As Gartner pointed out in its highly recommended 3D Printers, Worldwide 2013 report, the 3D printing industry is now at its inflection point.
Hardware manufacturers rush to the market, with the goal of creating and branding the killer device that brings the era of the geeky enthusiast to an end, ushering in the era of widespread consumer 3D printing in its place.
In such a climate, new devices come on a constant stream. With so many interesting and potentially ground-breaking machines launched each week, trying to report on them all is a tough proposition. That is especially true when you consider that, here at Top 4 3D Printing, we devote most of our time to proofreading and correcting the barely legible output of our embittered, alcoholic workforce.
We are, however, still devoted to our goal of keeping you bang up-to-date with all the latest advancements in additive manufacturing.
So, every Tuesday, from today on, we will be rounding up all the best printers and scanners released, launched, prototyped or announced in the past week and posting them here.
The Robocular 3D Scanner launches on Kickstarter
First up in this week’s round up is a potentially major new 3D scanner that hit every 3D print enthusiast’s favourite crowd funding website a few days back. Coming from Washington-based firm Robocular LLC, it aims to be the most consumer-friendly full-colour, high resolution scanner on the market.
Available in both mini and standard versions, the sleek black box is certainly one of the slickest looking scanners we’ve yet to see. The process is incredibly simplified: you open the door, you put your object on the turntable, you close the door and you push scan. The line laser illuminates your object with no intrusion from outside light, while the HD camera records the shape and detail.
This precise detail appears to be the device’s big selling point, with capabilities to record 4,000 steps per revolution (i.e. 4,000 images are taken in one scan), while the resolution reaches 150 microns for a full colour scan.
The standard model’s scan volume of 9” x 9” (diameter x height) beats that of the Makerbot Digitizer (8” x 8”) and about equals that of the AIO ZEUS (10” x 7), which is promised next year.
Of course, for now the model remains a prototype. With 56 days left on its campaign, it has clocked up $34,094 of its hefty $180,000 goal.
Fancy helping them out and getting your very own 3D scanner in the process? A pledge of $699 today gets you a standard-sized Robocular when the product is ready to ship in August 2014.
Natural Machines becomes the latest firm to tackle 3D printed food with the Foodini
We’ve already spoken at length about the possibilities of 3D printed food and, while currently the results are not all that impressive, it is a part of the market that manufacturers are desperate to corner.
The latest and, it must be said, most impressive working prototype for a food printer we have yet to see came this week in the form of the Foodini, from Barcelona-based firm Natural Machines. Squeezing ingredients in layers onto a warm platform below, it, effectively allows you to build food such as ravioli, gnocchi, burgers and desserts.
What makes the Foodini potentially interesting is its versatility. Equipped with six separate capsules, it has room for up to six different ingredients at a time. The extruder can be programmed to release ingredients at different rates of pressure and different temperatures, to form the meal correctly on the platform below.
With the sharp exterior of a common kitchen appliance and the operational simplicity of a touch screen control panel, Natural Machines hopes the Foodini will make quick, convenience food healthier for busy people across the globe.
The estimated release date is not until mid-2014 (at which point it is likely to set you back about a grand), so we’ll have to wait until then before finding out how likely the Foodini is to achieve its lofty goal. Until then, you can check out the video below from BBC’s Click programme. If you have ever wanted to watch a saucer-eyed woman speak intensely into a camera while printing a ghost out of spinach, then this is the film for you.
The ProJet 5500X: a tough multi-material 3D printer
An impressive new device from 3D Systems, the ProJet 5500X uses MultiJet technology to create multi-material objects. For those that don’t know, MultiJet prints thin layers of a UV curable liquid plastic along with wax that supports the object as you print. Once a layer is printed, it is exposed to and cured by UV lights. The platform then lowers, before another layer is created.
This allows the ProJet 5500X to fuse flexible material with rigid material, plus print in a variety of different colours and shades. Little or no assembly is required once the object is delivered. According to 3D Systems, it is also one of the fastest devices in its class, plus it boasts a build volume that is 67% larger than that of its competitors.
Though the price has yet to be set, it looks to be one of the most exciting models of the next year, offering precise flexibility and quick printing for large parts.