It’s a Material World

Here are a few non-virtual world things I wanted to mention.

  • Canon has recently announced via press release (PDF – Link) that they’ll be shipping a new 3D printer based on 3D Systems’ V-Flash (reLink). I caught this bit of news over on CGTalk (Link). This is a particularly interesting development as it brings a huge multi-national into the game. Can others not be far behind?
  • Over the past few days I’ve been trading messages with Tom Meeks, the guy who posted news of the Canon printer and who blogs over at the 3D Printer Users blog (Link). Those messages are essentially captured in a comment of his (Link) over on a CG Talk thread discussing the Desktop Factory machine (Link) – which I’ve followed but previously mentioned only in passing.

    The Desktop Factory is a sub-$5000 rapid-prototyping machine that was officially announced sometime shortly before the big Rapid 2007 show in Chicago, afaik. Tom’s information on the material is of particular interest to those of us looking at jumping in and buying one of these entry-level machines.
  • Speaking of which, one of the more important issues with any RP machine is material. As more capable formulations find their way from the lab to the market, the potential for selling fab-on-demand becomes ever greater. But along with improved material properties and greater variety come other issues:

    – can an older machine run the material?
    – can materials be easily swapped?
    – how much does the material cost?
    – does it require special handling/precautions?
    – what are the post-process options/requirements?
    – can excess be reused?
    – etc etc

    Among the more interesting materials about which I’ve read this past year is DSM Somos’ DMX-SL 100 (Link). When a rapid-prototyping powerhouse like Materialise issues a press release (Link) announcing the availability of this material for customers, that tells me this stuff is probably as impressive as the hype I’ve been following. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my hands on a sample. But even if it’s great stuff, if those on the low-end can’t run it or some derivative of it, it’s nothing more than news.

  • The hope and expectation, of course, is that as the market for RP parts improves, new material technology will find its way into these applications. Technology Review has an article, “Plastic That Heals Itself” (Link), that hints at the kinds of advances which could find their way into a home-based fabrication device.


    From the article:

    Sottos and her colleagues have designed the new material, reported in this week’s Nature Materials, to mimic human skin. If the skin’s outer protective layer is cut, the inner layer, which is infused with a dense network of tiny blood vessels, rushes nutrients to the cut to help with healing. The self-healing material consists of an epoxy polymer layer deposited on a substrate that contains a three-dimensional network of microchannels. The epoxy coating contains tiny catalyst particles, while the channels in the substrate are filled with a liquid healing agent.

    And we all thought the geek in the Citibank commercial talking about building a robot – his girl robot – was joking.

  • So yeah, I’ve been posting more entries than intended on virtual worlds, but hopefully the fab side of this blog will pick up with accelerating industry growth and things will start to balance out a bit.