanners could be used to quickly create digital replicas of things like buildingsentire neighborhoods, or even fossilized whale bones that are accurate down to the centimeter (or millimeter).  But, also like 3D printers, recent years have started to see low cost, pretty-good scanners enter the market.

MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner Bre Pettis

There huge variety in these scanners.  Microsoft’s Kinect has been hacked and turned into a 3D scanner.  123D Catch from Autodesk can turn a series of regular, 2D photographs into a 3D model.   Makerbot has released their own 3D scanner (well, sort of their second 3D scanner), and Kickstarter is chock-a-block full of handheld 3D scannersdesktop 3D scanners, and dongles that turn your phone or tablet into a 3D scanner.  Back in 2011 we even did a podcast interview with the inventor of Trimensional, an iPhone app that used light from the iPhone’s own screen to create a 3D model.

All of which is to say that pretty soon anyone who wants access to a reasonably high quality 3D scanner will have one. In fact, anyone with a smart phone in their pocket will have one whether they want it or not.

3D Scanning 3D Printing

A Crisitunity?

Most people will see this as an exciting opportunity.  Imagine if on your next vacation, instead of just taking a picture of yourself next to the Elgin Marbles you scan them so you can print them out at home.  Or going to a botanical garden, scanning a bouquet worth of flowers, and mixing them into a 3D printed statue for your sweetheart.  Being able to capture the world in 3D will present us all with incredible opportunities.

Of course, some people will see this new technology as a crisis.  They will worry that being able to copy objects means being able to copy objects without permission.  And that could mean infringing on copyright (of course in many cases the objects being copied will not actually be protected by copyright, but let’s set that aside right over here for now).  They will conclude that this type of technology is just too dangerous to be freely available, and insist on some combination of digital and legal restrictions that make it much less useful and much easier to control.

A Dumb Response

This type of response is, in a word, dumb.  Yes, it is true that 3D scanners can copy physical objects.  And it is true that some of those physical objects will be protected by copyright (or patent).  And, furthermore, it is true that some of those protected objects will be copied without permission, therefore infringing on their respective copyrights and patents.

But that alone is not enough to build a case to restrict them.  After all, you can say pretty much the same thing about digital 2D cameras.  Digital cameras make copies of all sorts of copyright-protected things every day.  Many of those copies are made without permission.  And, at least on some level, that is a problem.

But no one would suggest that the correct response to that problem is to build limitations into digital cameras.  Or hold digital camera manufacturers responsible for copyright infringement.  There is no reason to treat 3D scanners any differently.

So enjoy those 3D scanners.  Use them responsibly.  Or at least as responsibly as you use your 2D camera.  And if someone starts freaking out about how 3D scanners will somehow mean the end of intellectual property as we know it, tell them to take a deep breath.  Sit them down.  Scan their face.  Turn it into a 3D printed mug and fill that mug with whatever liquid you think will best help them to relax.

About the author: Michael Weinberg is a Vice President at Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy group focused on digital issues based in Washington, DC. 

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When Will We See 3D Printers Make Their Way Into Our Homes?

3D printing has hype and controversy, but what about adoption?

This is a guest post by UK-based Laser Lines Ltd, whose bio is at the end of the article.

Earlier this year it was announced that Maplin Electronics would be the first UK retailer to stock a home 3D printer. With all the hype and controversy surrounding this technology, it’s left many wondering if 3D printers will be the next big gadget to make their way into every home.

3D printing is the process of printing layers of material, usually plastic, on-top of one another to build up a 3D object. The Velleman K8200, which retails at £700, allows customers to 3D print any object they want from the comfort of their home, from a chess piece to mobile phone case. The plastics come in red, black, white, orange, green, yellow and pink, costing £30 for 1kg of the resin. Certainly an interesting addition to any home office but isn’t this a rather expensive way of reproducing items that would ordinarily cost just a few pounds?

The idea of everyday consumers being able to access 3D printers has already caused controversy in the US following the announcement of printable handgun blueprints online. The handgun, which would have been made from plastic if successfully produced in this way, could have gone undetected by standard security scanner.

3D Printed Gun Liberator

Another widespread concern about 3D printers in the home is the likelihood of copyright infringement through the reproduction of products. Users would potentially be able to produce a 3D scan of a product and then using this scan blueprint re-create the object precisely at home.

Outside of the home however, 3D printing technology has been having far greater success. Manufacturers are able to benefit from quick prototype production, enabling sketched concepts to be swiftly tried and tested. The aerospace industry has already started producing fully functional parts via 3D print technology too, with NASA known for their frequent use of the procedure to make lightweight engine and shuttle parts. 3D printing has the potential to completely transform production supply chains, particularly when it comes to producing small parts that would have usually been shipped from one manufacturer to another.

