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2013

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Filabot prototype (via Kickstarter)

 

News about 3D printing can be found just about anywhere nowadays as long as there is progress to be mentioned on its already-innovative way of providing rapid, in-home manufacturing to those lucky enough to afford one. Though extremely useful, in retrospect, 3D printing does not entirely address environmental concerns on the copious use of plastics found in most everyday products. Though several 3D printers do accept the use of PLA, a biodegradable plastic derived from plant-sources, the concern lies in the continual accumulation of environmentally unfriendly plastics now that the formation of such products is in the hands of consumers. That is where Filabot comes.

 

Filabot’s goal is to bring the age-old plastic extrusion technique found in manufacturing facilities right to your home work station. How does an in-home plastic extruder address issues concerning the environment. Well, Filabot is specifically designed to grind down and melt recyclable plastics found in the home to generate the type of filament used by 3D printers. The entire process effectively allows makers to create their own printing spools from what would otherwise be converted into waste.

 

The Filabot device operates within a semi-enclosed 24 in x 12 in x 12 in space. To begin the process, pieces of plastic less than 4” in diameter -obtained from plastic bottles, milk jugs, CD/DVD cases, etc. - are fed into the grinder. The plastic is pulverized into a uniform size and moved into a hopper that feeds the material into a barrel where the melting takes place. The heating element consists of a coil with a variable temperature control that accommodates for the inconsistent melting temperatures of varying plastics. The molten plastic is then extruded out of an interchangeable nozzle, currently available in 1.75mm and 3mm sizes, and finally delivered through a system of rollers and cutters to produce a finished plastic spool.

 

The 3D plastic extrusion system still has its share of kinks to be worked out. Tyler McNaney, creator of the Filabot, is in the process of testing for inconsistencies in produced filaments while beginning to assemble the 65 Filabot kits promised to his Kickstarter backers. The project has also taken an exciting turn now collaborating with Kamermaker - the world’s first movable structure that can 3D print entire huts out of plastic with the intention of providing shelter for developing countries. Now they too would like to get in on the recyclable plastic fun.

 

The Filabot’s success would provide a much-needed support to the environmental woes burdened by increased plastic manufacturing. By repurposing old plastic prints and/or recyclable goods creating a self-sufficient supply of printing filament, makers and the environment alike come out as winners on this one.

 


 

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3Doodler in the background. Modified rubber duck showing what it can do in mid air. (via 3Doodler Kickstarter page)

 

3Doodler is the world’s first 3D printing pen. The project was started by WobbleWorks, an emergent toy company hailing from Boston, MA. After holding back from an initial launch date in December of 2012, the 3Doodler team was able to improve the quality of their original design and locate a manufacturing partner in China to bring the doodler pen’s 3D printing capabilities to the hands of eager artists. The 3Doodler is already available for pre-order on the company’s Kickstarter campaign for a mere $75. The impressive pen has been in such high demand that funding has exuberantly exceeded its $30,000 goal by over $1 million USD.

 

In essence, the 3Doodler is really more of a glorified hot glue gun than an actual 3D printer. However, the pen’s ability to create 3D plastic objects with the stroke of the wrist is still a rather impressive and attractive feature. By adaptively reusing the heat extrusion head from a 3D printer and packaging it into a pen-sized device, the doodler can be fed 3mm ABS or PLA plastic strands to “print” its solidified ink. Weighing less than 200 grams and measuring 180mm by 24mm, the 3Doodler is relatively easy to handle and even contains two buttons for switching from fast/slow plastic extrusion speed. Users (ages 12+) should take extra caution when 3D sketching to avoid injury from the pens’ metal tip which can reach temperatures up to 270C.

 

The pen can be used by 3D sketching on a flat surface, or, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can draw your way up vertically by using the slower extrusion speed. It may take some time to master, but the eventual creative opportunities are immeasurable.

 

For now, the 3Doodler needs to be plugged into a power outlet for use, though the company says it is planning on designing a battery operated version. The folks at WobbleWorks have tons of ideas for add-ons that are being worked on, including a holder to store the 3Doodler and its various pen tips. Eventually they would like to create an XYZ table for the 3Doodler that would allow the pen to be used as an actual component of a full 3D printer. Mention has also been made of a free-to-use stencil library that the 3Doodler can access and submit to - check out the impressive 3Doodled Eiffel Tower made by “welding” stencil drawings together over at the company’s Kickstarter page. They are already a breakout hit, surpassing $1M.

 

If you cannot wait to save up for a full 3D printer of your own, then maybe it’s time to test your penmanship by giving the 3Doodler a try.

 


 

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Two 3D printed cases. (via Makerbot)

 

Nokia has recently become the first major phone company to embrace the oncoming age of 3D printing. Through an online blog, John Kneeland, a Nokia Community & Developer Marketing Manager, has stated that in addition to the extra shells available for purchase, customers may now download the case specs for free and print them. Of course, anyone trying to do this will need their own 3D printer, or at least access to one, but this is a great step forward in the 3D printing community.

 

 

Nokia already has many shells available to customize your phone. Those include different color shells, shells created to absorb shock better and provide better protection from dust, and shells that can add wireless charging capabilities. However, with access to 3D printing templates anyone who is well educated in the printing community can easily creates their own designs for their personal taste or need. Although this is something, someone could have measured out and printed, having the exact dimensions will make the process quicker and more precise. In addition to the 3D templates, Nokia also lists the recommended materials and best practices for obtaining the greatest results. Kneeland commented in the blog, “We refer to these files and documents collectively as a 3d-printing Development Kit, or 3DK for short.” Possibly this 3DK is something we may start seeing more of from different companies.

 

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3D render of the case (via Thingiverse)

 

Unfortunately, 3D printers are still a bit pricey for the average person to get their hands on. However, many new emerging technologies once found themselves in this same situation. The more support and interest people put into 3D printing, results in a greater possibility that these machines may become more accessible sooner. Last year's 3D Print Show in London was a huge success. The show completely sold out and welcomed technologists, artists, industry leaders, and even families into to seeing the world's largest exhibition of 3D printed objects. This year the show promises to be even bigger and better. It is taking place in London this year from November 7th-9th, and then in Paris from November 15th-16th. Furthermore, New York is scheduled to host the show in 2014. Until then let’s see what crazy designs hobbyist can think for their custom phone cases.

 

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