Tag Archives: open-source

Demo Exhibits Open-Source Complexity: 3D Printing Conference (Part 4)

3D Printing Conference Demo

3D Printing Conference: Complexity is Free, or Costly?

Brian Evans, Metropolitan State University of Denver professor and 3D printing educator, struggled to get a 3D printing demo to work at today’s Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York City.  Showing conference attendees the multitude of open-source 3D CAD and slicing software available, he also exposed the complexity facing those choosing to go the low-cost, open-source route to consumer 3D printing.

“Fail early and fail often,” he sheepishly said to the crowd when his part failed to begin printing.  “This is the challenge of using open-source,” he admitted.  Mr. Evans also praised higher end consumer 3D printer MakerBot for its easy-to-use user experience.

When asked which slicing software he recommended for slicing 3D files for 3D printing, he responded, “It depends on how dedicated you are.  If you really like to tinker, I’d go with Slic3r.”  Otherwise he recommends finding another program that takes some of the complexity out.


Authored by Brian H. Jaffe, founder of Mission St. Manufacturing and contributor to On 3D Printing.

IBM Sees Exponential Growth of 3D Printing Industry

Paul Brody IBM 3D Printing

More than just a tool, 3D printing is an emerging ecosystem.
– Paul Brody, IBM on the exponential growth of the 3D printing industry

At the Siemens Global Innovation Summit in Phoenix, IBM’s Paul Brody gave a look at how manufacturing transformation is changing the traditional rules of product design and development.

Brody highlighted 3 technologies: 3D printing, intelligent robotics, and open-source engineering.

On 3D printing, he discussed key trends:

  • 3D printing is rapidly achieving levels of performance required to be production-ready
  • 3D printing is already used in production for medical devices and aerospace
  • Performance is improving year on year
  • At lower volumes, unit costs are competitive with machining and plastic injection molding

He also dove into trends on open-source and crowdsourcing, asserting that 80% of consumers told IBM they are willing to help enterprises develop their products. Brody claimed, “Accept their help or see them build your competition on Kickstarter.”

IBM had partnered with The Economist to analyze the growth rate of open-source design repositories, namely Thingiverse, and found that the number of 3D printable items is on an exponential upwards path while complexity as measured by number of parts is on a steady increase.

IBM 3D Printing Exponential Growth

Paul Brody’s full talk is embedded below and more research from IBM is available here.

Can New 3D Printing Patents Be Challenged? EFF Says Yes.

Electronic Frontier Foundation 3D Printing

Earlier this month, we reported that a 3D printing patent had been issued to create a DRM-like layer around printable goods. This is just one of many patents that will be prosecuted around the emerging 3D printing revolution. Ironically, however, the technology itself is 30 years old and may be subject to “prior art” that invalidates any recently filed patents.

This is the hope of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a donor-supported organization that works to protect fundamental rights regardless of technology. Here is an excerpt from EFF’s blog.

Thanks to the open hardware community, you can now have a 3D printer in your home for just a few hundred dollars, with dozens of printer models to choose from and build upon. Community-designed printers already outclass proprietary printers costing 30 times as much. This incredible innovation is possible because the core patents covering 3D printing technologies started expiring several years ago, allowing projects such as RepRap to prove what we already knew—that openness often outperforms the patent system at spurring innovation.

Open hardware printers have been used for rapid prototyping of new inventions, to print replacement parts for household objects and appliances, by DIY scientists to turn a power drill into a centrifuge, for a game in which you can engineer your own pieces, and for thousands of other purposes by makers of all stripes. Projects like MakerBot and Solidoodle have made 3D printers accessible on a plug-and-play basis, so you don’t even need a soldering iron to start manufacturing objects you designed or downloaded from the internet. As additional patents expire, the open hardware community will be able to unleash its creative spirit on new technologies, technologies that have already been used to design custom prosthetics, guitars, shoes, and more. The possibilities are limitless.

The Problem

While many core patents restricting 3D printing have expired or will soon expire, there is a risk that “creative” patent drafting will continue to lock up ideas beyond the 20-year terms of those initial patents or that patents will restrict further advances made by the open hardware community. The incremental nature of innovation in 3D printing makes it particularly unsuitable for patenting, as history has shown.

The Project

We’ve said before that the America Invents Act failed to address many of the patent system’s worst problems. Despite that, it does include at least one provision we think could be helpful: the newly implemented Preissuance Submission procedure. That procedure allows third parties to participate in the patent application process by creating a vehicle to provide patent examiners with prior art. We’re glad to see the Patent Office open up the process to those who might not be filing patents themselves, but who are affected by the patent system everyday. We’re also glad that this new process may help stem the tide of improvidently-granted patents.

EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society are working together to use this new process to challenge patent applications that particularly threaten growing 3D printing technologies. As a first step, we are evaluating 3D printing patent applications currently pending before the Patent Office to identify potential target applications.We need your help! If you know of any applications covering 3D printing technology that you think should be challenged, please let us know by emailing 3Dprinting@eff.org (and also point us to any relevant prior art you might know about).