NASA Space 3D Printing

There are incredible medical implications of this printing process too. Professionals believe that, ultimately, 3D printers could be produced to print living materials in place of plastics. Layering cells alongside a medical scaffolding substance called hydrogel, it should be possible to print the basis of human organs such as a liver or kidney, before leaving them to grown into the fully formed structure. Soon it will also be possible to print sophisticated human tissue specifically for pharmaceutical testing – which means risk free clinical testing and trials (though again a hugely controversial idea).

Organovo Pink Sheets Secondary 3D Printing

In conclusion, perhaps 3D printers will see their way into the homes of those who can afford such a novelty, but for the time being the real advantages will be found in manufacturing on professional scale machines. Even then 3D printing has a long way to go before it’s embraced by everyone.

About the author: This article is written by UK-based Laser Lines Ltd, a bespoke 3D printing company that have been providing 3D printing solutions for over 20 years. Visit their website to browse through their collection.

Laser Lines Ltd 3D Printing

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How Legitimate and Game-Changing are 3D Printed Guns?

3D Printed Guns are Newsworthy but Are They Viable?

This is a guest post by Brian Prowse, whose bio is at the end of the article.

In a recent article online, Jeremy A. Kaplan wrote the following for Fox News, “While early models based on firearms designer Cody Wilson’s plans backfired or fired only once before breaking, the latest test appears to prove that homemade plastic guns are viable — and that the Internet may have dramatically changed how we look at regulating the trade in arms.”

Mr. Kaplan was writing about the recent controversial subculture of 3D printed firearms, and Cody Wilson, founder of a non-profit called Defense Distributed, is a central figure in that 3D printed gun controversy. Wilson’s Defense Distributed is a hyper-libertarian, “crypto-anarchist” organization committed to the distribution of open source firearm and firearm-mechanism plans, mainly plans that allow for the 3D printing of guns.

Cody Wilson Wiki Weapon 3D Printing

Like any other controversy, the 3D printed firearms debate has gone through periods of waxing and waning. Its water-cooler buzz peaked shortly after Cody Wilson produced public plans for the lower receiver of an AR-15 assault rifle- one of the AR-15’s most important and more-regulated segments- and for higher-capacity magazines. Wilson did so in response to the national consideration of assault rifle (and magazine capacity) bans or restrictions which followed the Sandy Hook school shooting.

That controversy waned, however, when virtually every one of the 3D printed weapons either exploded or failed during or after the first shot. In fact, a video (below) by Defense Distributed shows Wilson firing his ostentatiously-named Liberator once and turning dramatically toward the camera as likewise dramatic music swells. However, he only fired the Liberator once because small parts inside the printed pistol had been destroyed by the shot.

The crux of the Fox News story involved a Canadian man, identified only as “Matthew”, who purportedly fired fourteen .22 bullets through the 3D printed rifle he named “The Grizzly 2.0”. So, if the video (below) of Matthew firing The Grizzly 2.0 fourteen times is legitimate, and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t, has that “dramatically changed” the nature of the American arms trade?

As compelling as the story is that anyone can make guns at home, the 3D printed gun phenomenon won’t dramatically change the greater gun dynamic, for the moment at least.

For starters, it’s not so clear that the Grizzly 2.0 test does prove that plastic guns are “viable”.

It is no mean feat for most people to find a 3D printer and download the Defense Distributed gun design, and moreover, 3D printing the gun components is both time consuming and costly. With those components, building the gun presents its own challenges.

Keep in mind that it’s been months since 3D firearm plans were produced and released to the public. Since then, virtually all of the guns produced, even by those who specialize in their production, have been fragile or faulty enough that a rifle firing 14 shots of the lowest commonly available bullet-caliber has made news.

That’s not necessarily the fault of the 3D printers nor the 3D printer user. The fact is that fortified metal alloys is simply better suited for the stress of exploding bullets than plastic is. Gunsmiths, both licensed and illicit, have known this for years. That’s why the illicit gunsmiths who have produced hand-made guns, often called “zip guns”, virtually always did so with sturdier materials than plastic.

3D printed gun zip gun

I mention the production of zip guns because there is absolutely nothing new or revolutionary about people building their own firearms. In fact, it’s still a thriving underground industry. So as it stands, the 3D printed gun and gun-part printing subculture will likely have little effect on the national firearm landscape.

With the easy access most Americans have to guns, the money, trouble and time dedicated to the production of a 3D printed firearm could be spent on simply buying a gun that’s tremendously more reliable.


About the author: Brian Prowse is a writer and self-proclaimed tech geek. When he’s not blogging for tech sites like 247inktoner.com, tinkering around with graphic design or traveling, Brian enjoys selflessly sacrificing his time to play with the coolest new gadgets on the market.


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