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(Left) Render of the 3D printed battery. (Right) Actual prototype in the real world (via Harvard and the University of Illinois)


3D printing a battery itself is a remarkable achievement. A 3D printing a battery as small as a grain of sand is a giant hurdle forward in both, 3D printing and battery technologies. That is exactly what researchers working at University of Illinois and Harvard have done. To achieve this process the researchers had to create their own custom 3D printing technology. Although there are many types of materials 3D printers can use, most print objects using small liquid droplets, which build upon one another to create the object from the bottom up. For the researchers this process was not sufficient to achieve their goals. Therefore, they designed a 0.03mm nozzle, which releases the liquid materials continuously in a fashion, which is similar to toothpaste being squeezed from its tube. In addition, the researchers also invented a 3D printing material that is electrochemically active, which ultimately allowed the printed battery to store and release charges.


The battery was printed into the shape of a comb structure, which allows the anodes and cathodes to sit in an alternating pattern. Furthermore, the researchers then submerged the electrodes in an electrolyte solution to finalize the battery. According to the Shen Dillon, co-author and an assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, “The electromechanical performance is comparable to commercial batteries in terms of charge and discharge rate, cycle life, and energy densities.”


“Not only did we demonstrate for the first time that we can 3D-print a battery, we demonstrated it in the most vigorous way,” commented senior author Jennifer Lewis from Harvard. The teams also has future plans for possible applications for the micro-batteries. One of those applications is Harvard's Robobee. The bee is a tiny robot, which is capable of impersonating real bees. Using it researchers hope to investigate pollination and declining bee populations. “The idea to be able to integrate small power sources directly onto those kids of robotic insects would be powerful and enabling. Right now, everything is tethered to an electric power source. It would be very nice to have that.”


Additional possibilities include hearing aid power sources, cell phones, and watches. Donald Ingber, Professor of Bioengineering at Harvard said, “The micro-battery ink designs open up entirely new possibilities for miniaturization of all types of devices, both medical and non-medical.” The team has recently published their findings and results in the online journal, Advanced Materials.




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MakerBot’s Replicator 2 now available on Amazon’s recently launched 3D printing store; The Replicator already Amazon’s 3rd best-selling 3D printer. (via Amazon)



It’s official - Amazon has joined Staples as the first major online retailers to offer the rapidly spreading 3D printing tech for online purchase. The announcement, made on June 14, 2013, “makes” Amazon an official MakerBot reseller; the MakerBot family of products will now be available on the new Amazon 3D printing store.


Though not necessarily new to selling 3D printers - Amazon’s diverse marketplace has in fact yielded plenty of 3D printing transactions in the past - their new central online hub will allow customers to browse and shop for available 3D printing tech all in one destination.


Even with major retailers such as Staples and Amazon joining the online 3D printing marketplace, several companies have already long established an online presence for the growing community of makers. Though not focused on the retail of actual 3D printers, communities such as have provided 3D printing enthusiasts with a place to share, buy, and sell their designs with the world. Amazon’s online hub may not have quite the same communal aspect as such websites; nevertheless, the announcement does hint that 3D printing is making its way further into the mainstream.


The MakerBot Replicator 2 will still be available internationally through MakerBot’s own online store. The partnership with Amazon does however expand MakerBot’s impressive line of connections with major organizations that currently includes: AutoDesk, Nokia, Adafruit Industries, OUYA, and others.


The Replicator 2 is part of MakerBot’s 3D printing Ecosystem that consists of printers, software, an online maker community (, product support services, an online marketplace, and many more 3D printing resources. Designed with the in-home maker in mind, the Replicator 2 provides professional grade printing while staying near the affordable end of the 3D printing spectrum. With a 11.2” long, 6” wide, 6.1” tall powder coated steel chassis, users are given a build volume of 410 cubic inches to tackle large projects. The printer’s accuracy is measured by its impressive 100 micron layer resolution - just about as thin as a sheet of copy paper. For the environmentally conscious, a 1 lb spool of no-curl no-shrink renewable bioplastic filament (PLA) comes packaged with every Replicator 2. PLA is not only biodegradable - it also uses 32% less energy than printing with the otherwise standard ABS plastic.