To get involved with the search, go to the USPTO’s application search toolPAIR, and/or Google Patents. Each of these sources contains valuable details about the applications currently pending before the USPTO.  Here’s the thing: under the current rules, a patent application may only be challenged by a Preissuance Submission within six months of its publication (or before the date of the first rejection, if that comes later). This means the clock is already ticking on the current crop of patent applications.

Once target applications are identified, we will seek out relevant prior art. We’ll be asking for your help again then, so please watch this space. Any document that was publicly available before an application was filed is considered prior art; this can include emails to public lists, websites, and even doctoral theses. Because of the time limit, once we identify the target applications, we must complete the prior art search quickly.

We’re glad there’s a new way to to challenge dangerous patent applications before they become dangerous patents. But the America Invents Act and the search capabilities of the Patent Office’s website won’t make this job easy. We need your help to get this done, so please do what you can to help protect the 3D printing community from overbroad patents that can threaten exciting innovation.


Horizon photo by Norma Desmond used under Creative Commons license.

Video: Broad Horizons for 3D Printing – RepRap, MakerBot, and Beyond

3D Printing Broad Horizons

The video below explores the evolution and future potential of 3D printing.

3D printing technology has come a long way, fast. And after two new product launches 3D printing has stepped firmly into the mainstream consumer market, in the process diverging from some of its early roots. In late September Makerbot released its latest printer, the ‘Replicator 2′, geared less towards the 3D printing enthusiast and more towards the mainstream consumer. They’ve even opened a retail store in Manhattan. And that same week Form Labs debuted their ‘Form 1′ 3D printer which boasts a minimum print resolution of 25 microns. The sleek machine was on display at this year’s Maker Faire.

“We were students at the media lab at MIT and we did a lot of work with personal fabrication tools there. And we’re all designers and engineers ourselves, but we were very frustrated that really, really truly professional high design tools like 3D printing were too expensive, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for the independent professional designer. So we decided to start a company to make the ‘Form 1′ which is the first high-quality, yet affordable and well-designed 3D printer that you can buy,” Form Labs co-founder David Cranor explained at their booth at Maker Faire 2012.

On the other side of the Maker Faire at the ’3D Printer Village’ was a collection of some 30 homebrew 3D printers, products of the RepRap Project, a loose-knit community that pioneered much of 3D printing’s recent revolution. The project’s goal is to develop a 3D printer that can print itself.

John Abella has been hosting the ’3D printer village’ for three years now. His Frankenstein printer, originally a Makerbot ‘Cupcake’, is typical of the RepRap community. RepRap is open-source, which means any designs produced under the project are free to use. That makes finding replacement parts and upgrading parts especially easy.

“Because it’s open source, people were able to take the original designs, improve on them, get electronics made and then sell them really cheaply, twenty, thirty dollars. So you can keep these old machines going even though they’re not supported and original parts aren’t available anymore.”

And then there’s Jordan Miller who is taking advantage of RepRap’s open-source designs to build 3D printers that can be used to create functional vascular structures.

Miller’s method works by having the 3D printer print vasculature models in a sugar-like material which can then be used as a mold for living cells and eventually dissolved. In proof-of-concept experiments blood pumped through the vasculature was able to deliver nutrients and oxygen.

“Instead of starting with a commercial system, like a hundred thousand dollar machine and trying to make it print sugar, we’re trying to start with these open-source printers, this amazing community that we have here at Maker Faire and we’re trying to have this community help this community develop this kind of technology from the ground up. The open source community and science, they’re very compatible. Everything is science is open anyway, so it’s been a good merge of communities.”

As a potential side business, they’re also using the printer to make custom chocolates.

With the release of the closed-source ‘Replicator 2′ Makerbot, largely a product of the RepRap project, is to some degree, turning its back on RepRap and open-source. After all it’s hard to make a profit off of something if the designs are open source. While some may see it as a betrayal Jeff Keegan says he understands why Makerbot did what they did.

“I’m interested in having the essence of open-source not be hurt. So I don’t want to see someone testing to see if they can close something that’s open.”

He insists, however, that it won’t hamper the RepRap project’s goal of developing a self-replicating 3D printer.

Open-source is here already. Other people doing things on the side may cause problems for themselves, but it doesn’t really affect me… I got bigger fish to fry, getting my thing to work better, designing new things for this, I’m happy about that.”

Top 10 Countdown: Most Popular 3D Printing Stories in August 2012

3D Printing Gartner Hype Cycle

Here are the top 10 most popular stories On 3D Printing brought you in August 2012.

10. 3D Printed Meat for Dinner: Peter Thiel Backs Bioprinting Startup

9. TangiBot has a Kickstarter Project for a Much Cheaper MakerBot

8. Google Employees Treated to 3D Printed Pasta by Renowned Chef

7. Stratasys and HP Part Ways on 3D Printer Manufacturing

6. Open-Source 3D Printer Pwdr Takes on MakerBot, Offers New Materials

5. Finally, an iPhone Case That Does Something Useful (Opens Beers)

4. Video: Beauty and the Beak; a Bald Eagle’s 3D Printing Story

3. Team Great Britain Olympic Cyclists Fitted with 3D Printed Helmets

2. Infographic: How 3D Printing Works, Industry Growth, Stocks, and More

1. 3D Printing at Top of “Hype Cycle”, Gartner Reports


Thanks for reading in August!