In 2013, 3D printing emerged as one of the more fascinating trends with reports of printed bikes, a partially printed car, a working audio speaker and the continued advancement of printed human organs. President Obama even mentioned it in his State of the Union address last February as a way to promote innovation and re-energize the high-tech job market. Companies have already started releasing consumer devices that allow people to not only turn their designs into 3D models but to literally draw in 3D.
Micro-manufacturing System: The Future-proof 3D Printer
British-based CEL’s Robox (approximately $1,400 in March 2014) was designed to not only be easy to use, but also future-proof as its removable head system allows the device to perform an endless amount of functions. For example, the printing head can be replaced with a stylus cutter, milling head or 3D scanner. The device’s AutoMaker software translates your design to something Robox can understand, so all you need to do is hit print. The software also makes it easy to print in a variety of different materials, finishes and colors.
Printing Pen: Drawing in Three Dimensions
WobbleWorks decided to make a 3D printing device that doesn’t require any software, a computer or even an actual printer. The 3Doodler ($99 in February 2014) is the world’s first 3D printing pen that literally lets you draw in air and create 3D objects. The pen works by extruding heated plastic, which quickly cools and then solidifies into a strong stable structure. You can create flat forms on a piece of paper, freestyle entire 3D objects, or create objects separately and then use the pen to put them together.
Printer: User-friendly 3D Printing
The Afinia H-Series 3D Printer ($1,599) is ready to go right out of the box with an easy-to-use interface for laying out, orienting, duplicating and scaling parts. The 3D printer can produce a model that is up to five inches cubed in dimensions and accurate to within .15mm (six thousandths of an inch). The printer is also portable as it weighs under 11 pounds and it can be operated in standalone mode once the file has been downloaded to the device.
Portable Scanner: Capturing the World in 3D
3D Systems’ Sense 3D ($399) is a handheld scanner that you can use to capture the world around you in 3D. It really doesn’t matter what—large and small objects, people, scenes—the automatic object recognition extracts precise targets from even the busiest of backgrounds to scan only the object you want. You can even capture moments like your child’s graduation day and then use the Sense 3D scanner software to crop, enhance and solidify for a printable version in just minutes.
Desktop Scanner: Remake, Remodel, Recreate
The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner ($958) uses MakerBot MultiScan technology to scan an object from multiple angles in order to create the best possible 3D model. You can then simply send the 3D model file to your 3D Printer of choice to create as many duplicates as you want—or you can have some fun. For instance, scan a second object, such as a hat, and place it on the previously scanned figure’s head. You can also download other objects that you don’t have handy to scan or use sculpting tools to transform the 3D model in any way you want before hitting print.