Amazon’s online 3D printing hub is now up and running, ready to help the rapidly growing online community of makers and innovators quickly find their 3D printing products of choice. Here’s to making revolutionary tech more widely available to the public.


Update: MakerBot sells out to Stratasys for $403 million in stock options with $201 million in “performance-based earn-outs.” Reposts say MakerBot only sold 22,000 units since its start in 2009. That is only $5.5 million, estimated. This buyout is 100x sales, MakerBot lucked out. Stratasys has been around since 1989, acquiring MakerBot and its enormous community and brand recognition is sure to keep Stratasys relevant in the coming decades. Let’s just hope that prices stay low, and it becomes an industry expectation.



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Shapeways Elasto Plastic showing off. (via Shapeways)


The array of materials available with 3D printers has undoubtedly opened up imaginations. From industrial models to the home, printers are affordable enough for enthusiasts to create and manufacture projects in their own. That said, the economy being the way it is, some hobbyists may not be able to afford their own 3D printer and therefore have to enlist the services of printing companies to have their project designs manufactured. One such company, Shapeways, is able to create just about any design using any number of polymers one may desire. The material list is extensive and includes designs cast in alumide, any number of plastics, stainless steel, sterling silver and full color sandstone to suit any project imaginable. Of course, those materials can actually limit what projects the hobbyist is looking to complete because of certain resins being mostly solid unless it is manufactured with semi-flexible plastic. However, what if the project requires that parts be ultra-flexible and able to return to its original shape after being distorted?


That problem has now been solved, as Shapeways has developed a new type of flexible rubber-like elastomer to fill that specific product gap allowing for a greater range of product design. Sure there other elastomers on the market users can work with, however these materials are typically simulants of plastic or rubber which is fine for some designs but might not be adequate for others. Shapeways Elasto Plastic is of the same family of simulants, however the material is more rigid than most other due to its thickness, which runs up to .4mm on the Z-axis and .2mm on both X, and Y-axis. Since Elasto Plastic has a rough, grainy texture the material becomes stronger as its thickness increases to .5mm and over however its elasticity decreases somewhat the those thicknesses. While Shapeways material is indeed extremely flexible and will return to its original shape after being distorted, it does have its faults. For one the material is not watertight even though it is capable of holding liquids so it probably would not be an ideal material to use for a collapsible travel cup. Secondly, and most importantly, it does not take well to fire. Granted it can tolerate temperatures up to around 194F but it may lose some, if not all, its elastic properties beyond that temperature. Elasto Plastic also creates a degree of static electricity as well because of its rough texture, so one might take caution when incorporating it into projects with exposed circuitry. Shapeways states that their Elasto Plastic is a ‘Maker Only’ (only available for personal design models) material and is at best experimental at this point in time, however it could become available for retail after feedback from customers is reviewed (and design rules have been implemented) when the trial period ends. Those looking to produce designs using Elasto Plastic can do so for a limited time at a price-point of $1.75 per cm3.



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"TreeFrigs" by @JErrill on


3D printers have been central to much of the big developer news in the last couple of years. They have allowed parts to become more accessible, prototypes to be quickly made, and most of all have allowed people to become more creative. Some have even credited the next industrial revolution to 3D printing. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as some may call it, has been around for a while. However, printers from the nineties or even the early 2000s were very inefficient and just as expensive.


It can be easily argued that the introduction of hobby boards such as Arduino have allowed the printers to drop in price. For example, MakerBot has become one of the most successful companies in this industry. Under the motherboard of these printers, you will find an Arduino hard at work. In fact, the motherboard themselves are just shields which can be easily placed on the top of the Arduino. Using this method MakerBot made it very easy and accessible for people to build and construct their own printers. In addition, they also made the whole project open-source so anyone can give a go at it. What better way to get to creating things with a 3D printer than creating the 3D printer yourself? 


The ideology and help of the open source community is what has made it possible to bring affordable 3D printers to our homes. Now we have another choice in the community to begin building printers, the Raspberry Pi. Everybody knows about the Pi. It came into the world making lots of news and had such a high demand people couldn't get their hands on one. It seems hackers are now beginning to make their own printers using Raspberry Pi. Seeing is believing, theses printers are even cheaper now than they have ever been.


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(Left) Brook Drumm at the Hardware Innovation Workshop (Center) Printrbot Jr (Right) Printrbot LC, the laser cutter version (via printrbot)


Two examples of these new Pi powered printers are Tesseract Industrial's TS300/1000 and Brook Drumm's Printrbot. Brook Drumm's Printrbot was featured on Kickstarter and easily reached its goal (it reached $830k). Drumm wanted it to be possible to put a printer into the hands of anyone who could find use from one, including schools. The printer was designed to be built and assembled within a couple hours and quickly begin printing quality parts. In addition, for only $200 customers had the chance to purchase a kit with all the parts required to build the printer. Other than the bearings, rods, belts, bolts, nuts, and extruder, all the other required parts were 3D printed themselves. Almost a true self replicating machine.



Tesseract Industrial TS300 (via Tesseract Industrial)


On the other hand, the TS300/1000 is more of an alternative for MakerBot's replicator. Also powered by a Pi these printers offer an exceptionally large print volume. Offering an 8.9um resolution in the X/Y axis and a 1um resolution in the Z axis, the TS300 has a print volume of 360 x 260 x 200mm. The TS1000 has a print volume of 950 x 520 x 400mm, and it is a extrusion based printer.  Not to mention it also come in a housing which has very nice aesthetics. Complete with a back chrome finish this printer will look nice wherever it finds a new home. Seems Pis and printers are beginning to go hand and hand. Maybe one day our 3D printers will be able to print us a Raspberry Pi!



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Type A's beautifully crafted Series 1 Pro 3D printer offers users a state-of-the art aluminum frame construction with an impressive 18 liter printing volume space. (via Type A Machines)


Type A Machines, known previously for its MAKE magazine prized Series 1 3D printer, apparently took to Maker Faire Bay Area 2013 with the intention to astonish an even wider crowd of 3D printing enthusiasts. Their Series 1 printer, highly touted for its rather large build area and competitive pricing options, has received a series of upgrade resulting in the newly announced Series 1 Pro Engineering Concept soon to hit the market later this year.


The success of the new printer's predecessor (100 sales within the last 5 months) has in fact sparked growth within the nascent company that now employs a total of 18 3D printing experts. With a full-set of hands on deck, Type A's presentation was enough to begin luring crowds in – a customer designed Mark II robot printed using the original Series 1 sat comfortably atop the newly designed Series 1 Pro.


The Series 1 Pro concept sports an aluminum frame that structurally and visually complements its hardwood printing area base encased by glass side walls on its adjacent sides. The added strength allowed engineers to implement a professional grade linear guide system for even more accurate and reliable printing jobs. The original Series 1 already provided an impressive 13.3 liters of usable printing volume, but Type A did not stop there – the Series 1 Pro Concept includes an 18-liter build area for even larger printing project possibilities.


As expected, the Series 1 Pro will continue ahead with an open source, fully Wi-Fi compatible design. Much of its success will rely on the toll its previously competitive price will take with all of its added features. But, if it counts as validation for the printer's future success, Type A's beautiful new design was the only of the 3D printer bunch at Maker Faire Bay Area 2013 to receive the Editor's Choice Blue Ribbon.


The Type A Machines Series 1 Pro will be available for purchase in Q3 of this year.



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(Left) Kaiba Gionfriddo (Right) The 3D printed tracheal splint (via NEJM)


3D printed tools have the potential of saving lives. And the list of 1000 of ways it can save your life is growing. The a team at the University of Michigan have saved a little baby boy from Ohio named Kaiba Gionfriddo, born with tracheobronchiomalacia, a disorder that prevents the growth supporting tissue in the trachea during bronchial development.


The effects of the disorder were not manifested until two months after the baby, when it was showing difficulty breathing and a ventilator did little to help. Tracheomalacia disorder affects one in about 22,000 babies and is usually untreatable. However, the U of M team decided to try an innovative approach at coming up with a solution. They decided to use a laser based 3D printer along with a polycaprolactone biomaterial to create a supporting structure that could fill in while the trachea develops around it. They manufactured over 100 tiny prototypes in one day and planned to attempt their first ever implant surgery on 3-month-old Kaiba.


The 3D printed splint was custom made to fit where young Kaiba’s trachea needed to develop with the help of CT scans and 3D printed models. The splint was shaped with an accordion-like design so that it could flex and expand with the baby’s rapid growth and movement. After two to three years, the polycaprolactone biomaterial will dissolve and be absorbed into the toddler’s body. Interstitial spaces in the splint allowed surgeons to suture it directly to the tissue of the affected trachea to support it. The project got expedited approval by the FDA under an emergency-use exemption and it has proven to be very successful since.


The implantation of the splint was After 21 days of the implant, the baby was recovered enough to be take off of a ventilator and he began to breath on his own. A year and a half after the surgery recovery is going smoothly and the boy is developing normally for a 19-month-old toddler.


The most advanced tech and inspiring, innovative ways of using it is leading to even more possibilities to help each and every one of us. According to the team, “This case shows that high-resolution imaging, computer-aided design, and biomaterial three-dimensional printing together can facilitate the creation of implantable devices for conditions that are anatomically specific for a given patient.” The progression of this technological trend continue to amaze. The design of the splint was led by biomedical engineer Scott Hollister.



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I met Matthew of Tessaract Industrial at the Make: Hardware Innovation Workshop and Maker Faire Bay Area 2013:


He has a Raspberry Pi embedded in his 3D printer:


He is also developing software for the Raspberry Pi which will perform "slicing" calculations using the Pi's GPU so that a separate PC isn't needed.  An Arduino is used for motor control and connects via USB to Pi for serial communication.



Former Pumping Station: One member, Jeff McAlvay, showed off an UltiMaker 3D Printer he modified into a Pick and Place machine (essentially a robot that assembles circuit boards):


It's a prototype of his vision for an Electronics Factory device.  Further details are available on his company website, Tempo Automation:

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Jeff was using a full Linux x86 laptop to control the Electronics Factory prototype, so I gave him a BeagleBone Black which should fit better into his form factor.


I met MakerBot co-founder Zach Hoeken who now is program director for the HAXLR8R.  It's an exciting hardware startup accelerator which gives each team $25,000 and sends them to Shenzen, China, for 4 months to develop their product.  I had the good fortune to attend their demo day in SF: photos and videos


He told me he thinks the BeagleBone Black is the future of 3D Printers since it has integrated programmable real-time units (PRU) which can precisley control stepper motor without the need of an external microcontroller.  I gave him one to take back to the HAXLR8R lab in Shenzen, and hope to see future HAXLR8R teams designing 3D printers or CNC devices around the BeagleBone Black.


At the Make: Hardware Innovation Workshop Innovation Showcase, I was very impressed by OtherFab's OtherMill: a CNC mill that makes it easy to create your own circuit boards quickly:



It allows for some pretty novel designs, too:


Brook Drumm, founder Printrbot, showed the new Simple which will be $299 and released this summer:

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He also said they are developing a stereolithography printer which will use the Raspberry Pi to provide a web interface.





I've been impressed with the SainSmart PLA filament from amazon: or


It is certainly not the cheapest out there at $50/kg, but the print quality is great and I have not had any issues with it jamming. I have printed a roll of Green and a roll of Red, no issues on either.


The green is a nice light green, see here:


.  The red is a deep red, much better red than the ABS I purchased from Leapfrog which was closer to orange, see here:

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